Tiny Ethernet Routers Now Available In Gigabit Speeds

If you need to move a lot of data, and fast, Gigabit Ethernet is a great way to do it. However, most network hardware outside of datacenters is fairly space inefficient, a headache if you’re building a robot or drone. Enter the Gigablox, a super-compact Gigabit router for just these applications.

The Gigablox takes its mission seriously, with its compact size the ultimate design goal. The entire switch fits on a tiny 45 mm x 45 mm PCB. To this end, it eschews the common RJ45 connector, which is bulkier than necessary. Instead, thin Molex PicoBlade connectors are used for the five ports on board. Cables are included to convert between the two connectors, and obviously crimping ones own is easy to do, too. For those who need to connect more devices, several Gigablox can be hooked up in the same way as any other Ethernet switch. The Gigablox is a non-blocking switch, too – meaning all five ports can run at full speed simultaneously.

The design is the sequel to the SwitchBlox, and the later SwitchBlox Nano, both designed by [Josh Elijah] earlier this year. The pace of development is impressive, and it’s great to see [Josh] bring Gigabit speeds to the compact form factor. We can imagine a few good uses for these boards; share your best ideas in the comments below! Video after the break.

63 thoughts on “Tiny Ethernet Routers Now Available In Gigabit Speeds

    1. Good lord $124. I’d be interested in seeing how much smaller this is than the cheapest gigabit Ethernet switch on Amazon.

      I got one recently a TP-link teeny tiny module which was so small and light I kept losing it on my desktop since it would fall off and be held in mid air by a single cat6 cable hiding it behind my monitor.

      It might not even be too hard to desolder the RJ45 connectors and replace them with the molex ones saving space once you factor in the converter cables?

    1. This design looks to be competition for another device called the GigEthos selling for a fair bit more. It has a similarly wide input voltage, same picoblade connectors, and a similar size.

      Those picoblade contacts are kind of a bear to terminate and the crimpers are pricey, though. The contacts themselves are dirt cheap so the penalty for messing up isn’t that bad i guess.

  1. I would love to have ethernet that would run over single pair… Idealy in bus configuration (more devices on single pair for the price of increased collisions/loss, like rs485).
    I know there is proprietary “single pair ethernet” available… But it’s rather costly and i am not sure if it works in bus topology.

    1. Well you are in luck!
      Check for 100BASE-T1 for twister pair point to point (for example NXP has phy’s) and 10BASE-T1S for multi drop (multiple devices on a single pair without a switch).

    2. no you don’t.

      We were all very happy that thinnet 10base2 vanished around 1992 and was replaced by rj45 cat5. troubleshooting a termination problem in a building with thinnet was no fun.

    3. SPE is not proprietary. SPE is an IEEE standard to be used in industrial and automotive applications. SPE trunked, what you understand by bus configuration, is currently in specification and development. It should be available within the next few month. As it is intended for automotive use, the price tag will come down as well. But SPE trunked will be limited to 10Mbps, AFAIK. SPE with 1G wand 10G is and will be switched.

    4. automotive Ethernet is a single twisted pair and it is a standards base technology. The challenge is the spec distance is limited. For robotics etc it is a good alternative.

      1. I suspect it might be a router with that dram chip visible, or it’s some kind of managed switch that is still running some sort of OS for a management UI. Consumer grade switches generally don’t have dram in them, least not a discreet package, there may be some buffer dram built into the ASIC. They are typically a single switch ASIC, some magnetics, RJ45 jacs, some blinken lights and the power supply/regulator

        1. I’ve seen cheap consumer grade switches speak STP and trigger my BPDU-guard, without having any form of management access.

          I do assume that’d require some sort of CPU with an OS running on it.

  2. Kind of sad that we didn’t get an ultra small connector for ethernet and PoE instead of USB-C.

    If they weren’t going to bother keeping compatibility, and just gave USB2.0 it’s own dedicated pins, they might as well have gone big. I’m sure they could have made a low power short range transceiver, and it would have been awesome to have USB devices and network devices unified.

    1. Nah. Just drill a hole in the midle of 3.5mm jack tip and put optic fibre in it. There is already bit of power for microphone and you can use it to negotiate for more. Also you can use several laser wavelengths. One for 10G ethernet, another for HDMI, another for USB. All at the same time in single fibre.

    1. I seen gigabit running full rate through a cable that was chewed by a dog, then the broken conductors pulled out of the jacket and spliced together by just twisting the copper and taping it up with duct tape. Gigabit isn’t that sensitive. Obviously having a noisy environment might make matters worse compared to a pristine cable with fully compliant joins, but for everyday use these small molex connections will be fine.

      1. I’ve seen the opposite with less beaten up cables. All kinds of weird problems. never getting the full bandwidth errorfree.

        For homeuse (bit of browsing) prolly fine, but not for businesses (that was my point)

      2. Gigabit is fairly resilient over short runs. It’s when you’re doing long runs you need to be more concerned with the spec of the cable. I currently have about a 25ft run of what i would call low grade cat5, it’s probably more realistically cat3 cable upmarked by some no name seller since it is just about the thinnest cat5 i’ve ever seen. It’s running between my switches in my office and a switch out in the living room. I have no trouble pushing 980ish mbps over that low grade cable between my laptop and the servers in my office. I’d call that pretty much maxed out gigabit when tcp/ip overhead is taken into account.

        1. A fact a lot of people forget and insist that one must go to cat6 to even think of touching 10Gb/s networking….

          30 meters is a fairly decent distance, and at a lot of times, it is sufficient for the task.
          And to be fair, 10 Gb/s is a ton of bandwidth, so should last for quite some time into the future.

    2. In a small application where you have too much ground bounce to use transformerless ethernet (automotive, large robot, …) you can use other very tiny 1:1 transformers as a middle ground. They don’t meet the ethernet isolation spec, but it’s not needed.

    1. If hackaday had been involved I’m sure they would have gotten the technician details right. This is a switch not a router. Ask Lewin Day what his price for selling out is, or better yet tell hackaday you don’t appreciate Mr Day’s BS.

      1. The 8devices Habanero is a 9% larger Linux board with a 5 port gigabit switch and wifi.
        You need to design a carrier board, though, for the magnetics, connectors, and the power supply.

  3. The images show the 10/100/1000 transformer chips and not the BGA part on the back side of the board, and any images of that chip has the marking sanded off. That is always a sign of a quality product.

    QT48A03 – 1000Base-T DUAL Port Transformer Module
    QT24A01 – 10/100/1000Base-T Single Port Transformer Module

    I’m going to guess that there is a second QT48A03 on the flip side of the board for the other two ports.

    But the BGA chip will probably be from one of two companies, that I know, that make gigabit switch chips:
    Broadcom / Avago Technologies
    Microchip Technology / Micrel
    Microchip Technology / Microsemi

    But maybe I’m wrong.

    1. seeing the layout of the chip, it looks more like a qfn chip with heat dissipation vias.

      Sanding off the markings always makes me laugh. If your business needs that, you are doing something wrong. choosing the chip is easy. doing an good pcb layout is way more difficult. fortunately, with an investment of 125 and a x-ray machine that problem is solved as well.

  4. Pity about the messy mapping between the connectors and RJ45s though . Pro tip : 1mm pitch ribbon cable crimps perfectly into RJ45 plugs for unbulky ( short) ethernet connectoins!

    1. Awhile back they had their schematics/BOM on github, unfortunately the only one I still have is the switchblox nano schematic but regardless, I’m rather confident you are correct.

      When I looked at the BOM/schematic (can’t remember which) for this when it was still in-progress, I remember distinctly that it was a Realtek chip. If that’s the only one with matching number of ports by Realtek then that’s absolutely the chip they are using.

      Not a huge fan of them ripping all that information down.

  5. The STEP file shows the main device as a QFN88. Doing a quick check out there for gigabit 5-port switches in a QFN, I could find just one. I expect this is the IC they are using. Realtek RTL8367N-VB-CG.

    1. Thank you! I should probably consider designing my own board with this, to think about it.

      Also, your first comment probably didn’t go through as quickly because it contained a link and had to go through moderation, just FYI.

    1. Gigabit or 100mbps will not work with (typical) microcontroller gpio, but 10mbps is just 20MHz manchester encoded data. I implemented it using SPI peripheral once, it worked pretty well.

    1. That is the weirdest thing. They must have gotten the Hackaday hug of death and are redirecting as an anti DDOS measure? If you past the address into a new tab instead of clicking the link on the article the page will load. (Actually I went to their homepage and clicked through that way, not sure what the key is to loading the page.)

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