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   Review : D-Link DFE-538TX 10/100 NIC »  
 

 

D-Link DFE-538TX 10/100 NIC
   
 Date  : Jan 21st, 2001
 Category  : Networking
 Manufacturer   : D-Link
 Author  : Jin-Wei Tioh
Nowadays, the need for networking has definitely extended beyond large commercial establishments. With PCs being so integral to business, even small businesses have multiple PCs. What with the PC sales boom and the advent of the SOHO concept in the past few years, more and more families are having multiple PCs at home. Thus, the advantages of having a network is steadily becoming more apparent, with much of the motivation being the ability to share peripherals such as scanners, printers as well as a single internet connection among multiple computers.

A network basically consists of a bunch of NICs (network interface cards) installed in PCs, and a means of interconnecting them together, whether via a hub, switch, cable, etc. The most basic part of a network is the NIC. They range from el-cheapo, no-name Taiwan generics to well known brands such as Intel and 3Com. Today, I'll take a look at what D-Link has to offer, in the form of the DFE-538TX.

Package

Inside the box, we have the D-Link DFE-538TX NIC, a Wake-On-LAN cable, a driver disk, and the ever ubiquitous manual. The installation instructions are short and clear, though a pictorial guide would have been even better.

Specifications

First off, the specifications are as follows :

Features :

  • Single RJ-45 connector
  • Auto detection of 10Mbps Ethernet and 100Mbps Fast Ethernet.
  • Windows 95 certified for Plug-n-Play functionality.
  • 32-bit Bus Mastering with Burst Mode and Independent FIFO buffers.
  • ISO 9001 Certified Manufacturing Facility.
  • Uses D-Link Ethernet Controller.
  • Can plug into Pentium / 486 machine's PCI Bus Master slot, independent of the CPU speed.
  • Complies with the Ethernet/IEEE 802.3 100Base-TX and 10Base-T industry standard for easy migration.
  • Supports half and full duplex operation.
  • Supports PCI clock speed up to 33Mhz, independent of network clock.
  • Built-in FIFO buffers to eliminate external memory.
  • Multi-thread operation.
  • Low Ethernet Command Processing Overhead.
  • 32-bit Memory addressing (4GB) over the PCI bus.
  • Extensive use of VLSI components to provide high hardware reliability, small power consumption and reduced network interface card size.
  • Wake-On-LAN Function
  • 2 LED indicators (Link, Activity)

Drivers :

  • Novell
  • ODI
  • NDIS
  • SCO Unix
  • LAN Manager
  • Windows for Workgroups
  • Windows NT
  • Windows 95
  • Windows 98
  • NetBIOS

One notable thing though, it that this the DFE-538TX, and not the DFE-530TX. The differences between the two are that the DFE-538TX has 2 LEDs (Link, Activity) and Wake-On-LAN functionality while the DFE-530TX lacks the Wake-On-LAN function while providing 3 LEDs (Link, Activity, 10M/100M media selection). Apart from that, the total number of chips has been decreased on the DFE-538TX, which results in a size reduction of 25%.

Installation

Installation was a breeze. No, you don't need a MCSE to install this NIC ;) So long as you can turn a Phillips-head screwdriver, you should be set.

Upon powering up, the DFE-538TX was assigned an IRQ and Windows 98SE ripped the drivers off the included D-Link driver disk. Next, fired up the Control Panel, punched in the details such as IP address, subnet, etc. (to be fair, this has to be done with every NIC), a quick reboot, and I was in business. No blue screens, blue smoke, nothing... Hooked it up to our network, and I was streaming MP3s to other units on the network.

The installation process under Windows 95 and Windows 2000 proved to be equally straightforward. However, I did not attempt to install it under a *nix (ie. FreeBSD, Red Hat Linux, etc.) environment as our *nix testbed isn't ready yet.

Price

NIC Price (US$)
Intel EtherExpress PRO/100+  35.00
3Com Fast Etherlink XL 40.00
D-Link DFE-538TX 17.00

Click To Enlarge

As you can see, the D-Link costs 50% lower compared to the offerings by Intel and 3Com. The performance difference between the three are not readily distinguishable in normal, everyday usage. Moreover, you are still getting a brand behind it, not some faceless electronics manufacturer. To top if off, D-Link provides free tech support and a limited lifetime warranty, same as the big boys Intel and 3Com.

The DFE-538TX has been running happily on our storage testbed for a month now, and it gets the job done, day to day. While NICs like the 3Com's 3C-905 series have additional whizbang features, for normal daily usage, the difference was not really noticeable. Couple that with the low price point of the D-Link, and you have a must buy product that should satisfy all but the most demanding users.

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