Gigabit Ethernet Chipsets

Does any one have experience of using the different different Gigabit chipsets. From what I have found on the net the realtek 8169 chipset is not much good. The problem for me is that most of the PCI cards I find only seem to offer the realtek chipset.

I'd consider swapping motherboard, but then again may end up with another dodgy chipset for the gigabit ethernet.

Any comments much appreciated.

Rob Murphy
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  1. Intel's a pretty safe bet, with good driver support, feature set, and CPU utilization/performance. In PCI, they're probably the best. They have integrated LOM solutions as well; I presume they would be decent, but I haven't heard much about them specifically nor tried one myself.

    I really like some nVIDIA on-board GbE as well, but this one has some detractors. Specific versions may have issues; the associated nVIDIA firewall in particular is not well-liked. Notably, one on-line site did a comparison of a recent nVIDIA and Intel (while actually reviewing a gaming NIC) and claimed that the nVIDIA outperformed Intel in all their tests (which is why they used nVIDIA for the comparisons thereafter instead of Intel).

    I also like Marvell PCIe solutions -- e.g. from SysKonnect. Marvell PCI on the other hand is a different chip, and doesn't perform as well. Intel also makes a PCIe solution -- their PT line. In general, it's a good idea to get off PCI for gigabit, and use non-PCI LOM or add-on PCIe solutions. However, this might not be important for systems without crowded PCI buses or ones that are also bottle-necked much more by the HD's themselves than the GbE networking.
  2. I would like to get off the PCI, but the machine I intend to use for the "server" has the graphics card in the PCIE slot. The only other slots are PCI.

    The machine to be used for the "server" has a motherboard with 3 spare SATA ports. I'll have to make some space in the case maybe by removing the builtin flash card reader. There is nothing else in the PCI card slots, so no cards will be sharing bandwidth. I'm not sure what else is on the PCI bus though.

    I have been looking around and most of the cards use the realtek 8169 chipset. This seems well supported, but not liked by quite a few people. I have found a supply of the Intel cards at a reasonable cost of £18. The realtek ones go for about £15 for a name brand like Netgear or Linksys, and about £10 pounds for a no name card.

    I will be buying 3 or 4 of these cards so the extra cost is not that much. Each of the client machines will get the Intel gigabit NICs, one of the clients has a Haupague PVR card in it, so that will be interesting. My laptop already has a gigabit NIC built in.

    I have not decided on the switch yet. I may get a 6 port switch, 1 link to the router, and 5 for the gigabit machines.

    The main problem I'm expecting is that the "server" is running XP home, so will only be able to allow 5 connections. This machine has many applications, like office 2003 Pro, that I would loose if I used the XP-Pro disks I have as it would overite rather than upgrade the OS. At present the 5 connection limit should not be a problem. It would be interesting to use VMware to install Linux, and let that handle the file sharing.

    If I get chance I'll post some times for large (> 4GB) file transfers.

    All the best.

    Rob Murphy
  3. Hey Rob,

    I doubt that you have much to worry about. With a 5 user workgroup I don't think anyone will notice if you have Gigabit or 10/100. Unless these guys swap Gigabyte files all day, they won't be using a drop of the bandwidth.

    So I would say, save money and get the cheapest solution possible.

    As far as the router goes, I know they make 6 port routers, but what if you want to network a printer? Always leave room for growth. Go with the 8 port at a minimum.
  4. Quote:
    With a 5 user workgroup I don't think anyone will notice if you have Gigabit or 10/100. Unless these guys swap Gigabyte files all day, they won't be using a drop of the bandwidth.

    So I would say, save money and get the cheapest solution possible.

    By this logic, if you have a small network and conventional internet access, you should 10 Mb/s networking, unless you swap 100's of megabytes of files all day. You're doing this, right?
  5. Well that depends...

    At home I have 6 PCs (not all on the network at once); of the two computers I use daily, my desktop is wired and my laptop has built in 802.11b wireless. So yes in this instance I do. And it runs fast enough for me.

    At work, I have hundreds of PCs networked with 10/100 (most everything but industrial machines connected at 100) and gigabit between our servers. Even without GbE to the end user, and every user using servers for almost all data storage, I rarely hear a complaint about the speed of the network.

    So I am pretty sure he is okay with 10/100 and 5 computers, and certainly the difference between chipsets in GbE will not be noticable. If he want's to buy the absolute best, that is his choice, but I am just here to let him know, it isn't gonna make anything faster.
  6. The machines are swapping large files quite often. They are already networked using 100 meg ethernet and its slow when moving a DVD image from one machine to another. I want to use 1 machine to add storage to, and then be able to access it from the other machines as if it was stored localy. The transfers at the moment work out at about at about 10 - 12 megabyte per sec, but moving 4.7 Gig takes time, and that is somthing that happens often.

    If the gigabit network is setup well the copies between machines should appear to be as quick as copies between 2 local disks.

    For the switch I'm going to use a Netgear GS608, its 8 ports and supports the jumbo frames upto 9000 bytes. The link to the outside world may be from one of the unused ports to my router, or it could be through the 100 Meg interfaces on one of the machines, this would avoid any problems with mixing 100 meg and gigabit on the same switch.

    I would get a Gigabit NAS server, but they do not seem to get much above the level imposed by 100 meg ethernet. I can clear some room in the older of the machines, change PSU, and have space for 3 SATA drives for less that a very basic 100 Meg ethernet NAS would cost. I also use Linux, and would like to use exceed on a windows PC to get X windows on the PC. Again this will be much quicker using X windows over gigabit than 100 Meg.

    That my reason for the upgrade. It also happens that its getting towards the end of the tax year so its spend it now or get taxed on it.

    Just my 2ps worth

    Rob Murphy
  7. Well then, I would definately go with GbE.

    As far as chipset, I have always preferred Intel. Good performance and little trouble.
  8. I've always had good experience with Intel too. Driver updates are always available, they work to get all their products in OS driver libraries (for painless updates), and I've never had one of their connections fail (well, okay I did drop one once). You pay a bit more but hey, when Microsoft comes out with the latest service pack and you need a driver update, you won't be disappointed.

    3Com was good in their day... but they don't make network adapters anymore. :(
  9. I've got the intel pro PCI gigabit cards. They cost £18 pounds each inc vat. Given that a name (e.g. netgear or linksys) realtek card would have been £15 or so there were not that expensive. They were however difficult to get hold of.

    I've just upgraded the processor in the machine to be used as the server, so I will let that settle down for a week.

    I've ordered the Netgear GS608 switch, but its still not arrived at the shop. It should be here sometime this week. I'll probably pick up a couple of SATA drives at the same time.

    I'll probably be using CAT5E cables as I have those already. The cables will be short so this should not be a problem. I will try the switch with gigabit only and mixed 100 and gigabit traffic to see if that makes a difference.

    Once the job is done I'll post the difference in file transfer times.

    Rob Murphy
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