Here we are today reviewing one of the more controversial personal computer products to be released in the last couple of years. If you thought the AGEIA PhysX product generated controversy about whether it was a viable product or not then you should read the comments around the Internet about the Bigfoot Networks Killer NIC. The phrase Snake Oil is one of the most commonly used online terms to describe the Killer NIC. While this did not surprise us given the aggressive marketing of the product, we think it is a bit unfair if the commenter has never actually used the product.

Hopefully our review today will prove or dispel this phrase. Of course our article commentary on the product just might inflame the masses into a further war of words on the subject. First, however, we need to revisit the first line of this paragraph. We really cannot call the article you are going to read today a review; it is more like an evaluation of a very controversial yet interesting product.



Yes, we will present data such as frame rates and ping times in several of the latest games available today. Along with this empirical data will also be NIC specific results, but our test results should only be used as part of an overall evaluation of the product. When it comes right down to it, the actual experience we will convey of using this product on a daily basis should be the crux of your purchasing decision.

At this time you might be thinking we drank some Snake Oil but let us explain our comments. Our test results cannot be accurately replicated by our readers, other review sites, or even ourselves in a very controlled environment. Our test results are accurate based upon the criteria we utilized at the time of testing but they cannot be consistently replicated. In some ways our testing was a grand experiment that provided more information about our network capability and broadband provider than the Killer NIC. Wow, maybe there was something in that glass besides water now that we think about it....

In actuality, figuring out how to properly test this beast of a card was somewhat perplexing at first, reached a frustrating crescendo, and even continues to be puzzling to some degree today. The problem lies in developing a set of benchmarks that will be consistent, repeatable, and fair. Those words consistent and repeatable sound so simple when using our standard benchmark suite on a daily basis, but they still haunt us to this day when testing this card.

We centered our efforts on reducing the almost infinite set of variables in trying to test this card and its competition. Almost infinite set of variables you ask? For starters, the two most important variables to address are our network connection and the performance of the servers we connected with during testing. We tried several different methods to address (tame) this variability with each ending in a dead end, endless nights of desperation, or just creating additional complexity that did not provide any new details. In the end, there just was no way to accurately control these two critical variables that were completely out of our control. Besides our connection and the server, any testing that involves the Internet is subject to countless potential influences on performance, and with games you also throw in other players which vary in number and location.

While not perfect and open for debate, we feel like the benchmarks we utilized will provide a general indication of the card's performance while our experiences with the Killer NIC will provide the other piece of the puzzle. After all, it's not every day that a network card is launched specifically targeting the online gaming audience with promises of giving you the competitive edge you need in the heat of battle. The marketing blitz continues with statements like, "Killer frees up your computer's processor to focus on the game giving you those extra Frames Per Second and lower Pings when you need them most. Finally you can focus not just on winning - but dominating." We figure it takes a big set of brass ones to make such claims... or maybe, just maybe, the product actually works as advertised.

Let's find out if aggressive marketing or engineering genius defines the capability of this product.

Technology behind the Killer NIC
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  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Almost forgot my one other point: As others have said, Vista's TCP stack is completely different. If the Killer NIC is designed largely around the way previous versions of Windows work, even with Vista drivers it could turn out to be a high-priced piece of hardware that functions no better than a regular PCI nic. Reply
  • TonyB - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Instead of paying $300 to improve your World of Warcraft PIng Times you can simply do a little research. find out which WoW server is located in your geographic zone. If you live in California, look for a West coast server, if you're in New York, look for a East coast server , if you're in Chicago look for a Central server. Pay the $25 character transfer fee and move your account to the new server, viola!! decreased ping times.

    ps: this only works if you aren't playing in a server thats in your geographic zone already.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Because to you... Free = $25 transfer fee and no longer playing with the same group of friends?? Not an option for most people.

    I aplaud BigFoot for targeting this need with thier product. Riding the coat tails of something like WoW is a tried and true buisness practice. However, it's a failed execution and from the looks of it due mainly to the price. Everyone else agree that if priced for $49 or less they could start enjoying part of that big pile of money called WoW?

    $49 for a card that could help keep things running smoothly in large raids with teamspeak running full tilt? They could drop the giant K and the embedded linux to help reduce costs as 95% of the WoW target wouldn't care about those features.
    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I'll try not to repeat what has already been said about this NIC and Anandtech's review of it; I did have a few random thoughts after skimming through the article.

    I felt like I had to give BigFoot credit for apprarently seeking out this review from Anandtech. Although they had a lot to gain from a good review, because of the extent of Anandtech's readership and reputation, they must have known that their card would have to deliver on what was advertised in order to get any sort of positive grade (and in the end it did fail to deliver on all but a insignificant fraction of what it promised).

    On the other hand, this gets us to the meat of the article. Besides the issue of price, the main problem with this card is that it just isn't ready for prime-time, yet. This means that anyone who does spend $280 on this card is essentially signing up as a beta tester for a product this is still in development. Although gamers probably are familiar with this role (being the first to own some new hardware or new game means being the first to encounter unresolved and frustrating bugs), it still seems a bit perverse to have to pay so much money for this dubious honor.

    Given that this seems to be current state of affairs with "cutting edge" games and hardware, I couldn't help imaginging how it would make more sense to put the (presumably) free products into the hands of users who know that they are expected to beta test and work with tech/support staff to make a potentially good product better, rather than the apparent current practice of putting new products into the hands of people who are only required to evangelize for the company.

    I guess somewhere along the way the marketing people won out, and comapnies now find their money better spent on marketing rather than product development. Personally, I can't believe that viral marketing is going to be more helpful at making this product a success than would money spent on further testing and development.


    Essentially, this is what BigFoot got by their providing a card to Anandtech for testing (constructive feedback and a willing partner to test out potential fixes - in the form of new drivers). But, I suppose BigFoot has bills to pay, now, before they can even worry about getting this card fully up to specification, and this means that someone has to pay.
    Reply
  • WileCoyote - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Review was too wordy! Just large paragraphs of text without any type of organization. Dullest Anandtech article ever. Reply
  • goinginstyle - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Review was too wordy! Just large paragraphs of text without any type of organization. Dullest Anandtech article ever.


    Dullest response ever and it did not take a PhD to write my response. The article flowed from an introduction, with understandable technology descriptions that were not in other reviews, to results with a subjective/objective based ending. It had a couple of wordy sections but it was a lot better than most of the one line sentence descriptions you see in articles today. So please go buy a card, test it, and then provide us your perfect review. If you are unwilling to do this then at least tell us how it should be organized so anthropologists from around the world can understand it. I am sure Eric R. Wolf is turning over in his grave today because an anthropologist did not like the organization of an article.
    Reply
  • WileCoyote - Thursday, November 02, 2006 - link

    Chill out! Don't get so stressed out over 3 sentences and someone else's opinion. Big deal, I think it's a poorly written article when compared to previous ones at Anandtech. And I'm not questioning the author's education or net worth. I have left dozens of positive comments for previous Anandtech articles/authors so I'm not trolling either.

    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Thursday, November 02, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Chill out! Don't get so stressed out over 3 sentences and someone else's opinion.


    The fact is you have not offered an opinion on how to improve the article. You bash it but have not replied as to how you would have written it. If you think it is poorly written and have no issue critizing the author then at least leave a few comments on how you would have changed it. He at least asked for your opinion and others on how to improve the article. If you cannot respond in a professional manner to that request then you are trolling. Tell us how you would have organized the article? Better yet, test the card, and post your own review. You could simply take the time and email Gary with your revisions. He has already edited the article and the sections I thought were a little wordy are gone. Of course I emailed him and relayed my thoughts about the subject instead of dropping a one line dump in the forums.
    Reply
  • WileCoyote - Friday, November 03, 2006 - link

    Based on your replies I have learned the following:
    1. If you think an article is poorly written, buy the item and review it yourself.
    2. If you do not write in a "professional manner" do not write anything at all. Ha!
    3. If you say an article is "too wordy" people will not understand that the solution is to write less words.
    4. Talking with people here is a big waste of time. They think they are always right and smarter than you.
    The article was boring to me and I dropped a note to say that. I'm sorry for any hurt feelings as a result. If you know me better than I do and want to argue that the article was not boring to me, then feel free. Everything else you have said has nothing to do with what I originally said. I don't know, maybe you had a bad day at work and need to take it out here? Or maybe you want to aim at the easiest target in a thread... say, mine? Go find something challenging and worth spending time on. Unless this is the only way you feel smart? By the way, this post was too wordy. Boring even...yawn.
    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - link

    You must work in a really small cube. Yawn...... Reply

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