USB 3.0 over Ethernet Adapters

The freedom of using the internet without wires is great but there are times when a solid, stable internet connection is needed. The best way to get this is USB 3.0 over ethernet.



What are they?

Laptops may be getting slimmer and lighter but this is at the expense of DVD/CD drives and network ports.

Almost all new smaller ultrabooks, macbooks and chromebooks do not include RJ45 network ports meaning only wireless connectivity is available.

That’s fine for casual internet surfing and light network usage but just isn’t good enough for transferring large files, streaming multimedia, video conferencing or downloading files.



A USB 3.0 to network adapter is a simple device which allows a cabled connection and faster speeds. One side is a standard USB port that is plugged into your laptop and the other side is a standard network port where a network cable is plugged in.Although USB 2.0 network adapters have been around for a while, they just do not have the throughput to compete with on board network connections. USB 3.0 however is able to transfer at gigabit speeds making it ideal for use as a network adapter.

This is ideal in a home office where you are more likely to need faster speeds or perhaps for network gaming.

Tablets that have USB 3.0 ports like the Microsoft Surface Pro are designed primarily for productivity, but trying to download that large report can be painful on WIFI. Fortunately this handy little adapter saves the day and is one of those gadgets that is worth keeping close at hand.


Great value and easy to install

Non technical users will be happy to know that no real installation or knowledge is required to get going – install the software and plug it in. Installing drivers is as simple as a few clicks from the provided CD, although we found it ironic that macbooks and ultrabooks won’t have a CD drive anyway!

The best and recommended solution is to go to the manufacturers website and download the latest drivers from there. Not only will this ensure that you install the latest software but also eliminates the need for a CD drive.

The adapter then appears as a network connection on your computer or laptop. Being so easy to install makes it a good alternative to network expansion cards on a regular computer or laptop as well.



After a power surge on one of my computers a couple of years ago the only thing that didn’t survive was the motherboard’s integrated network card. I had 2 choices: either change the motherboard or use one of my expansion slots to house a network card. Both choices involved cost and time – had these adapters been around at the time I would have saved time, money and hassle.

At such a reasonable price point it’s just not worth the inconvenience of changing the motherboard when this adapter is able to get the job done just as well. It will also free up one of your PCI slots if you are using a PCI network card like I had to.


Portable, fast and feature packed

For those looking for a wired connection on the go USB to network adapters are light and portable. I prefer not to use public WIFI connections to do important work when travelling because they are less secure. If available I always use a wired connection and this adapter allows me to do so.

Even on an older laptop that doesn’t have any USB 3.0 ports these adapters function perfectly well because they are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.0 (just don’t expect gigabit speeds).

Those that have gigabit networks will be able to get gigabit speeds because USB 3.0 is more than capable of transferring data at that speed. Perfect for transferring large files, streaming multimedia or downloading files.



For those that are looking for advanced features, most adapters include the following features:

  • Jumbo Frames – only supported for gigabit networks and is a way to increase throughput on your network.
  • VLAN tagging – trucked ports are tagging on different VLAN’s to allow switches to identify where packet data is coming from.
  • WOL (Wake on LAN) – If WOL is supported by your motherboard these adapters allow your computer to be turned on via the network.
  • IEEE – Energy Efficient Ethernet.



Conclusion

It’s a simple device that allows you to use a cabled connection for faster speeds. Whether it’s a ultrabook, macbook, chromebook or tablet this USB 3.0 to RJ45 network port adapter is very practical.

It’s easy to replace your motherboard’s integrated nic when replacing a faulty network card without replacing the system board. USB 3.0 over ethernet is also useful if you need to add a second network connection to your pc/server or you need to upgrade to gigabit speeds.



Our 5 top picks for Ethernet to USB 3.0 Adapters

Cable Matters Gigabit Network Adapter

Anker USB 3.0 network Adapter

TRENDnet USB 3.0 Gigabit Adapter

Linksys USB 3.0 Ethernet Adapter

Microsoft Surface Ethernet Adapter

Verdict Gets the job done Most Stylish Supports all main systems Excellent for Mac and Chromebook Designed for the Surface Tablet
Color Black or White Black or Aluminum White Black Black
Speed 10/100/1000 Gbps 10/100/1000 Gbps 10/100/1000 Gbps 10/100/1000 Gbps 10/100/1000 Gbps
Warranty 1 year 18 month Standard 1 year 1 year
Windows 8.1/8/7/Vista/XP 8.1/8/7/Vista/XP 8.1/8/7/Vista/XP 8.1/8/7/Vista/XP 8.1/8
Mac OSX 10.6 and higher OSX 10.5 and higher OSX 10.6 and higher OSX 10.8 and higher No
Linux Yes (unofficial) Yes (unofficial) Yes No Yes (unofficial)
Android No No Yes No No
Chromebook Yes (unofficial) Yes (unofficial) Yes Yes No

Startech 2 Port USB 3.0 54mm ExpressCard

This expansion card is designed to fit into a 54mm ExpressCard slot and will add 2 USB 3.0 ports to your existing laptop at a very reasonable price. Included in the box is the USB 3.0 ExpressCard, the driver CD, the manual and a USB power cable. The card feels solidly built and is backed by a 2 year warranty and includes lifetime technical support should anything go wrong.


What’s in the box?

 

The driver CD (the software needed for the laptop to recognize the card) included is one of those smaller size mini format CD’s and may not work in your CD drive ( why do manufacturers still do this!).

This isn’t a problem as you will need to download the newest driver from the Startech website anyway.

The practical flush mount USB design

Unlike some of the 34mm ExpressCards, this card is flush mounted and in most cases comes very close to sitting flush to the side of the laptop.

It does poke out slightly on some laptops but considering laptops come in all shapes and sizes, Startech have done a very good job in making the card sit as level as is possible. Once slotted in correctly you can safely carry around your laptop without worrying about the card falling out or getting caught on something.

Different laptops vary and some slots will be quite a tight fit whereas others will be just right.

You will now get USB 3.0 transfer speeds of up to 10 times faster than your existing USB 2.0 ports. This is great for doing backups on your laptop, video editing and even gaming.


Be careful when removing cables

Laptop ExpressCard slots are designed so that expansion cards click in and out of place. When inserting the card make sure to push it in fully so that it clicks into place, otherwise you may find that it slides out when unplugging devices connected to it.

The card is intended to be left in the laptop and so can be a bit fiddly to remove. On most laptops it can be removed using the push release click method of the slot.

This card does have a tendency to inadvertently slide out when taking out the USB cable(s) and is the only real negative point we found. The card is not to blame however, the problem is the spring loaded mechanism of ExpressCard slots on all laptops.

The issue can be resolved quite easily by simply using your finger to stop the card ejecting when pulling out the cable(s).


Optional power cable solves power issues

Extra Power when needed.

The generous spacing between the ports allows even wide USB devices to be plugged in with ease and is the kind of quality that we have come to expect from StarTech. The DC power connector In between the 2 ports is plugged into a spare USB port via the included power cable.

We found this an excellent solution should you need more power especially for bus powered USB 3.0 devices.

With the extra power cable plugged in, 2 external hard drives can be used simultaneously without any problems.

This is where this card stands apart from other cheaper cards and really justifies it’s higher price. Other cards suffer from various problems like laptops blue screening, ‘power surge on hub’ errors, hanging on restart and lower than expected transfer speeds.

These issues are mostly caused by a lack of power and the ability to add extra power when needed is what makes this card work so well. It should be noted that the majority of devices all work without the need for extra power, it’s only some power hungry bus powered devices that demand more juice.


Majority of laptops and systems supported

The card is compatible with all laptops that include an ExpressCard slot interfacing directly with the motherboard. Any laptops supporting ExpressCard 2.0, will get data transfer speeds of 5 Gbps, older slots however, will only be able to transfer half that speed of 2.5 Gbps. That’s still 5 times faster than USB 2.0 and is still invaluable in speeding up data transfers on older laptops.

USB 3.0 is 60% faster.




The following operating systems are supported:

  • Windows 7 – make sure you download and install the updated drivers from the StarTech website.
  • Windows 8 – no driver install is needed.
  • LInux – On most linux distros like Ubuntu and Arch, this card will run out of the box.

If you have a Windows 8 laptop, you can take advantage of the built in UASP support included with this card. UASP improves the way data is transferred by up to 70% (read speeds) and 40% (write speeds). This is achieved by special drivers bundled with Windows 8.  The latest Linux kernel also supports UASP and so in theory should improve transfer speeds.

UASP hard drive enclosures can be paired with solid state drives to take advantage of UASP.


So what’s our verdict?

Well, we think this card is pretty impressive; it gives an old laptop a new lease of life at an affordable price. It’s easy to install, just pop in the card and install the drivers if required.

Through the ExpressCard expansion slot you get 2 extra USB 3.0 ports that are plugged directly into your laptop’s motherboard. The clever flush design makes the card part of your laptop and not just an ugly add-on hanging off the side.

We would definately recommend this card for those looking to add USB 3.0 functionality to their old laptop while gaining 2 extra ports.

Gmyle 2 Port ExpressCard 34mm USB 3.0

The first thing to say is wow, that’s a low price for a 2 port USB 3.0 ExpressCard 34. The obvious question next is can we realistically expect this card to deliver?

 

Firstly, what you get in the box is sparse; the 34mm expansion card, the driver CD and no instructions. If you visit the manufacturers website you’ll find no support, no drivers and no real information.

This may panic some but others may be willing to roll up their sleeves to get the card to work. Officially only Windows Vista and Windows 7 are supported.


Operating System Support

With a bit of tinkering, we found that the card works in the following systems:

  • Windows Vista and Windows 7 (Driver is in the ASM1042 folder on the included CD)
  • Windows 8 – no drivers needed, plug in and start using
  • Mac OS Yosemite – see below
  • Linux – works with almost all distros with latest kernel out of the box



Even works with a MacBook Pro

Add 2 USB 3.0 slots to your macbook.

There are other 34mm cards that fit in any Macbook Pro with an expresscard slot but sadly the software needed to make them work is not available.

What makes this card a winner for Apple fans is not only does it sit flush in MacBooks but works with the right drivers installed. For such a low price this really is a worthy addition to your Mac.

You can expect speeds of about 70MB/s to 115 MB/s, which is a huge improvement over the existing USB 2.0 ports included on a MacBook. Time machine backups for example are so much quicker, 2GB’s transferred in 20 seconds.

So you’re probably wondering how to get it working? Luckily there is a driver from Caldigit (another electronics manufacturer) that works in Mac OS Yosemite. Follow these simple steps and you will have 2 working USB 3.0 ports on your beloved Macbook Pro:

  • Download and install the CalDigit USB3 Driver
  • Completely shut down your Macbook
  • Insert the Gmyle expansion card in the Expresscard slot
  • Start up your Macbook



Be careful to avoid the card ejecting unexpectedly

USB devices should be removed with care.

Expresscard slots in general suffer from a slight design fault. The eject mechanism causes the inserted card to come out when plugging and unplugging. Unfortunately this cannot be changed short of taping the card in place!

When manufacturers make these cards they are limited to the design of the slot. So the problem with the card coming out when removing the USB cables or devices is not an issue with the card it’s actually a problem with the expansion slot itself.

Once you are aware of this issue it is easy to avoid by being more careful when removing devices and using your finger to stop the card from coming out.

For non Mac users using a laptop that has a 54mm expansion slot, this card is still suitable. Sadly, a stabilizer adapter is not included and needs to be purchased separately.

The stabilizer adapter is made of plastic and attaches to the 34mm card to easily slot into the 54mm slot. You could also consider getting the Startech 54mm expresscard 54 version.


What about performance?

Different laptops get different speeds because of the laptop’s expresscard version. Bear in mind expresscard 1.0 is slower and is not able to achieve the full speed USB 3.0. Speeds achieved also depend on the spec of your USB device.

In a express card version 1.0 slot, speeds are about 3-4 times faster than USB 2.0. In a version 2.0 slot speeds are about 6-7 times faster than the laptops native USB 2.0 ports. This is great for copying large amounts of data like photos and videos.



The product itself is of a good build quality with the card still working happily after many months of use. It also runs cool and uses minimal power helping preserve the laptop’s battery life.

What’s missing on this card is the ability to boost power for USB 3.0 devices that need more power. Plugging in 2 devices in both ports at the same time can be a problem. This is normally when the drive requires more power then the system bus can provide.

In this case only one device gets enough power. Less power needy thumb drives are fine and will work at the same time.

If you do need more power for your USB devices consider this Expresscard 34 USB 3.0 adapter.


Is this card right for you?

This card becomes part of your laptop.

Even with it’s flush compact design, it manages to provide 2 USB ports, great for adding extra USB ports or for upgrading to USB 3.0, especially in a MacBook.

Your laptop remains compact as this expresscard USB 3.0 removes the need for USB hubs or other bulky USB 3.0 adapters. On Windows laptops, you can simply pop in the card and start using your devices without even needing to restart.

At such a low price this card is a no brainer. At the very least you get 2 extra USB ports on your laptop. The real benefit however is that these ports are Superspeed USB 3.0 ports. Great for older laptops with an ExpressCard slot.