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Netgear USB 2.0 Fast Ethernet Adapter FA120

 Author: Roy Santos
 Review Date: 1/13/2003

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Model Number: FA120 ($40)

Introduction
How much would it be worth to you to never have to open your PC(s) again to install another expansion card? One of the promises of USB devices was just that. But after a few years, we're still reluctantly opening our systems to add new or better capabilities. If you want the fastest throughput with your network card at the lowest price, then an internal PCI network adapter has been the way to go. But with many new computer systems now sporting USB 2.0 ports, you can get both speed and ease of installation, albeit at a slightly higher price. Netgear enters this blossoming market with its own USB 2.0 Fast Ethernet adapter, which aims to give high throughput while simplifying maintenance and installation on PCs.

Pros

  • Easy installation
  • High throughput
  • Excellent 5 year warranty

Cons

  • Older systems may need USB 2.0 adapter
  • Slightly more expensive than PCI equivalents

Basic Features
The Netgear FA120 is an unremarkable dark blue rectangular box that measures about 3 inches by 1.5 inches. One end of the box houses the RJ-45 jack to connect it to your network cable. The other end connects to a USB port via the USB cable provided in the box. Two small green lights go on or flash to indicate power or network activity. Netgear's adapter comes with a reassuring five-year warranty, for which it earns huge points, especially when compared to the competition's offerings.

Setup/Installation
Installing the network adapter should be a cinch for those who own USB 2.0-equipped machines. My test desktop has several USB ports, but they're all v1.1, the slower version of the USB specification. Though the adapter would still work with it, it couldn’t reach very high throughput. So, I installed a USB 2.0 adapter, a process that took about 15 minutes. (The adapter costs about $40.) Installing the network adapter itself, however, only took about five minutes. I hooked it to the new USB 2.0 port, connected a network cable to it, and then was on the network without much effort. The setup CD includes drivers for different versions of Microsoft Windows. A quick installation guide also draws out separate step-by-step instructions for various Windows systems.

Performance
The Netgear FA120 fared well in NetIQ's Qcheck throughput tests. It produced average speeds of 72 Mbps. At its fastest measured speed, it climbed to 80 Mbps, a performance that holds its own well against D-Link's USB 2.0 Fast Ethernet Adapter. Like that network adapter, the FA120's response times were also excellent. Netgear's USB 2.0 network adapter is a great solution for an administrator or PC owner who wants easy setup and reliable, fast connections.

Summary
Netgear's USB 2.0 Fast Ethernet offering serves up speed, ease of installation, and reliability in a relatively inexpensive package. PC owners or network administrators who have or manage USB 2.0-equipped systems would do well to consider this piece of hardware. It's easy to install and keeps a PCI slot free for other expansion cards. Though more expensive than most PCI network adapters, it's a little cheaper than D-Link's USB 2.0 adapter. It also beats most competing offerings with its five-year warranty, calming those concerned about potential equipment difficulties as well as long-term performance and durability.

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