I usually tend to stick to brand named cards that are 'proven' to work on the market and never had problems (unless the card was faulty). I guess a guideline you can use is the well know phrase "You get what you pay for", meaning that a $15 network card is sure to have a lower throughput than a $35 card.
From experience, the Intel server and workstation based network cards should provide acceptable performance.
In addition, I'd suggest you ensure you're making use of the vendor's latest drivers as they too make a big difference when it comes to performance.
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