If you have experience using Arduino, you should be able to recognize the board shown above.

Yes, it is in fact the official Ethernet Shield made by Arduino. It contains a W5100 chip embedded with hardwired TCP/IP, patented by WIZnet.

If you use this particular board, you can easily access the Library which has multiple applications already implemented like the Web Server/Client, DHCP, DNS, etc.

But you have to wonder – is Arduino’s Ethernet Shield the only board that’s able to make Internet communication more convenient via MCU? 

Makers’ needs range greatly but have yet to be satisfied. For instance, they would’ve liked the Ethernet Shield to be smaller or might have even wanted to implement a different form with MCU rather than its Shield form.

This post shows the diversity of the W5100 chip Ethernet Shield – how it is used as well as how many ways it can be customized. We call a product that’s been customized with added value and resold as a new product or package a “VAR product.”


There are about 80 VAR products of W5100, discovered by WIZnet. Although W5100 is a long-time popular product, there are countless VAR products in the market.

There are probably even more undiscovered VAR products in Chinese market.

The makers of these unknown products vary as well. Aside from Arduino, Freetonics, Sainsmart, DFRobot, Elecfreaks, ELEC House are all VAR product makers in China.

Most of the W5100 VAR Products are produced in a similar shield form with the original intent to target the Arduino board. So it is rather hard to notice a significant difference between these products and the Arduino Ethernet Shield.

However, we would like to introduce some VAR products with a few stand-out differences.



1. Ethernet Shield With PoE

The first VAR Product we’d like to introduce is the Ethernet Shield with PoE. The original Ethernet Shield relied on the MCU board for its power supply but with the addition of PoE, the Shield can now apply power to the MCU board while also allowing more customization by creating a Prototype Area. For more information, refer to the link provided.


2. EtherMega

Simply put, EtherMega is the combination of Arduino Mega and Ethernet Shield. It has ATmega2560 MCU and W5100 chip inside the board so it does not need to use the Shield itself. For more information, refer to the link provided.


ethernet-4nano_1r ethernet-4nano_2r

3. Ethernet for Arduino Nano

Recently, many Arduino Makers are using the Ardino Nano. One obvious reason is the compact size. Smaller products are generally easier to work with when customizing. To fulfill the various needs of the makers, a new Ethernet Shield was made specifically for Nano. Although the socket in the original Ethernet Shield is gone, the compact size is proving to be very useful. For more information, refer to the link provided.


261-2_large 261-3_large

4. FEZ Connect Shield

Makers do not only care about the hardware’s inside, but they also keep in mind the extraneous design of the product. However, because of jumper cables, the recent designs of VAR Products haven’t been all that clean. FEZ Connect Shield might not stand out from the rest but it has eliminated the need for wiring to make it more convenient for users. For more information, refer to the link provided.



In conclusion…

VAR products don’t simply mean that there are many similar products. This shows that how many people are interested in existing product(e.g. W5100) and their needs are various. Therefore, I think it is the world of VAR product that can be welcomed more than existing products.

Even though you have a lot of fun doing Maker activity, I hope that finding another VAR product right for you will be another fun.

Curator : Lawrence from WIZnet
Email :