How to choose the best network card?

A network adapter is a computer component that deserves special attention. In the 21st century, communication is very important for everyone – no matter what activities we do, whether at the level of a laptop or computer interface. Which network card should you choose? What parameters should you pay attention to? How does this component affect the ease of use of the computer?

Network card – what is it and what are its capabilities?

A network card is a device that allows you to convert data packets from the Internet into useful data in a computer infrastructure. The method of purchasing these packages may be different. Network adapters use both wireless and wired network capabilities. They are often connected to a computer using a PCI or USB connector. How efficiently our computer connects to a router or LAN depends on the network card connection standards and technology capabilities. In the case of network cards to support wireless technology, antennas are the most important for the stable use of the network. The network card, therefore, allows the device to connect efficiently to the Internet – this is a really big responsibility, especially since we are talking about such an inconspicuous device.

The potential and capabilities of this device means that when completing computer components, it is definitely worth considering the network card itself, or at least the motherboard equipped with an Ethernet port. You can also equip the motherboard with an internal network card equipped with a wireless connection. This is especially true for high-end tiles, although some cheaper models have such a solution. An incorrectly selected network card can be a bottleneck in our computer performance. Limited bandwidth can be an insurmountable obstacle to activities that require a perfect Internet connection.

First of all, make sure that the computer you buy has a network card

The network card is one of the key components of a computer and is responsible for our experience using the equipment. However, it is worth remembering that computer stores are not always part of a ready-made PC set. Although I’m talking about these cheaper designs, it’s still worth checking out what forms of communication the equipment provided offers at the time of purchase.

When it comes to laptops, a network card is almost always part of the basic hardware. When buying this type of equipment, it is worth paying attention to the Wi-Fi standard offered by the card. An alternative is an external USB card, but we may have a problem using such a solution due to the tendency to limit the number of ports on mobile devices. The best option would almost always be to buy equipment that meets connectivity standards that meet our needs.

Which network card to choose – wi-fi and Ethernet

The main factor to consider when choosing a network card is the method of connecting to the Internet. Currently, we can find two main options: wired and wireless. For this reason, a clear classification of white cards comes to mind, which is valid in most stores with the technology. It is divided into wireless network cards (wi-fi) and wired network cards (Ethernet).

Wireless network card – access to convenient wi-fi standard

Network cards using internal or external antennas that provide wireless connectivity are the basic equipment of computer sets. Because Wi-Fi connections are so prevalent in our homes, wireless network cards are really the target choice for a large number of customers.

Wireless network cards support different connection standards. Their parameters are primarily determined by the IEEE 802.11 family specification. First of all, it is worth paying attention to the support of the following standards:

  • IEEE 802.11b / g / n (Wi-Fi 4) – Used by low-level network cards with a throughput of up to 600 Mb / s.
  • IEEE 802.11a / b / g / n / ac (Wi-Fi 5) – theoretically used by more advanced network cards that allow speeds of 6.9 Gb / s. In practice, most of them offer transfers from 600 to 1300 Mb / s.
  • IEEE 802.11a / b / g / n / ac / ax (Wi-Fi 6) – Implemented on the most modern, most advanced network cards. There are more models on the market that support Wi-Fi 6, and the maximum throughput of this type of equipment is 9.6 Gb / s. Currently, we can use models capable of transmitting data at speeds of up to 3000 Mb / s, although so far several networks allow such fast wireless data transmission.

Which wireless network adapter should I choose?

The answer to this question depends primarily on the needs of a particular user, as well as the parameters of the existing network infrastructure. Many people can safely bet on a network card with Wi-Fi 4, especially if the router or purchased internet service does not exceed 300 Mb / s. More needy users will bet on Wi-Fi 5, which allows them to use the power of good quality optical fiber. Wi-Fi 6 looks great as a standard for the future, but the consumer segment has not yet reached such high-speed data transmission technology, and the optical fibers themselves are usually connected at a speed of 1 Gb / s..

Network card and Ethernet card – the same device, confusing name

The term “Ethernet card” can often be found on the Internet. This is not a different type of device – cards that use the Ethernet interface are simply a subcategory of these devices. The term “Ethernet adapter” instead of “Ethernet adapter” is probably related to the fact that most motherboards have an Ethernet standard. The vast majority of laptops are also equipped with this type of connector. Ethernet connections are becoming less and less used by ordinary consumers, but this form of internet connection has many advantages.. The main advantage over Wi-fi is higher speed and higher stability.

Among Ethernet cards, we can find many communication standards that are included in the IEEE 802 standard. For example, we are talking about inefficient IEEE 802.1p or highly advanced IEEE 802.3x. The potential of cards using the Ethernet interface is impressive, especially when connected to the PCI-E connector on our motherboard.. Cards that allow wired connection offer data transfer up to 10 Gb / s. There are many different connection standards for different bandwidths between wired cards, so it is worth paying special attention to the capabilities of a particular model. However, they all share a standard interface for an Internet connection – Ethernet. It is the most widely used standard for wired networks.

There are two types of network card connections to a computer – PCI and USB

Network cards also differ in design from the way they connect to the Internet. Internal cards (PCI) are allocated for PC. We install them in a PCIe slot, usually PCIe x1 or PCIe x4. External cards, in turn, usually use a USB interface (in different versions). Although not as efficient as PCI cards, they have a number of undeniable advantages, the biggest of which is the universality of the USB standard.

Internal network card in the PCI slot

Network cards are usually connected to PCIe ports. This is a standard with very high data rates, which makes it a support for high-speed wireless networks. When selecting network cards with a PCIe connector, make sure that there are PCI slots on the motherboard.. Installing this type of card usually requires opening the computer hatch and removing the plug from the back panel. This is not a complicated operation – in most cases, we can handle without additional tools. However, we recommend that people who are inexperienced in this type of activity be somewhat careful – there is a chance (albeit small) of damage to the motherboard or other components.

The PCIe standard offers better data transfer settings than USB. PCIe network cards that support speeds of up to 10 Gb / s are now available. As for USB cards, the limitation is the serial bus technology itself, which allows “only” 2.5 Gb / s throughput in standard 3.2.. In practice, it is worth noting the “raw” result that a given network card can achieve in data transmission. There may be times when a particular model of USB network adapter is more efficient than a PCIe adapter.

PCI-E is a target standard for professionals, gamers and people who need to use the most efficient internet connections.

External network card – a solution for personal computers and laptops

External USB network cards should definitely be recommended for people who care about ease of installation, good settings, and the ability to quickly translate a network card from one device to another. It is enough to place them in one USB port – available on both laptops and computers, usually in a number of ports. These types of cards use both external antennas and antennas integrated into the case. Thus, they can be very compact, not more than the size of a standard flash drive. The availability of such options in the market is growing, and popular network card manufacturers are increasingly paying attention to products in this category.

A USB network card is a solution for ordinary users who are primarily interested in a simple and effective way to connect to the Internet.

PCMCIA card – a network card with a single interface

In the Polish market you can also (although very rarely) find PCMCIA extension cards. This is an interface that contributes to the creation of a consistent environment for expansion cards, mainly aimed at mobile devices.. While such an initiative sounds promising, PCMCIA is not a very common port on modern devices. Most PCMCIA network cards support Wi-Fi 4 and cost less than 100 PLN.

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