We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Network Controller Card?

By V. Saxena
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A network controller card is an internal or external piece of computer hardware engineered to establish and maintain a continuous connection to either a local area network (LAN) or a wireless local area network (WLAN). There are several types of network cards, including wired, wireless, integrated, and mini or portable. Portable wired and wireless cards are typically plug-and-play, whereas integrated wired and wireless cards require the installation of special network card software.

A wired network controller card uses an RJ-45 interface port to establish an Ethernet connection to a LAN. In most cases, the LAN itself is connected to the Internet via either a digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modem. The data transfer speed is dependent on the speed of the adapter and the speed of the Internet connection. The three most commonly used standards in 2010 are 10BASE-T, which runs at 10 Mbit/s; 100BASE-TX, which runs at 100 Mbit/s; and 1,000BASE-T, which runs at 1000 Mbit/s.

A wireless network controller card relies on Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 wireless standards to establish a 2.4GHz or 5GHz wireless connection to a WLAN. In such an instance, a wireless router must be employed to wirelessly transmit signals between the wireless network card and the Internet modem. The three most commonly used standards in 2010 include 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. The 802.11n standard provides the fastest throughput rate up to 300 Mbps. Keep in mind that, though some manufacturers claim a speed of 600 Mbps, it’s rarely achieved.

An integrated network controller card is one that’s installed within a computer. Such a card is situated in a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) or PCI Express slot, from which it transmits data from the motherboard to the network, and vice versa. Note that an integrated network card can provide either a wired or wireless connection, depending on the type of technology built into it. Integrated cards are preferred by desktop users because they provide faster communication between the computer and the network, which in turn means reduced latency and faster access speeds.

A portable or mini network controller card connects to a computer externally from a universal serial bus (USB) or FireWire® interface. It also provides either a wired or wireless connection. Keep in mind that, no matter how fast the wired or wireless connection, it’s restricted by the transfer speed of the interface. Regardless, mobile users exceedingly prefer mini network cards, because they can easily be transported and they can also be swiftly switched from one laptop to another.

When deciding which type of network controller card to utilize, carefully analyze the situation. If the network provider doesn’t support 1,000BASE-T or Gigabit speeds, then no benefit whatsoever would be garnered from using a Gigabit network controller card. Or, if a computer’s PCI slots are already full, then it’d be useless to purchase an integrated card. Suffice it to say, each and every situation requires a unique solution tailored to the specific details — type of computer, network speed, available ports and slots — of the situation.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.