Sunday 4 February 2024

Computer Parts: Marvell AQC113C 10GbE network card (QFly NIC-10G), PCIe x4 riser, and 7-port USB3 PCIe x1 Card.

Over the years, I've written about transitioning to faster ethernet here at home with standard copper 10GBASE-T (10GbE) cabling, beginning back in 2018. This works fine even with Cat-5e in the walls of my home (although some renovations use Cat-6). More recently, my home network was upgraded to 2.5GbE for any device that can benefit, with standard 1 gigabit/s fallback.

Last month, I needed another 10GbE network interface card (NIC) and noticed that we're now seeing inexpensive Marvell mGig AQC113C NICs available, upgrades from the AQC107 cards I have been using. So I grabbed a QFly NIC-10G (~US$75) to try out. There are other similar products like the NICGIGA (very unfortunate name).

The card offers 10G/5G/2.5/1GbE speeds and below (100/10Mbps) for compatibility. The new chip operates at only 4W running 10G speed (I believe the AQC107 is estimated at ~6W) making it even cooler-running for heavy loads.

As you can see in the picture of the card above, the interface is still PCIe x4 wide. Even though the AQC113C chip is capable of PCIe 4.0 which can do 16Gbps/lane bidirectionally (so even a x1 interface is fast enough), in order to be compatible with more common PCIe 3.0 (8Gbps/lane so will need at least x2 for full performance) motherboards and lower, it's a x4 card. I suspect in the future, we'll see x1 cards meant to run in PCIe 4.0 and latest 5.0 motherboards (32Gbps/lane!).

I was pleasantly surprised by the completeness of the QFly box considering the low price:

We have a low-profile bracket, extra screws, small pamphlet manual discussing driver installation, both a CD and USB stick with drivers, and even a screwdriver.                 

For me, I installed it in my Windows Server 2019 machine and it's compatible with the same driver I had been using for the ASUS AQC107 card (3.1.6 worked fine for Server 2019, but not the latest 3.1.8 which works well in Windows 11). Keep an eye on the Marvell website for newer driver/firmware versions and other OS like Mac and Linux.

Since my network switches are compatible with jumbo frames, I set my receive and transmit ring buffer size to 3000 each to keep it simple (26MB RAM x 2 for receive and transmit). Other settings like Energy-Efficient Ethernet, large send offload, checksum offload, adaptive interrupt moderation, left on by default:

Regarding buffer size, I've seen the recommendation for transmit buffer to be 2x receive buffer size and have used that in the past. I don't see a reason unless there's a difference in how the kernel manages the interrupts based on the in/outbound data. I suppose if you want lower latency especially when receiving data, lowering the receive buffer size could be useful. In general, larger buffer size reduces packet loss by making sure data doesn't overflow during the time between kernel interrupts (and reducing the number of interrupts decreases CPU load), but can increase latency for apps needing the data sitting in the buffer (in particular real-time applications like gaming).

So how fast is the card? Here's a current network map and the 1-hour iPerf speed test between the ASUS XG-C100C (AQC107 chip) in my Workstation and the new QFly (ACQ113C chip) in the Server computer. There are two switches along the path, the QNAP QSW-M2108 and Netgear GS110MX:

Using latest iPerf3.16 x64:
Workstation: "iperf3.exe -s -i 60"
Server: "iperf3.exe -c -t 3600 -i 60 -l 128k"

Excellent. Average 9.88Gbps across 60 minutes running full tilt with 4TB transferred across the hour. I was doing some light blog editing in the first 30 minutes, there's a web server, Roon server (not playing music at the time) running in the background causing some of the fluctuations. Lowest minute average was still at 9.71Gbps while editing the blog.

Of course in real life it would be very unusual to have the network transferring data constantly like this over an hour! Despite the load, the QFly card's heat sink was barely warm to the touch at the end of the hour. I have confirmed speed stability with the same test settings over 8 hours between the ASUS XG-C100C and QFly NIC-10G - no sweat!

So far, after about a month of 24/7 use in the Server machine (Roon, LMS, website, files), the QFly AQC113C card continues to work well with no issues, excellent speed stability, running cool. Going forward I would transition from the AQC107 to these AQC113C if I need to buy new cards.


I must admit that after having a 10Gbps LAN pipeline for a number of years, dropping down to even 2.5Gbps was noticeable with large file transfers. Once one experiences this kind of speed, it's hard to go back! So, recently when I added the massive nVidia RTX 4090 GPU to my Workstation, the darn thing covered my only other PCIe x4 slot so I couldn't get the 10GbE NIC in there. πŸ™

BTW, here's a card size comparison between my old ASUS nVidia GTX 1080 vs. the Gigabyte RTX 4090 (for context, that square tile measures 18"/side):

In order to circumvent this, I needed to grab a PCIe extender so I could take the x4 signal from below the GPU and mount the NIC vertically in a card slot that my ATX full tower case conveniently had available.

Here's the PCIe extender I used (less than US$15), capable of PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds for the 10GbE card. For my needs, it was important that the male end didn't rise too much above the motherboard connector and the cable is flexible enough to clear the gap below the RTX 4090. Also important to check the length, 23cm was more than enough for me.

Notice the white 4-pin JST power connector if needed on the female PCIe end. Not needed for the low-power 10GbE network card.

Some extenders have 90° connectors that might work better for you.

Here it is all connected up in my chassis:

Friction is strong enough for the extender's connection with the ASUS card to remain in place.

With that, I'm back to 10GbE network speed on the Workstation, achieving the average 9.88Gbps transfer performance as shown above. Feeling good again...

Stable, fast network = Serenity.

As mainly an audiophile blog, permit me to remind audiophiles that ethernet is inherently galvanically isolated. Don't be impressed about snake oil ethernet switches for example or concerns about ethernet cabling (discussed close to a decade back!). Notice that many switches in the audiophile market are only 100Mbps devices likely because the companies are low-tech, silly, and want you to think that higher speed ones, even just 1Gbps (!) somehow are more "noisy" or "jittery" and can somehow affect your DAC's performance. That's as usual just rubbish unless they can prove such a thing and show in what context they find these issues.

Buyer beware for any products intended to create an "audiophile network" - whatever that is. πŸ€”


One last item to mention. Here's an inexpensive PCIe 1x single-card USB 3.0 interface (less than US$30). I bought one to add a few more USB ports on my gaming PC for the VR system.

The 7 ports include 4 USB-A and 3 USB-C connectors should be plenty, and it's convenient not needing to take external power off the power supply like a Molex connector or the SATA power cable (like some cards). The company claims up to 5W available over the USB-A ports, and 15W for the USB-C. Windows 11 already has native drivers for the Fresco Logic FL1100 controller (paired with VLI VL817 hub), also supported under Linux and MacOS. The USB ports, arranged perpendicularly along the card worked fine.

I know some users have experienced USB disconnection issues with AMD 5000 CPUs and certain chipsets like their B550/X570 boards under heavy processing loads with PCIe 4.0 graphics cards. Some folks running AMD systems still complain of USB disconnection issues even after BIOS updates and chipset driver updates. Workarounds like putting the PCIe x16 down to Gen 3, disabling C-States, or playing around with the NVMe M.2 configuration also helps but of course this should not be necessary. Anyways, this USB card is cheap, works well for 5Gbps speeds (PCIe 2.0 1x fast enough), I suspect would be a good solution for those who still have issues and can benefit from extra ports.

There is a similar USB 3.2/3.1 Gen 2 version of this card (around US$45) capable of 10Gbps if you have a PCIe x4 slot free.

As with the mythical "audiophile network", I don't see a reason why one needs "audiophile USB ports" since Bits Are Bits and high quality DACs in objective testing maintain low noise/jitter regardless of USB source. Would love to see objective evidence that an expensive €850 JCAT NIC can even make a difference in DAC performance!


Happy high-speed computing and home networking, everyone! Amazing that it's already February.


  1. Interesting reading as usual:
    Lately I got banwith issue with the Marvel Chipset AQC107 built-in in the Lenovo P620 workstation.
    The Marvel NIC revert to 1G when connected to a 10G Network.
    Swapping to an ATTO PCI card solve the problem.
    The cable length is about 70 meters between the Workstation and Network Switch, a bit under the 100 meters standard.
    We escalate the problem to Lenovo, more to come...

    1. Greetings Blogue,
      Nice, those ATTO NICs look impressive with some *really* fast products!

      Hope Lenovo figures things out for you given the higher-end specs of those workstations!

  2. Hi Arch
    Always pleased when you post computer and network stuff. Your home network looks quite impressive. How have you managed to hide all those cables and equipment without the house resembling a control center? 😊 Have you considered a wireless mesh solution, or do you want it hard wired? I had to go the wireless as I had too many rooms to connect. I have five kids, each with their own tv, laptop and gaming console. Quite the contrast to my childhood when all I had were my books and a radio/cassette player…
    I recently installed the TP-Link Deco BE85 and so far, been impressed with it.
    Out of curiosity I tried some, ahem, audiophile USB cards from ELfidelity or
    They also sell noise reduction cards that connect chassi fans and molex connectors.
    These were not expensive, and I enjoyed testing them but I cannot vouch for any dramatic improvements. They do seem to be appreciated judging by the number of stars they get from buyers.
    Linus tech tips has reviewed two of their power filter products and was not impressed.

    Take care Arch

    1. Hey Mike,
      Interesting items there for noise reduction. I don't see anything on the web pages showing evidence that they work though. Even if the filtering is effective to reduce say switching noise, is there any evidence from these companies that they can show it making a difference with any DAC out there (for example, that ELFIDELITY AXF-100 PRO III USB cleaner device).

      I think as audiophile consumers these days, we must remain skeptical about claims of products without clear potential benefit given the amount of snake oil and false claims. Like in health care in general, we must examine for evidence based products and services... Otherwise we'll be overwhelmed by all kinds of vitamins, supplements, "cures", "therapies" with no basis in scientific research. As discussed back in 2022 on Quackery, Gullibility, and Open-mindedness.

      Great video from Linus TT. But... This is simply painful to watch from start to finish without jumping around a bit and I honestly could not get through the whole thing without getting too frustrated/angry that companies like Elfidelity exists (I see they also reference SOtM stuff near the end).

      Audiophiles... PLEASE don't believe the hype (LL Cool J was right). If you do, you're simply a sucker. And I hope nobody in this world wants to be seen as a naΓ―ve idiotic sucker who just wasted his money - regardless of how much money one has!

      On the less frustrating topic of the home network... My house has 3 floors, and ethernet is built into the walls with network port in each room, hence the distributed system and no clutter. Some rooms like my office space then becomes the local "hub" for stuff like my Workstation, printer, VOIP with wires running into the cabinetry where it's out of sight. Likewise the living room has its own local 2.5Gbps hub to feed the TV, data access for the wireless router, and my gaming computer.

      The kids and my wife work upstairs in the "Upstairs Computer" secondary office (or just wireless laptop).

      I made some renovations about 10 years ago for the media/sound room so I added Cat 6 through the basement and into the central data network/PBX panel which is situated away from the 2 electrical panels, one of which is for the more "dirty" appliances like the washer and dryer, the other to serve the bedrooms, soundroom, etc.

      5 kids Mike, that's quite a handful! I have 2 and I thought that was enough. Good luck. πŸ˜„

  3. Hej Arch,
    Thanks for the reply. I like how you have sorted your network. As regards Elfidelity and the like, It is extraordinary the power of placebo.
    I can recommend these for a lasting effect
    I found several forums where they gushed over the wonders of Elfidelity.
    There is a sad realization over how immensely difficult it is to educate and inform others about the pointlessness of all these products that are marketed as beneficial. Elfidelity is only one such product amongst so very many. You have covered several but there are so many more. If consumers believe in marketing, then they are already biased into expecting and then experiencing a positive difference.
    I recently read a review of the Totem Skylight, which despite its obvious shortcomings garnered a sublime recommendation by the reviewer. The fun part is reading the comments section which finally prompted Jim Austin to jump in and defend the review. “Crucially, Stereophile was founded on the notion that what matters most about audio components is what they sound like. Measurements had achieved a hegemony that was not improving the sound.”
    Yes, my family is a handful. Three teenage daughters and two sons. I leave for work today in the offshore industry which gives me two weeks holiday!
    Take care and looking forward to your next post.

    1. Thanks again Mike,
      Agree - it looks like those placebo pills have the kind of sentimentality and nostalgic "air" about them to work well for all kinds of purposes!

      No doubt, education is still the key especially since we're often "fighting" against an industry and advertising dollars, including the funding of audiophile magazines from companies making highly questionable products (including every hi-priced audiophile cable company). We're talking about consumer technology after all.

      There's no way for us to play whack-a-mole and address each product, or each snake oil company, try as we might. And at some point, we'll get tired anyways as we move on to more interesting things to talk about in life!

      Nevertheless, I do hope that rational audiophiles will speak up when we're in discussions or when we run into forum topics like the one above on Head-Fi. Who knows sometimes if highly positive comments about how "clean" or "less noisy" the change in sound with these voodoo products might even just be from company representatives on the forums. Perhaps slowly things will turn around; compared to the early 2010's when I started this blog, I think things have gotten better already overall.

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