Every so often, an interesting tech announcement flies under the radar, especially on the component side of matters. As it turns out, this was the case at this year's Computex trade show, where previously unbeknownst to us, Realtek introduced a new family of multi-gig Ethernet controllers. Aimed primarily at consumer devices, Realtek’s 2.5G Ethernet controllers should enable more reasonably priced and more varied multi-gig network devices.

Realtek’s lineup of 2.5G Ethernet solutions include three chips: the RTL8125 PCIe 2.0 x1 controller for PC applications; the RTL8156 USB 3.1 controller for dongles and docking applications; as well as the RTL8226 transceiver for routers and switches. All of Realtek’s 2.5GBase-T products are fully-integrated ASICs that feature a QFN package and do not require any external flash or firmware.

Realtek's 2.5GBase-T Solutions
  Type Interface Applications
RTL8125 Controller PCIe 2.0 x1 PCs, Embedded
RTL8156 Controller USB 3.1 Gen 1 Dongle, Docking
RTL8226 Physical layer transceiver 2500BASE-X, SGMII+, USXGMII Switches, Routers, etc.

Being single-chip solutions, Realtek’s 2.5G Ethernet products should allow PC and network equipment makers to build relatively affordable products supporting multi-gig speeds. And even though these are just 2.5G products, that's still a 2.5x improvement in Ethernet bandwidth, a significant jump over today's devices, which have been stuck at GigE speeds for the better part of a decade. As an aside, it's interesting to note that these are the first multi-gig controllers we've seen released that don't also support 5 Gigabit speeds. Realtek plays in the high volume/low cost space, so while we'll likely never have an answer, I'm curious as to how much they saved by not also integrating 5G support.

In any case, as far as use goes, it looks like Realtek is particularly betting on gamers for these new controllers. For several years now the company has been offering its GbE network controllers with its Realtek Dragon Software that prioritizes packets generated by games, however it has not gained a lot of traction among gamers. With its 2.5GBase-T solutions it may see more success,

Previous generation 'Dragon' Gaming 8118AS NIC from Realtek.

At the time of their June announcement, Realtek did not have any customers to announce for the new controllers. But now in October it looks like ASRock may be one of the first clients to use the RTL8125 PCIe 2.0 x1 controller, as it's a solid specification match for the company's Phantom Gaming motherboards, which are due in the coming weeks.

Overall, seeing a high volume player like Realtek enter the multi-gig Ethernet space certainly boosts our hopes for multi-gig Ethernet becoming more affordable. Even though we've seen some progress there in the last year with products such as Aquantia's controllers, multi-gig adapters and switches are still fairly expensive. With that said, however, it remains to be seen whether many consumers and small businesses will jump onboard a standard that provides only a 2.5x performance increase over existing networks.

Related Reading

Source: Realtek

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  • shelbystripes - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    Well, if this is what Asrock is using to provide 2.5GbE, that can only be a good sign. The (current) Aquantia devices don’t seem cost-effective enough to add to a lot of motherboards. If manufacturers can easily swap existing Realtek GbE with this new part, it might finally drive 2.5GbE availability, creating demand for cheaper consumer-grade 2.5GbE switches and routers, and break us out of the current chicken and egg problem...
  • iwod - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    Yes, hopefully 2.5G will be standard within a few years time and not as a premium.
  • colinstu - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    Where are the 2.5G/5G/10G switches.....
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    Amazon? They are actually pretty affordable compared to a few years ago. If you want to just connect a server and main PC for example can be done for just a couple hundred dollars. More than gig speed in price sure..but compared to used to be $500 for a NIC and $1000 for a switch its a LOT more practical now.

    The problem with any of this is easy to see, manufacturers won't adopt it much without a need..currently %99 of people don't need faster speeds than what we got. That and most houses have to actually rewire to take advantage. Despite what most people think, most houses don't have anything better than Cat 3 in them.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    Not sure why most homes would even get dedicated network wiring given the commonplace availability of wireless and the need for occasional, costly gutting to update to new standards. Even copper phone wiring is of questionable value since a large number of households are cellular only. I still rely on POTS for DSL, but I also accept that I'm in an unusual position as I lack cable Internet access in my area. For those that must have wired signals, bridging Ethernet to electrical wiring is generally sufficient to get WiFi to places that are otherwise difficult to reach via a centrally-based wireless router. So, at least where residential networking is concerned, the future is not in wired Ethernet.
  • CaedenV - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    When I bought my house ~11 years ago, one of the selling issues they had was that the phone wiring was not working right, and I was like "Welp, I have never had a land line before, don't see why it would be an issue now".
    11 years later I have only gotten rid of wires coming to an in my home rather than adding them.
  • close - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    But then you wouldn't care much about wired 2.5G+ and the associated switches anyway.
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - link

    I know this is a old post, but saw link back to it. What you just said is %100 false. Every new home built now has dedicated CAT6 connections to almost every room. Ethernet is and always will be prefered over wireless. Wireless is still complete shit and fails a LOT.
  • piroroadkill - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    Netgear ms510tx..

    If you only want 2.5Gbit, it can provide FIVE of those, as well as four 1 Gig ports.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - link

    I had no idea that Realtek was in the business of packet prioritization software. At least its from a first party OEM that makes the hardware rather than a rebranding company like Rivet Networks, but I still can't see any actual value in doing that at the system's Ethernet controller unless you do a lot of LAN-only gaming, but at that point latency isn't a serious issue since the traffic doesn't have to traverse much wire or many hub/switch/router gear. Scaling up to 2.5Gbps is a good thing. Intel needs credible and cost-effective competition that can spur the growth of cheap switches and routers.

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