- ✓Well-made, well-behaved components
- ✓clear installation instructions.
- ✕Some installations may require longer cables.
If you've got a couple of PCs at home that aren't too physically separated -- perhaps they're in the same room, or otherwise easily connected via cabling -- then a simple wired networking starter kit like Netgear's £85 (ex. VAT) FB105 will allow you to share files, peripherals and an Internet connection, as well as play multi-player games. If you want to set up a basic 10/100Mbit/s network and don't mind routing a couple of cables, then the FB105 is well worth considering.
The FB105 kit comprises an FS105 Fast Ethernet switch, a pair of FA311 10/100Mbit/s PCI network cards, two three-metre Category 5 Ethernet cables for connecting the network cards to the hub, an Internet Sharing Resource CD and a fold-out user guide.
The FS105 switch is a solid metal-cased unit with five RJ-45 ports on the front panel. Also on the front panel are LEDs for power on, connection and collision status, and network utilisation. Next to the fifth port is an uplink switch that should be depressed when you want to link the hub to another network component such as a print server. Power is supplied by a 12V, 1.2A AC adapter, and the whole unit can either sit horizontally on its rubber feet or be wall-mounted using the supplied kit.
The FA311 network cards are very compact PCI units equipped with an RJ-45 port and status LEDs. The FA311 is a well-behaved product that installed without trouble in a number of different test PCs -- which is not something that can be said of every network card on the market.
The remaining components are of an equally high standard to the hub and the network cards. The two Category 5 10/100Mbit/s RJ-45 cables are well made and of reasonable length, while the fold-out user guide is admirably clear. Although you can't escape a certain amount of setup and installation hassle when you venture into networking, Netgear's FB105 makes it pretty painless for those with a modicum of technical know-how.