Inexpensive, Speedy Gigabit Networking
At a Glance
The world may desire wireless, but for extreme speed and rock-ribbed reliability, a wired network is still the way to go. Now SMC Networks has come up with an even better reason to pick wired: affordable gigabit networking.
In the past, gigabit networking (1000 megabits per second, or 1 gbps) over copper wiring mainly appeared in very large businesses due to its high costs. Last year, gigabit ethernet controllers started showing up on PC motherboards, but gigabit switches suitable for smaller networks were expensive and hard to find. Now SMC has introduced attractively priced five-port and eight-port 1-gpbs network adapters and switches.
I tested SMC's SMC8505TX Auto-Sensing Gigabit Switch. This $110 package offers five 10/100/1000-mbps ports on a small-office network with Cat 5e cabling. I also used SMC's EZ Card 1000 SMC9452TX network adapters ($25).
My informal tests showed average upload speeds of 80 mbps and download speeds of 92 mbps on this same network when I used 100-mbps network adapters and a compatible switch. With the gigabit network in place, upload speeds increased to 210 mpbs and download speeds shot up to to 240 mpbs, a truly excellent showing. By comparison, the fastest wireless products that we've tested in the past topped out at 24 mpbs. (The gigabit network's impressive speeds fell dramatically when standard Cat 5 network cable was used, however.)
Setup was simple. The only hassle-and it was a small one-involved locating drivers for the network adapters on the included CD and manually installing them (because the automated installation routine refused to work).
I was also a bit displeased with the switch's design. The cable ports are on the same side of the box as the LED indicators. This may be practical for rack-mounted systems, but it's awkward if you're used to desktop-type switches with ports on the rear.
-Ramon G. McLeod
SMC Networks SMC8505TX
Very high speed and easy to set
up; clunky industrial design.
Price when reviewed: $110 Current prices (if available)