Emulated version of the AMD 79C970 PCnet32. Older 10 Mbps NIC with drivers available in most 32-bit guest OSes except Windows Vista and newer.
Paravirtualized adapter, optimized for performance in virtual machines. VMware Tools is required for VMXNET driver.
Emulated version of the Intel 82545EM 1Gbps NIC. Available in Linux versions 2.4.19 and later, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and later, and Windows Server 2003 (32-bit) and later. No jumbo frames support prior to ESX/ESXi 4.1.
Emulated version of the Intel 82574 1Gbps NIC. Only available on hardware version 8 or newer VMs in vSphere 5.x. Default vNIC for Windows 8 and newer Windows guest OSes. Not available for Linux OSes from the UI.
Paravirtualized adapter, providing more features than VMXNET, such as hardware offloads and jumbo frames. Limited guest OS support for VMs on ESX/ESXi 3.5 and later.
Paravirtualized adapter, unrelated to previous VMXNET adapters. Offers all VMXNET2 features as well as multiqueue support, MSI/MSI-X interrupt delivery, and IPv6 offloads. Supported only for hardware version 7 or later with limited guest OS support.
The vmxnet adapters are paravirtualized device drivers for virtual networking. A paravirtualized driver improves performance since it shares a ring buffer between the virtual machine and the VMkernel. This uses zero-copy, reducing internal copy operations between buffers, which saves CPU cycles. The vmxnet adapters can offload TCP checksum calculations and TCP segmentation to the network hardware instead of using the virtual machine monitor’s CPU resources.