What should I consider when buying a network card?

There can be a lot to consider when buying a network card, but some of the most important things are speed, interface capability, and overall quality, which is usually down to the manufacturer. Cards, also called network interface cards or simply NICs, allow a computer or server to access and stay connected to a wireless Internet host. In the early days of wireless connectivity, choosing a card was often a very important and often expensive task that required at least some knowledge of the hardware involved. Technology has advanced over the years, but the prevailing concept is basically the same; the biggest difference today is that almost all computers and servers come with cards already installed, usually internally and completely out of sight. As such, one of the most important considerations when purchasing a wireless card today is to match what you already have, at least in terms of capabilities and technical specifications. From there, you can choose to upgrade for speed, security, or ease of access.

A computer motherboard.

Combining what you already have

The first thing you should normally consider when purchasing a network interface card is what type of card your system, whether it’s a laptop, desktop, or game console, is already running. The vast majority of new technologies come with pre-installed network cards. Understanding what you have is key to finding a replacement that works and matches your previous capabilities.

Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.

Accessing the card can sometimes be tricky. The user manual will normally state the specifications of the existing card and will also provide instructions on how to obtain it for service or replacement. Talking to a service technician or salesperson can also give you some insight into the appropriate parameters for your machine specifically, and many stores also perform a physical card exchange for free with your card purchase.

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Older machines often don’t have cards pre-installed, which means you’ll have to buy one and install it to connect. Your details are still important as not all cards are suitable for all devices. You’ll want to do some research on your device’s capabilities, as well as the options available on the market. Ideally, you should find a card that is neither too fast nor too slow for your computer’s resources and is compatible with the server you intend to use most often. A little research and investigation can make the choice a lot easier, and again, card sellers are often great resources when trying to answer specific questions.

speed considerations

Connection speed is one of the most important considerations for most consumers. An 802.11g card, which is generally considered the wireless standard, is generally preferred because it offers speeds of up to 54 Mbps. An 802.11b adapter is another type of wireless NIC that is becoming less common because it is slower than its 802.11g counterpart. It provides speeds of around 11 Mbps and is therefore more affordable; it may also work better on older machines with slower operating systems in general. An 802.11n is even faster than the g version, offering even faster download and upload speeds.

Understanding the interfaces

The card’s basic interface is another important consideration. The most common network card interfaces are a PCI, ISA, or PCMCIA card. The kind you choose largely depends on your computer and its interface.

A PCI card is placed in the PCI slot of your computer and operates at fast speed. This is usually recommended for the average PC user but it can be more costly than other options. An ISA card connects to a computer’s motherboard and is less expensive than the PCI card but it is also typically less reliable. PCMCIA cards are used in laptops. They are placed in a corresponding slot in your laptop, usually near the power and utility docks.

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Manufacturing Considerations

The overall quality of the card also usually matters, and in most cases this can be finished at least broadly in terms of the manufacture. For novice computer users especially, choosing a manufacturer that provides technical support with their product may turn out to be helpful. Some makers provide phone support in installing your card. You may also want to choose a card that comes with a warranty in the event of failure or damage.

Possible Need for Cables

In most cases, wireless cards require no cables or installation beyond popping the card into its intended clot. Some network cards, however, are hardwired with a cable. In this case, you’ll need to consider the type of cable you’ll need. Since the card typically is not sold with its corresponding cable, you’ll need to consider the connection that your card has. For a card that has an RJ-45 connection, for example, you should use an Ethernet cable. If the card has a BNC connector, use the coax cable. These concerns are most common with older models or in machines designed primarily for wired Internet access.

The network card.

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