So you want to get your CCNA and you need to buy a router for your CCNA home lab? Now the question is which router should you get? I have been in your shoes and know when you are just starting out, it is tough to make sense of all the different models of Cisco Routers available. The good news is there are a lot of good options available to get a good CCNA router for a fair price.
I recommend getting a Cisco 2611 Router or a Cisco 2621 Router because they have two Copper ports instead of one and offer the most training flexibility. If the cost isn’t much different, go for the 2621 because it offers 2 10/100 Ethernet ports and has 128MB of memory versus the 2611 that has 2 10Mb ports with 64MB of memory. Don’t forget to buy 2 routers as most of the CCNA Labs require two routers. You could also get 3 routers, but from my experience, you will rarely actually need 3 routers to practice for your CCNA.
Another issue that comes into play is the IOS. If you can get a router with 12.4 already installed, you are way ahead of the game. Remember, the only legal way you can get a copy of the IOS is to buy a Cisco Smartnet contract for your router. If worse comes to worse, look for 12.3, but do your best to avoid 12.2. While it is a solid IOS for production, the new CCNA really focuses on the newer 12.4 version and some commands may be different from what you are learning.
This recommendation is for building a CCNA Home Lab. If you plan on building a CCNP Home Lab, then you should check back later for a post about which router you should buy for CCNP. The great part is even though the routers for CCNP are more expensive, if you buy them while working on your CCNA, you can use them for both certifications.
Also, if you have the money, you may be better off buying a complete CCNA Home Lab. You can usually find a complete CCNA Lab Kit including 2 or more routers and 1 or more Cisco Switches. Just keep in mind what I said about the routers.