Bigfoot Networks' Killer NIC

Is there something to the hype?

FOR YEARS, GAMERS, enthusiasts, and even mainstream users have been getting their networking for free. Whether integrated into core logic chipsets or deployed in third-party chips, Gigabit Ethernet controllers have become a staple of modern motherboards, from high-end offerings all the way down to the budget fare. In fact, apart from a couple of cards we keep around for testing purposes, I haven't seen a discrete network card inside even a halfway-modern PC for a very long time.

The scarcity of network cards isn't entirely surprising. Onboard options offer more than adequate performance for most, especially considering that the majority are stuck behind Internet connections that can at best muster only a few megabits per second—hardly a challenge for Fast Ethernet controllers, let alone today's GigE chips. With freebie onboard networking failing to limit performance, not even picky enthusiasts have been able to support a market for high-end consumer networking controllers.

Bigfoot Networks thinks it can change that with the Killer NIC, a network card the company claims reduces lag and improves overall responsiveness in online games. Lag is the scourge of online gaming—a very real impediment to serious players and an almost universal excuse for the poor performance of the rest of us. Surely, the promise of eliminating a problem so widespread would have gamers lined up ready to open their wallets. But the Killer NIC costs around $250, and that's a big ask for a component we've grown accustomed to getting for free.

I've spent the last few weeks exploring the Killer NIC's impact on lag and game responsiveness, and I've come away rather surprised by the results. Are those results, combined with the Killer's other unique capabilities, worth $250? Read on to find out.

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