Power up your home network with wired multi-gigabit Ethernet for a lot less money than you think (2023)

To be honest, CPUs stopped being a bottleneck to your computing experience ten years ago. And over the next decade, computer memory engines grew dramatically faster. SATA 6 Gb/s SSD, then 2 to 4 Gb/s NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express). External USB SSDs typically exceed 500 Mbps, and even the sustained transfer rate of traditional hard drives has increased from 125 Mbps to 250 Mbps. Basically, the calculation delay due to slow storage is gone.

So where is the remaining backlog? Depending on how much you use it, it's your network. Its 1 Gbps Gigabit Ethernet offers transfers of only 120 Mbps (about the speed of an old USB hard drive) and slow seeks. In short, it's the last remaining bottleneck in your computing experience, but it's easy to fix: upgrade to Multi-Gig.

Note that a byte (the uppercase "B" in megabytes) contains 8 bits (the lowercase "b" in gigabits), so the bitrate is 1/8 of a byte.

Until recently, upgrading to gigabits meant a fairly large investment in 10GbE (10 gigabit per second Ethernet) equipment. As fantastic as 10GbE is, only in the last few years of its 15-year availability has it gone from prohibitively expensive (around $50 per port) to relatively affordable ($35 to $40 per port). That doesn't even include the increased power consumption of the default.

Probably the only reason 10GbE prices fell in the first place is an intermediate standard:IEEE P802.3bz, also known as Multi-Gig, 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps Ethernet (2.5GbE/5GbE), was introduced in 2016. You guessed it, partly because 10Gbe has remained stubbornly expensive to buy and operate.

Today, much more affordable 2.5GbE over PCIe and USB adapters, NAS boxes, enthusiast motherboards, and 2.5GbE switches are available for around $25 per port.

Simply put, this is a good time for an upgrade, if you need speed. To address this qualifier, we run an extremely important sanity check.


Who needs Multi Giga?

Bragging rights aside, the average consumer doesn't necessarily need multiple gigs. Gigabit Ethernet easily handles 1080p and even 2160p video streams (at a low enough bitrate), at least for a limited set of users. Client backups over Gigabit Ethernet aren't much slower than regular USB and usually run in the background without you noticing. Also, 10/100/1000 Ethernet is very energy efficient compared to faster standards.

NoOthersOn the other hand, did I mention that annoying delay? When has someone complained that a backup ended prematurely? Is it bad that more people can stream HD movies at the same time? is someoneNobuy a 4K UHD TV because it consumes more energy? Of course not. More speed also opens up more possibilities.

(Video) Adding 10 Gigabit Ethernet to my 129-Year-Old House!


Many activities that are very slow on Gigabit Ethernet can be done on a multi-gigabit connection. I mean running virtual machines from your NAS box, remotely controlling another home computer, and using your NAS for work storage and not just client backups and music, photo, and movie repositories. As you can see in the graph below, increasing a tier of 2.5GbE can yield significant gains.


If you're looking for a subjective reason, 2.5GbE multi-gigabit seems faster than gigabit from the first step. How to change from a hard drive to a SATA SSD.

case study

With the advent of gigabit, I started storing my music/music projects on a NAS box for easy access from multiple computers. Loading and saving was noticeably slower than local storage, but it was fast enough that I didn't have to worry about multiple versions in different locations. I was able to respond to a sudden inspiration without turning on my music PC. If you've ever lost a potentially brilliant idea while waiting to raise the funds to save it, you know what I mean.

With a much faster 2.5/10 Gbps network, music loads almost as fast from a NAS box as it does from local storage. As a result, I moved the rest of my old lazy-loading: user libraries, orchestra sample libraries, etc. for the NAS too.

This is just one use case, but faster centralized storage offers much of the convenience of the cloud (locally throughout the house, of course) without the slow transfer rates.

Get started with 2.5GbE

Due to the relatively low cost of 2.5GbE adapters (about $30 PCIe, $35 USB) compared to 10GbE (about $100 PCIe, $150 Thunderbolt 3), upgrading to 2.5Gbps Ethernet instead of 10GbE makes more sense for most users, right? now. Affordable 2.5GbE-focused switches are already available and don't consume as much power as 10GbE.

Just some of the 2.5GbE stuff available - QNAPQSW-1105-5T2.5GbE 5-port switch ($99), Zyxel 5-port switch for $110MG-105and $170, 8 portsMG-108Switches (see image below) and Trendnets $130,TEG-S350.

I used the Zyxel 8 port (shown below), QNAP (shown in a previous section), and Engenius. Everything works as advertised. This means that they offer sustained transfer rates of around 275-300 MBps.


If you really need all the available bandwidth, you don't have to settle for 2.5GbE switches. As mentioned, there are also temptingly cheap 10GbE switches. The main benefit is that they allow for an upgrade when 10GbE adapters finally drop in price; However, there is a catch.

(Video) Home 10 Gig Network Upgrade for CHEAP

All of the affordable 10GbE-only switches I've come across use the SFP+ cabling/connection standard, something you don't often find in the home. While you can find SFP+ to 10GBase-T (common RJ45/8P8C) adapters, they add $35 or more to the cost of each port. SFP+ cables are also expensive.

I'll talk more about the latest affordable 2.5GbE, 5GbE, and 10GbE gear. But read the following first.

Checklist and Warnings

1.Use the correct cables. Cat5e may or may not work correctly with 2.5GbE (try it first). A lot depends on the build quality of the cable. For 5/10 GbE you absolutely need Cat6 or Cat6a cables. The good news is that the top rated cables these days are not expensive. (By the way, the "e" in Cat5e stands for "enhanced," while the "a" in Cat6a stands for "increased." In both cases, the modifiers indicate improved electrical performance to provide more bandwidth for data transmission. ).

ThatMalThe news is that if your useless cables are in your walls, you have a lot of work to do. It doesn't work as much as the original installation, since you can connect each new cable to the old one and pull it. If you're lucky, nothing will stick (cover or glue the connector). Personally, I upgraded to Cat8, looking at the theoretical maximum data rate of 40 Gbps.

2.Make sure all the components in the chain are as fast as you want them to be. There's no point in buying two 2.5GbE adapters and running them through a gigabit router - you'll only get gigabit speeds.

3.Be careful with used or older network equipment. Pre-IEEE P802.3bz 10GbE does not recognize 2.5GbE/5GbE and instead drops to gigabit when the latter are daisy chained. If you decide to go for pure 10GbE, don't worry: there are real bargains on used 10GbE equipment (see my previous review on pre-IEEE P802.3bz 10GbE equipment).

Declan™/Flickr (CC POR 2.0)

4.Make sure the connectors match. As mentioned, if you buy a switch with SFP+ and your cabling is regular Cat5, -6 or -8 twisted pair, you will need adapters.

5.Faster networks require faster storage. 150MB/s drives can't even use 5GbE unless they're striped together in one of the faster RAID modes (RAID 0, 5, etc.). SSDs, at least for the end point of operation (cache), are a good idea.

6.Multi-Gig and especially 10GbE require more power and generate more heat. Much more. If you put these things in a closet, you probably want some sort of active cooling and ventilation in there.

(Video) Upgrade your home to 10Gb Ethernet. What switch, cabling and tools you need.

With those thoughts, let's move on to the cool stuff I played with while researching this article.

Report on 2.5GbE/5GbE and 10GbE hybrid devices

These are just a few examples of 2.5GbE adaptersRealtek based PCIe adapterfor only $29 (not tested), which is $35Adaptador Sabrent NT-S25G USB, and the $34CableCreations-Adapter. I tried the last two with good results (295 Mbps read/write). I wasn't enamored with CableCreations bright white light and prefer the dimmable Sabrent. If it's out of sight as it should be, it doesn't matter.

Please note that these adapters tend to get very hot and some users have reported speed drops. This may have been fixed with driver and firmware updates, as I did not experience the issue.

The rare 5GbE devices I found were $79 from QNAPQNA-UC5G1Te US$ 100 de StartechUS5GC30USB 5GbE adapter. I tried the first one, which worked fine with pure RJ45 connections (485 MB/s read/285 MB/s write), but I had problems with my Ipolex asf-10g-t RJ45 to SFP+ adapter and it was set to 150 MB/s of fall while writing. Interoperability is not all it should be.


There are a number of hybrid 2.5GbE/10GbE switches coming out. i tried bothQNAPQSW-1105-5TmiEngenius ECS2512change with good results. The latter is a small business product that, despite a noisy fan (I turned the fan off) and a tendency to connect to the Engenius website, is still a mainstay in my network. I have disabled the internet firewall because I don't like the idea of ​​my network equipment receiving calls behind my back.

The idea behind these hybrids is faster 10GbE for the server or NAS box, with 2.5GbE offload for clients. Of course, they are only useful if you have a 10GbE NAS.


ThatQNAP QSW-308-1C($189) has three 10GbE ports, one of which is an RJ45/SFP+ combo. It worked perfectly on my setup.

the unmanagedZyxel XGS1010-12($149) and managedZyxel XGS1210-12($179) has two 10GbE SFP+ ports, as well as two RJ452.5GbE ports. I have used the latter with very good results; In fact, it's still on PCWorld's test rack.


If you need more 10GbE RJ45 ports, QNAPQSW-M408-2C($239) has two SFP+/RJ45 combo ports and theQSW-M408-2C($299) has four. Both are great managed switches, but I wish their gigabit ports (eight in both cases) were 2.5GbE.

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If you're happy with your NAS box but it doesn't support multi-gigabit Ethernet, you may have an upgrade path over USB. QNAP boxes are compatible with the aboveQNA-UC5G1TUSB 5GbE adapter. Other vendors may offer similar adapter solutions, but I haven't been able to find any. Note, however, that adapter support must be built into the NAS operating system, and some vendors are reluctant to support third-party adapters.

If a Linux driver is available,I couldbe able to load it from the command line, but I recommend contacting support or checking the user forums before going down that route.


If you want to move to a faster NAS box, this is it.Asustor AS5202TmiQNAP TS-253Dthey are excellent products with dual 2.5GbE ports. Combining two ports can provide even better performance, although it relies on technologies that are not supported by all vendors.

10GbE equipment

By far the cheapest 10GbE switches available today are provided by a Lithuanian company called Mikrotik. I couldn't get one to test; However, the reports I have seen are generally positive. five port mikrotekCRS305-1G-4S+EINit is by far the cheapest ($139).

The Mikrotik CRS305-1G-4S+IN is a bit strange, as one of its five ports is gigabit RJ45 while the others are SFP+; but that is feeding it with the outside world aka the internet. All devices connected via SFP+ communicate with each otherOthersto 10 GbE if they support it (this is typical behavior for a smart switch). All of the switches I mentioned in the 2.5GbE section are also worthy of 10GbE performance.

Power up your home network with wired multi-gigabit Ethernet for a lot less money than you think (9) ZyXel

Unfortunately, there are no USB to 10GbE adapters that I can locate. A 10 Gbps USB adapterwe mustbeing able to offer most 10GbE speeds, but that doesn't seem to have translated into a concrete product. USB's relatively low power delivery could be one reason, as there's no shortage of Thunderbolt 3 to 10GbE adapters. That may change when USB4 finally comes along.

I tried three Thunderbolt 3 adapters: TheQNAP QNA-T310G1, available in an RJ45 configuration for $184.QNA-T310G1 is also available in an SFP+ configurationfor $169; prices courtesy of Amazon); TheSable TH-3WEA, a $231 RJ45 model and the likeOWC OWCTB3ADP10GBE($140). They're all about the length and width of a 2.5-inch USB hard drive, but twice as thick due to the large heat sinks (they all still felt hot, though). Everything works as advertised, offering true 10GbE speeds, perhaps five percent slower than what you'll see on a PCIe adapter, but that's to be expected given the translation done.


Unfortunately, neither of these adapters will accept a wall power supply, preventing you from using Apple's Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter in another Thunderbolt 2 or similar Mac. YouI couldbe able to avoid this usingwith an Apple Thunderbolt 3 docking station with adapter, but it must be a newer model. The older Caldigit TS3 I tested offered only intermittent success.

(Video) How a wired network installation is the solution to home wifi problems.

Knife. do it soon

When I first wrote this story, I was moving to 2.5GbE for most of my network, with 10GbE on my main NAS boxes. It seemed like the right way to go, but I rarely, if ever, needed the extra power of the NAS. The additional heat and power consumption on the 10GbE links convinced me to go back to 2.5GbE. In addition to testing new devices, I'll stick with 2.5GbE.

But I am. If you need it, for example, for remote gaming or video editing, then definitely go for 10GbE. When I remotely control a PC with more than 10GbE, it's amazing. But whichever multi-gigabit speed you choose, I'm sure you'll enjoy your improved network. I definitely do.

This article was edited on 09/27/2021 to reflect changes in the market and highlight some new features.


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