A Japanese company has started sales of its 2.5 GbE network card that uses a Realtek controller. The adapter is a low-profile PCIe 2.0 x1 board that is compatible with the vast majority of desktop PCs that are used today. However, it isn't as cheap as one might expect.

The 'Area Mr. Jack' 2.5 GbE LAN (SD-PE25GLAN-1L) network adapter is a low-profile PCIe 2.0 x1 card based on Realtek’s RTL8125 controller launched over a year ago and currently used on some motherboards. Measuring 80 mm by 44 mm, the card is very small and simplistic, it has one RJ-45 connector and is equipped with two status LEDs. Besides 2.5 GbE (IEEE802.3bz 2.5G BASE-T) over conventional Cat5/Cat6 cables, it  supports previous-generation protocols too, including 1 GbE and below. For OS compatibility, the NIC comes with drivers for Windows 7/8/8.1/10, whereas the status of Linux support is unclear.

The Area Mr. Jack 2.5 GbE LAN card costs ¥3,980 including tax ($33.30 without VAT), which is not a particularly low price considering the fact that GbE ports are ‘free’ with most motherboards and Aquantia-based 5 GbE and 10 GbE cards can be bought for $70 and $90, respectively. Also, as there are no cheap 2.5 GbE and 5 GbE switches on the market yet, one will have to use a multi-mode 2.5/5/10 GbE switch, which is not cheap as well, so using 2.5 GbE cards instead of faster options may not be that economically viable.

But there is a catch about this card: it only uses a PCIe 2.0 x1 slot. It can be installed into every desktop with a spare PCIe 2.0 x1 slot, which essentially means any desktop launched in the last 10+ years as well as low cost systems that only come with PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. By contrast, 10 GbE cards come with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, whereas 5 GbE cards feature a PCIe 3.0 x1 interface, something that the cheapest PCs based on Intel’s H110 and similar chipsets does not support.

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Source: Area (via Akiba PC Hotline)

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  • JoeyJoJo123 - Monday, October 28, 2019 - link

    Middleground on cost and what's achievable on existing cable runs without having to lay down new cable.
  • Magnus101 - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    For transfers where even a spinning harddisk is limited by a 1 gigabit speed, but not by 2.5 Gb.
    Then there is also the price of switches, which is the real limiting factor.
    For now, I have to do with 1 GB for my home network, which means transfers for me maxes out at about 113 megabytes/s (which means that its about 0,9 Gigabit/s with the overhead in the switcher/network card that limits the speed by about 10%)
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Upgrading to 10 Gbit may require upgrading the cabling that is run through walls etc. and that can be a very expensive task for long runs. This is why 2.5 Gbit has seen major interest as the common Cat 5E cabling can be re-used for the higher speeds. The 2.5 Gbit only widens the symbol library vs. 1 Gbit as the line rate and encoding scheme are the same, hence they can leverage the same cabling.

    If you're cabling is mainly in-room, jumping to 10 Gbit is indeed mainly on the adapters and switch as the short patch cabling cost differences are minimal.
  • azazel1024 - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Faster network access and reduced latency.

    I mean, CAN I wait longer for transfers? Sure. However, its been annoying as heck since I moved I am down to a single GbE link between my desktop and server. I finally starting to get to wiring my new house rather than just hanging a few temp premade (and LONG) cables through my basement and up through the floor in the couple spots I needed wired access.

    Anyway, I had 2xGbE previously. With SMB Multichannel that got me ~235MiB/sec transfers and down to around ~115MiB/sec now (that single link is spread on a 5 port switch to a couple of other devices right now). I am occasionally tossing big files around my network. No one will die if I have to wait 60 seconds instead of 30 seconds for a large file to transfer.

    But again, it is still annoying. The every 10-16 month "opps I messed something up and now I need to transfer everything back over" data "[bring] backup" I have to do IS annoying as heck and also longer that I only have 1 good copy.

    I keep everything mirrored between my desktop and server with a twice weekly backup job. I backup to an external drive when I remember. Which is usually about 4-6 times a year. So I would never lose everything, but I only have 1 most current copy, a second nearly current copy and one stale copy of my data. For anything important I make sure I don't remove the files from the source media till there are multiple copies (example, pictures from a trip off an SD card).

    But if I am backing up, at 115MiB/sec that's about 7.5hrs. With dual links it takes about 4hrs (some of the smaller files it is disk based limitations and not link based).

    Going to 2.5GbE would both allow me to be slightly faster than dual GbE links, but it would also allow me to get that performance with just a single network cable. Now, I am laying a crap ton in my house as I am doing the permanent wiring, but it still gives me more flexibility and performance (dual 2.5GbE!).

    I'd still have disk based limits, but going to ONE 2.5GbE link would probably take my transfer times down to 3.5hrs from 4hrs at a guess. Dual 2.5GbE links would probably only squeeze maybe another 10-20 minutes faster in there as my RAID array likely can't exceed the performance of a 2.5GbE link except on the outer most tracks (about 320MiB/sec max read/write on the outer tracks with the 2x3TiB 7200rpm disks in the array, but by the time you are 20% utilized, you are down to more like 280MiB/sec max).

    But it also leaves breathing room for replacing the disk arrays with either new HDDs at some point which likely would be 15-25% faster than my older 3TiB disks, or possibly some big TLC SSDs if prices come down somewhat more.

    A low cost switch, especially one that is lower power is also crucial. As mentioned in the article, basically everything has at least a couple of 10GbE ports on it if it has slower ones. Even the little 10 port multigig switches I've seen are running around 30w and actively cooled. Probably in part because of those 10GbE ports. If there were some 8 and 16 port 2.5GbE switches (and maybe the same for 5GbE) that would be real nice. If they CAN get port price down to around $10 a port for 2.5GbE switches and $20 for 5GbE, I think you'd see pretty wide spread adoption.

    Even if all they could do is $20 for 2.5GbE and $30 for 5GbE I think you'd still see a lot more adoption. Especially with those guys who need just a smaller switch for their 2-4 ports on their network they need as fast as possible and can then just connect it to a larger switch to handle everything else.

    In my case, I see it being useful to connect my server to my desktop (minimum 2 ports there, ideally 4) and possibly 802.11ax router/APs later, which in my case is 2 total. An uplink port at 2.5GbE speed, or dual ports running at 1GbE to a larger switch is also needed. Then a main switch running all GbE ports (unless there is a single 2.5GbE uplink port) would be fine.
  • thomasg - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    The vast majority of users don't even require Gigabit-Ethernet.
    Typical home networks don't actually transmit data between clients; by far the largest group of users only transmit data between their home-router and the clients, and by far most people have below 100 Mbit/s (the average in western countries is below 50 Mbit/s).

    Then, there is the very small group actually using communication between clients in the network, like those who have NAS-boxes or other local network appliances.
    Those might have modern WiFi equipment supporting over 1.5 Gbit/s in MU-MIMO.

    Those are limited by 1 GbE, but won't come close to requiring 5, let alone 10 GbE.
    2.5 GbE is the perfect sweetspot and costs only below 50$ to upgrade the home-server that serves the multiple WiFi users.

    5 or 10 GbE not only is at least twice as expensive, it very likely also requires new cables adding additional cost, for no benefit over 2.5 GbE whatsoever.
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - link

    Both my Internet connection and my home file server are capable of saturating my gigabit LAN connection to my desktop, and my file server could probably saturate a 2.5 gigabit connection. A bit of a speed boost for file copies would be nice, or maybe reducing the impact of file access on Internet speeds.

    It's not critical, by any means, gigabit is plenty fast, but it'd be nice.
  • Mccaula718 - Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - link

    The lucky people who have an ISP who offers >1Gbps internet speeds.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - link

    NAS connectivity. 1Gb tops out at 125MB/s, which even a single WD black can saturate today. But 2.5 Gb would allow 250 MB/s, possibly 300MB/s, which is what most home 4 bay RAID NAS units can hypothetically hit.

    Gamers would love something like this, with games hitting 150GB now, there needs to be a faster way to back all that junk up so it doest need to be redownloaded later.

    10Gb would be even better, but costs. It's at least 4x as expensive to upgrade to a 10g ethernet card, and you need x4 slot, not a spare x1. More importantly, motherboards can put a 2.5Gb NIC onboard without major changes, not possible with the more demanding 10Gb, especially in Mini ITX format. 10Gb NAS units are also significantly more expensive then 2.5Gb NAS units.
  • eek2121 - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    I purchased a 10Gbit NIC based on the Aquantia stuff for $99 a while back. Works pretty well. Nothing affordable utilizes 10gbit though. They need to work on routers, cable modems, etc. My particular NIC also supports the 2.5 Gbit and 5 Gbit modes. I'd love to pick up a router that supports these modes along with getting some cable modem support.
  • otherwise - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    Check out the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN. Four 10G SFP+ ports, passively cooled, $150.

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