2x onboard Intel nics vs. 2x PCI-e Intel nics?



  • I'm putting together some pfSense hardware for a router to use at home. I have a full duplex gigabit connection to the internet and will, to begin with, probably only do routing, firewall, NAT, PAT, and perhaps snort. No VPN for now, but probably in the future. My plan is to have a switch with VLAN to split parts of my network, and also an access point with VLAN and multiple SSID support, to have public and private networks split.

    I do however have a concern about choosing the hardware for the router. I would prefer a Mini-ATX over Micro-ATX due to the size, but it's not that Micro-ATX is not an option. That probably mostly depends on the performance/price.

    I have found the nice Intel DQ77KB motherboard in stock. So, what I wonder is if there will be any performance hit to use a DQ77KB, with the two onboard Intel nics instead of "any other motherboard" with 2xPCI-e Intel Gigabit CT (EXPI9301CT)? This will be run along with an Intel i3-3240.

    And should I, for some reason, get a Haswell mobo and cpu instead of what I've thought of now?



  • While there are no issues with going with the onboard nics, you would be better off going Haswell i3 if you are thinking about VPN at all in the future as it has AES NI.

    The cheap ($99-120) intel i350 quad nics on ebay are great for pfsense.  They have many server features (like all sorts of offloading) which get you closer to wire speed.



  • Yeah, I've been looking more and more at the Haswell series. However, that i350-T2 NIC costs just as much as the whole DQ77KB motherboard… Which, at the moment, is a bit too much for me.

    I've found a Jetway JNF9J-Q87 for about $120, which has two Intel NIC's onboard. An i211AT and an i217LM. How well would these work? How would they compare with an i350-T2 in performance? A little googling says the i217 probably is supporten. If it's the only supported at the moment, then how would the performance be if I use the onboard i217LM along with a PCIe Intel Gigabit CT, until the i211AT is supported?

    Or another question. If I buy a motherboard with one onboard Intel card, and then one extra one port Intel card. Would there be much difference in performance to i350-T2?



  • Onboard NICs also use pci express.

    Given the same chipset, there is no difference in performance. I like i350s but if you're just routing your home or small business internet that will be the weakest link by far.

    Pretty much any pci express intel gigabit nic can handle most normal traffic even if the interface is at full bandwidth, people beat those budget 82574Ls all day long with 900+ Mbps. I wouldn't worry about finding a "high end nic" unless you start routing more than a few interfaces or need some of the advanced VM features. Though if you find a good deal on one, why not ;)

    The only caveats that would apply to onboard vs card:
    Bus implementation: bridges or attached to one populated with more devices than it is capable of feeding simultaneously such as a PCH with all sata ports maxed. Most boards attach onboard nics to PCH root port, something to consider if building a NAS that uses motherboard SATA ports.
    Firmware differences: vendor supplied option/boot ROMs. In my experience, the onboard ones tend to be newer as they usually get updated with the bios, a card usually keeps the factory image forever.



  • You can get an i350 t4 for $99 on eBay.

    Funnily enough the t2 cards look more expensive

    That said an older 1000pt dual port card would cost about a third of that

    Speed wise on a home connection you are unlikely to see any major differences



  • @Keljian:

    You can get an i350 t4 for $99 on eBay.

    Funnily enough the t2 cards look more expensive

    That said an older 1000pt dual port card would cost about a third of that

    Speed wise on a home connection you are unlikely to see any major differences

    If you find a T4 on eBay for $99 it's either a Chinese knockoff or it's an AM4. The T4 and the AM4 are not the same card. This is why the T2 is more expensive than the AM4… the T2 is a much better card. The chipset on the T2/T4 costs over $200 from Intel and the chipset on the AM4 costs $40 from Intel. You'd be much better off getting a VT Pro for $60-$80 than getting an AM4 for or Chinese knockoff for $99.



  • Sorry, the am4 chip is used on the t4 boards as per here:

    http://globalsp.ts.fujitsu.com/dmsp/Publications/public/ds-eth-plan-cp-4x1Gbit-cu-intel-I350-t4.pdf

    The only difference is the board design.

    @mattr:

    @Keljian:

    You can get an i350 t4 for $99 on eBay.

    Funnily enough the t2 cards look more expensive

    That said an older 1000pt dual port card would cost about a third of that

    Speed wise on a home connection you are unlikely to see any major differences

    If you find a T4 on eBay for $99 it's either a Chinese knockoff or it's an AM4. The T4 and the AM4 are not the same card. This is why the T2 is more expensive than the AM4… the T2 is a much better card. The chipset on the T2/T4 costs over $200 from Intel and the chipset on the AM4 costs $40 from Intel. You'd be much better off getting a VT Pro for $60-$80 than getting an AM4 for or Chinese knockoff for $99.



  • Negative. The i350-t4 and i350 AM4 are two different controllers.
    http://ark.intel.com/products/59063/intel-ethernet-server-adapter-i350-t4
    Do you see the AM4 controller mentioned anywhere on this spec sheet? Of course not because they are two different controllers. One costs around $40 and one costs over $200. It's nothing to do with board design. The AM4 is based on the older i340 controller. It's only compatible with PCIe 2.0 interface while the i350 is compatible with PCIe 2.1

    Fujitsu can name a board however they want. Just like the beast ML2 version from IBM. They don't have to follow Intel's naming standards. Their T4 board is a board that uses the AM4 controller while Intel's T4 board uses the i350 T4 controller.

    Intel doesn't make a NIC with the i350 AM4 controller. Which is why you don't see Intel on those Chinese knockoff AM4 NICs and why you don't see Intel brand i350 T4's for those prices.

    Don't get me wrong there is nothing bad about the AM4 boards. There are just much much better options for less money. And people should understand that when buying an AM4 it's not some great deal on an Intel i350-t4 like some people are saying around the internet recently. It's just not the same quality.



  • I stand corrected - that said, the am4 seems to have the same feature set as the i350 and is lower power than the VT.. for home use it should be more than sufficient.



  • AM4 is the i350 controller chip. It really is $40 in bulk from intel. (probably even cheaper for some OEMs)

    T4 is a full NIC, there is no "i350-T4" ethernet controller. You linked to a complete card, not the ethernet ASIC, which is why they list it at $299 MSRP. I can promise you the vendors are not paying that much.

    The pci-e differences are due to ark not always being correct or up to date, it is also not consistent in how it uses terminology. I have been burned by bad ark specs several times now, and you do not get a refund when they fix it, ask me how I know :(

    Cards: http://ark.intel.com/products/family/46829/Intel-Gigabit-Server-Adapters
    Chips: http://ark.intel.com/products/family/2469/Intel-Gigabit-Ethernet-Network-Connection

    The i350 is pci-e 2.1 capable if matched with the correct board design:
    http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ethernet-controllers/ethernet-controller-i350-datasheet.html

    A VT (82575/6) is not better in any way except price. The i350 does some great stuff for busy VM hosts, though its overkill for a basic router.



  • The AM4 version is a second version of the i350 controller. The controller is i350…. http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/datasheets/ethernet-controller-i350-datasheet.pdf  the card is i350-T4 and then there is a second controller based on the i350 called the i350-AM4. I've purchased both from eBay and they are definitely not the same chip/card.

    First of all the AM4 cards do have i350-AM4 stamped on the IC. However Intel is printed no where. On the OEM i350-T4 just i350 is stamped on the IC with Intel also stamped on the IC as well as painted in two places on the PCB. The i350-AM4 ran at PCIe2.0 (PCIe 2.1+ slots are backward compatible so I'm not saying it doesn't work) while the i350-T4 ran at PCIe2.1. That's not going to make much of a difference if any at all but it shows that they aren't the same.

    The performance I got out of the AM4 cards was terrible. I could barely keep above 90MB/s on just some quick file transfer tests… while the VT cards, Gigabit CT cards (desktop) and i350-T2 and T4 easily bursted over 300MB/s and maintained 250MB/s throughout the transfer.

    I may come to find that every i350 controller is internally known to Intel as i350-AM4 but I haven't seen any evidence of that. As I said I just wanted to make sure everyone was aware those cheap "AM4" cards on eBay from China are not Intel cards and from my tests they don't perform like it either. I stand by getting a VT over a eBay AM4 or just spending the extra couple bucks on a legit T4 from the US.



  • Thank you for the info, mattr. I was just looking at the cheap "AM4s" on eBay and now think I'd better avoid them.

    Curious, do you know if the 4 port VT/PT or real AM4 cards would work on a Supermicro X10SBA-L board? The slot specification says "1x PCI-E x2 (in x8) slot" and I think these cards require an x4 slot, yes? I've emailed Supermicro support, too, will see what they have to say…



  • I must have gotten lucky, I get up to 400MB/s, burst to 450 across mine



  • @marvel:

    Thank you for the info, mattr. I was just looking at the cheap "AM4s" on eBay and now think I'd better avoid them.

    Curious, do you know if the 4 port VT/PT or real AM4 cards would work on a Supermicro X10SBA-L board? The slot specification says "1x PCI-E x2 (in x8) slot" and I think these cards require an x4 slot, yes? I've emailed Supermicro support, too, will see what they have to say…

    I always tend to avoid the cheap Asian knockoff products. They are cheap for a reason. Though those Korean IPS monitors on eBay are a good deal :) (usually) lol

    They should work but you're going to be limited on bandwidth.

    If the slot is x1 electrical x8 physical it will obviously physically fit. Best case scenario it would be bandwidth limited. The documentation for the Intel NICs says:

    Bus width x4 lane PCI Express, operable in x4, x8, x16 slots

    It also says:

    Allows quad-port operation in almost any PCI Express server slot, except x1 slots, and allows each port to operate without interfering with the other

    So you could take that last part as it will work but not be quad-port operational, it won't work at all or it may work but you could have ports interfering with each other.

    I haven't tried running a 4 port NIC in anything but a x4 or above PCIe or PCIX before. I definitely wouldn't count on it working in a x1 slot.



  • The real Intel i350-T4 cards work just fine in a x1 slot.  Personal experience.


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