Reliable USB NIC

  • Hey all,

    I'm setting up an old laptop as a backup gateway (and my dev box) but it only has 1 NIC. It has a 32 bit PCMCIA slot but from what I've been reading, this is about as reliable, if not slower than the USB NIC.

    Please do not tell me about setting up PFSense with VLANs on a managed switch and one NIC in my PFSense box… this is not my goal.

    So, does anyone have any recommendations for a reliable USB NIC? I'd prefer gigabit (I know that USB is only capable of 480Mbps) so as to get as much performance out of the NIC as possible, but a reliable 10/100 would be ok too since I'm probably going to be using it as the WAN adapter.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Where have you read that PCMCIA is unreliable?
    Are you sure you have USB2 sockets? I think all the laptops I've seen that had PCMCIA were USB1.

    I have no recommendations for USB NICs, when ever I've used one it didn't go well.  :(


  • Perhaps unreliable is the wrong word, slow and troublesome might be the right words.

    I make this assertion from searching the PFSense forums/net for PCMCIA PFSense/BSD8.1. Most searches turn up issues with cards not being detected or having terrible performance/latency.

    With that being said, I still ordered a D-Link DFE-690TXD for $6 (WOOT eBay) out of sheer reflex as my years as a tech/engineer instinctively told me this would be more reliable.

    Of course this PC card is only 10/100 as is the onboard NIC, so I was hoping to squeeze out some more performance from my USB2 480Mb/s ports with a gigabit usb ethernet cable, potentially that supported jumbo frames. Once again, this unit would be for testing/dev/backup not production.

    I am sure of it being USB2 hardware wise as it is an Inspiron 8600 with a Pentium M 750 Banais 2Ghz w/ 2GBs of RAM.
    I'd have to double check from the liveboot CD if it is showing up as USB2 under PFSense though, glad you raised that point.

    It's not a Dothan, so no PAE, so my original plan for it as a CentOS box is out. However, it could be a cool PFSense dev box if not only because of the docked port replicator. I booted up in the liveCD and connect the RJ45 on the replicator and the link state changed to up as well as the USB and serial ports being detected. Also, which made me think this could be an interesting proposition, is the link and activity lights on the internal NIC and port replicator NIC light/blink up in sync. I was thinking I could use the internal or replicated port for wireshark to analyze traffic. We'll see.

    I wish I could use the firewire 400 port as a NIC but I have not been able to find anything that reasonably converts from firewire to ethernet CAT5.

    Ok so back to topic.

    I can find plenty of 10/100 USB NICs but I'm looking for anyone with real world experience with a gigabit USB ethernet adapter.

    My apple USB to ethernet adapter 10/100 works fine which uses a ASIX AX88772ALF chipset

    I've read that the Trendnet TU2-ET100 works with PFSense

    It appears PFSense/FreeBSD8.1 does have some drivers for gigabit USB ethernet NICs.

    axe(4) driver

    But does this driver support jumbo frames?

    A cheap gigabit, jumbo frame capable, USB 2.0 ethernet adapter that should theoretically work is the Plugable USB 2.0 to 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet Lan Wired Network Adapter (what marketing genius named this product?). It uses an ASIX AX88178 chipset which should be supported by the axe(4) driver. Anyone have any real life experience?

    Another low cost gigabit adapter
    Apparently works with axe(4) as well under BSD8+

    Anyone with real world experience with the Startech USB21000S2? Seems to use a chipset (SMSC - LAN7500) I can't find on any HCLs so it's probably a bust.

  • Hi there!

    I've been using this one reliably, connected to gigabit link speed as reported in the web interface. My earlier NanoBSD install of pfSense v2.0.1 detected it imediately after plugging it in, no extra drivers were needed:

    Naturally over USB 2.0 real gigabit speed is not possible, as the bottleneck is the USB which supports max 480Mbps including USB plus TCP overhead. But it definirtely works, I used it to attach a wireless access point to my pfSense. It's got an ASIX AX88718 chip, as I remember.


  • Not bad, thanks Robi. Not sure if you have a switch that supports it, but it would be very helpful to know if you could enable jumbo frames full duplex on that USB NIC. I would be satisfied, if not surprised, with 480Mbps considering the shared bus architecture of USB. Although

    It appears some work was done to the axe(4) driver in FreeBSD 8.2 for reliability but we won't reap those benefits until PFSense 2.1.

  • Currently I'm using the adapter for something else, as I moved  pfSense to different hardware. Therefore I'm not able to do tests for you atm.

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