With all of the networking brands, every one of them has a budget priced product that I've read complaints about.
So true. It's kinda funny reading amazon and newegg reviews ("It's the best" ... "Total POS" ... "It's the best"...). The metal chassis, 5W power consumption, 8k jumbo support, and 5-year warranty sold me on the Trend switch.
Good luck with the D-Link. Most of the complaints I remember seeing on it were related to overheating issues. You could always do what this guy did - cable tie a heat sink to the processor!
Why is it better for me to plug everything into the gigabit switch?
It's not necessarily better, but it may simplify cable management to have everything patch through your switch. My home network is similar to yours:
DSL modem -> Router/Wireless Access Point/4-port 100Mb/s Swtich -> 8-port GigE switch
I have two devices that only have 10/100 NICs, and to save gigE ports they are plugged into my 100Mb router.
Some basic networking concepts may help you understand what's going on with these devices. What you are calling your router is (at least) three devices in a single chassis: router, wireless access point, switch. These interact to various degrees depending on the nature of the network traffic. Simplifying things a bit, for network traffic that doesn't leave your LAN, the router portion of this device doesn't do anything (aside from initial DHCP assignment). It's not routing
unless traffic needs to leave your LAN.
Local traffic is all switched. Switching relies on hardware MAC addresses. Switches build tables of MAC addresses as they learn them from attached devices, so that they know which port to send data out of. Switches can connect to other switches and will "see through" each other to learn MAC addresses of more distant devices (there are limits to this).
Your router/WAP/switch gets cabled to the gigE switch (pick 1 of its LAN ports), and they share MAC addresses with each other. So, you can connect devices to both your gigE switch and your router/access pt/switch and all attached devices will be on the same LAN.
Would the megabit devices not show up on the local network if they were plugged into the router instead? If this is true then that's a bummer, since I have a few laptops connected through WAN that I'd like to still network as well.
Through WAN (wide area network)? Or wireless? If wireless, then no problem - see above. The wireless access point in your router is connected to its internal switch and will be on the same LAN.
What's the benefit to buying a native gigabit router then? From what I've learned here it seems amazingly easy to upgrade your existing network. And if you're starting from scratch it still seems cheaper to buy a megabit router + gigabit switch. Gigabit routers are typically $80+ even when on sale.
I assume you're talking about multi-function router/WAP/switches with gigE LAN switch ports, and not gigE WAN port(s). Someone might be short on desk space and have a small number of wired devices. Having a single gigE router instead of separate router + switch would save on desk space and power outlet wall-wart space. But I agree with your general idea - there's really no NEED for a gigE router. Possibly once wireless bandwidth exceeds 100Mb, though.
[EDIT] I see idale
beat me to it!