CertificationKits CCNA 200-301 Lab Recommendations

The big Cisco CCNA Certification update is here!  Run! Hide! What will we do!?! Have no fear! We are here to help with the information you need to make an informed decision on the lab equipment you need to be prepared!  We have worked in partnership with Cisco NetAcad instructors and CCIEs to keep our kits at the best configurations you can find at a fair and honest price point, backed by the highest quality and customer service around.  At CertificationKits, we did the hard research for you and you are completely covered!  We have been doing this for over 20 years strong and we’ve lasted that long for a reason.  We work hard to make sure we continue to offer nothing but the best!

First off, we want to stress that we feel that this revision to the Cisco Certification Program is very exciting and positive!  With this, CCNA is hotter, trending and more in demand more than ever!  Updates like these are what prove to companies, HR representatives, IT recruiters, etc. that Cisco Certified Network Engineers are at the top of their game; the best at what they do.  (Was that almost an X-Men reference?)  The new exam covers a wider base of more current knowledge and really shows that a CCNA Certified engineer can excel and move up the ladder wherever necessary.  Nothing compares to the knowledge and skill that a Cisco Certified Engineer can add to your IT department. When you hire a Cisco Certified Engineer, you know exactly what you are getting and their worth.  More importantly, always remember that as the CCNA certification progresses, it proves more and more that you know your stuff! With this, so does the amount of money you can expect to make as a CCNA!  Networking is one of the fastest growing fields in the world and with that comes the rewards. Anyone can do this, even a complete beginner, all you need is the drive and some tools! 

In addition to the latest CCNA revisions, Cisco has now introduced their new entry level CCST (Cisco Certified Support Technician) certifications for networking and cybersecurity.  The recommendations here overlap for that as well, so you can also work on an entry level certification on your path to the CCNA.  Please feel free to read our blog post of CCST here.

We still advise you to read our CCNA 200-125 Lab Suggestions Page, as some of that info is still very helpful.  It didn’t go away yesterday.  However, take that with a grain of salt and use that as a partly legacy reference, as this is the most current info.

If you happen to already have a 200-125 or older kit from us or equipment on hand, you can also purchase our brand new, fully updated CCNA 200-301 training materials from the Training and Media section of our site.  Our team worked in partnership with Cisco NetAcad instructors and CCIEs who are not only highly certified, but also have many years of combined experience working hands-on with students.  This brings a whole extra layer of confidence that these are not only the best labs and theory resources on the market, but also cover the topics in a way that we know students’ will easily comprehend.  All of our content is written in a user friendly format that even a pure beginner or experienced IT professional can understand.  What good are all the labs in the world if they feel like they were written by a robot and in some alien language?   Over the course of 23+ years, thousands have successfully certified using our complete training packages.

So, what equipment is Cisco recommending this time around?

CCNA 200-301 – Recently Updated to the latest equipment release by Cisco in 2023

This time around, Cisco has released a couple topology options covering their minimum hardware topology/hardware requirements and their recommended requirements for the optimal learning experience. To satisfy the minimum requirement, Cisco has a minimum requirement of two routers and two switches.  However, the best recommendation is still for a full topology, running a three router and three switch lab.  This is also the topology we write our lab workbook for because we know this is going to best prepare you to pass the CCNA exam and real world scenarios!  What is even better here is that the new CCNP enterprise certification has the same three router and three switch topology as its base.  (CCNP calls for an optional five switches, but we haven’t seen any labs yet that require the additional gear.  You can read out CCNP recommendations for more information on that.)  So, this means that if you start out with good routers and switches on CCNA, you will have a very easy transition to move onto the CCNP level certification.  If you don’t want to go with a three router and three switch setup, don’t worry, you can still do all the labs by scaling back a two router and two switch kit.  Cisco does have a small wireless component that will be part of the new exam, but this is simply a generic wireless router that you already have at home.  However, we do provide an option with all of our  labs to add a wireless access point (along with the labs to go along with it!) in case you want to go a step further and take that extra dive into wireless capability. 

Official CCNA 2 Router and 2 Switch Topology:

     (2) 4221 Base Licensed Routers

     (2) 1000 Series Switches

     (1) Generic Wireless Router  (Most home routers that you already probably have cover this)

So, let’s remember that these are the exact specs from Cisco and not a direct requirement for what you must have to be able to study for and pass the CCNA.  Most of us are on much tighter budgets and want to do this as affordably and effectively as possible.  We’re with you! After reviewing the new curriculum for CCNA, on the higher end level, we still highly recommend the G2 series routers (1921, 1941 and 2911) as giving you close to the same capability, especially for lab use, at a price that is a lot easier on your budget.  Another thing to mention here is that any add-ons like cards, modules, voice hardware, etc. are also much more reasonably priced for the G2 and G1 ISR (18xx, 28xx, etc) routers than the 4xxx routers as well.  So, you’ll have much more affordable access to those technologies and expansion options.      

We offer many kits that are much more cost friendly with 1841, 2801 and 2811 routers in them.  These are still great options and in most cases a great fit for students on a budget.  While these are the more entry level and mid-range options available, they can still do the vast majority of the labs and you will still be able to get an exceptional and full experience that will have you prepared for the CCNA exam!  If you look through our Recommended CCNA Lab Kits, you’ll see that they are often mixed with G2 routers so anyone can find a perfect match for their budget.  We design our labs with the capability levels of all of our offerings in mind.

Many of our labs come with the 2960-L running IOS LanBase switch as the base device. (Not LanLite like on the 2960-S, which uses only a scaled down version of the IOS. You will see these in some “junk” kits from sellers trying to make a quick buck by building the entire switching topology from 2960-S or ancient 2950).   As the kits move from our economy options through the higher end options like the Premium or Titanium Kits, we add in more layer 3 switches to provide even more capability.  The CCNA Premium Kit is a customer favorite here, providing well rounded capability at a very budget friendly price point:  https://shop.certificationkits.com/cisco-ccna-200-301-premium-kit/

To keep the cost down and get you into a G2 router we offer many hybrid style kits, starting from our CCNA Standard Kit, that offers routers from both generations.  In most cases, these are our techs favorite picks because they blend a budget friendly option with exceptional capability options. The trick here is that you have at least one G2 router that will be able to seamlessly run every command.  The 2811, for example, can run the vast majority of the commands, but there are a few things they may skip a beat on in the very advanced labs.  The beauty of this is that you will always be able to have one router that is seamless.  Then if you run into a minor bump in the road, you can actually troubleshoot against the G2 router.  Using the G2 router as a baseline, if the command runs on the G2 router and not perfectly on the 28xxs, then you know right away that it is a minor capability issue and not something you may have made a mistake on.  Real world troubleshooting scenario!  This is even better if you are running two G2 routers because then you have a pair that can communicate with each other at the base topology recommendation.  These kits get you the best experience offered from both generations of routers and heck, you get a bonus way to learn some valuable troubleshooting skills!  If you want to take things up another notch, you can select to upgrade any of the 1921 to a 1941 or 2911 with the security license on it in the dropdown option menus.  This will give you a G2 router with BOTH the base and security licenses on the device.  This will prime you for CCNA Security / Network Security 1.0  level work and even CCNP!  Here is a link to the CCNA Premium Plus Lab Kit to take a look at another popular option that runs two G2 routers and one G1 ISR Router.

The next step up would be what we consider the best case scenario without getting into the 4000 series XE routers that we really don’t consider necessary for certification success or for completing the required lab work.  There isn’t anything on the CCNA 200-301 exam that you can’t learn using the G2 series routers and it is hard to justify the higher expense of the 4000 series..  The CCNA G2 Titanium Kit has three 1921 routers.  If you look through some of the customization options on the kit pages, you’ll see that you can even upgrade these to a 1941 Sec all the way up to a 2911 V/Sec.  The kit pages have more detailed information if you have questions.  We are always here to help as well!  These are paired with three layer 3 switches (3560 and 3750v2).  The 3560 and 3750v2 are true layer 3, fully dynamic switches so you can explore beyond the curriculum and also add a level of future proofing to your lab. 

To help out here, just like with the more typical CCNA options, if you really want the 4000 series routers incorporated into your lab, we have created our G2/XE hybrid kits that “meet in the middle” by combining the 4000 series routers with the G2 series. This alleviates some of the expense and makes entry into the 4000 series a much more financially reasonable solution.  This will give you the best of both worlds by allowing you to experience what both series of routers have to offer!  This way you can explore both IOS Universal and IOS XE!  You can find the XE/G2 hybrid kits here.

If you are a student with larger ambitions to move up the certification ladder and have the room in your budget or are a school/training academy, the best case scenario is always going to be to match Cisco’s specs directly.  This is of course the most expensive option, but it does put you directly in line with what Cisco writes the exam for and will provide a seamless experience.  These are our XE Official Series Kits.

One thing we should mention is that Cisco has dropped the need for Serial ports on the CCNA exam.  This means that you can skip these now if you want to keep the cost down even further.  However, we still think this is a very relevant technology to have knowledge of as you will still see these in the field.  Just because they were removed from the exam curriculum does not mean they disappeared from real world networks, especially internationally.  To prove this point even further, these are still required for CCNP Enterprise, CCNA Security / Network Security 1.0, etc.  Even though these are not part of the CCNA exam, if you purchase the serial cards, we include the labs to get you going on being ahead of the game in broadening your knowledge base.  Our CCNA Beyond Serial Lab eWorkbook comes bundled with the serial cards add-ons option for free!  You also save some money, as they are additionally bundle priced with the purchase of a kit.

Just to go over things again with a quick reference guide:

G1 Series Routers 1841, 2801, 2811, 2821
G2 Series Routers 1921, 1941, 2901, 2911
XE Series Routers 4221, 4321, 4331

G1 – The G1 series routers are still very affordable and boast amazing capability for most lab work.  This means less money out of your pocket while still having the power to obtain your CCNA Certification.  If you want to keep the price down as much as possible, this is a great way to start and if you want more capability later, you can take advantage of our awesome trade-up program or simply add onto your lab with more devices.

G1/G2 Hybrid – This is going to be the best place to look for most students/candidates.  Just like the G2/XE hybrid kits, these are designed to get the experience of the G2 series, while still keeping the cost down by supplementing with the G1 series.  This is an excellent solution for most students and one of our techs favorite options!  

G2 Titanium – This is what we consider to be the best case scenario option for matching a budget friendly solution with exceptional capability.  This is an excellent match for candidates that want to be as close as possible to the more expensive XE options without breaking the bank.  Once again, these will get you pretty close to a seamless experience for CCNA for a considerably lower cost than an XE/G2 or Pure XE lab kit.  We also recommend this for candidates that have ambitions to expand past the CCNA.  We provide an option in these kits to upgrade any number of 1921 up through the series to various models up to the 2911 V/Sec.  These allow you to go a step up and also add the permanent security license or Voice + Security licenses to the router/s.  This will be very helpful in matching the transitional requirement for CCNP and CCNA/CCNP level security.

XE-  We recommend these for the most ambitious of students, schools and professionals.  As we mentioned before, the G2 is still a much better pick financially if you aren’t concerned with having a perfect match to Cisco’s official specs (which, once again, we know are beyond what is necessary to complete the curriculum).   If you want to incorporate these, just like with the G2/G1 series, we do offer our XE/G2 hybrid style kits that break up the cost and blend devices.  With all of this being said, these are amazing routers with capability that will have you going far into the future.


Let’s change gears from routing now and talk a little bit about switches.  If you recall the official recommendations from Cisco used to be 2960-L switches, Cisco recommended at least (2) 2960 switches.  Even with the latest recommended equipment list update, the 2960-L can still handle all of the labs. So, they work great and are extremely affordable compared to other options.  Now you’ll notice that many of our kits come with 3560 or 3750v2 switches or both. These models actually take things a step further and exceed Cisco’s recommendations.  We felt that as the kits got more advanced, that these make great additions because they give you fully dynamic, true layer 3 capability. Layer 3 switching is becoming more and more common-place and this prepares you to explore this in a capacity beyond the scope of the CCNA.  Another benefit here is that incorporating these switches helps make the transition into moving into upper level certs like the CCNP ENCORE, ENARSI, etc.  that much smoother.

Now let’s talk about Cisco’s official recommendation of the 1000 series C1000-24T-4G-L.  We thought long and hard about this and there is a bit to unpack here.  First off, these are extremely expensive on the market right now and also highly unavailable.  Why would Cisco make these their official recommendation?  In short, the answer is for optics and because the main supply for them is to primarily buy the product directly from them, along with their dramatically expensive service contracts.  More money for Cisco.  As far as capability goes, other than adding gigabit ports to the recommended switch, the 1000 series doesn’t really provide any other benefits to lab purposes for the massive price increase that they require.  So, we got to doing what we do best, and decided to get creative to provide a better alternative solution for our customers while also saving them a great deal of money.  After much tinkering and research, we decided to offer the Cisco 3650 in place of the 1000-24T.  The 3650 is a higher-end gigabit switch that runs IOS XE to match your 4xxx series routers.  The 1000 series run the classic IOS and NOT IOS XE, so you’d be paying an awful lot of money just to match Cisco’s recommended device and it wouldn’t even be running the same code as the 4000 series routers. The 3650 is also a device that is well known for its reliability, proven in production environments and commonly deployed in live networks (You’ll see a lot of these in the field for quite some time). The best part about it is that, not only are you getting a much better and more capable switch, you’re matching IOS XE across your lab for considerably less money!  We think we have come up with an exceptional solution to this new recommendation that blows it out of the water!

As you look through the lab kits, you’ll see that some the higher end recommended CCNA Lab Kits in the XE/G2 Hybrid Kit Section incorporate the G Series 3560G or 3750G.  These are higher end versions of the standard 3560 and 3750v2 that primarily provide gigabit ports across the entire device.  

The important thing to take away from this is that you can absolutely conquer the CCNA exam using any of these options!  These are all just different paths to success, only separated by what you are interested in investing. Even with the cheapest kit, your ambition and drive can fill in the minor capability gaps while also building real world experience.  

We can tell you companies are screening new engineers to make sure they have worked with real equipment.  “What does your home lab look like?” has become a favorite interview question as a way to filter out those candidates that don’t have hands-on experience with physical devices.  They know that nothing can ever replace using the real thing!  Network engineers that only use simulators will simply never match those who learned using real equipment.  The industry actually has a funny term for network engineers that learned only from simulators.  They like to playfully call them, “Paper Tigers”.  You wouldn’t train a surgeon using a simulator or want your commercial airline pilot of your flight to Fiji to have only played VR Flight Simulators (although fun!), so why would a network engineer responsible for sensitive data be any different? We cannot stress enough that using real equipment is the right way to do things and be prepared not only for the exam, but also the real world.  If you want to hear it from Cisco they also recently put out a blog post stressing the importance that real equipment is necessary.

We have over two decades of experience being the premiere source for Cisco lab kits.  We have helped thousands of students obtain Cisco Certifications, assisted educational institutions outfit their learning environments and boosted countless businesses that want to get their staff trained.  We work just about around-the-clock to provide the support you need if you have any questions.  So, even if it is beyond business hours, always feel free to shoot us an email!  You may be surprised at how fast we can get a detailed response back to you, even at the strangest of hours.  (We’re tech geeks, sleep is for the weak!). We absolutely know that all of this can get confusing, so always feel free to reach out to us via phone or email.  Our techs are always happy to help and IT geeks, just like you!

Phone:  866-950-2478 Mon-Fri 9:00AM-4:30PM CST

Email:  Sales@CertificationKits.com