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I am getting ready to set up a home lab to practice for my CCNA and CCNP tests. Are the 2500 series routers still sufficient for everything that will be on the tests or should I think about investing the extra money for 2600 series equipment?
If I were you, I would get a 2509 or similar as a terminal server for the consoles, a 2520 or similar as a frame relay switch, and at least one 2620 or higher. For the generating routes etc, you might get away with 2500 series, or even lower: 800 or 1600 series.
What I miss most in the 2500 series is the ability to define 802.1Q subinterfaces. For this you really need a 2600 with a FastEthernet interface. The 2600 is more flexible as well, with lots of modules available.
I would think about a catalyst switch as well, perhaps a 2912XL or a 2950-12. If you can afford it, a 3550 will be useful in the future, but they are still expensive.
Besides deciding on the equipment models, research the IOS version and feature set installed before buying. Modular routers will always give you more options in setting up your lab, for example 2610 with NM 4A/S running 120-7.T IP plus or higher might replace 2620 for inter-vlan routing and 2520 for frame-relay switching, and so on
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