smartBridges smartNIC - Page 6

The smartNIC performs admirably in situations where large file transfers are not required. For example, I could see no noticeable degradation in performance compared to the Xircom Credit Card 10/100 Ethernet Adapter while checking mail and surfing the Internet in the university intranet.

The smartNIC is also much cheaper in comparison to the PCMCIA cards issued to users and professionals frequently on the move. As a comparison, the smartNIC retails at S$128 whereas my Xircom Credit Card retails at S$300. This fact, coupled with its performance mentioned above, could effectively lower an organisation's TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). With PCMCIA cards, notebook users have problems with lost dongles and broken cable connectors. A product like the smartNIC could be the solution. Another plus is that its relatively small size makes its use unobtrusive and the device easily fits inside a compartment in any notebook bag.

In addition, being a USB device, the device frees up a precious PCMCIA slot. This is especially important to users of slim line notebooks like the Acer TravelMate 330 and the Sharp Actius 250, which only have 1 PC Card slot to boast.

The smartNIC is attractive to the mobile user but desktop computer users need not apply here. With S$128 spent on a smartNIC, I could get almost three excellent 10/100 DFE-540TX NICs from D-Link. As such, the smartNIC is not a viable NIC replacement.

The smartNIC, being a USB device in nature, has a theoretical maximum transfer rate of 8Mbps. This pales in comparison to traditional NICs and LAN PCMCIA cards which offer 10/100Mbps transfer rates (100Mbps is also another highly theoretical number). From the benchmarks, the differences are quite obvious. In addition, my experience with the TravelMate 330 has proven that USB device compatibility might be a problem for some systems. There is also noticeable degradation in performance due to USB bandwidth sharing among devices.

Another concern is that the smartNIC must be used in an 10Mbps or auto-switching 10/100Mbps Ethernet network. This is an important factor if your company, school or private network does not support auto-switching and runs at only 100Mbps. I especially didn't like the idea of stepping down my 100Mbps home network to 10Mbps.

OS support is another point in consideration. At this point, only Windows98/98SE is supported. The manufacturers have no immediate plans to launch drivers for Windows 95 OSR2.1 and Windows 2000 RC2. However, smartBridges has promised driver support for Windows 2000 after its official release. Of course, users of NT (lack of USB support) and Linux are also out of luck.

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