Although wifi may be convenient nothing can quite compare to a wire. Even our latest wifi equipment with massive sounding theoretical numbers struggles to break gigabit speeds if any obstacles are placed in their path. This doesn’t mean that wired networks are standing still however with 10Gbe now becoming a legacy option in the datacenter we’re seeing it and variants such as 2.5GbaseT and 5GbaseT show up for the home and small business. To that end Trendnet sent in the TUC-ET5G a usb-c 5GbaseT Ethernet adapter, something that should appeal to a variety of professionals
Unboxing and first impressions
Opening the packaging for the TUC-ET5G there wasn’t much to be said. Clearly designed for a retail shelf it shows off the adapter quite well through a clear display. Overall everything was easy to remove and seemed well protected with no real surprises. The adapter is a bit larger than some of the single gigabit models available likely due to increase power usage for 5GbaseT communications but not overly large. The integrated cable is a bit stuff but seems fine overall even if a modular design would have been preferred.
What is NbaseT
NbaseT is rather recent evolution in the long history of Ethernet over twisted pair. While 10GbaseT was standardized back in 2006 gigabit installs using commodity category 5e and 6 cabling while 6A was required for transmission of 10Gig communications. 2.5GbaseT and 5GbaseT commonly refereed to together as NbaseT were approved as standards in 2016 allowing for a communications above gigabit speeds without the strict requirements that 10GbaseT required. Most new 10GbaseT equipment(such as the ipolex transceiver used in this review) allows for auto negotiation of link speed based on line capability as well as the capabilities of the connected device. NbaseT has been adopted much more quickly thanks to an increased demand in bandwith for devices such as wireless access points, the ability to re-use existing wiring and the addition of PoE which was missing from the original 10GbaseT standards.(if you want a more in depth article, or video about the full implications of NbaseT let us know in the comments below)
Performance testing on the TUC-ET5G was done using a Thinkpad P50 through it’s thunderbolt 3 port as well as an Ipolex transceiver that was purchased after reading a review on ServeTheHome. In addition my core network switch a Mikrotik CRS328-24p-4s+rm and home server were utilized. The home server is a custom built dual Xeon E5-2470 V2 system attached via a pair of 10gig links ensuring more than ample bandwidth and processing was available. As a validation I did check iperf between my desktop and the server and saw speeds in excess of 9gbit so there isn’t an issue with any of our testing equipment.
Overall performance was underwhelming but not entirely unexpected. Starting with the usb side of the equation, assuming that this is a 3.1 gen 1 device(the documentation isn’t clear) that leaves us with a theoretical 4Gbit maximum assuming no other conversion losses. Beyond that it’s my experience that there’s always performance loss with external adapters compared to internal. With that preface out of the way we were able to see 3.0-3.3Gbit/s over a length of category 7 cable using iperf. Jumbo frames were enabled for this testing(and should be on links over 1Gbit) but other than that no settings were tweaked. I did perform a file copy test as well which involved copying a 2.74Gb mkv file from my laptop to the server in 9 seconds which was an impressive showing. Trendnet has mentioned that there will be a new driver pushing performance closer to the 4Gbit/s theoretical maximum and we will evaluate the adapter again whenever that is released.
Compared even to 10GbaseT 5GbaseT is a young standard with many kinks(such as the driver mentioned earlier) to work out and such performance on a relativity new product is an impressive start from Trendnet. Pricing can make or break a product and that very much applies to the TUC-ET5G. At it’s original launch price of 120USD(which it had already come down from in my unboxing) there were few people I’d recommend this adapter to. However at the much more palatable 89.99 for certain professionals it is going to be an absolute steal. Workloads dependent on how quickly data can be copied to network storage for access by one or more users will always benefit from increased performance and it’s external nature would allow it to be shared between multiple users.