Best NIC, under 100 USD for 24/7 filesharing


I have been looking for a good NIC for several months now, but there seems to be a lot of NIC’s that only work on specific hardware, or have compatibility issues with either linux or Windows 10 etc.

Therefore, after searching for a fair amount of time, I decided it is time to ask here - I have watched Level1Techs videos quite often and since there seems to be quite a bit of server and NAS experience here at the forums also, what would be a more natural place to ask?

So, to the topic at hand - I have a storage node running for a project called StorJ. It is basically a decentralized cloud service, that rents space for individuals and organizations. The traffic it causes seems to bog down my old potato (6 core Phenom 2 1055T, overclocked to 3,4 GHZ). every now and then, when the traffic becomes high. I have only used the integrated LAN port, which is the Marvell 8059 Gigabit Ethernet.

The traffic can be described as following;

  • The file transfers are between 16kb to 2048kb in size.
  • There is more than 100k transfer events per day.
  • Latency is more important to the service than individual throughput.

I have a 1 Gb internet connection, of which I have only seen about 500 - 600 Mbps (with some lucky spikes of about 800 Mbps) maximum transfer speeds currently. My router has RJ-45 connections, so it can’t have SFP+ ports - or is there adapters for that?

What NIC or NPU would offload the most amount of the traffic processing from the CPU, while being reliable and as compatible with both linux and Windows 10 as possible - for under 100 USD?

Many have pointed to the Intel Gigabit CT PCI-E Network Adapter EXPI9301CTBLK if not even some older versions of that card, but it seems to have issues on windows 10, which is my main OS currently.

Have anyone had any experience with the QNAP QXG-2G1T-I225, that uses the Intel I225-LM chip?

Some Youtuber said that the -LM chips doesn’t have the same problems as the plain I-225 chips, can anyone verify this?

Thank you for your time and suggestions.

  1. UPDATE; I bought the ASUS XG-C100C and updated the firmware as per this guide;
    Rashed’s Blog : Updating ASUS XG-C100C’s Aquantia AQC107 Firmware and Drivers
  • So far it has had some impressive results, increasing the peak download speeds significantly (Peaks from around 850 Mbps to 1.2 Gbps and average download speeds rose from 480-570 Mbps to 720-800 Mbps)

Windows’s TCP/IP stack has a limitation on thrughput for whatever reason due to overhead so you’ll never fully saturate 1Gb Nics with actual traffic. On linux you can push more data through a 1Gb interface.

My suggestion is if this is a long term thing, I’d look into upgrading your gear entirely (nic and switch) to 2.5Gb so you can more effectively saturate your 1Gb connection.Then look into your storage if that becomes a bottleneck.

If you are transferring a lot of small files then you’ll want storage with better IOPS numbers like an SSD storage array and carefully choosing your RAID level. Maybe even adding a cache drive. (this will help with your latency if that’s what matters most)

Also, I’d be cautious of your ISP’s TOS and FUP. along with if you’re metered.

Thank you for your answer, I will keep that in mind when I can afford to upgrade my system.

But since the question was about a recommended NIC or NPU (which probably is synonymous with DPU), do you have any recommendations on that front? What NIC or DPU would be good to have now, that could be beneficial even on the new system? Any manufacturer(s) that has generally been a good choice?

You don’t need an NPU/DPU (talk to me again about these when you get to 100Gbps or more networking).

There do exist SFP+ /transcievers/ with an RJ45 connector, they cost between 20-25 and 50-60 a piece. Patrick from ServeTheHome did a comprehensive review of a bunch of them.

In the 10Gbps RJ45 category <$100 there’s Aquantia AQC107 based nics (either TP-Link or Asus make them).

However, to be honest, I’m doubtful your StorJ throughput is limited by the nic itself or that it would help much.

What does resource monitor say for your read/write queue sizes for your storage while under load? What kind of storage setup do you have?

Have you considered trying out Linux? StorJ might work better on it (I have a feeling that’s what the developers might be using).

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Thank you for your suggestions, I’ll try googling those reviews up :+1:

I’m also doubtful that a better NIC would do miracles or anything, just that my Motherboards chipset has 10+ years on it and most likely has degraded somewhat, as is apparent from the dropping USB’s that started happening a couple of years back, most likely from an accidental overvoltage to southbridge :sweat_smile: I presume this as the USB drops started happening after that, so something was most likely damaged by it. Lesson being; Never do overclocks when your decision making is compromised from lack of sleep or anything else. I definitely need to upgrade my system.

But anyway, I think it wouldn’t hurt to try and see if disabling integrated motherboard features as much as possible and purchasing add-on controller cards for those features (like USB and Ethernet) would help at all. If it doesn’t, then at least I tried, but it would be good to have purchased something that would still be useful in the new system also.

I have actually thought about installing Linux when I can have the StorJ operations on a dedicated PC. It definitely has an impact to the network and storage I/O, when I use this one PC for everyday things like gaming, watching movies and mining crypto, almost all at the same time while using it as a StorJ server. I do have a WD Gold Enterprise class HDD dedicated for StorJ use only, but I do think that a single HDD, even if it was among the fastest high capacity HDD’s 4 years ago, won’t cut it when the traffic goes too high.

The maximum theoretical I/O doesn’t seem to be saturated on the HDD (WD121KRYZ), but as HDD’s are much worse for random reads and writes than SSD’s, it’s no wonder that the latency is also worse off. For the StorJ dedicated system, I have planned a cache disk solution or buy something like WD OptiNAND, if it proofs to be more cost effective solution. I still need to do careful calculations to determine how long it would take for the system to pay back for it self, so an all-SSD -solution might not be possible (or the most cost effective solution).

The reason that I’m mining (with 1 undervolted 1080 Ti) and renting space on StorJ is that when I do both of them, they pay for the whole electricity bill for me monthly. It’s basically cost-free energy, 2 years after the investment. Now that Ethereum is moving to staking within the next year, optimizing and expanding the StorJ side could offset that in the coming years + it takes less energy for similar gains.

it’s not so long ago I shut down my old Phenom II 955, used by the time as a LAN server - with intel NIC. It served well in each of its lives, and I never found it lacking with this (file shares), but the storj usage characteristic I could imagine as quite different - it may well be limited on disk random access.

I use these NICs anytime I want a reliable 1G NIC - so much, for various reasons I have bought maybe 7 of them, in their 2- and 4- port variety. I read you are in Windows, but they’ve been reliable for me on BSD & Linux (in cases when the onboard really didn’t).

[email protected]:6:0:1: class=0x020000 card=0x145a8086 chip=0x10d68086 rev=0x02 hdr=0x00
vendor = ‘Intel Corporation’
device = ‘82575GB Gigabit Network Connection’

HP/Dell models exist with this chipset in abundance and, cheap. I’d suggest to consider at least try that, before a LAN regrade to 2.5 or 10G.

(and gosh, a clocked phenom II must draw a good few extra watts, I imagine it can’t give that much value in compute for this these days)

best wishes

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Maybe a bcom 57810S? I would think it should work nicely with AM3 platform, since it usually likes PCIE2/3.
Needs a piece of tape over a couple pins, but mine works great in a haswell fileserver. I haven’t tried Windows though.

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Hard to go wrong with an Intel PRO 1000 CT

Just as an update, that I bought the ASUS XG-C100C and updated the firmware as per this guide;

Rashed’s Blog : Updating ASUS XG-C100C’s Aquantia AQC107 Firmware and Drivers (can’t post links yet it seems).

Now that I have used it for couple of hours, I tested the speed that it can achieve on my 1 gig internet connection - according to a speedtest site, at a server located in the same city as I live in, the NIC managed to saturate 1.2 Gbps of the connection. It has never gone even momentarily for over 900 Mbps with the integrated LAN port.

I sincerely thank you for the recommendation, thus far (for the last couple of hours) I have been really impressed with the NIC :+1:

I still need to check if the performance increase shows on everyday use, but the system performance in general is better now, as the system at least seems more responsive now that the NIC has some more robust offloading technologies (and drivers that are specifically made for Windows 10, with the latest update just this year).

How ever, the true test starts when there is more traffic on the StorJ network.

I really should try that out also at some point, just to compare the results. Do you have any experience with a QNAP QXG-2G1T-I225, that uses the Intel I225-LM chip?

Some Youtuber said that the -LM chips doesn’t have the same problems as the plain I-225 chips, can anyone verify this?