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With the popularity of networks on the rise, network interface cards (NICs) are getting increasing attention from the general computing public. In our April 19 issue (page 80), we tested 12 32-bit Ethernet 10Base-T NICs for use in servers. This time we look at 13 10Base-T workstation cards from Ansel Communications, Cabletron Systems Inc., CNet Technology Inc., D-Link Systems Inc., Eagle Technology, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., NetWorth Inc., Racal-InterLan Inc., Standard Microsystems Corp., Thomas-Conrad Corp., and 3Com Corp.
In our June 28 issue, we will review 14 Token Ring cards from Accton Technology Corp., Andrew Corp., Cabletron, CNet, Eagle, IBM, Madge Networks Inc., NetWorth, Olicom USA Inc., Proteon Inc., Racal-InterLan, SMC, Thomas-Conrad, and 3Com.
The Market. Ethernet currently claims the lion's share of the network topology market. Fifty-six percent of networked PCs use Ethernet, according to a study by International Data Corp., and the use of Ethernet is increasing faster than the growth of its chief competitor, Token Ring. The same survey shows 10Base-T (the standard for unshielded twisted-pair Ethernet used in combination with a central wiring hub) as the Ethernet wiring scheme of choice, and that's what we have reviewed.
Beyond network topology, your choice of NICs depends on price, performance, ease of installation, and support.
Performance. The 16-bit ISA cards tested here all offered comparable performance: The Ethernet NICs varied by just 3 percent. Performance of the cards is close in part because the differences between the chip sets used to implement a NIC have shrunk as NICs have become a commodity. The other major contributor to performance, the software driver layer, is also becoming quite uniform because major vendors such as Intel have taken on the burden of writing high-performance drivers. Most NICs are compatible with drivers written either for the Eagle NE3200 or the SMC Elite. For the …