What is an Ethernet Adapter?

June 08, 2022 4 min read

Ethernet Adapter - Main

Photo Contributor: Shawn Hempel

Connecting your devices with internet you may choose WiFi or wired connection. And in some cases, the wireless connectivity is inconsistent, too slow, or weak.

Moreover, you really need high speed and stable internet. A wired connection is the better way to go. In most cases, you can call them NIC (network interface card) as well.

USB Ethernet Adapter is the most commonly mentioned Ethernet Adapter in our daily life. In this article we mainly talk about the wired Ethernet Adapter / NIC, let you have a better understanding.



What is a Wired Network Adapter?

In short, an Ethernet Adapter is a piece of hardware that allows your device or workstation to access an Ethernet connection.

It connects a computer or a laptop to the Internet or to a local network via a wired connection, that is designed to improve your network using the existing wiring in your home.

Moreover, new USB-C laptops and desktops are leaving less room for ports, and you have to buy an external Ethernet adapter to obtain the wired connection.

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Why Choose Wired Ethernet Connection over WiFi?

  • Stability.

WiFi signals are sometimes unstable because of external blockers and interference. However, the wired connection ensures the stabilized connection when all the connection devices are in good condition, everything is under control.

Normally, Wi-Fi devices operate at 2.4 GHz, and it may be interfered by other electronic devices or the wall between you and the WiFi source. Transferring large files over this wireless network may be risky. In addition, wireless coverage areas have a limited range of connectivity (typically 50-300 feet).

It can be very frustrating to be removed from the Internet simply because you stepped out of the coverage area.

  • Speed.

Wifi connections are much slower than wired connections (around 800+ Mbps at most in 802.11ac wave2 in Mode 1x1 160 MHz). This is also one of the known disadvantages of WiFi in the workplace. More users mean restricted speed limit and slow pace of workflow. The wired connection is exactly at the same speed as what you pay for the internet plans, take full advantage of your Internet plan. ( Actually, uni launched 2.5G USB C Ethernet Adapter for your fast 2.5G Ethernet.)

  • Security.

Having a wired solution minimizes the possibility of security breaches. For instance, wireless networks are considered to be more vulnerable for hacking. This involves unauthorized access to your personal network and can lead to the theft of sensitive information. In other words, it is critical to have a strong password for your wireless network.

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Types of Adapters / NICs

Depending on the host interface, transmission speed, application area, etc., NICs / Ethernet Adapter can be classified into several different types as follows:

A. Method of Network Connection.

·Wired Adapters.
·Wireless Adapters. (Still, we mainly talk about wired one).


B. Bus Interface Type.

USB Ethernet Adapter: USB bus is an external bus standard. With different transfer rates and can work with a variety of USB devices. (The most common adapter in life!) - External ! ! !

PCIe Network Adapter: PCIe is a recent standard that is popular on computer and server motherboards. There are now five versions of PCIe NICs, each supporting different speeds. You can add a 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet port to any PC through a PCI-E slot.  - Internal ! ! !

PCI-X Network Adapter: PCI- X is an enhanced PCI bus technology. It supports 64-bit operation up to 1064 MB/s. In most cases, the PCI- X slots are backward compatible with PCI NICs.

PCI bus Network Adapter: PCI was released in the 1890s, replacing the previous ISA standard. It has a fixed width of 32 bits (133MB/s) and 64 bits (266MB/s). Most computers today do not have expansion cards, but use embedded NICs.

ISA bus Network Adapter: ISA bus was released in 1981 and is an IBM standard compatible bus structure. Due to the slow speed of 9Mbps NIC, ISA bus interface is gradually eliminated and now rarely seen on the market.


C. Based on the Type of Interface.

Similarly, there are four types of Network Adapters on the market based on the connection cable.

a. RJ-45 ports are used to connect twisted pair cables (e.g. Cat5 and Cat6); (Most commonly in our daily life);

b. AUI ports are used for thick coaxial cables (e.g. AUI cables);

c. BNC ports are used for thin coaxial cables (e.g. BNC cables);

d. Optical ports are used for modules (e.g. 10G/25G optical modules).


D. Based on Transmission Speed.

Based on different speed, there are 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 10/100Mbps adaptive cards, 1000Mbps, 10G, 25G and even higher speed Network Adapters.

a. 10Mbps, 100Mbps and 10/100Mbps adaptive NICs are suitable for small LAN, home or office.

b. 1000Mbps Network Adapter can provide higher bandwidth for Fast Ethernet.

c. 10Gb/25Gb Network Adapter and higher speed NICs are popular for large enterprises and data centers.


E. Based on Application Areas.

a. Computer Network Adapters: Most new computers now have a built-in NIC on the motherboard, so there is no need for a separate LAN card. It usually has 10/100Mbps and 1Gbps speeds and allows one PC to communicate with other PCs or networks.

b. Server Network Adapter: The main function of a server NIC is to manage and handle network traffic. Compared with normal computer NICs, server NICs require higher data transfer speeds, such as 10G, 25G, 40G or even 100G.



Above all, the performance of an ethernet adapter directly affects the data transfer speed of the entire network.

For laptops or desktops without an Ethernet port, you can buy a USB Ethernet Adapter that connects externally.

Mac computers alternatively support a Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter. And since the port transfers to USB-C in most laptops lately, having a USB-C to Ethernet Adapter is very helpful for you to work from home in these days.

Desktop computers can also use internal Ethernet cards, which connect to either a PCI or PCIe slot on the motherboard.


Hope this might help you. 🚀 🚀


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