Ethernet Switch, Hub or Distributor: What’s the Difference?

Ethernet Switch, Hub or Distributor: What's the Difference?

You run out of Ethernet ports and want to turn one Ethernet cable into two. The first thing that comes to my mind is probably Ethernet splitting. As the name suggests, this is the process of splitting an Ethernet connection in half.

If you decide to split your Ethernet connection, you have a few options: hub, splitter, or switch. Each solution has something different to offer, so before purchasing a gadget, it is important to identify which one has the most to offer you.

Here we explain the different Ethernet splitting options so that you know which solution is best for you.

Ethernet splitter

Let’s start with what you were probably the most tempted to just miss and buy when looking to turn one Ethernet connection into several. (Hint: do not do it!)


An Ethernet splitter looks pretty modest. It’s a little gadget with three Ethernet ports – two on one side and one on the other. If you have a surplus of short Ethernet cables – but only one or two long cables – then this is where a splitter comes in handy.

Note: An Ethernet splitter does not actually increase the number of devices you can connect via Ethernet, and you will need a splitter on the other end to “unblock” the two-wire connection, so two Ethernet splitters will be needed Everytime.

An Ethernet splitter reduces the number of wires used in a Cat 5e Ethernet cable and reduces the data rate from 1000 Mbps to 100 Mbps. This allows you to use one cable for two Ethernet connections. Although Ethernet splitters are inexpensive and seem to provide a good solution, they result in slower network traffic speeds. This is likely to affect the performance of your devices connected to Ethernet. Ethernet splitters are also limited to a maximum of two devices per cable.

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In some limited situations, Ethernet splitters are a good option. However, it is almost always better to go for an Ethernet switch.

Ethernet switch

Returning to our original topic of turning an Ethernet cable into two, the Ethernet switch is the real star of this guide. The way it works is incredibly simple. You can use a port to connect the switch to your router over Ethernet, and then connect your Ethernet devices to the remaining ports.


Essentially, an Ethernet port becomes multiple ports. Switches give incoming data from your network devices its own paths. This means that data between devices does not interfere with each other.

The switches allow full duplex communication between devices, which means data can be sent and received at the same time, resulting in a faster network.

The good thing is that Ethernet switches aren’t expensive either. You should be able to grab an ethernet switch for about $ 15.

Ethernet hub

Last and possibly least is the Ethernet hub, which has been pretty much overtaken by the Switch. If a switch creates pathways for packets to communicate with your router, think of a hub as a huge room filled with network traffic, where packets come in and scream to find the devices they’re trying to connect to. In more technical terms, hubs cannot allow devices to send and receive data at the same time, which is called half-duplex communication.


This leads to freezes and data collisions, hogging up valuable bandwidth and causing the network to slow down, especially when using multiple devices simultaneously.

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Note that Ethernet hubs look pretty much exactly like switches, so don’t make the mistake of buying a hub when you really want a switch.

Why not try an alternative?

If you want to connect multiple devices, a network cable is only an option. There are several methods for sharing the same signal between multiple devices, including some Wi-Fi options.

Here are three alternatives to the traditional network splitter:

1. Mesh Wi-Fi

Rather than broadcasting Wi-Fi signals from a single point, mesh Wi-Fi routers have multiple access points, sometimes referred to as satellites. These satellites pick up the signal from the router and broadcast it again.

Since the access points all broadcast the same signal, you don’t have to switch Wi-Fi connections when moving from one access point to another. If you regularly encounter Wi-Fi dead zones in your home or office, you may be an ideal candidate for mesh Wi-Fi. Popular mesh router solutions include those from Google Nest Wifi, Netgear Orbi, and Eero.

2.Ethernet over power line (EOP)

An EOP is where you transfer data for an internal network (LAN) using a building’s existing power cables.

An EOP consists of a transmitter and a receiver. Plug the transmitter into a power outlet, then use an Ethernet cable to connect the transmitter to your router. Connect the receiver to a power outlet and use an Ethernet cable to connect the receiver to your device.

The EOP transmitter converts the signal in the high frequency range over the electrical wiring, and the receiver demodulates this signal. This creates a physical connection between your Ethernet-enabled device and your router, without the need for additional cables. Assuming you purchase compatible EOP adapters, you can set up multiple receivers in your home or office.

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3. MoCA

If you have installed coaxial cables, you can use a MoCA Adapter to send Ethernet signals over your existing cabling. If your house was wired for cable TV, you will usually already have coaxial wiring. This means that you can potentially connect a MoCA adapter to your router and another near a coaxial port in every room where you want to access the internet.

If you need to connect additional devices via coaxial cable, you can also use a coaxial splitter.

Now that you know the differences between an Ethernet switch, hub, and splitter, you’ll know which one is right for you. In most cases, we will recommend the Ethernet switch because it really is the most versatile solution. If you are a gamer, also check if Ethernet or Wi-Fi is more suitable for gaming.


Jessica thornsby
Jessica thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Derbyshire, UK. When she’s not obsessed with all things tech, she enjoys researching her family tree and spending way too much time with her house rabbits.

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