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.
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|
|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)|
|Chromebook||Yes (unofficial)||Yes (unofficial)||Yes||Yes||No|