Today plenty of companies are involved into production
of USB-to-Ethernet adapters. And today we will speak about two models
that we have tested in our lab - CATC
NetMate(TM) Link and 3COM
USB Network Interface (3C19250).
Unfortunately, both adapters lack for either a
package or drivers, that is why the first thing for us to do was
to find the required drivers on the Net.
Use and technical characteristics
The adapters are designed to connect a computer
with a USB connector to the Ethernet network with a twisted-pair
cable at the data rate of 10 Mbit/s.
- Ethernet interface: ISO 8802/3, IEEE 802.3 compatibility, RJ-45
- USB interface: USB v1.0, v1.1 compatibility, USB-B connector
- Memory size: 32 KBytes SRAM cache for data; 1 KBytes NVRAM
for configuration storage
- Data rate up to 8 Mbit/s, depending on a PC, operating system
and a network protocol
- Current drain from a USB port: 200 mA for the CATC Netmate(TM)
and 300 mA for the 3COM
- OS support: Microsoft Windows 9x, Microsoft Windows 2000, Apple
MacOS for the CATC NetMate and Microsoft Windows 9x (and Windows
2000 with the drivers from third parties) for the 3COM
- Dimensions: 27 x 92 x 67 mm of the CATC Netmate(TM) and 25
x 55 x 67 mm of the 3COM
- Weight: 70 g
CATC Netmate(TM) Link Adapter
The adapter looks like a rectangular box with a
ribbed side panel, a light gray upper lid and a dark gray lower
surface. The lower panel has 4 soft rubber-like plastic legs to
prevent slipping of the adapter on a desk. On the upper panel you
can find an oval LED which works in two modes: when on the Ethernet
it glows steadily, and when connected to the USB it flashes. Both
connectors (USB and RJ-45) are located near each other, on the side
panel of the adapter.
Installation and connection
The drivers have a user-friendly installer which
will ask you to reconnect the adapter to the USB port to make it
ready for work. The drivers are supplied with two utilities: CatcDiag
and Usbready. The former can test the operation of the adapter both
with the USB interface and when on the Ethernet. The latter will
help you check whether your OS supports USB devices correctly.
Highs: Plenty of drivers for a great
deal of operating systems.
Lows: Relatively big device, the
connectors are placed not very conveniently.
3COM USB Network Interface Adapter (3C19250)
This adapter is twice smaller than the CATC Netmate
due to the more compact and two-sided layout of components. The
adapter has no legs. But since the USB and RJ-45 connectors are
located on the opposite sides of the case UTP and USB cables look
like a single whole, i.e. like one cable, with the adapter being
just a bulge. This model has two LEDs: one signals that the adapter
is connected to the network, while the other indicates activity
on the net. The LEDs are located on the upper edge of the RJ-45
connector, that is why you have to turn it by 180 degrees to make
sure it works.
Installation and connection
The installation procedure was ordinary: being
connected to the USB the adapter was detected by the system and
then the system installed the drivers after I typed in the path.
After that the device was ready to start working.
3COM has probably forgotten about this adapter:
it took us a lot of time to find drivers for the Windows 9x. Drivers
for the Windows 2000 are absent at all. The photo shows that this
model comes with the KL5KUSB101
controller from Kawasaki LSI U.S.A. Inc., on the site of which we
have found drivers for this OS. But in order to make the Windows
2000 install these drivers, you have to change parameters of the
Vendor and Device ID in the file klsienet.inf from 05E9 and 0008
to 0506 and 03E8, respectively.
Highs: Compact design, better location
of the external connectors.
Lows: Lack of support for operating
systems different from Windows 9X/ME
Both adapters perform worse than a usual network
card which has a 7-10% lead in the Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
Besides, you shouldn't wait for adapters for 100 Mbit/s Ethernet
with USB 1.x interface; this might become possible
only in case of wide popularity of the USB 2.x or in case
of transition to the FireWire.
The USB-to-Ethernet adapters are obviously not
the essentials for a home or office network. But if you often repair
or connect strange computers to your network this adapter may be
a good helper. These adapters will suit subnotebooks which often
ship with only one PCMCIA slot and lack for an FDD or a CD-ROM drive,
and which lack for a possibility to expand with the help of PCMCIA
devices after such drives are connected. A notebook owner can also
use such a adapter, but he'd better purchase a network card of the
PCMCIA format (as it provides a higher speed). Besides, you can
make use of such an adapter for connection to a network when none
of the expansion slots on your motherboard is free.
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