Routers and switches are both computer networking devices that allow one or more computers to be connected to other computers, networked devices, or to other networks.

The functions of a router, switch and hub and are all different, even if at times they are integrated into a single device. Routers connect two or more logical subnets, which do not necessarily map one-to-one to the physical interfaces of the router. The term layer 3 switch often is used interchangeably with router, but switch is really a general term without a rigorous technical definition. In marketing usage, it is generally optimized for Ethernet LAN interfaces and may not have other physical interface types.

Comparison chart

Router versus Switch comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartRouterSwitch
Layer Network Layer (Layer 3 devices) Data Link Layer. Network switches operate at Layer 2 of the OSI model.
Function Directs data in a network. Passes data between home computers, and between computers and the modem. Allow connections to multiple devices, manage ports, manage VLAN security settings
Data Transmission form Packet Frame (L2 Switch) Frame & Packet (L3 switch)
Ports 2/4/5/8 Switch is multi port Bridge. 24/48 ports
Device Type Networking device Active Device (With Software) & Networking device
Transmission Type At Initial Level Broadcast then Uni-cast & Multicast First broadcast; then unicast & multicast as needed.
Table Store IP address in Routing table and maintain address at its own. Switches use content accessible memory CAM table which is typically accessed by ASIC (Application Specific integrated chips).
Transmission Mode Full duplex Half/Full duplex
Broadcast Domain In Router, every port has its own Broadcast domain. Switch has one broadcast domain [unless VLAN implemented]
Definition A router is a networking device that connects a local network to other local networks. At the Distribution Layer of the network, routers direct traffic and perform other functions critical to efficient network operation. A network switch is a computer networking device that is used to connect many devices together on a computer network. A switch is considered more advanced than a hub because a switch will on send msg to device that needs or request it
Speed 1-100 Mbps (Wireless); 100 Mbps - 1 Gbps (Wired) 10/100 Mbps, 1 Gbps
Necessary for Internet Connection? No, but provides additional security and allows for multiple connections. No
Address used for data tramsmission Uses IP address Uses MAC address
Connections Can connect to multiple PCs or networking devices via Ethernet or WiFi Can connect to multiple PCs or networking devices (L3 switches) via Cat5, Cat5e
Device Category Intelligent Device Intelligent Device
Security Provides security measures to protect network Port security
Used for Connecting two or more networks Connecting two or more nodes in the same network (L2) or different network (L3)
Manufacturers Cisco, Netgear, Linksys, Asus, TP-Link, D-Link Cisco and D-link Juniper
Bandwidth sharing Bandwidth sharing is Dynamic (Enables either static or dynamic bandwidth sharing for modular cable interfaces. The default percent-value is 0. The percent-value range is 1-96.) There is no sharing port can be 10, 100, 1000 and 10000 Mbps individual
Routing Decision Take faster routing decisions Take more time for complicated routing decisions
NAT (Network Address Translation) Routers can perform NAT Switches cannot perform NAT
Faster In a different network environment (MAN/ WAN), a router is faster than an L3 switch. In a LAN environment, an L3 switch is faster than a router (built-in switching hardware)
Features Firewall VPN Dynamic hadling of Bandwidth Priority rt range On/Off setting of port VLAN Port mirroring
Examples Linksys WRT54GL Juniper MX & EX series Cisco 3900, 2900, 1900 Alcatel's OmniSwitch 9000; Cisco Catalyst switch 4500 and 6500 (10 Gbps)

What is a Router?

A router is a networking device that connects computer networks, for example, connecting a home network with the Internet. Routers are the workhorses that transfer packets of data between networks to establish and sustain communication between two nodes in an internetwork. Routers operate at Layer 3 (network layer) of the OSI model; a router uses the destination IP address in a data packet to determine where to forward the packet.

What is a Network Switch?

A network switch connects devices together on a single computer network. A switch is also called switching hub, bridging hub, or MAC bridge. Switches use MAC addresses to forward data to the correct destination. A switch is considered a Layer 2 device, operating at the data link layer; switches use packet switching to receive, process and forward data.

What is a Network Hub?

Network hubs — also called repeaters — are even less advanced that switches; while a hub broadcasts the same data to all its ports, a network switch forwards data only to those devices that the data is intended for. Network hubs do not manage any traffic coming through them; they only broadcast — or repeat — packets from an incoming port to all other ports.

Function of a Switch vs. a Router

A router is a more sophisticated device than a switch. Traditional routers are designed to join multiple area networks (LANs and WANs). Routers serve as intermediate destinations for network traffic. They receive TCP/IP packets, look inside each packet to identify the source and target IP addresses, then forward these packets as needed to ensure the data reaches its final destination. In addition, routers often perform network address translation (NAT), which allows all devices on a subnetwork (e.g., all devices in a home) to share the same public IP address. Finally, routers that include built-in firewalls improve the network's security.

A network switch is a small hardware device that joins multiple computers together within one local area network (LAN). Switches are incapable of joining multiple networks or sharing an Internet connection. A home network with a switch must designate one computer as the gateway to the Internet, and that device must possess two network adapters for sharing, one for the home LAN and one for the Internet WAN. With a router, all home computers connect to the router equally, and it performs the equivalent gateway functions.

The following video compares hubs, switches, and routers.


Routers can connect wired or wireless (WiFi) networks. A switch is used for wired networking connections.


Routers are more sophisticated devices that can have software to increase network throughput using techniques such as caching.


Share this comparison:

If you read this far, you should follow us:

"Router vs Switch." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 19 Jun 2020. < >