We have written before on what is the best CCENT or CCNA lab router and you know what? To a certain extent it changes over time as better models come down in price and give you a better bang for the buck! So being that it has been about 8 months since we wrote a similar article, let’s look at some of the options that are out there and compare from a dollar perspective the bang they give your for the buck in your CCENT or CCNA lab.
One of the first things I will address though since it is a common question is we will have students ask us if they can get a cheaper CCENT lab kit for ICND1 100-101 and then upgrade it to a ICND2 200-101 CCNA lab kit at a later time. The challenge with that is there is really no way to split the concepts up that are covered on the CCENT exam so you only use 1.5 of the 3 routers you need in a good CCNA lab. So for better or for worse, when you purchase your lab it will cover both CCENT and CCNA at the same time.
CCENT & CCNA Lab Routers
Now believe it or not there are still those old workhorse 2500 series routers out there. They do provide some good value for the buck if your budget is really tight around $100 since they have built-in serial ports and you don’t have to buy serial port modules. But given their limitations as 10mb routers that can’t really do inter-vlan routing or trunking, these are definitely not the best bang for the buck out there.
Next we have 1720/1750 series routers. Somewhat of a step up from the 2500 series, but once you add in the cost of doing memory upgrades on these and adding in some of the specialized modules like a wic-1enet to get a second Fast Ethernet interface…well, they are not that great of a value either. In my opinion they are also a pain to deal with due to the external power supply they have and that you can’t rack mount them or even stack them nicely without them falling over all the time. So they are out too.
Next we have the 1760 router. This is unlike the plastic 1720 and 1750s in that the 1760 router is a metal case and is rack mountable. It has four slots of which can support 4 VIC cards and/or 2 WIC modules. It also supports 12.4 and comes with a Fast Ethernet interface. So this router is a tie for the winner of the best bang for the buck of a single Fast Ethernet router with our next contestant.
The 2600XM series. You have single Fast Ethernet routers in this series for your CCENT and CCNA labs and like the 1760 routers they are a good value. They do not have support for VICs out of the box, but you can add that by adding a NM-2V module. But they do support 12.4 like the 1760s. So again, a solid value and the single Fast Ethernet variety of these (2610XM, 2620XM, 2650XM) tie the 1760 for best value of a single FE router in a CCENT or CCNA lab.
The model that we still get asked about is the 3640. As it also supports 12.4 and can have all kinds of modules installed in it and it supports MPLS. Unfortunately it’s time has passed. It will a great CCNA lab router 4 years ago. But as prices have come down on the XM and 1800/2800 series it has gone the way of the router graveyard due to the high cost to install all the module functionality needed.
Next we have the 1841 router. Up until recently this was a winner for the best all-around CCENT or CCNA router. It had dual Fast Ethernet and supported IOS 15. But the one major drawback is that is does not support Voice. That is ok if you definitely have no aspirations of for CCNA Voice or such.
Which brings us to the 2801 and 2811 routers. They are a couple of extra dollars more than the 1841 routers. However as mentioned before they do support Voice and like the 1841 routers they are dual Fast Ethernet and they support IOS 15 which is ideal for your CCENT or CCNA lab. They both support a combination of WIC and VWIC modules. The 2811 also supports NM modules and more memory so you can run CME 8.6 and advanced versions of IOS 15. So given that the 2811 has the most flexibility it is at least a co-champion with the 1841 as the best CCNA router given it is only a few dollars more that the 1841.
We hope you have found this review of the current CCNA 200-120 router landscape helpful.
If you have more detailed questions on a particular router or how to build the best CCNA kit with the best bang for the buck, please feel free to Contact Us.