Bigfoot Networks’ Killer NIC

Manufacturer Bigfoot Networks
Model Killer NIC
Price (Street)
Availability Now

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.

Lag and what can be done about it
Anyone who has played an online multiplayer game—and that’s just about every enthusiast—knows what lag is: stuttering, jerky gameplay, and an overall lack of the creamy smoothness we’ve come to expect from modern PCs. Lag’s origins can be traced back to issues with the game server, the client, or problems with the network that connects the two.

The most persistent and thorniest source of lag, of course, is the public Internet, a collection of networks that may or may not have the capacity to transfer packets between your PC and the game server in quick, consistent fashion. If any point in the path between the client and server becomes congested, the flow of packets carrying game updates may be delayed or interrupted—and in a real-time application like a game, a long delay is just as good as a lost packet. There’s no sense in using outdated data or in negotiating to have it sent again. Instead, most games just work around lost or stale packets.

If packet loss or delays become too great, you’re suddenly knee-deep in lag—frantically keying in control inputs while the display stutters or freezes. Moments later, when the lag resides, you get to watch your character responding to those commands by firing rockets off into oblivion in a whirling dervish of virtual futility, shortly before being blasted into a fountain of meaty gibs by a quad-damage-enhanced shotgun volley.

How embarrassing.

Unfortunately, the Killer NIC is simply a client-side device, so it’s very limited in its ability to affect what happens in the wilds of the Internet. Clients can mark packets as important and request priority for them, but—you may be shocked to hear this—even the best ISPs probably don’t consider transporting your Battlefield 2142 packets promptly their most urgent custodial duty. As a result, even the best client-side NIC-fu will likely have little effect on network-induced lag.

Interestingly enough, Bigfoot’s own whitepaper claims the biggest cause of lag in gaming is “server congestion/slowness whether by CPU limit or bandwidth limit.” If you’ve ever peered at a long screenful of options in a server browser and found yourself thinking that there’s really no good place to play, you’re probably familiar with this problem. The Killer NIC can’t solve this one, either, although Bigfoot says it is working with game developers to deploy solutions that combine the company’s hardware with tighter game-engine integration to reduce server-side lag.

So the Killer NIC can’t do everything, but it can address one source of lag: the kind caused by the client, your PC. This more limited sphere of influence is where a device like the Killer NIC will have to earn its keep.

The client side of lag
Bigfoot claims client-side lag can be attributed to several things, including optimizations that favor throughput at the expense of latency, limited system resources, and a lack of packet prioritization. The Killer NIC deals with them all under the umbrella of its so-called Lag and Latency Reduction (LLR) technologies.

Bigfoot’s most important efforts involve rebalancing the tradeoff between latency and throughput. Generally speaking, if all other things remain equal, networking performance can be optimized to favor either throughput or latency. Many NICs these days use a technique known as interrupt moderation to increase throughput and lower CPU utilization by queuing packets and issuing fewer interrupts. For instance, both Marvell’s Yukon and Nvidia’s nForce Ethernet controllers offer this feature and enable it by default (though it can be disabled in the NIC control panel for both products) The more packets are queued before an interrupt to deliver them, the higher your throughput becomes, and the less CPU overhead is required to handle a given amount of data. However, the more packets you queue, the longer the delay until they’re delivered.

Most users want fast file transfers and smooth streaming media—tasks more dependent on throughput than latency—so these optimizations tend to make sense for the majority. That doesn’t help gamers, though, because higher latency can lead to lag in online multiplayer games. Today’s games don’t really require a lot of bandwidth, but what they do need is constant updates on the state of the game world. You want those updates to be delivered to the game right away rather than languishing in a queue while precious cycles pass by.

To facilitate the quick delivery of important game data, Bigfoot has taken a default “one packet, one interrupt” approach. Every time a packet hits the network card, an interrupt is issued and that packet is delivered—no caching, no queuing, no waiting.

Bigfoot mitigates the CPU overhead associated with frequent interrupts by using its own custom hardware to offload much of the math involved in network processing—and by bypassing the layers of abstraction built into the Windows networking stack. When the Killer NIC is switched into “game” mode, Bigfoot’s own networking stack replaces the Windows networking stack, saving what Bigfoot claims is as much as three to five milliseconds of latency per packet.

Via Bigfoot’s replacement networking stack, the Killer NIC performs hardware offload for not only TCP calculations, but UDP as well. Games typically use UDP rather than TCP, and offloading related calculations can pay dividends by freeing up CPU cycles for the game engine. Since the entire network stack is running on the card, every step of the process is done in the Killer NIC’s hardware. Bigfoot says that gives it an edge over other networking controllers with offload engines because they don’t handle as much of the work themselves. (That’s a plausible claim, since full TCP chimney offload hasn’t yet made it into consumer-level NICs.)

Since its own hardware-driven network stack communicates directly with the application, the Killer NIC is uniquely positioned to serve games well. The degree to which the Killer NIC’s custom network stack can reduce lag depends very much on how games actually ask for network data. In some cases with well-designed multithreaded games, claims Bigfoot, the Killer NIC can receive a buffer address from a game and perform a DMA operation to populate the buffer directly—without involving the host CPU and without making additional copies of the data in main memory. The company concedes that some games will see more gains than others based on how their engines interact with the network stack. Some games, or even genres, may be more effective at masking the effects of lag, as well. Bigfoot has produced a white paper with some interesting information about how its NIC interacts with several common types of networking implementations in games, if you’d like to read more.

The final ingredient in Bigfoot’s LLR technology is a packet prioritization scheme. Nvidia’s nForce GigE controllers offer a similar scheme called FirstPacket, but it can only affect outbound packets. Bigfoot claims its GameFirst feature can affect both inbound and outbound packets. Packet prioritization can’t shape how data is delivered to and from your PC once it leaves the network card, but from your RJ-45 jack in, the Killer NIC juggles packets to ensure that games always have priority over other applications. This behavior could help to ensure smooth gameplay while network-intensive tasks are running in the background.

 
The Killer NIC
With Bigfoot catering to gamers, it’s no surprise that the Killer NIC comes with a little visual flair. The card is dyed black and equipped with a massive heatsink that bears the admittedly clever Killer NIC insignia.

Clever or not, when that insignia is cast in metal and stretching nearly the entire length of the card, it looks more than just a little vulgar. I suppose these gargantuan proportions allow for greater surface area, and with the heatsink completely devoid of thinner cooling fins, that’s the only place you’re going to get it. Still, since PCI slots are located at the bottom of most new motherboards, it’s unlikely you’ll actually see the heatsink once the Killer NIC is installed in a system. The card bears a smattering of red LEDs that blink in one of several user-defined patterns that one should be able to see through a case window, though.

Much has been made of the fact that the Killer NIC is only available with a PCI interface. Even now, Bigfoot says it has no plans for a PCI Express version of the card. PCI offers plenty of bandwidth for the throughput demands of today’s games, they argue, and considering most of us play those games on Internet connections worth only a couple of megabits per second, we’re inclined to agree. Bigfoot also says it wants the Killer NIC to be available to a wide range of gamers, including those with older systems that don’t have PCIe slots. I wonder, though: what are the odds that gamers running PCs old enough to lack PCI Express slots will want to drop $250 on a network card?

Even with all its optimization for latency over throughput, the Killer NIC is still a network card. Throughput still matters when you’re not playing games, and we’ve yet to see a PCI-based networking controller match the speed of PCIe-based GigE chips. PCI Express simply has more bandwidth to spare, and unlike PCI’s shared bus, PCIe devices don’t have to divvy up bandwidth amongst themselves.

Prying off the hunk of metal masquerading as the Killer NIC’s heatsink reveals a collection of chips responsible for making the card tick. The chip over to the right is what Bigfoot calls the NPU, or Network Processor Unit. This Freescale system-on-a-chip runs at 400MHz and integrates a DDR memory interface along with Gigabit Ethernet, USB, and PCI controllers. Bigfoot complements it with a Xilinx Spartan XC3S250E Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) that houses much of the mojo behind the Killer NIC’s lag-busting features. The card also features a Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet PHY and 64MB of DDR memory for its Freescale core.

The onboard memory allows the Killer NIC to run an embedded version of Linux, which Bigfoot has opened up to third-party developers under the banner of its Flexible Network Architecture (FNA). You can actually write your own applications that run entirely on the Killer NIC. We’ll dive into software in a moment, but first, let’s swing around the rear of the card to have a look.

Here we find an Ethernet jack with a couple of status LEDs, which should come as no surprise. There’s also a USB port hooked into the Freescale chip’s USB controller. This USB port introduces some intriguing potential for FNA applications.

The Killer NIC pictured here was the first network card Bigfoot introduced, and it’s still the company’s flagship model. However, Bigfoot also makes a cheaper Killer K1 version that forgoes the heatsink and lowers the speed of the NPU from 400MHz to 333MHz. Bigfoot says this drop in clock speed doesn’t impact the card’s gaming performance, but it does slow applications designed to run on the card. This limitation wasn’t a big deal when the K1 was introduced because, at the time, it lacked support for FNA applications—FNApps, for short. Bigfoot then added FNApp support to the K1 as a limited-time offer, and all currently shipping K1 boards support FNApps.

As a result, the only differences between the Killer NIC and the K1 now appear to be the heatsink and about a 20% gap in clock speed that Bigfoot says doesn’t affect game performance. Oh, and a fistful of cash: the Killer NIC starts at $250 online, but the K1 can be had for as little as $171. The Killer NIC also comes with a full copy of F.E.A.R., whose value will depend entirely on how much you actually want the game, if you don’t have it already.

 
The softer side of a Killer
In addition to a copy of F.E.A.R.—on DVD, I might add—the Killer NIC comes with little more than a driver CD. The latest drivers are available via Bigfoot’s website, and we’re pleased to report that there appears to be no, er, lag between releases for Windows XP and Vista in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. Bigfoot even offers drivers for 64-bit versions of Windows XP for the half-dozen or so enthusiasts who are running the OS.

There isn’t much to the driver itself, although users do have access to a control panel that can manipulate the onboard LEDs, GameFirst packet prioritization, and a few other variables. An auto-optimization option is available as well, so you don’t have to mess with the sliders yourself.

The most important element of the control panel is the LLR mode switch. In app mode, the Killer NIC uses the standard Windows network stack, while game mode switches to Bigfoot’s own. Obviously, you’ll want to opt for the latter with games.

Mode switching is the least of what you can do with the Killer NIC’s software. The card’s embedded Linux implementation opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities for applications that can run entirely on the card. Bigfoot has created several of these FNApps itself, and has also made a free development kit available for those who want to roll their own.

One of Bigfoot’s more useful FNApps is a firewall, which seems like the most logical application to run on a network card.

Bigfoot has also released an FNApp that automatically downloads game patches when they become available. This is a handy app to have, but one that may not gain much from running on the network card. Apps better suited to the NIC include a beta Filezilla implementation that runs the FTP client on the Killer NIC and a custom BitTorrent tracker that downloads torrents to external hard drives connected to the card’s USB port.

This BitTorrent client is probably the most intriguing FNApp. The client runs entirely on the Killer NIC, and Bigfoot claims that with packet prioritization in effect, it shouldn’t impede game performance or responsiveness. Bigfoot makes a big deal about the fact that the torrent FNApp won’t steal CPU cycles, either. To be fair, though, good BitTorrent clients like µTorrent are pretty frugal with system resources.

Mature BitTorrent clients like µTorrent also illustrate just how basic Bigfoot’s torrent offering is. The BitTorrent FNApp offers little in the way of configuration options and doesn’t give users much indication of what’s going on with the client and active torrents. It works, of course, but the limited functionality would prevent me from recommending it over standard Windows clients, at least for now.

In their current form, FNApps strike me as having great potential, but none are, er, killer apps. Whether Bigfoot can garner enough of a following to inspire community FNApp development remains to be seen.

 

Our testing methods
Those considering picking up a Killer NIC will almost certainly be looking to replace an onboard networking solution, so we’ve compared the card against a couple of popular options. The first comes to us via Nvidia’s nForce 680i SLI chipset, which features a couple of integrated Gigabit Ethernet controllers with hardware TCP offload engines. Our second contender is a PCI Express GigE card based on Marvell’s Yukon 88E8052 Gigabit chip—a popular choice for integrated motherboard networking.

Since the Killer NIC isn’t cheap, we’ve put together a reasonably powerful gaming system for testing

All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.

Processor Core 2 Duo E6400 2.13GHz
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard EVGA 122-CK-NF68
Bios revision P24
North bridge Nvidia nForce 680i SLI SPP
South bridge Nvidia nForce 680i SLI MCP
Chipset drivers ForceWare 15.00
Memory size 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5 DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL) 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 12
Audio Integrated nForce 680i SLI MCP/ALC885 with Realtek HD 1.67 drivers
Graphics EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB PCIe
Graphics driver ForceWare 158.18 drivers
Networking Bigfoot Killer NIC with 3.1.2.4 drivers
Marvell Yukon 88E8052 with 10.14.6.3 drivers
Integrated nForce 680i SLI MCP with Forceware 15.00 drivers
Hard drive Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x64

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. 2GB of RAM seems to be the new standard for most folks, and Corsair hooked us up with some of its 1GB DIMMs for testing.

Also, all of our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

 

Ethernet throughput
Despite its gaming focus, we want to see how the Killer NIC performs as a network card, so we’ll kick things off with a simple throughput test. We evaluated Ethernet performance using the NTttcp tool from Microsoft’s Windows DDK. The docs say this program “provides the customer with a multi-threaded, asynchronous performance benchmark for measuring achievable data transfer rate.”

We used the following command line options on the server machine:

ntttcps -m 4,0,192.168.1.25 -a

..and the same basic thing on each of our test systems acting as clients:

ntttcpr -m 4,0,192.168.1.25 -a

Our server was a Windows XP Pro system based on Asus’ P5WD2 Premium motherboard with a Pentium 4 3.4GHz Extreme Edition (800MHz front-side bus, Hyper-Threading enabled) and PCI Express-attached Gigabit Ethernet. A crossover CAT6 cable was used to connect the server to each system.

The nForce and Yukon GigE controllers were tested with jumbo frames disabled. The Killer NIC doesn’t actually support larger frame sizes.

That’s not a good start. Regardless of whether it’s running in app or game modes, the Killer NIC delivers dismal throughput in NTttcp. At least the Killer’s CPU utilization is lower than that of the Yukon and nForce controllers. Interestingly enough, Marvell’s GigE controller actually consumes fewer CPU cycles than Nvidia’s nForce 680i SLI, despite the fact that the latter boasts a TCP/IP checksum offload engine.

Network file transfer performance
So the Killer NIC doesn’t fare well in the synthetic NTttcp throughput test, but does that affect file transfer performance? To find out, we moved two sets of files between our NTttcp server and our test system using a crossover cable and standard Windows file sharing. The “small” file batch was made up of 1.8GB of high-bitrate MP3s, while the “big” batch contained 4.1GB of movie files. This should give us a better idea of how the Killer’s throughput stacks up in the real world.

With these file transfers, the Killer NIC doesn’t fare nearly as poorly as it did in NTttcp. Interestingly, app mode appears to be faster for larger files, while game mode seems to work better with smaller ones. Bigfoot doesn’t take top honors with either file set, but it’s right in the mix with the nForce and Yukon alternatives.

During our file transfer tests, the Yukon GigE chip managed the lowest CPU utilization of the lot. That puts the Killer NIC in second place, using a little less CPU time than the nForce 680i SLI. App mode appears to use ever-so-slightly fewer CPU resources than game mode here.

 

Game performance
When we sat down to start testing the Killer NIC, we had grand plans for glorious graphs that would illustrate what—if any—impact the card had on in-game frame rates and ping times. Unfortunately, getting reliable data proved problematic. Online multiplayer games have a high degree of variability, which does wonders for replay value, but also makes gathering consistent data difficult. To get consistent data, you need to play the same games in the same way multiple times with multiple configurations. Despite repeated efforts, most of the games we tried would only produce consistent frame rates for two or three out of five test runs. The results that didn’t match tended to be all over the map, leaving us with little confidence in the results overall.

Gathering reasonable ping data was even more difficult. The ping data had to come from inside of a game in order to be relevant. When trying to capture frame rate data, we had FRAPS doing most of the work, but we had no such tool for recording in-game ping times. Collecting ping data required manually recording ping times displayed in the games themselves. This job would be easy if all games had ping or latency counters in their HUD. Most don’t, and some that do—I’m looking at you, Counter-Strike: Source—display different ping data in the HUD than they do in the scoreboard. We wanted to pull ping data every 10 to 15 seconds, but having to bring up a scoreboard that often was so disruptive to gameplay that we scuttled the idea.

So instead of presenting all sorts of objective measures of the Killer NIC’s impact on game performance, I’m going to talk about my subjective perceptions: how gaming with the Killer NIC feels different than gaming with alternatives from Marvell and Nvidia. That is, after all, the $250 question about the Killer NIC.

I should note up front that it was very difficult to discern differences in game performance, lag, and overall responsiveness between the nForce and Yukon network controllers. Both use the standard Windows network stack and neither are highly optimized to reduce latency, so that isn’t an unexpected result. The Killer NIC is something of a different story.

Battlefield 2
I’m probably more familiar with this game than any other recent multiplayer title, so it’s a good place to start. Battlefield 2 is full of frantic gameplay, particularly on servers packed with 64 players, so there’s no shortage of action at any given time. With so much going on, lag is easy to spot, and it often gets you killed.

Here, the Killer NIC felt right at home. Lag wasn’t completely eliminated, particularly on 64-player servers, but episodes of stuttering and jerkiness were definitely reduced. In particular, the Killer NIC seemed to deal with artillery strikes and multiple explosions (thanks, grenade spammers) better than the other networking solutions. That made the game feel more fluid overall, if only because there were fewer interruptions to its normal level of responsiveness. The difference wasn’t night and day, though. Battlefield 2 is perfectly playable with the nForce and Yukon GigE controllers; the Killer NIC just suffered from fewer lag episodes, and those that did strike felt less severe.

Counter-Strike: Source
Lag has probably been blamed for more deaths and poor performances in Counter-Strike than any other game, making this title ripe for the Killer NIC. I used to be a regular CS player back in the day—well, it was up until around Beta 5, so make that way back in the day—so I was in somewhat unfamiliar territory with the latest Source incarnation. There seems to be a lot more rushing these days, and in those rushes, the Killer NIC showed the most promise.

Perhaps because it’s largely confined to less expansive environments where less is going on in one’s immediate vicinity, there wasn’t as much lag in Counter-Strike as in Battlefield 2. Still, when charging guns blazing into a large group with grenades and furniture flying left and right, lag would occasionally rear its ugly head. And it’s there that the Killer NIC suffered from less jerkiness and stuttering than the nForce or Yukon network controllers. Not much less, but enough that I noticed.

There was another effect here that was more subtle than a reduction in the frequency and severity of stuttering or jerky gameplay. At times when playing on the Killer NIC, typically in large crowds or with lots of action on the screen, the controls felt just a smidge more connected and responsive, even when there was no obvious lag. This reminded me a little of the difference in control responsiveness between early Quake and Unreal titles. Quake’s controls always felt just that little bit tighter.

F.E.A.R.
I haven’t played a lot of F.E.A.R. multiplayer, and judging by the number of servers online, neither have most folks. Still, I was curious to see how the Killer NIC fared, and somewhat surprised when it seemed to have little impact on what very little lag I experienced in the game. Of all the games I played, F.E.A.R. suffered from the least amount of stuttering and lag-induced annoyances, likely in part because game servers tend to have fewer players overall. With less lag to combat, the Killer NIC’s effects were muted at best. If anything, the NIC contributed a slight veneer of overall smoothness, but one that was difficult to detect.

Guild Wars
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games are quite a bit different from first-person shooters, so I fired up Guild Wars to see whether the Killer might be able to flex its muscles in Old Ascalon. The admittedly feeble character I created for testing doesn’t have access to much of the Guild Wars world, but between roaming the countryside and wandering crowded city areas, I started noticing a pattern in the Killer NIC’s behavior.

In open country, with little going on around me, there wasn’t much lag for the Killer NIC to correct. Here, I didn’t feel any real difference between Bigfoot’s network controller and those offered by Marvell and Nvidia. However, in crowded city areas with loads of characters moving about, lag was more prevalent, and the Killer NIC suffered from less hitching and stuttering. It didn’t eliminate every instance of lag, but it smoothed more of the bumps than the nForce and Yukon network controllers.

Multitasking with Battlefield 2
A key component of Bigfoot’s Lag and Latency Reduction tech is a packet prioritization scheme that gives game packets preference over all else. In theory, the Killer NIC should allow you to play games while transferring files or downloading via BitTorrent with no impact on actual gameplay. Nvidia does packet prioritization, too, but unfortunately it isn’t yet supported in the company’s Vista x64 drivers.

To put packet prioritization to the test, we first played a few rounds of Battlefield 2 on our test system with a network file transfer in progress. The Nvidia and Marvell NICs faltered heavily here, experiencing intermittent but severe lag that—hand to my heart—actually got me killed a few times. The Killer NIC reduced both the severity and frequency of those lag episodes, but gameplay was still noticeably more jerky than without the file transfer running in the background. It was easily playable, but annoying enough to be unpleasant.

Next, we moved to BitTorrent, returning to Battlefield 2 with µTorrent downloading a couple of Linux ISOs in the background. Here we experienced an incredible amount of stuttering with the Marvell and Nvidia network controllers, and pings were between four and five times higher than they were without the BitTorrent tracker running. Switching to the Killer NIC didn’t improve matters much, either; there was less stuttering than with the other NICs, but still enough to render the game unplayable.

µTorrent wasn’t designed with the Killer NIC in mind, but Bigfoot’s BitTorrent FNApp was, so we fired it up next. This dropped in-game ping times by about half compared to what we saw with µTorrent, and we’d consider the result playable. However, lag was definitely more frequent and severe than without the BitTorrent FNApp running, suggesting that it takes more than just client-side packet prioritization to combat the effects of background BitTorrent downloads.

 

Power consumption
System power consumption was tested, sans monitor and speakers, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up power meter. Since our test system’s nForce GigE controller is integrated into the chipset, there wasn’t much we could do to take it out of the equation. Our nForce results represent the power consumption of our test system sans auxiliary network cards. For the Yukon and Killer NIC, we took measurements with each card added to the system. Those results include the power consumption of the chipset-level nForce networking controller.

Power consumption was measured at idle and with a Gigabit Ethernet file transfer from our NTttcp server to the test system.

The Killer NIC consumes a little more power than the Yukon 88E8052, but not as much as one might expect. Overall, you’re looking at adding 5-10 watts to a system’s power consumption.

 

Conclusions
After spending several weeks playing games on the Killer NIC one thing is clear to me: it actually does work. However, the degree to which you’ll actually feel the difference depends very much on the game and your own sensitivity to lag-induced artifacts. The Killer NIC doesn’t completely eliminate lag, either; it can’t do anything to combat lag caused by overloaded servers or congested networks.

Where the Killer NIC feels most at home is in games with lots of action on the screen. This is where lag tends to be most prevalent, and where I felt the biggest difference with the NIC. That difference was most apparent with crowded Battlefield 2 and Counter-Strike: Source servers, with which I experienced fewer and less disruptive instances of lag. The games themselves also felt slightly more responsive when playing with the Killer NIC. This was more noticeable in Counter-Strike, where the controls felt just that little bit more connected to character actions.

When combined with other networking tasks, such as file transfers and BitTorrent downloads, the Killer also delivered much smoother gameplay than networking solutions from Nvidia and Marvell. Despite the NIC’s packet prioritization and latency-optimized network stack, though, background network utilization still increased in-game ping times and the frequency and severity of lag. If the whole point of buying a Killer NIC is to reduce lag, we just don’t see users multitasking with network-intensive tasks while they’re gaming—not until doing so has an imperceptible impact on gaming.

Overall then, the Killer NIC’s impact on lag varies from noticeable to subtle. I didn’t find it to be striking or obvious. That makes it difficult to swallow the $250 price tag associated with the card, especially since the alternatives you get for “free” on your motherboard perform reasonably well. However, if you play online multiplayer games competitively or professionally, you’re likely to be far more sensitive to lag, and probably place a higher value on responsiveness than the average gamer. In that case, $250 may be a good investment for what is no doubt a competitive advantage.

You don’t necessarily have to drop $250 to get your hands on Bigfoot’s Lag and Latency Reduction technology, though. The company’s cheaper Killer K1 sells for just $170 online, and despite a slightly lower clock speed, Bigfoot says it delivers similar game performance to its more expensive predecessor. All currently shipping K1 cards also support FNApps, making the Killer NIC’s $80 price premium a dubious value at best, even for hardcore gamers.

With the Killer’s effect on gameplay at the subtle end of the spectrum, FNApps may become the key to Bigfoot’s success. Much work needs to be done on that front. The BitTorrent client shows the most promise, and even it’s woefully inadequate compared with more mature Windows clients. 

Comments closed
    • DancesWithLysol
    • 12 years ago

    I saw these guys at their booth at Blizzcon this year.

    Why don’t the reviewers who are reviewing this product perform tests that don’t include the internet? Since NIC cards can’t do anything once the electrons have left the NIC, why not do all the testing on an isolated local network segment? Setup a local game server (Quake, UT, whatever), and then setup two client PCs which (aside from one sporting a Killer NIC) are identical.

    Measure the latency. Graph it.

    Hard to get network latency measurements from games? Okay – break out the compiler. Write two simple applications: a “client” app which will send a block of data via TCP or UDP to a “server” app. The server app will simply echo the data back to the client app. The client app records the time before it sends the data out to Winsock, and then record the time when it gets the response back.

    These qualitative descriptions of game play “lag” over the internet are embarrassing for TR because the variation in the Internet’s network latency from one minute to the next is likely greater than the total time packets spend in the entire network stack.

    Edit: Oh, and one other note about using “FNA” to run a Bittorrent client on the network card to save CPU cycles: who cares? New computers have multi-core processors now.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 12 years ago

      NIC Cards, like PIN Numbers and ATM Machines, are redundant. Network Interface Card Cards!

    • Jason181
    • 12 years ago

    I really wish that people would use the term “lag” only to represent network latency.

    The other “lag” he’s talking about in the article isn’t lag, but drops in framerate. Using the two interchangeably is not only incorrect, but confusing to those unfamiliar with the interrelationships between framerate, throughput and latency.

      • Sniper
      • 12 years ago

      I call bullshit on the entire review.

    • Jigar
    • 12 years ago

    Stupid card… Does nothing … Uga puga puga.. …

    • Stranger
    • 12 years ago

    Idea for relatively repeatable ping testing.

    Fire up a UT2k4 server with all the bots and a small map where you can see everything all the time. (for example some of the BR or VCTF maps on the TR UT2k4 server). start a client on a separate computer w/ the various nics. Join the server in spectator mode and park screen in a spot that can see the entire map(that you can get to repeatedly. let the game start and take ping readings every 5 seconds for 4 minutes so you get 48 data points(more if you feel like waiting longer). tada it’s about as repeatable as it gets. in addition network latency is minimized so that computer lag becomes more observable(computer lag should be constant no mater the network latency or the server lag).

    edit: actually now that I’m thinking about it. If computer lag is really a constant thing then you might be able todo the same setup as above with no bots and no action. This might or might not work but it would be interesting to see if the pings differed at all between the nics.

    • DukenukemX
    • 12 years ago

    I don’t understand why anyone would buy one. You’d have to be wiping your butt with money to even think about buying this thing.

    #1 For $250 I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather buy to reduce game lag.

    #2 Your network connection is only as good as your weakest link. Hows your router? Hows your ISPs routers holding up? There’s a good chance that the hardware used to connect to your ISP cost less then this NIC.

    #3 We have dual core CPUs now which mostly go unused in a lot of games. Had if applications like Bit Torrent and such have been used in a way that uses the other CPU core then you’ll get the same effect as this NIC.

    #4 Your NIC is usually the last thing to cause any lag in any game. In most cases it’s lack of ram. Then it’s hard disk loading performance. Then CPU and GPU. You’re more likely to get lag from your sound card rather then your NIC.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 12 years ago

    I simply don’t understand this product. I mean, I can see it in a LAN setting when you are directly attached to the switch. But it seems that once you hit your router and let’s face it most people don’t own QoS and packet shaping routers/firewalls that the pluses for the NIC are gone.

    The review is interesting and I was waiting for TR to test this thing and I am pretty surprised with the results. One thing though, what is the deal with the super duper slow thoughput rate. I mean for a GigE NIC to have such terrible rates means something. Even the cheapest no name NIC has better speeds than that the KillerNIC.

    Anyhow, great review. I am glad to see it here on TR.

      • Thebolt
      • 12 years ago

      I’m not so sure that an unbiased review can use a program designed exclusively to market a product when reviewing said product.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 12 years ago

    Typo, page 4:

    Graphics EVGA GeForce r[<8000<]r GTX 768MB PCIe

    • BRiT
    • 12 years ago

    It would have been more useful if the tester did not know what card was in the system when playing online. Without that, the subjective test is worthless — placebo effect and all.

    • leor
    • 12 years ago

    some of you guys are brutal with the nitpicking

      • eitje
      • 12 years ago

      complete sentences end with periods.

      😀

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 12 years ago

        …and start with capitals.
        😉

    • Renoir
    • 12 years ago

    #45 Did you mean that you get 14MB/s? If so then why did they only get about 6MB/s? Just to confirm, if I go from one gigabit nic to another gigabit nic then I can just use a regular cat5 patch cable?

    • albundy
    • 12 years ago

    “a network card the company claims reduces lag”

    geez, and all this time i thought it was my ping time…./sarcasm

    and now that I’ve actually read the article, the numbers speak for themselves.

    “a component we’ve grown accustomed to getting for free”

    who says? just because its onboard doesnt mean its free.

    • 5150
    • 12 years ago

    Surfing on the Wii is fun!

    • Thebolt
    • 12 years ago

    I think the game to test this on is Halo PC. The networking is coded in a way that doesn’t compensate for lag so you have to lead in front of people when you shoot them. An experienced player and two side by side systems(one with and one without the NIC) could probably tell if there was a difference or not. Same server etc.. you could put one player on each and have them switch. I think there may be a built in way to monitor ping in that game, can’t remember.

    All in All this device seems like it’s just not worth it to anybody. Perhaps if you’re so rich that money has no value and you want to have it all but that’s about it. Most people that rich aren’t playing computer games, they’ve got plenty of more enjoyable things to be doing in the real world.

      • Aphasia
      • 12 years ago

      Lag on the other hand generally should be defined as variable latency or something, becuase thats when it becomes annoying.

      I miss the days when games didnt Compensate. Hitcode in CS and sometimes CS:S gives a real funky feeling. A guy i know managed to shoot himself in the back one time. That doesnt really inspire trust in autocompensating software. Or it was just a major glitch. Of course, it evens the field quite a bit with software like that.

      I use to be pretty highly ranked in the good ol’ Action Quake 2 teamplay back in the days, that was latency sensitive to the max. Actually having an even latency, although rather high, is much easier, then you can lead your target and hope he continue to move and doesnt stop. And going from modem(90-120ms) to isdn(external-60ms) to isdn(internal – 30ms) to adsl/lan/cable(0-25ms) always made it easier. Sniping on modem connection was a skilled players only thing really.

      Although for the good players, everything below 60 really wasnt an issue, but having two very equal players, one on Lan and one on external ISDN, you saw a difference thanks to the latency you got. First and foremost, skill counted, but a good connection could make or break you if all else was equal.

    • Sniper
    • 12 years ago

    The “conclusion” and the actual “benchmarks” don’t match up.

    The benchmarks show the card is no better than on-board. Yukon’s onboard solution looked to be the best overall!

    • Dent
    • 12 years ago

    I suggest a different testing approach:

    1) Test in a non US country (like New Zealand), where internet latency is much higher to start with. Think 350ms on a quiet morning, 500-800 on a busy evening.

    2) Setup two identical machines, of decent spec, using the same internet connection at the same time. Test that they perform the same over several games, with both machines in use, playing on the same server at the same time.

    3) Fit killer nic to one machine.

    4) Test on various games/servers, comparing performance – with both players in the same room, so they can mention when lag is noticed, or both check latency meters at the same time.

    5) Include World of Warcraft tests (8 million accounts out there), and state such in the review title if you want a few more page views 🙂

    • Fighterpilot
    • 12 years ago

    Quote Geoff [TR] “After spending several weeks playing games on the Killer NIC one thing is clear to me: it actually does work.”
    That would be in marked contrast to all those claiming it sucks who have in fact spent ZERO time playing games using the Killer NIC.After reading a fair few posts on the Killer forum it appears that the customers are pretty happy with its performance.Not a bad idea actually…you know….listening to people that actually have one…
    As for the”double blind” testing….it’s been done all over the Net ad nauseum.Maximum PC tested in this fashion and reported similar results and conclusions to Geoff in the above article.

    • herothezero
    • 12 years ago

    Wow. The last time I paid $200 for a NIC was in 1995.

    I’m just not seeing the benefit.

    • cf18
    • 12 years ago

    I wish techreport could test the card on a game server with high traffic. For example a UT2004 server with 32 players which on some maps can stress the best CPU and cause major lag for everyone on the server. In such case then this kind of NIC can be useful.

    • Aphasia
    • 12 years ago

    Well, Ageia is one thing that has a potential to be usefull in games, although critical mass i severaly lacking and will probably be eaten up by general physics offloading to graphics card spare cycles. But KillerNic seems highly unusefull, especially at the price it’s sold at.

    What i would really like to see, either separate, or tacked on to the graphics card would be a general offloading engine. Then people that might have use for it can get it, and those that don’t, can continue to run it on the normal CPU. Then ageia can make a program for this generic offloading engine.

    And its not impossible that just a decent general offloading engine that can do the TCP/UDP offloading and implement the stack processing in hardware instead of on the CPU would be just as successfull as the specialized nick methinks. Perhaps even just a more optimized network stack that plugs right into XP/Vista would be as beneficial as the KillerNic in most regards. On the other hand, many of these task can probably be done quite well in normal multrithreading enviroments that will use all these fancy second cores we are getting at. Especially as not all games are properly multithreaded for the main application yet.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 12 years ago

      Since in most games the graphics card is the bottleneck, I’d prefer there not be any ‘offloading’ to the bottleneck. That’s why I support quad-core 😉

    • indeego
    • 12 years ago

    q[<"The company's cheaper Killer K1 sells for just $170 online, and despite a slightly lower clock speed, Bigfoot says it delivers similar game performance to its more expensive predecessor."<]q Talk about a marketing department that needs a slap in the face. g{<:)<}g

    • endothermal
    • 12 years ago

    I totally understand not being able to produce objective measurements in your tests, but you can still make your subjective tests scientifically valid by simply setting up your tests as a double blind. A blind test lets you use subjective measurements in an unbiased manner. So if the tester has no idea which component they are using and simply record their experiences and someone unrelated to the testing tallies the data you can be sure that bias has not entered the equation. Sometimes when looking for differences the brain can be tricked into thinking there is a difference, all it takes is someone saying “do you see a difference?” is enough to fool your brain into thinking there is a difference when none is present. I’m not suggesting that your results are biased or that you set out to prove a point one way or another but simply setting up your tests as a true double blind test would remove all doubts.

    • Unanimous Hamster
    • 12 years ago

    Have you guys at TR tried testing the onboard LANs with interrupt moderation disabled? You mention on page 1 of the article that, by default, the Yukon and nVidia LAN solutions store several packets before sending them (to reduce the number of interrupts triggered) while the Killer NIC immediately triggers an interrupt (and sends the packet) for every packet a game wishes to send, thus reducing latency.

    If Killer NIC is using this “One Interrupt Per Packet” trick to reduce latency, wouldn’t it make sense to test the onboard LAN solutions with their interrupt moderation features disabled for a more apples-to-apples comparison?

    I would think a fair comparison would be to test the Killer NIC in “application mode” against the onboard LANs with interrupt moderation enabled, then to test the Killer NIC in “game mode” against the onboard LANs with interrupt moderation disabled to ensure that both the Killer NIC and the onboard LANs are triggering an interrupt with every packet they send, therefore sending packets right away rather than buffering them.

    I have a feeling that disabling interrupt moderation with the onboard LAN solutions would provide most or all of the same benefits as the Killer NIC for $0 … and I’d be curious to know if TR’s testing bears this out. If it does, TR has potentially saved some readers from an expensive (and possibly unnecessary) purchase.

    P.S. The correct term is “interrupt moderation”, not “interrupt modulation” as stated in the article.

      • Damage
      • 12 years ago

      Ah, my bad. I’ve seen both terms used, but moderation is obviously more common. I don’t believe Geoff tested the other NICs with interrupt moderation disabled.

        • continuum
        • 12 years ago

        I’m curious about that result as well.

    • Kent_dieGo
    • 12 years ago

    A good gaming router will be a lot better. Using gaming QoS in router that prioritizes gaming packets makes a huge diffrence. You can have BitTorrent or Gnutella sharing going full speed and not slow down the games data at all.

      • alexk
      • 12 years ago

      True, especially if you share your connection with your roommates/friends/relatives and they like to download/upload gigs of crap using BitTorrent (or other p2p app) and you don’t want to wait for them to stop their internet usage so you can finally start enjoying your online game or your VoIP device/software (which you might use instead of overpriced local phone provider).

        • Firestarter
        • 12 years ago

        I told them to use my old desktop for downloading torrents instead of their own computers. Then I configured the QoS on my router (Tomato firmware) to give that computer the lowest priority. Physical beating was not necessary and everybody is enjoying the lag-free internet.

      • Bauxite
      • 12 years ago

      Or a properly configured x86 router.

      Even m0n0wall can handle anything you could possibly throw at a “consumer” broadband connection (fios for example, comparable to what we used to have for LAN bandwidth not too long ago) on a box thats not a total hunk of junk.

      Although something like smoothwall with caching/etc can do a lot more for a family or small office to lighten the burden, both bandwidth /[

    • DASQ
    • 12 years ago

    I can’t figure out what is more useless, the Killer NIC or the Ageia PhysX.

    • Shark
    • 12 years ago

    I would like to have seen a 3com card thrown into the mix.

      • Corrado
      • 12 years ago

      They don’t make 3c905’s anymore :wtf:

        • alexk
        • 12 years ago

        Nope, but their current line of Pro/1000 cards (especially the PT series, which offers fancy features like TCP/IP hardware offloading, teaming, and receive-side scaling) is actually pretty good and isn’t very expensive (you can get a single-port Pro/1000 PT card for less than $50).

          • alexk
          • 12 years ago

          Damn, I just noticed that you were talking about 3com cards, not Intel ones 🙁 Still, though, it would be nice if the Intel’s cards that I mentioned were also used in this test.

    • Dposcorp
    • 12 years ago

    Aw man, no pics of the LEDs?

    That sux

    • Bauxite
    • 12 years ago

    Stupid Product™ in general, further sunk by the hype and BS they try to throw at you.

    “Lag” is on “teh internet” folks, not on the cat5 runs at your feet. (wireless….now that /[

    • nonegatives
    • 12 years ago

    I have a stack of ISA 3com cards in my office. We used to pay a premium for those because they were reliable, supported, and just plain worked. The integrated systems have improved quite a bit and most provide good performance. There just doesn’t seem to be much that a specialized network product can do anymore. Outside of your local LAN, you have no control over what happens with your data.

    • boing
    • 12 years ago

    Thanks for a good review. I’d love a comparison with some of the expensive 3com and Intel-NIC’s though.

    • Nullvoid
    • 12 years ago

    Umm, am I misguided for expecting that a discrete NIC should reduce cpu utilization more than 6% over an onboard solution?

      • eitje
      • 12 years ago

      well, there’s still driver overhead to consider.

      • just brew it!
      • 12 years ago

      Even onboard NICs use DMA, so the actual data transfer is already being offloaded from the CPU (the NIC transfers the data directly to/from RAM).

      • d2brothe
      • 12 years ago

      Also note, the lower transfer rate can partially account for lower CPU utilization.

        • eitje
        • 12 years ago

        excellent observation!

      • jdevers
      • 12 years ago

      Part of the problem is simply disk transfer, no NIC will ever make that any less costly.

      • sluggo
      • 12 years ago

      Yes. On-board chips and discrete cards occupy the same space in the architecture, so the location of the NIC doesn’t matter.

      A better question might be “should a $200 add-on card perform only marginally better than a $6 motherboard solution?”

    • rechicero
    • 12 years ago

    I wonder if a review site would, someday, say something like:

    “That made the game feel more fluid overall, if only because there were fewer interruptions to its normal level of responsiveness. The difference wasn’t night and day, though. Battlefield 2 is perfectly playable with the -[

      • Firestarter
      • 12 years ago

      If you want your graphic card reviews done like this, scurry along to [H]ard|OCP. They test on ‘playable’ settings and judge cards that way, which is an entirely viable way of testing things.

        • rechicero
        • 12 years ago

        No, what I meant is that reviews shouldn’t fuel the hype of some products. I agree with the conclusion “the ethernet controllers of the mobo” are good enough and they cost $250 less.

        But this point should be raised when reviewing graphic cards: “ATI 1900Pro is good enough and is more than $250 less”. The only outcome of this hyped journalism is cards of more than $600. Should everybody read things like “yeah, the 8800GTX is great, but the difference is not night and day. Its performance is not $600 worth”, the prices would be lower (IMHO).

          • Firestarter
          • 12 years ago

          I don’t see how downplaying the importance of the high-end cards would make prices lower. Most people buy mainstream cards anyway, so apparently most people don’t care about ‘hyping’ those cards.

      • BabelHuber
      • 12 years ago

      The big ifference here is that the Killer NIC’s performnace is static, while the video card’s performance is dynamic:

      Of course I can play BF2 just fine with my 1900XT, I probably wouldn’t note any difference if I’d switch to a 2900XT or 8800GTS.

      But I surely would be able to activate all the eye candy in STALKER, which I currently cannot.

      The Killer NIC, OTOH, doesn’t provide any real advantages right now, and it also won’t in the future.

        • rechicero
        • 12 years ago

        I don’t agree.

        If you have the Killer NIC, that, as the review says: “That made the game feel more fluid overall, if only because there were fewer interruptions to its normal level of responsiveness.” The same thing *exactly* is applicable to graphic cards at some “eye candy” point (say, 45 avg fps vs 90 avg fps).

        And if you can dismiss the worthiness of the Killer NIC because “The difference wasn’t night and day, though. ”

        Do you really think STALKER with all eye candy on is night and day compared with you actual setting?
        I don’t say there is no difference, but, as in this case, is not night and day.

        or “Battlefield 2 is perfectly playable with the [alternative]”

        As STALKER is with your card.

        I only say the same points could be raised in the graphic market. “Yeah, maybe this product is great but is overpriced”.

        The premiun price point in graphic cards is nowedays about 100% more than 4-5 years ago.

          • BabelHuber
          • 12 years ago

          OK, so we disagree on the Killer NIC. In my opinion, this is just a waste of money.

          q[

    • Bensam123
    • 12 years ago

    I too agree.

    If this card sold for under $100 and had a PCI-E x1 interface I would be all over it like a fly on poo. I can rationalize a $60 mouse, so I can also rationalize a $75 NIC. Just as I would pay under $100 for a PhysX card until decent apps come out for it.

    However, this isn’t. I won’t pay out my rear for a fancy heatsink, blinking lights, and a slight increase in performance.

    Seriously they could sell 10x more of these if they dropped the price by 60%. That seems like a very good trade off to me.

      • moose103
      • 12 years ago

      Really? Dropping the prices does not seem to be helping AMD’s bottom line.

        • poulpy
        • 12 years ago

        To be fair his point was that it would /[<"sell 10x more"<]/ if the price was lower and even if AMD took -again- a big loss they did get market share back with a low prices strategy.

          • Bensam123
          • 12 years ago

          Seriously… affordable price range = sale!

    • Renoir
    • 12 years ago

    I may have worked the numbers out wrong but the file transfer rates seem rather slow don’t they? 6MB/s, When I use a crossover cable between 2 gigabit ethernet comps I get about 20MB/s. What am I missing?

      • BiffStroganoffsky
      • 12 years ago

      About 14MB/s and the fact that the gigabit standard supports auto-crossover so you shouldn’t be using a x-over cable.

        • boing
        • 12 years ago

        😀 thanks for the laugh.

    • Fighterpilot
    • 12 years ago

    FRAPS would be great,its somewhat jerky when you run it in game so any improvement there would be cool.
    I think the way Geoff tested it according to “feel” is exactly right.
    Gameplay smoothness is subjective anyway and he claims its real so no argument there.Not everything can be shown with a graph or chart.
    I think he laid out why he went that way clear enough.

    • Firestarter
    • 12 years ago

    This is quite a useless review in my opinion. Trying to describe lag in empirical terms like this hardly serves any other purpose than telling us that the card is indeed a working NIC.

    I bet that switching routers (or firmwares) and twiddling with the settings would do a lot more to decrease lag and ping. I don’t need a $250 NIC to download 2 movies and play BF2 simultaneously, just a good router..

    Edit: for a good look at lag, watching the Lagometer in Quake3 does wonders.

      • Mithent
      • 12 years ago

      It is somewhat of an awkward situation, though – the card’s aim is to improve gaming by reducing lag, so in some ways, the perceived improvement is what’s important – but equally it’s down to the reviewer’s opinion, of course.

      Hrm, what /[

        • Firestarter
        • 12 years ago

        When testing on subjective criteria, that is really the only way to test. That is why we need objective criteria.

        • HiggsBoson
        • 12 years ago

        Agreed.

        I’m actually a little disappointed that TR didn’t do a double-blind test. They certainly have no problem with the concept, and can set them up for audio card reviews. It would seem to be a natural thing to do for this review.

        If they still have the card I hope they make an addendum to the review with the results of double-blind testing.

      • Bensam123
      • 12 years ago

      Obviously this product isn’t targeting you then.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 12 years ago

    I wonder if this would work as a the external port from a router. I live with 5 other guys, and we are all behind a linux box acting as our router. If we could use this to lower all our pings, it might be worth it.

    Well the k1 might be, not $250.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 12 years ago

      Yeah using the entire computer as a gateway for other computers… and spreading the cost amongst other roomates… on an HTPC… yeah I could see that working.

      • evermore
      • 12 years ago

      Unless it can actually process and prioritize the packets that didn’t originate on the Linux router PC, I wouldn’t expect it to help. If the packets still have to be bounced up to OS level for routing purposes, you get nothing. With the ability to use on-board applications though you could probably write a router program to run on it so the OS doesn’t even need to be involved. However you might need two of them, one for inside, one for outside interfaces, unless you’ve just got a single port on the router connected to a switch for communication to the PCs and the Internet device.

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    Killer NIC is a completely castrated product that is mismarketed. It could get some sells from its intended market if it came in PCIe with a price tag under $99.

    Only a clueless fool would consider getting K1 or Killer for their current MSRP.

    In my experience, I find that half of latency is from your ISP’s connection to remote server. The good portion of the other hand is from good, old physics. Client-end latency is the last thing you have to worry about.

    Multi-core CPUs render the hardware-accelerated benefits of the Killer NIC useless. The only saving grace of the either card is bulid-in thin-client functions. The open source community could find quite a few uses for thin-client functions if Bigfoot opens up the firmware. It is darn shame that the folks at Bigfoot don’t realize it.

    • Spyder22446688
    • 12 years ago

    Any good ideas or results stemming from the Killer NIC were quickly killed off by the $250 price tag. The results really only justify a sub-$50 tag, even with the stupid K emblem.

    • dragmor
    • 12 years ago

    I hope everyone follows in the footsteps of this BigFoot nic and includes a option to turn of the LEDs.

    • Fighterpilot
    • 12 years ago

    Less lag and smoother gameplay in BF2 would be appreciated.
    Even with a fast connection and good hardware some of the busy servers can be lagfests at times.Plenty of people buy $250 video card upgrades to get just those results.More than the difference between super high spec RAM and Value stuff yet enthusiasts gladly pay for top of the line DIMMS for “that little extra”.
    Too bad its not $100…..I’d install one for long term use.
    ps..Killer NIC rears its ugly head again at TR lol….OMG the hate mail on this article is gonna be awesome 🙂

      • Forge
      • 12 years ago

      Funny. I play BF2 on 64 player servers as a matter of routine, and I’ve been playing on European servers off and on with Morphine. No lag. My graphics card is a generation out of date, the rest of my box is good but not OMG, and yet I’m pulling ~100ms pings to a German BF2 server?

      Oh yeah, that’s right. I have the one thing that will impact your ping above all others:

      A nice fat pipe with low latency to the backbone.

      This card would be a nifty toy, but I’m just not looking for a PCI GigE card at this point in the game. I’ll stick with my FirstPacket, which is FREE as in beer.

    • FireGryphon
    • 12 years ago

    Excellent review.

    I’d like to see this chip built into a motherboard. The trend with expansion cards these days is to have as few as possible since we’ve gotten used to everything being included in the chipset. If Bigfoot can license the Killer NIC technology and have it built in, that’d be the best way for them to make deep inroads into the market.

    I’m curious about the difference in performance between the standard and K1 versions of the card, particularly in how much of a performance hit pings take when using FNApps BitTorrent client and playing games simultaneously. I suppose it wouldn’t be playable either way, but it’d be interesting to underclock the card and see what the effect is, just for the heck of it.

    Processing power is cheap these days, and it’s cool to see discrete hardware coming with secondary uses for its processing power (first graphics cards, now network cards).

    • danazar
    • 12 years ago

    The only thing I’d really pay money for in a network card anymore is something that promotes a new standard for secure TCP in which /[

      • just brew it!
      • 12 years ago

      It would still be pretty useless, since practically none of the sites you’d want to talk to would support the encryption. It’s a “critical mass” issue — until a significant fraction of users demand it, it ain’t gonna be supported by enough sites for it to be truly useful.

    • Lostfaith
    • 12 years ago

    I normally don’t comment a lot but This is just Ageia done a bit more ridiculous and unnecessary.

    if this was a $25 or even $40 card this might’ve been worth it’s money, but it’s clearly for the select few rich kids, not even enthusiasts because those have a sense of value… Physics for $250 through a remarkably dated and congested pci slot was pushing it as a ‘niche’ thing, but this is a whole other level of overpriced hype-ness.

    for that 1 person in 10.000 that buys this they’d better lower the price to <$50 to get at least some shipments. Else they’re going a much worse road then Ageia with all their 2006 hype dying out completely in 2007.

    still nice to get us an article about this “edsel” of the network world.

      • jimmylao
      • 12 years ago

      I second LostFaith. The other techsite I read at is Extremetech and they did a review on this card as well. They also produced similar results with the transfer files and said such a card they sell is only creating a placebo effect and definitely not worth the $250. In fact, save the $250 and buy the 8800GTX instead of the GTS. Ugh, people like Ageia and Bigfoot Networks disgust me as they try to capitalize on gaming nerds that don’t exactly have the time to read reviews or whatever.

        • Anomymous Gerbil
        • 12 years ago

        You miss the point re Ageia… phsysics acceleration (and AI and other acceleration ) is potentially very very useful. But they are probably too late, as that functionality will probably eventually be taken over by a combination of stream processing within video cards and additional CPU cores.

          • Mithent
          • 12 years ago

          And even the PhysX-supporting games that have been out so far haven’t really used it in any way that makes you want to buy an expensive expansion card.

    • drsauced
    • 12 years ago

    Oh, no they didn’t!

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