StarTech’s USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet NIC Network Adapter (USB31000S) takes advantage of USB 3.0 connectivity to deliver network throughput that’s almost as good as using an on-board Gigabit Ethernet controller.
Network Adapters and USB Issues
A NIC (Network Interface Controller) is a card that’s typically built into a PC or laptop system board and has a port where you plug in an Ethernet cable to connect to a network or to the Internet. NICs are usually built-in to computers, laptops and mobile devices these days, but older PCs and laptops may not have them or may have older NIC that can’t connect to today’s faster networks.
A USB adapter such as StarTech’s, is an easy way to install a NIC because you only have to attach the adapter to a USB port. Even better, the StarTech adapter is very easy to install, supports advanced networking features, and boosts throughput significantly beyond most USB adapters.
The problem with USB-based adapters, especially in the case of Gigabit Ethernet, is that the speed of USB negatively impacts the Gigabit throughput rate. USB is slower than Gigabit, so when you connect a USB NIC to a USB 2.0 port, you aren’t leveraging the full speed potential of Gigabit—which can slow down network performance. In the case of StarTech, performance was so good that the adapter is an easy Editors’ Choice for networking devices.
Specs and Features
StarTech’s adapter is a small device, with a type A male USB plug at one end and an RJ45 Gigabit port at the other. Although you get the best performance connecting to USB 3.0, the adapter is backwards-compatible with USB 2.0 and even 1.0. That backwards-compatibility extends to the network connection; the adapter can connect to a 10/100 network as easily as to Gigabit (10/100/1000).
There are some advanced settings in the adapter’s properties worth exploring. For example, you can enable VLAN tagging and Wake on LAN. There’s also support for more granular controls such as Jumbo Frames, ARP Offload, and Flow Control.
The StarTech adapter supports client machines running Windows XP, Vista, Window 7 and 8 (32 and 64 bit), as well as Windows Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2, and Mac systems running OS X 10.6 and later.
The adapter ships with an instruction pamphlet and an install disc. Connect the adapter to a USB port and run setup off the disc to install. Setup executes a wizard that has the adapter installed in seconds. I installed on a Windows 7 laptop and afterwards, the ASIX AX88179 USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter driver showed up in my laptop’s network settings. As with any standard network port, when the adapter has a live network connection its LEDs light up. I have DHCP assigning both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to my network clients and the StarTech adapter picked up both IP addresses without any problem.
I compared performance between the StarTech adapter with it connected to a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, and with my laptop’s on-board Broadcom NetXtreme 57xx Gigabit Controller. To test, I checked the speed Windows reported in the network settings; used Ixia’s IxChariot to run a throughput test between my Windows 7 laptop and another laptop on my network; and performed a file transfer between the two laptops.
When connected to a USB 3.0 port, the StarTech adapter’s performance was almost as fast as my laptop’s on-board adapter. When I connected the StarTech adapter to my laptop’s USB 2.0 port, throughput slowed down about 67 percent! Below is a link to the chart of results:
StarTech USB to Gigabit Ethernet Network Adapter Performance results
When connected to a USB 3.0 port, performance was impressive. Additionally, when I hot-pulled the adapter from my USB 3.0 port to a USB 2.0 port, I immediately saw a message on the screen warning that connecting to USB 3.0 would give me a faster transfer rate, showing that StarTech’s adapter also has some built-in intelligence.
I would like if the software installation also included some networking utilities, such as a tool that reports the adapter’s actual throughput instead of a user having to rely on Windows’ often inaccurate reporting. Also, a dedicated utility that explains and allows you to configure the advanced features would be another handy extra.
A Noteworthy NIC
A USB network adapter certainly isn’t a fancy device or anything flashy. However, such a device is critical when you want to bring modern network connection speeds to legacy systems, or to machines that don’t have Ethernet connectivity.
The problem with USB adapters as mentioned:Speeds tend to disappoint performance-wise, but StarTech’s adapter is one of the best I’ve tested. Remember: a speedy adapter such as this, won’t bump up your Internet connection speeds, but it will help your internal network connectivity when transferring files and streaming multimedia, for example. You get your money’s worth with the StarTech USB 3.0 to Gigabit NIC Network Adapter and it’s a 4.5 star Editors’ Choice for networking hardware.
More Networking Reviews:
|Device Type||USB adapter|
|Networking Options||Gigabit Ethernet|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc