Gigabit Ethernet: On-Board Chips Reviewed

The Bottom Line: Intel Dominating On All Fronts

It came as no surprise that the CSA interface of the current Intel chip sets would be superior to the traditional connection of a network chip via PCI Bus. Still, the overall edge of Intel's products was a bit surprising: in addition to the CSA chip 82547EI, the PCI version, 82641GI, landed in second place in most benchmarks, while also edging the products of 3COM, Broadcom, and Realtek.

For use at home or in small office environments, these differences are minimal in actual operations, at least for the most part. Consequently, we'll hand down this following final verdict, despite the clear results: There is no reason to replace your existing integrated Gigabit network chip in favor of a PCI card boasting a faster chip. Compared to traditional network adapters for 100 MBit/s, the Gigabit models - assuming you have a corresponding switch and suitable cables - are still miles ahead.

Still, when looking at the benchmark results again, we need to ask: Is Intel just flat-out better at building better network products or are its competitors just not taking this market segment very seriously yet? Whichever the case, vendors should pay careful attention to what Gigabit Ethernet means for the user. For example, due to plummeting prices for multiport switches and routers, users are increasingly looking at Gigabit components for their PCs at home and at work. For many users, deciding whether or not to take advantage of Gigabit Ethernet to access data from any machine in a network without any delay has quickly become a no brainer.