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D-Link DFE-530TX+ 10/100 PCI Ethernet Adapter
Last updated: 5/29/01

The D-Link DFE-530TX+ a very different  Ethernet adapter than the D-Link DFE-530TX recently reviewed in the Digest.  It is physically much smaller, measuring only 4 3/4 X 1 1/2", excluding the bracket, and even smaller than the LINKSYS LNE100TX reviewed earlier this week.  That appears to be the trend in Ethernet adapters lately.  This shrinkage of real estate is made possible by the Realtek RTL8139A single-chip Fast Ethernet controller.  According to Realtek's data sheet, 

"The Realtek RTL8139A is a highly integrated and cost-effective single-chip Fast Ethernet controller that provides 32-bit performance, PCI bus master capability, and full compliance with IEEE 802.3u 100Base-T specifications and IEEE 802.3x Full Duplex Flow Control. It also supports ACPI, PCI power management for modern operating systems that is capable of Operating System Directed Power Management (OSPM) to achieve the most efficient power management. The RTL8139A is also suitable for motherboard with built-in network controller application. The RTL8139A keeps network maintenance cost low and eliminates usage barriers. It is the easiest way to upgrade a network from 10 to 100Mbps. It also supports full-duplex operation, making possible 200Mbps of bandwidth at no additional cost. The RTL8139A is highly integrated and requires no “glue” logic or external memory. It includes an interface for a boot ROM and can be used in diskless workstations, providing maximum network security and ease of management."

They wrote it so well I decided just to quote it.  However, the general description should have also said that the RTL8139A chip includes two independent 2 Kbyte receive and transmit FIFO's (First in First Out) buffers to improve memory transfer efficiency, an integrated N-Way auto-negotiating transceiver, and a Wake-up on LAN (WOL) capability.  The board includes a WOL connector and cable.

Not only does the RTL8139A require no "glue" logic, it requires very few other parts, including capacitors.  I counted four high-quality, 105C electrolytics and one ceramic.  There are also bunches of surface mounted capacitors and resistors.  The lower overall component count should make the board more reliable and less prone to failure.

One thing is blatantly missing: a socket for a boot ROM.  Good, if it will reduce the cost of an Ethernet board.  I haven't put a boot ROM on an Ethernet board since the days when hard disk drives were $350 (or was it more?) for 80 MBytes.

The manual is a bit skimpy, which is typical for low-cost adapters, but well-written.

Software is provided on a single floppy disk and supports: Windows for Workgroups; Windows 95, 98, NT, LanMan, Novell (client and server); and Linux.  I didn't see an SCO UNIX driver, but it does have a Packet Driver and Realtek's web site has the SCO driver and gobs of other stuff--a very good and useful site.  

Installation was very easy with Windows 98 SE:  shut-down, turn-off, and unplug computer; remove the cover; install the board; plug-in and turn-on computer; insert either floppy and the Windows CD when Windows asks for them; click when prompted to reboot after the files are installed.

All in all the DFE-530TX+ packs a lot of punch in a small package, to produce a low-cost Ethernet adapter suitable for PCs, high-end workstations, and workgroup file servers.  It includes a lifetime warranty from a major manufacturer.


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