Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Worst. NIC. Ever.

I bought a couple of 10/100/1000 Ethernet cards from Fry's. Unpacking them, I discovered they had the Realtek 8169 chipset. My prior experiences with Realtek have been excellent. They make good, low cost 10/100 Ethernet cards. They work well, if unspectacularly. The 8169 is a horse of a different color, however. I run Linux pretty much everywhere except on my laptops, which are either for work or shared with my wife. Generally, I don't have hardware compatibility issues with Linux, and I don't think there is a compatibility issue here. I think the 8169 just stinks on ice. The actual throughput for this dog is far less than a gigabit speed rating would have you believe. I never saw more than about 75Mb/s. "Well, I thought, I didn't pay any premium, so I still have a perfectly useful 100Mb Ethernet adapter, right?" Wrong. When I put the NIC on a busy system, like a firewall, it crawls. It slows down to less than 1Mb/s of useable throughput. This happens for both cards, so I can't blame a buggy unit. I advise people to stay away from this card. It would be better to stick with the 8139 10/100 card, which works wonderfully. Broadcom makes good gigabit nics, but Realtek really needs to go back to the drawing board.