Here's a quick look at the TP-LINK Gigabit PCI Express Network Adapter TG-3468, found on Amazon or Newegg for around $13 USD, with a nice product overview here.
Yeah, it's only one port. But it works right up through ESXi 5.1, out of the box. With 5.5, since it's based on a Realtek chipset, you'll need to manually add the right driver, which I detailed here, Install ESXi 5.5 with Realtek 8111/8168 NIC. While Realtek chipsets don't appear on the VMware Hardware Compatibility Guide, it's affordable, and works fine with ESXi.
Here's an Amazon buyer review by Reginald Francoi:
Buddy of mine recommended this NC. Works great on my ESXi 5.1 server and very inexpensive. I've purchased 2 and have had no issues what so every. Highly recommended.
TP-LINK lists the specs here.
Similar to what I did in Nov 2011 here, I'll be doing some casual speed tests of 3 NICs that span quite a spectrum of price points, to see if there's any significant different between them in the ESXi 5.5 home lab environment:
- High: Intel I350T2 Dual Port Ethernet Server Adapter, ~$135 on Amazon or Newegg.
- Mid: Realtek RTL8111E (built into my ASRock Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard), cost of board when new in 2011 was $300 USD on Amazon or Newegg.
- Low: TP-LINK TG-3468 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit PCI Express Network Adapter, $13 on Amazon or Newegg.
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