Ubiquiti ToughSwitch

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jun 28, 2012

Ubiquiti's lack of standard PoE compatibility has been one of few integrator complaints against them. Users have had to turn to lesser known lines or passive PoE adapters to solve this issue. Now, Ubiquiti has announced a new line of switches, the ToughSwitch, specially tailored for use with their products in answer to these complaints. In this note, we overview this line, where it best fits, and how it compares to standard switches.

Overview

The ToughSwitch line consists of three models, all managed, providing passive PoE power on all ports:

  • ToughSwitch PoE: The ToughSwitch PoE provides five Gigabit Ethernet ports capable of providing 18W of 24V passive PoE power per port.
  • ToughSwitch PoE Pro: The ToughSwitch Pro contains eight GbE ports with configurable 24 or 48V PoE on each port, up to a maximum of 150W total.
  • ToughSwitch PoE Carrier: ToughSwitch Carrier consists of two ToughSwitch Pro units mounted together in a 1U rack mount chassis, providing 24/48V power and GbE to up to 16 devices.

Note that unlike standard PoE switches, none of the ToughSwitch line provides 802.3af-compliant PoE. Only passive PoE is available. 

Pricing and Availability

The ToughSwitch PoE will be available from Ubiquiti distributors in July 2012, with an MSRP of $95 USD. Pro and Carrier models will be released later in Q3, with MSRPs of $189 and $425, respectively. This pricing is lower than many standard PoE switches on the market, typically about $200-250 for an 8-port model.

Applications

Ubiquiti's ToughSwitch line helps to address one of the most common complains about Ubiquiti equipment, its lack of standard PoE. Integrators historically have had to use lesser-known switch manufacturers, as the majority of major providers support only standard PoE. Standard PoE switches may be used by installing Ubiquiti's Instant 802.3af adapter, which converts 802.3af PoE to the passive 24V required by Ubiquiti gear, but this adds cost and an additional component to the installation. Finally, users may also use single-port passive PoE injectors, included with all Ubiquiti products, but these require mains power, which may be a nuisance to manage in locations with multiple cameras, as space and outlets must be located for all injectors.

In many typical wireless applications, only one or two radios are installed at a given location. In these cases, users may choose to use single-port passive PoE injectors instead of the ToughSwitch, since other devices, such as standard IP cameras, will not use the passive PoE provided. If both cameras and wireless equipment will be used, the more likely choice is to use a standard PoE switch to power all devices, using Instant 802.3af adapters for the Ubiquiti radios.

Users installing Ubiquiti's AirCam series will find the ToughSwitch most useful. Since these cameras use only passive PoE, finding an aesthetically-pleasing and code-compliant location for 802.3af adapaters may be challenging at camera locations, and locating eight or more single-port injectors at the head end requires substantial space and additional power strips. For those willing to deal with the accompanying infrastructure issues, a standard 8-port non-PoE switch may be purchased for about $150, and no other hardware is required aside from included single-port passive PoE injectors. However, the ToughSwitch Pro is likely a better option, given that it eliminates the need to use single-port injectors, for only a moderate price increase ($189, about ~$40).

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