Although not essential to the lab, I wanted a switch with a few more features. I initially looked at the Cisco SG200-18, the HP V1810-24G and a couple of other makes that I hadn't come across before (TP-Link and ZyXEL). The one requirement was that the new switch should be silent. The fans of a Cisco Catalyst switch would dominate the home office and was unacceptable.
I discounted the switches from TP-Link and ZyXEL because I couldn't find any decent reviews of them online. The HP V1810 was then discounted because the price hiked up to over £230. This left the Cisco SG200-18. I then noticed that the SG200-26 was only £3 more expensive at £188 (from Ebuyer), so buying the smaller switch would not have made financial sense. You can't have too many ports, right?
The first thing to say about the Cisco SG200-26 is that it is not an IOS switch. I assume it's the result of the purchase of Linksys. Having said that, the build quality is good, the switch is absolutely silent in operation but doesn't get hot (in contrast, the Netgear was hot to touch). The SG200-26 is a managed, layer 2 switch.
The SG200-26 has 24 standard 10/100/1000 ports, plus another two ports for uplinks. These can be RJ-45 10/100/1000 ports or SFP fibre ports (SFP modules not included). The form factor is standard rack-mount 1U (rack mount kit included) but also has attachable rubber feet for desktop use.
Configuration is through the web interface only (no SSH or serial interface), but does support external logging to a syslog server.
Be sure to upgrade to the latest firmware. This enabled the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) which is very useful in vSphere networking for identifying which physical ports a NIC is plugged into.
In the web interface, ports can be given a description and those of us with OCD can spend a happy evening mapping this information into the switch. The port settings can also be used to state the speed and duplex setting of each port.
The SG200-26 supports up to four Link Aggregation Groups (LAGs) and can load balance based on either MAC address or IP/MAC address. Both static and dynamic (LACP) LAG groups can be configured. Up to eight ports can be assigned to a static LAG and sixteen ports to a dynamic LAG.
Multiple VLANs can be setup and managed as the switch supports 802.1q. Ports can be setup as trunk, general, access or Q-in-Q mode. VLAN pruning can be applied to trunk ports so that only specific VLANs are accessible to particular ports. The interface for this wasn't immediately obvious to me (and setting up the same in IOS initially seemed easier), but once I'd spent some time with it, the VLAN configuration was fairly straightforward. These VLAN options can be applied to either individual ports or a LAG.
In addition to these features, the SG200-26 can also be configured for QoS, there are numerous security features including 802.1X, Smartport macros to configure the port type (e.g, Printer, Desktop, Guest, Server etc.). Jumbo frames can be enabled, although this applies is a global setting that affects all ports (most switches, even expensive Cisco switches, work the same way). A "Green Ethernet" function reduces the power requirements of the switch by calculating the length of cable, and also by turning off unused ports to save energy.
As a lab switch, the SG200-26 is ideal. Personally, I would have liked to see a command line option for configuration as some tasks can be repetitive (e.g., setting up VLANs). Beyond that though, there is little to complain about. The SG200-26 is an excellent entry-level switch, with plenty of ports and a good range of options.
Some useful links:
The Cisco Small Business 200 Series Smart Switch Administration Guide
The Cisco Small Business Online Device Emulators page has a demo of the web interface for the SF300. The 300 series has additional layer 3 functionality, but you can get a good idea what the interface is like on the 200 series.
* Update 10/07/2012 * I experienced an issue where traffic between two ports (e.g., ports 1 and 2) would cause significant latency issues on other, unrelated ports. This was demonstrated by putting a ping on a host and watching the timings when there was significant network load (such as VM backups). This was resolved by upgrading the firmware to 188.8.131.52.