First, I’d like to thank the tons of you who answered! Easily the most response we’ve ever gotten from a survey. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer this.
But let’s get straight to the negatives. 🙂
Easily the most complained-about cards were the Netgear cards. While plenty of people do fine with them, plenty don’t.
One person did suggest that if you are having difficulties with such a card, that you might want to set the NIC properties to “100MBps” instead of “Autosense.” Worth a try.
The Linksys cards did better, but seemed somewhat shaky for some people, especially at very high FSB speeds.
There were some complaints about very cheaply made NICs using Realtek chips. The problem doesn’t seem to be with the Realtek chip itself, but the surrounding hardware. NICs with the Realtek chip and quality components did fine. I wish I could be more specific, but “generic” is a pretty generic description. 🙂
Every card had one or two people who had real problems with it, whether it was a 3Com or Intel card, or an SMC or DLink card.
However, whether it was an expensive or cheap card, outside of what I said above, most cards had no problems overclocking and did not end up being the bottleneck holding people back. Cheaper cards got as high up the FSB scale as more expensive ones. Nor, again with the exceptions mentioned above, did there seem to be any real difference in reliability.
Is It Better To Buy An Expensive Or Cheap Card?
It really boils down to the same as “Do you want a Winmodem or hardware-based modem?”
The cheaper cards put the burden of its work on the CPU; the more expensive ones do their own processing. If you need every possible CPU cycle, you want the latter. If not, the former is OK.
Most swore by their 3Com and Intel cards, a few swore at them. Cards made by AMD and AOpen also seemed to do well.
Some of the cheaper cards people rather liked were the SMC and the DLink cards.
A few people used other that PCI cards. A few still used ISA cards, which were either wonderful or awful. A few used USB cards, which seemed to do OK, and might be worth considering if you have IRQsome congestion and you aren’t doing anything with that USB port.
On the whole, outside of a pretty small minority, this is not a real problem.
Some suggested we do the same thing with SCSI controllers and sound cards. Those are two good ideas, and we’ll do them towards the end of the week.
Again, thanks a lot!
For just about any card for which we got a number of responses, one person was sure to say, “This is the best” and another would say, “This is the worst.” Better keep those folks apart. 🙂
Seriously, I got the impression that for those folks who had big problems with cards that generally did well, there was just something in that particular system that caused that particular person grief, some subtle incompatibility.