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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  • WileCoyote - Friday, November 03, 2006 - link

    I said it's too wordy. That means take out words. Are you people for real? Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    That post was too short. Three sentences with no real support to back it up. Lamest comment ever.

    Look, sorry you have poor reading skillz, but a lot of us are quite educated and like to know the WHY and HOW besides just the WHAT. My first thought was "how in the hell is this product supposed to do ANYTHING for frame rates!?" Gary answered that by looking into the details more than superficially. Oh, sure, it doesn't really deliver -- a 5% increase on a moderately high-end system is pretty silly for a $270 product -- but that it can affect frame rates at all is surprising to me. I now have hope for Windows Vista, at least on the networking stack side of things.

    What's really odd is that the review is pretty clearly advising people to NOT go out and buy this "killer" product, because it just isn't that great. If I saw a review on AnandTech that bashed a product without any backing material, I'd feel I was reading something at HardOCP. Well, okay, they back up their complaints sometimes, but their testing methodology is worse than suspect. Remember the Core 2 "launch" reviews where they used a midrange GPU config to conclude that it did nothing for gaming performance?

    Anyway, there seem to be quite a few new names on here for this article. Wonder how many are employed by BigFoot? It's like there are a bunch of people bashing Gary for even reviewing the product at all, another group that's bashing him for not liking the card, a third group bashing him for not being able to do a 1 page writeup, and then a few people that think: "nice review; didn't surprise me much with the results, but at least we can now know that Killer can help in certain situations, even if it's overpriced as hell."

    I'm sure Gary was tested a lot more than is shown in this article. I've conversed with him in the past, and I'd wager he was pulling his hair out over this article. How many times did you write it Gary? Ten? More? I think you ought to post here and set the record straight, because my bet is that in terms of improving gaming performance the Killer NIC is as good as a NIC is going to get... which means the other NICs from Intel, 3COM, etc. are basically all as good as onboard solutions if that. There's really not much you can do to truly improve performance of a NIC for online gaming when you're looking at maybe 5ms worst case being delay added by the hardware and OS.

    As I said above in an earlier comment, it would be nice to have more developers like Jon Carmac around, because he apparently knows how to already perform well without lots of extra hardware. Can't say his games are the greatest, but the Doom 3 engine and networking aspects (client/server architecture) are clearly ahead of most other FPS solutions.
    Reply
  • WileCoyote - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    I was trying to keep my comment short, simple, and to the point. I don't need to write a page defending my opinion on something as trivial as a product review. The numbers speak for themselves in this review. And it wasn't so much the quantity but rather the quality - there is little to no structure in the review. That's fact, not opinion. There is a better way to write a review - I've read hundreds of them on Anandtech.

    I guess my Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology from a well-respected U.S. university doesn't count for much and neither does the successful business I created/own which pays a six-figure salary.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I guess my Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology from a well-respected U.S. university doesn't count for much and neither does the successful business I created/own which pays a six-figure salary.


    Apparently my MBA and the fact I am already retired (at 44 and doing this because I really enjoy it) does not count for very much either. LOL.....

    quote:

    And it wasn't so much the quantity but rather the quality - there is little to no structure in the review.


    Seriously, I am always looking to improve. How would you change the structure of the article?
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Being that I run an FTP server that tends to see a decent amount of internal traffic, it actually sounds like a TNIC (or simply making a dedicated server) could actually be beneficial to me. Although, I sure have no desire to pay $300 for that card when I could easily spend the money on a second video card for SLi purposes or such. Also, I know switching from single to dual-core really helped to off-set the issue of FTP uploading on the local intranet. It really won't matter as when I build a new PC next month, I'm simple setting my old PC as a dedicated server to offload those annoying tasks.

    Also, Mlau, there are some games where "real estate" matters. World of Warcraft is a great example of this and I'm glad that I play the game in 1650x1080, because in certain situations, there's so much junk on your screen (I may call it junk but it actually helps :P), that you need all the extra room you can get. You may be happy in 1024x768, but that gives you no right to vehemently demean people for wanting to play in higher resolutions, which doing so also provides a better quality picture without wasting resources on Anti-Aliasing. Almost all the time, enjoying a game the way the developers designed/envisioned it can be an enriching experience for the gamer.

    Gary, your comment about WoW being limited to 64 FPS... I think you may've left Vertical Sync on :D. I can easily get 90FPS on my dated Athlon 64 X2 4400+ with a GeForce 6800GT OC playing in 1650x1080 with max graphics settings. Albeit, I don't get a constant 90FPS, but it can be easily attainable in non-expansive places. So yeah, if your refresh rate on your LCD/CRT was set to 60Hz, you probably would see your game hover around 60-64FPS or somwhere between that and 30FPS. I know I turned VSync off on mine as I couldn't constantly achieve 60FPS, so the game lowered my FPS to about 30 with VSync turned on. Simply turning it off raised me to an easy 45 minimum with no tearing evident. I know that in the Hillsbrad/Alterac area, I would probably get around 45-60 depending on how far into the distance I could see.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html;jses...">Blizzard Response

    quote:

    Gary, your comment about WoW being limited to 64 FPS... I think you may've left Vertical Sync on :D.


    Hi,

    We tried your suggestions during testing and nothing helped. We used both LCD and CRT monitors with vsync off. This was with several different video cards and Core 2 Duo/AM2 X2 processors. The frame rates were always capped to 64 until we switched to a single core processor on either system. We contacted Blizzard directly and they confirmed the dual core bug. The link above has their response on line item 6. Are you using FRAPS to capture the frame rates? If so which version please?

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

    I downloaded FRAPS 2.81 and sure enough my 4800+ X2 is capped at 64FPS. Reply
  • otherwise - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    You can get an 10/100 ethernet card with a TOE dirt cheap for much less then $300 if you really want one. With most people who actuially need a TOE also demanding 10/100/1000 support, there is a glut of 10/100 TOE NICs. Reply
  • dijuremo - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    You will probably get more out of $300 if you get a hardware raid controller for your system (Areca comes to mind) which will not only provide a speed upin storage, but also redundancy for your system. I know it does nothing for your network performance, but is money better spent which is my point.

    I considered getting a Killer NIC for my new system, but did not do it because of price, no PCI-Express support (Mobo only has 2 PCI slots used for sound card and HDTV tuner and has 4 PCI Express slots, one used currently for Nvidia 7950GX2), plus performance gains were not that good (I read another review of this card about a month ago elsewhere).

    As for the person saying sli/xfire is useless, you are totally wrong. At 1920x1080 (using the LVM-37w3 LCD monitor - 1080p native) you need sli or xfire to have decent speeds to play games with AA and AF. If you don't play games or play at 1280x1024 or less it does not matter, but above that you really need sli or xfire.

    I also agree the article was a bit too long and actually more effective that a Lunesta overdose. Not sure if the writer is trying to avoid what just happened to HEXUS where they reviewed an Alienware PC and got e-mail back from the company saying they would not get any more harware because of the bad review...
    Reply
  • heated snail - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I don't mean to be a jerk, and I appreciate any sincere and fact-finding test/review article. However:

    I'm amazed, was this really a review of a basic hardware item? Because instead it reads like a mini-novel about all the difficulty the testers/reviewers had in doing their job. Is it too much to ask for a more verbally efficient writing style? About two paragraphs briefly acknowledging that this product has been hyped in the media, and acknowledging that testing was a little more difficult than usual... then get straight to the tests on page two and conclusions on page three. I can't believe how long it took to read through this whole thing with its very repetitive descriptions and self-references.
    Reply

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