If you want the most stable and speedy connection, there's still no beating Ethernet. But as modern devices trim their ports, getting access to an Ethernet connection isn't always easy – especially if you have lots of colleagues looking to take advantage of scant ports on the local router.
To get around that problem, you can use an Ethernet splitter, or rather, an Ethernet switch. These devices can take a singular incoming Ethernet connection and make it accessible to multiple users at the same time.
With the right Ethernet adapter, you can even power your branching Ethernet solution using a USB connection, making it perfect for portable high-speed connectivity on the go.
Need more than just Ethernet connectivity on one or more devices? Docking stations can go a long way to improving your devices' port options.
Ethernet Splitters 101
Whether you're a gamer looking to hook up all your friends' PCs at a LAN party or need some additional Ethernet ports in the office, you can expand your network's connectivity options with a good Ethernet switch. It takes an existing wired local network connection and turns it into one that's accessible to additional devices.
Note: Unless also connected to a router or modem, such a device does not provide Internet connectivity. It does, however, give each connected system the ability to interact with one another. This is ideal for playing localized games, for high-speed file sharing, or for accessing network-attached printers, scanners, and other devices where wireless connectivity is not possible, or desirable.
Consider an Ethernet Adapter
When it comes to picking a switch, there are many great options from all manner of respected networking companies. The one downside to them is that they almost always require some form of an external power source. That makes them less viable for mobile workers, or those traveling between conference rooms who wish to maintain multi-device Ethernet connectivity, due to added weight and bulk, and socket requirements.
A great alternative to more traditional Ethernet splitters is Cable Matters‘ unique 4 Port USB Ethernet adapter. It lets you split a single Ethernet port into four others, massively expanding your local network connectivity options. For those using modern devices that offer only USB-C connectivity, there is a USB-C version as well.
Although they use different USB connectors, they both offer full USB 3.1 bandwidth, allowing for up to 1Gbps Ethernet speeds for any connected device.
Either solution lets you take a single Ethernet connection from a wall socket or direct connection to your network's router, and spread it to multiple devices around the room. By utilizing USB rather than wall power, this reduces cable clutter on the tabletop, cuts back on weight for transport, and makes it possible to provide network connections where wall power may not be so easily accessible. Not to mention, the 4-in-1 along with traditional Ethernet adapters both provide Ethernet connectivity to modern thin & light laptops that lack an RJ45 Port.
Maximum Ethernet Switch speed without the clutter
The biggest downside to using an Ethernet adapter is that even with the fastest connection speeds, you're still limited to the bandwidth of the single connection from the Ethernet switch to the adapter. That problem is only exacerbated if you connect more devices to that same adapter.
Typically, you'd need a greater number of cables to change that dynamic, meaning more cables running across the floor or through walls. More cables mean a more complicated setup, especially if you have to retroactively add additional cables. There is another solution though: an Ethernet cable sharing kit.
These clever devices carry two Ethernet connections across a single wire. The sharing kit includes two splitter devices. The splitter consolidates two Ethernet connections into one RJ45 cable, which is then carried to the destination over a single wall plate connection or a coupler. The second splitter un-splits the connection into two Ethernet connectors for two devices.
That gives you fast connectivity for two devices (or more, if using an adapter) with only one intervening cable.
The setup for this device is a little more complicated than using a simple Ethernet splitter and it's not recommended for Power over Ethernet (PoE) applications. It also has the caveat of only supporting up to 100 Mbps connection speeds, so it will not be able to take full advantage of Gigabit or faster Ethernet networks.
It is, however, an ideal solution for expanding network functionality to pre-existing networks where running additional intervening cables is not ideal. It is perfect for situations in which a dedicated connection for each device is required, such as a printer alongside a laptop.
What Ethernet Splitter To Buy?
Now that you know the options you have in splitting Ethernet, the question turns to where and what to buy. Luckily, Cable Matters carries both Ethernet cable sharing kits and switches for either solution.
Cable Matters USB 3.1 to 4-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
Cable Matters USB-C to 4-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
RJ45 Ethernet Cable Sharing Kit