What speed LAN hardware do you really need?

Fred langa By Fred Langa

It’s always tempting to buy the fastest-possible hardware, but sometimes it’s just a waste of money.

Fortunately, some free tests can help you ensure that your networking gear is the right speed for the tasks you actually perform.

When faster isn’t necessarily better

Reader Rick Buse’s comments on my Oct. 14 item, “Networking via your electrical wiring,” bring up some interesting — and perhaps controversial — issues.
  • “I read with interest your comments about your power-line network adapters. I, too, opted to go the power-line adapter route in my apartment for Netflix streaming. I bought a couple of highly-rated Netgear Adapters (XAVB-101) and got 85 megabit-per-second (Mbps) throughput, according to the software.

    “However, that was with an older 10/100 router. I purchased a 10/100/1000 (a k a, Gigabit Ethernet) router to replace the old one. My power-line adapters immediately connected at the higher throughput, and I now get 195 Mbps (according to the configuration software) between my two adapters!

    “So, anyone interested in this kind of setup might want to invest in a router with Gigabit Ethernet.”

Yes, very high-speed power-line networking is available, and clearly, your gear is capable of impressive speeds.

This may surprise you, but I deliberately chose a slower setup that’s limited to 85 Mbps. For me — and I suspect many others — paying extra for the fastest-possible local networking gear wouldn’t deliver any meaningful benefit. Here’s why:

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-11-04:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.