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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  • Gary Key - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    quote:

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


    I fully agree the article was probably too long. It was a case of trying to cover all the bases and then some. If we had left out the technology sections and reduced the commentary it would have read better as a basic hardware item. We looked at this as not being your basic NIC review.However, I am sure there would have been comments that we did not properly review the card or provide this same information. Thanks for the comments.
    Reply
  • Crassus - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    I agree with the comment above. I would have like an even more expanded page detailing the technology and the roots in the corporate sector. What I didn't really care about was the endless description of the pains it took to benchmark the card.
    Two things about that:
    1. If it was easy, everyone could do it. You (and Anandtech) stand above the crowd for going the extra mile and giving us some added (useful) information. This is usually self-evident and doesn't require elaboration.
    2. My firm expects me to get the job done, as, I suppose, it is the same with yours. No one gives a hoot as to all the steps I had to go through to get the job done, unless they offer some added value. Thinking about throwing something out of the window (if you're blessed with having one in your office) occurs to everyone at some point and certainly doesn't hold any additional value - in other words: it comes with the job. If it was otherwise, see (1) above. There's really no need to mention it a couple of times - unless you're reviewing your work instead of the product.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    quote:

    What I didn't really care about was the endless description of the pains it took to benchmark the card.


    I appreciate your comments. I am alawys open to other viewpoints and opinions. What paragraphs contained endless descriptions that in your opinion could have been cut? Email me if you can please.

    quote:

    Thinking about throwing something out of the window (if you're blessed with having one in your office) occurs to everyone at some point and certainly doesn't hold any additional value - in other words: it comes with the job.


    I agree it comes with the job. The message I was trying to convey was one of total frustration with the product after six weeks of almost non-stop testing. There were several choice words I wanted to use but felt like that statement would be universally understood. ;-)
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I really liked reading the article. When G80 comes out, we can cut strait to the benches, because I'm going to want to know whether or not to buy the card. None of us are going to buy this thing, but we're all enthusiests, so reading about it can still be fun. With performance changes so minor however, adding a little commentrary to spice up the review makes it a lot more entertaining for this reader. Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I'm in agreement with Sunrise - liked the article and the sarcasm. I can only imagine your pain during the review. Can't believe how many people apparently lack the ability to read and need pictures. "Just give us two paragraphs saying whether or not to buy the card!" Bah! That's what the conclusion page is for, where it's pretty clear the card "works as advertised" which means fractional gains in a few games. Reply
  • Zaitsev - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    "Just give us two paragraphs saying whether or not to buy the card!"

    The only reason I still read Anandtech is because they do exactly the opposite. In articles like this one and the Conroe review, I think the pages discussing the technology are more interesting than the results. I can't talk from experience, but it also seems that it would get boring for the authors if they just punched out cookie cutter articles for every review.

    As for the card, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I bought this instead of a Conroe.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    i can sum in up for you in one line.

    "In most cases the Killer-Nic Does Nothing"


    as for windows vista.

    it has a total new audio stack that is seperate from the kenernal, so in theory it could run on a core other then the main os kerenal.
    Reply
  • Googer - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    FNA is the only thing that makes a killer nic really worthwhile.

    http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,2037279...">http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,2037279...
    Reply
  • cryptonomicon - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Assuming the review quantified "ping measurements" correctly, this thing has a long way to go. If it gave even a consistent 10% faster pings all the time it would be very appealing to pro-gaming. But from those ping charts, the results were truely inconclusive. The side effect of increased FPS was even more significant than any ping reduction.

    Looking forward to revisions or later models from Bigfoot though!
    Reply
  • floffe - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    That's because in most cases 98% of the ping is not on the local computer, but from your internet connection point (DSL/cable modem or whatever) to the server. Tis means even cutting 5% off that will be very hard (in general. WoW seems to be an exception). Reply

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