SMC Gigabit Switch and NIC Kit Review



Network speeds are ever increasing and have been doing a good job for the most part keeping up with other computer technologies. 1000BASE-T, commonly refered to as “gigabit Ethernet” is approximately 10 times faster than 100BASE-T which has been used for years now. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) defines standards for electronics, computer, information, and other technologies. Within the IEEE is the 802.3 Working Group which develops standards for CSMA/CD (Ethernet) based LANs. The standard for gigabit Ethernet (802.3z) was approved by the IEEE at the July 1998 at the IEEE Standards Board meeting. However the 1000 Mb/s Ethernet over installed copper and fiber cabling infrastructure was not approved until June 1999 by the IEEE.

Is gigabit right for me?
In most cases a 100BASE-T LAN will be sufficient; however there are benefits to having a gigabit LAN setup. If you do a lot of large file transfers within your network gigabit is something you will appreciate. I don’t know how many times I have started to transfer large files (5-10GB) and had to wait quite a while for them to finish transferring. Gigabit is also particularly favorable in a server environment where a lot of client to server or server to server action takes place. Bottlenecks on a network can be both hardware and network oriented, and for a long time the network end of it was stuck with 100BASE-T. Unless you wanted to fork over the money to use fiber optics. If you are thinking about upgrading to gigabit to get a better ping for gaming at LAN parties I’m going to have to let you down. The speed of a 100BASE-T LAN is more than sufficient to keep you ping low enough (5-15ms) so that you won’t experience any lag. Gigabit isn’t going to offer you anything noticeable during gaming so you might be better off sticking with your 100BASE-T setup.

What will I need for gigabit
Until recently gigabit was too expensive for the average home user who wanted to setup a small LAN. However because of the technology improving the cost to the consumer has slowly been dropping. Just about all of the networking companies are selling gigabit switches and network cards at reasonable prices that are not much more than your standard 10/100 equipment. There are however different types of switches and network cards that will affect the overall cost of that item. To successfully setup a gigabit network you will need a 1000BASE-T switch, a 1000BASE-T NIC (Network Interface Card) in each computer you want to have gigabit, and cat 5e or cat 6 patch cables. The great thing about gigabit over copper is that it is backwards compatible with 10BASE-T and 100BASE-T standards. This means that you can have a mix of 10/100/1000BASE-T systems operating on the same network.

What’s the difference between cat 5e and cat 6?
Simply put cat 5e runs at 100MHz while cat 6 runs at 250MHz. Both cat 5e and cat 6 have a maximum length of 100 meters or 328 feet. Runs longer than this will case the signal to attenuate and can cause problems. There other technical differences between the two obviously, however my knowledge in electronics is not strong enough to go into detail on these. Originally gigabit required fiber optics to operate which was and still is very expensive. Because of this few people and companies went this route unless they had a lot of money or a huge need for faster speeds. With the adoption of gigabit over copper into the IEEE things have totally changed. Like I mentioned in the previous section you are able to run gigabit over your current cat 5e patch cables without the need to upgrade. This is a huge money saver for companies who would otherwise spend thousands of dollars replacing their cables to cat 6.