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ASUS XG-C100C NIC - 10 Gigabit Ethernet for the Masses

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Manufacturer: ASUS

Overview

To say that the consumer wired networking market has stagnated has been an understatement. While we've seen generational improvements on NICs from companies like Intel, and companies like Rivet trying to add their own unique spin on things with their Killer products, the basic idea has remained mostly unchanged.

And for its time, Gigabit networking was an amazing thing. In the era of hard drive-based storage as your only option, 100 MB/s seemed like a great data transfer speed for your home network — who could want more?

Now that we've moved well into the era of flash-based storage technologies capable of upwards of 3 GB/s transfer speeds, and even high capacity hard drives hitting the 200 MB/s category, Gigabit networking is a frustrating bottleneck when trying to move files from PC to PC.

For the enterprise market, there has been a solution to this for a long time. 10 Gigabit networking has been available in enterprise equipment for over 10 years, and even old news with even faster specifications like 40 and 100 Gbps interfaces available.

So why then are consumers mostly stuck at 1Gbps? As is the case with most enterprise technologies, the cost for 10 Gigabit equipment is still at a high premium compared to it's slower sibling. In fact, we've only just started to see enterprise-level 10 Gigabit NICs integrated on consumer motherboards, like the ASUS X99-E 10G WS at a staggering $650 price point.

However, there is hope. Companies like Aquantia are starting to aggressively push down the price point of 10 Gigabit networking, which brings us to the product we are taking a look at today — the ASUS XG-C100C 10 Gigabit Network Adapter.

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Continue reading about the ASUS XG-C100C 10GigE add-in card!

Powered by the Aquantia AQC107 controller, the ASUS XG-C100C promises to offer 10 Gigabit networking at an exciting MSRP of $100. Given our long-lived desired to upgrade the entire office network to 10 Gigabit, we decided to pick up 2 of these NICs to do some testing.

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The packaging for the XG-C100C is pretty spartan. The only items included are the NIC itself and a low-profile PCI Express bracket for smaller form factor chassis. Honestly, I am glad that nothing else is included to keep the cost down as low as possible, I'm not even sure what else a user could want.

The setup experience for the XG-C100C was a breeze. On our Windows 10 testbeds, the device was automatically detected and the appropriate driver was installed, with no intervention from us, a very nice touch as it can be frustrating to try to download drivers for a network adapter without an internet connection on a fresh install of your OS.

To validate the speed claims of the XG-C100C, we decided to pair two of the cards together, as well as one card with an Intel X550 10 Gigabit NIC. To test speeds, we used iPerf 3 on both setups with a direct connection between the two adapters.

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The ASUS XG-C100C performed flawlessly in our quick tests. At average speeds of about 9.42 Gbps on both setups, there's not much more you could expect from a 10 Gigabit NIC when taking the overhead of the connection into account.

While we didn't have a way to test it, one advantage of the Aquantia network adapters over something like the Intel 10 Gigabit adapters is the support for the 2.5Gbps and 5.0 Gbps standards. These newly introduced intermediary standards are said to start making their appearance in consumer electronics as a gateway to get us above the 1Gbps limit we have been living with, for a more reasonable hardware cost.

At the moment, there isn't much more of an application for 10 Gigabit speeds in your home network besides transferring files between computers. However, if you have something like a FreeNAS server and a single desktop, the XG-C100C could be a great option to maximize speeds.

Interestingly enough, wireless networking may also serve as a factor in the adoption of 10 Gigabit network adapters. With 802.1ac's theoretical speeds already going past 1Gbps, and the introduction of 802.11ad, a high-speed wired link will prove more valuable in the years to come to feed these wireless technologies at their full potential. 

However, your connection to your ISP may surpass 1Gbps faster than expected. Comcast is already offering their 2 Gigabit "Gigabit Pro" service in a few cities across the country.

Additionally, 10 Gigabit switches remain in the enterprise territory and are very expensive right now. Companies like ASUS have been trying to push 10 Gigabit more into the consumer territory with products like the XG-U2008 which features two 10Gbps ports and five 1Gbps ports, but it still comes with a cost premium. For the time remaining, point-to-point networking between two computers remains the "budget" option for consumers who aren't looking for a full network of 10Gbps-enabled devices. Also, be sure to use at least Cat 5e rated ethernet cable for short runs, and Cat 6 cable for longer length when trying to connect at 10Gbps.

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All that being said, isn't it time to start using some of the other unoccupied PCI Express slots on your motherboard for something other than collecting dust? For $100, the ASUS XG-C100C is a no brainer for power users tired of being restricted to slow file transfers across their networks.


July 12, 2017 | 12:43 PM - Posted by Your Name (not verified)

Thanks for this mini-review! Can you clarify one point: you tested the speed using a point to point link, no ethernet switch, correct?

July 12, 2017 | 03:16 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

Correct! We have a Netgear ProSafe switch that we are planning on using at the office, but we are waiting to get some more NICs in before we switch over. Keep an eye out for an article on converting the office to 10G!

July 12, 2017 | 08:49 PM - Posted by Your Name (not verified)

Thanks, Ken!

July 12, 2017 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Droid126

Have you seen the Ubiquiti 10G switch? It is too expensive for most homes, but not bad at all for a small office with heavy network needs. https://www.ubnt.com/unifi-switching/unifi-switch-16-xg/

July 12, 2017 | 03:17 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

That's a pretty good price, especially if you are getting used NICs with SFP+ connectors off of ebay!

July 12, 2017 | 07:39 PM - Posted by Droid126

That was the plan for the homelab

July 12, 2017 | 10:18 PM - Posted by Alan McConnaughey (not verified)

used sfp+ would be a bad idea, especially when new ubiquiti ones are less then $100

July 13, 2017 | 04:40 PM - Posted by Clmentoz (not verified)

What about any TB3 to 10 Gb ethernet adaptors testing and wiring up a home high speed wired server system/network via CAT6. And maybe the prices can come down on that option(TB3 to dual 10 Gb internet adaptors cost around $500-600 currently) also for any TB3 equipped Motherboard based systems.

Could you test this product on a PC connected with another PC, that uses TB3 to 10Gb ethernet adaptor(If you have any TB3 to 10 gig Ethernet adaptor testing samples), and do so over some longer runs of CAT6.

I'd like to see what performance advantages/disadvantages there may be. And with Intel Opening up its TB licensing maybe there can be some other makers to bring TB3 enabled systems/adaptors pricing down for TB3 networking itself or TB3 to ethernet 10Gb adaptors.

July 12, 2017 | 01:10 PM - Posted by mAxius

Now we need wireless routers, switches and modems with a 10gbe port :D

July 12, 2017 | 08:17 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yup, getting all of this working as a single network now will be the key. The same thing happened for single Gigabit - it will happen here.

July 12, 2017 | 08:51 PM - Posted by Your Name (not verified)

I think UTP and RJ45 will be key. SFP cables are too expensive.

July 12, 2017 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Mutation666

Should have made it neutral, rather get a dual port used one off ebay for the same price.

July 12, 2017 | 06:53 PM - Posted by orvtrebor

Hopefully they put out a cheap(ish) barebones switch to go with these.

July 12, 2017 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Prodeous

NICE... about time.

As mentioned the next part holding addoption is routers/switches with more then 2 ports. Fingers crossed on a 2x10gbit + 8x5gbit that would be a nice comprimize.

July 12, 2017 | 10:07 PM - Posted by TinkerToyTech

you ran these just end for end using a standard cable? or was it with a switch? was it a crossover cable?

July 13, 2017 | 12:22 AM - Posted by Your Name (not verified)

Crossover cables are obsolete: now it's auto detected. 10 Gb UTP needs category 6a cable, which is not very commonly installed yet.

July 13, 2017 | 12:53 PM - Posted by Clmentoz (not verified)

Since the 1Gb controllers arrived, PC/Laptops have had the ability to auto-negotiation any Ethernet cross-over. It's been available for years, even if one device has a 1Gb controller and the other has 10/100 Mb controller that lacks the ability to auto-negotiation the cross-over, only one side's controller needs that cross-over ability.

I use to ad-hoc, via 1Gb Ethernet, my USB 2.0 only laptop to my USB 3.0 laptop and do my system image backups from the USB 2.0 only laptop's over the ad-hoc-ed 1Gb Ethernet and get the backup done faster than any direct via USB 2.0 backup speeds. I'd use the USB 3.0 laptop as a 1Gb ethernet hub of sorts for the slower laptops with USB 2.0 only connectivity and the 1Gb ethernet newtork helped with the USB 3.0 capable laptop hosting the 1Gb ethernet network attatched USB 3.0 hard drive. USB 2.0 only supports a max of 480 Mb/s so the networked system image backups(Via 1GB ethernet) where faster(Minus the overhead) than USB 2.0 could manage.

July 13, 2017 | 04:59 AM - Posted by Annonnymoose (not verified)

The cheapest I see near me is 133 euros.
Better than over 300 for a 2 port card, but still high enough that I'm tempted to try my luck with used infiniband cards off ebay instead.

July 13, 2017 | 05:27 AM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Can you manually select 2.5 or 5g in software or device manager in case you might have cabling not up to 10g? I'd love to see this tested on different cable grades.. (Does old cat5 allow for 2.5g for example? Or regular cat6 - max length for 10g?)

I've been looking forward to hearing more about these cards.. thanks PCPer!

July 13, 2017 | 01:51 PM - Posted by Rothcharlie (not verified)

Cat5e doesn't support more than 1g. And cat6 maximum 10g length is 55 meters. Cat5 is trash at 100mbps.

July 13, 2017 | 03:40 PM - Posted by Xebec

Not officially, but there's a lot of slack in these specifications. If you listened to their recent podcast, they were using a Cat 5E cable for the 10 Gigabit tests here and it worked at full speed :)

July 13, 2017 | 01:32 PM - Posted by Airwolf (not verified)

Once I can get an 8 port 10GBe switch for under $200, I am soooooooooooo in for this.

July 13, 2017 | 02:21 PM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

Let us know if you can team two of these together too. The Intel X540-T2 is $250 so two of the Asus' would save $50 per PC.

It's also be cool to see some testing on just how far you can go on 5e before you loose your 10Gb connection.

July 13, 2017 | 02:38 PM - Posted by johnestan (not verified)

This is great. I regretting having a mini-ITX board now. Gigabit transfer speeds to my NAS is super frustrating. I can wait for 2.5g, 5g, and 10g to make it into more boards.

July 13, 2017 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Joon Wong (not verified)

I think the NIC chip is the 107 AQC107 instead of AQC108 as that is only up till 5Gbps

July 16, 2017 | 08:06 AM - Posted by anon.ymo.us (not verified)

There is also 2GbE and 5GbE. Theoretically they should be a lot cheaper and sufficient for upgrading home network. I have never seen a product that supports these though.

July 17, 2017 | 01:18 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

As mentioned in the review, this NIC also supports those standards.

September 3, 2017 | 10:09 PM - Posted by TomKNZ (not verified)

is this card going to work with freenas 11? I mean if i add it to my server will freenas pick it up and install the correct driver by itself?

September 5, 2017 | 02:21 AM - Posted by Dent_

From what I have read on the FreeNAS forum, no. One user said they emailed Aquantia and got a reply that there is no FreeBSD (what freenas is based on) driver. They also stated they plan to make one, just won't be released anytime soon.

September 18, 2017 | 05:10 AM - Posted by Mastakilla (not verified)

I'm very interested in the difference between this 10Gbit NIC and the more expensive 10Gbit NICs (like Intel).

I suppose they can all handle 10Gbit, but what about CPU usage and Power Usage?
Is there any difference in that regard?

October 12, 2017 | 02:04 PM - Posted by Ireen (not verified)

I would also like to know idle and 10 gbit power usage.

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