Startech ST10000SPEX 10GBase-T Ethernet Network Card review

Effective and relatively inexpensive 10 Gigabit Ethernet adaptor, ideal for servers

Price
£174
  • Cheaper than most rivals; Active cross-platform driver support; Easy performance improvement for servers with high data throughput

Startech's ST10000SPEX 10GBase-T Ethernet Network Card is, at 175 (ex VAT), one of the lowest-cost options when it comes to upgrading critical parts of your server infrastructure to 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE).

It supports standard copper Ethernet cable, rather than 10GbE fibre, providing greater compatibility with legacy hardware. Cat6 and Cat6A cabling also tends to be cheaper than its fibre equivalent.

10 Gigabit Ethernet is particularly useful if you need to connect a powerful virtual machine host to solid state iSCSI storage targets, want to upgrade your SAN network, or if you have large amounts of data to shunt around, whether that's raw media or the accumulated backups from hundreds of client machines.

The PCI-E x4 card can be fitted in any x4, x8 or x16 slot. If you're running bandwidth-hungry PCI-E cards in any other slot, make sure that you don't fit the network card in a slot that shares PCI-E lanes with them, as that'll effectively split your available bandwidth between the two.

The ST10000SPEX has a Tehuti TN9210 chipset, and both Startech and Tehuti provide drivers for Windows, macOS and Linux. At the time of review, we found that StarTech's Linux driver was slightly older than that available directly from Tehuti, which provides support for the most recent kernel versions. We were pleased to see that drivers for all platforms are being actively maintained. 

The card is fitted with a standard backplate but comes with a low-profile alternative which you can attach if you intend to, for example, fit it into a low-profile rackmount server.

The ST10000SPEX has a single RJ45 Ethernet port, designed to take standard copper Ethernet cable. We saw marked throughput improvements even in devices connected to our 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch using standard Cat5e cable, which may be welcome news to companies with legacy structured cabling in place.

With two ST10000SPEX-equipped servers connected via a Netgear ProSAFE XS716T, we were able to max out the write speeds of the SSDs installed in both machines, using both Cat5e and Cat6 cabling. However, for optimal performance, particularly over long cable runs, we strongly recommend using Cat6 if at all possible. 

Verdict

Although its ex VAT price of £175 isn't exactly peanuts, the ST10000SPEX is one of the cheapest 10GbE adaptors currently available. Driver compilation and installation was smooth, and the adaptor worked as expected, providing fast, reliable throughput across a range of current and legacy infrastructure configurations. The cards are an ideal upgrade for any enterprise with lots of data to shunt across its network.

1x RJ45 (copper) 10GbE port, PCI-E x4, Tehuti TN9210 chipset, driver support for Windows, macOS, Linux

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