Buying a network card

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Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:55 pm

Hi,

I'm building a new system soon, but this one won't connected to the internet via ethernet. I'm looking for a network card to pick up our wireless signal, but I'm not sure whether to just buy a $20, or spend a little more on a $50 one.

The computer will be mainly used for internet surfing. Bit of HD video and that sort of stuff, and probably some intermittant online gaming. The main use though will be youtube, Facebook, etc.

I'm happy to go with PCI-E as I'd assume the speeds would be better than USB or PCI. I'm buying from MSY (in AU) and have picked a few out, but not sure which one would be best.

Some advice would be appreciated.

http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=8817
http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=4184
http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=10888
http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=9814
http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=4243
http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=9748

Cheers
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:08 pm

For what it's worth, the first network card I ever used was a wired PCI card from 3Com that cost me $100, which was very expensive at the time. The card required specialty drivers so it wasn't as PnP as cheaper solutions, but my connection was solid. My wireless cards have been all purchased on the cheap, where I go to Newegg and buy the one that costs the absolute least. Many break, some are unreliable. My next wireless card will be much more expensive, if only so that I can test the theory that better cards cost more.

Not a very specific recommendation, I know, but I just want you to think twice about buying at the absolute low end.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:10 pm

A wieless bridge would be a superior solution.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:18 pm

FireGryphon wrote:For what it's worth, the first network card I ever used was a wired PCI card from 3Com that cost me $100, which was very expensive at the time. The card required specialty drivers so it wasn't as PnP as cheaper solutions, but my connection was solid. My wireless cards have been all purchased on the cheap, where I go to Newegg and buy the one that costs the absolute least. Many break, some are unreliable. My next wireless card will be much more expensive, if only so that I can test the theory that better cards cost more.

Not a very specific recommendation, I know, but I just want you to think twice about buying at the absolute low end.


Thanks. I'm happy to spend a little bit more to focus on reliability, but I'm just not sure whether there's a large difference between quality. Based on what you say, there appears to be :P.

Ryu Connor wrote:A wieless bridge would be a superior solution.


Silly question, but I'm assuming that just means setting up another wireless router to pick up the existing wireless signal up, right? This may be better too if it also acts as a wireless extender. It's closer to my study which is where I use my laptop, which has trouble picking up the existing wireless signal sometimes. Is there a reason this is superior? Better hardware in the router?
Last edited by viper483 on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:26 pm

viper483 wrote:The computer will be mainly used for internet surfing.
...
I'm happy to go with PCI-E as I'd assume the speeds would be better than USB or PCI.

Unless you've got some blazing fast broadband, the interface between the card and the system isn't going to be the limiting factor. USB will probably have slightly more CPU overhead and latency, but not enough to matter for Internet surfing.

Ryu Connor wrote:A wieless bridge would be a superior solution.

How so? Unless he's trying to set up a wired LAN with multiple systems in a part of the house that is located away from the broadband modem/router, what's the advantage of using a WiFi bridge?

(Don't get me wrong, I'm not disagreeing with your suggestion per se. I'm genuinely curious as to what the advantages of doing it this way might be.)
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:35 pm

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B007ZT23Z ... X110_SY165

One example/choice.

I prefer bridges as they remove the need for drivers. WiFi adapters have very poor driver support from the vendor. Some of the WiFi vendors who make the logic chips don't share their reference drivers (looking at you Atheros) and of course some vendors break from the reference design meaning reference drivers don't work.

Then of course their is the matter of every additional driver in an OS is one more chance for new bugs and fun kernel panics (BSOD). Drivers with poor support can also have a short OS life (i.e. works in 7 but not in 8).

Bridges offer some other subtle advantages as well, like PXE support for example.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:49 pm

Ahh OK, good points.

I have indeed been burned by WiFi drivers (both on Windows and Linux) in the past. I try to stick to WiFi chipsets that are known to be Linux-friendly for exactly this reason; do that, and they tend to "just work" with any recent Linux distro.

Bridges do tend to cost more than a WiFi NIC though...
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:02 pm

I concur about the wireless bridge.
But if you are NOT going to get the bridge, then purchase the wireless card from the same vendor as your router, i.e Asus router- Asus wireless card...etc.
And, of course, match the speed(protocol) of the card to the router. No sense getting an AC card if your router is only G, etc.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:37 pm

I've been using a few of these in various PCs:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007GM ... UTF8&psc=1
This particular model (WDN4800) has an Atheros chipset (AR9380), works very well with Asus routers (the latest ones with Broadcom chipset), seems pretty stable and hasn't died yet after about a year of usage (unlike RaLink-based crap).Works perfectly in both Win7 and Win8. If you can find it - I recommend trying this out.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Sun Sep 15, 2013 7:08 pm

I second re-purposing a router to use as a client-bridge. I happen to like the Asus RT-N16 in this role.

Wireless is only as good as where you can put the antennas. You can buy cables and antennas to move them from the back of the PC, but they're a speciality item. Cat6 Ethernet is available, cheap, and good out to 100m at gigabit speeds. A converted router will also be more versatile since it will have multiple ports on the back.

I'm a fan of Intel NICs, so if you can find one, I would suggest picking it up.

FireGryphon wrote:For what it's worth, the first network card I ever used was a wired PCI card from 3Com that cost me $100....


What that one of the 3c905 series? 3c905b cards were the thing to have back in the day. They were solid and pretty much any operating system had a driver for it.

viper483 wrote:Silly question, but I'm assuming that just means setting up another wireless router to pick up the existing wireless signal up, right? This may be better too if it also acts as a wireless extender. It's closer to my study which is where I use my laptop, which has trouble picking up the existing wireless signal sometimes. Is there a reason this is superior? Better hardware in the router?


Some routers have the client-bridge feature, but most don't. I usually buy something that I can run Tomato firmware on to enable that feature.

That's the basic idea. The router acts like a switch with the wireless connection being the uplink to the normal router. Anything that is local stays within the switch, but anything that needs to go to the Internet, or to something not local to the bridge, get sent out the uplink.

I've had trouble with dedicated "wireless bridges" burning out and just being all around flaky, but I haven't had any trouble with the Asus's so far. The routers are built better, it seems.

It could also act as a wireless extender. It depends on the model and what you are wanting to do since the extender is going to add more latency.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:12 pm

My advice to people who want decent WiFi at home is to buy an Intel NIC (decent hardware) and to replace the stubby antennas with cheap-but-effective high-gain ones like these.

Bear in mind that the WiFi signal is only as good as the weakest link, so upgrade the antennae on the router as well as the desktop NIC.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:27 pm

Chrispy_ wrote: so upgrade the antennae on the router as well as the desktop NIC.

That will not work in some cases. I have tried upgrading my Asus RT-N66U with various high-gain antennas, there was no significant signal strength improvement with any of them (even whe using Asus-branded antennas) regardless of frequency (2.4Ghz or 5) or the standard used. I do not know what is the reason for such lack of signal strength improvement (maybe has to do with "beamforming" technique used by Asus), all I know that using omnidirectional antennas with larger area and higher dBi rating was a waste of money.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:44 pm

I've had success doing this with dozens of colleagues who have come to me with coverage issues at home. Most of them are probably using basic ISP-provided routers, though.

Where it won't work at all is situations where you are fighting both range and interference from other networks at the same time, because SNR dropoff at distance is a complete killer. I think your only hope then is to use directional antenna (the flat slabby things) at either end. When you start having to do that it's almost worth just seeing if you can run some Cat5e cable instead :P
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:50 pm

For getting a wireless bridge, I'd recommend looking through wireless routers instead of devices advertised as bridges, because they cost less. Economies of scale make an interesting play here, where an access point (basically your average wireless router with no NAT nor a switch built in) costs as much or more, and I'm seeing the same with bridges.

You can find routers capable of acting as bridges through some searching, or if interested, specifically look for routers with DD-WRT (or your preferred firmware) support. If you're at a spot of the house with sketchy wifi, a wireless router running in WDS mode may be helpful for boosting signals on devices that may not have very capable wifi chips, such as some smartphones. However, WDS requires a bit more setup than usual, whereas a bridge is more straightforward. (Entering SSID/security key as opposed to linking up MAC addresses.)

Don't have much for network cards. Just make sure your device is well supported. You can get cheapo USB wireless dongles for $10 or so on Monoprice, and from my limited experience using them, they seem to work decently. (Although they don't seem to be compatible with Linux out of the box.)

As far as interference goes, you may be able to reduce it by trying to see what channel your neighbors are using. (I only found out through a router with DD-WRT installed, not sure on other ways to do this.) Generally, most people (who aren't tech nerds and just setup their thing) seem to get devices set to channel 6, so I use 11. Most routers configure it automatically these days. Another way to avoid interference is to utilize the 5GHz band.

Long stretches of Cat5e/Cat6 always do better for a perfect signal and for low cost. I'd definitely use it if the walls of the house aren't playing nice. For gaming, WiFi can add as much as 5-6ms to the ping time (actually, 10-12ms if you count the round trip), and possibly jitter if the signal's weak. Plus, plugging in cables is faster than configuring wireless connections.
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Re: Buying a network card

Postposted on Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:05 pm

C-A_99 wrote:(I only found out through a router with DD-WRT installed, not sure on other ways to do this.)


On windows you can use netsh to view information about wireless network. This is a general description of the process.
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