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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  • rqle - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I never like to bash a company product because always believed there a niche market, but at its very best, this product doesnt seem to justified the $300 price cost. I do believe many would buy it at a lower price.

    My current broadband is 3.0mbps/512kb, i can pay $5 more a month more for Verizon Fiop 15mbps/2mbp, i would rather go that route for my improve network + other capibilities. As for the side processing function, a cheap $200 (Athlon64 3200+ computer system) can do a whole lot more. Am not saying it a bad product, it just price way to high for me.
    Reply
  • cornfedone - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    SOS, DD.

    Just as we've seen with Asian mobos in the last few years, this NIC card is an over-hyped, under-performing POS. Just as mobos from Asus, DFI, Sapphire, Abit, and more have suffered from vcore, BIOS, memory, PCI slot and many other issues, the BigJoke NIC card is more defective goods with zero customer support. I'm sure everyone looks forward to a wiped hard drive image... due to a poorly designed NIC card.

    Sooner or later consumers are gonna wise up and stop buying these defective products. Until they vote with their wallet instead of their penis, unscrupulous companies will continue to ship half baked POS products and fail to provide proper customer support. If consumers stop buying these defective goods, then the company will either correct their problems or go tits up.
    Reply
  • autoboy - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I didn't buy a NIC to make up for my small penis, I bought a Porsche. Chicks don't notice my NIC.

    The K does look pretty cool. Maybe it will fit on my Porsche.
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    I dare say few if any people have purchased AGEIA or Killer NIC cards. As for your whining about ASUS, DFI, etc. I guess you're one of the people running a budget $50 mobo that can't understand what it's like to really push a system? Or are you the other extreme: you overclocked by 50% or more and are pissed that the system wasn't fully stable? Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    You talk a lot about how it's virtually impossible to test something whose entire performance is based almost entirely on an Internet connection which is inherently variable. That's why you need some more control over the variables in your test. Namely, a LAN.

    For example... have 4 computers, each with exactly the same configs except for the network cards. One of them has the KillerNIC, the rest have different NICs. They are all running Unreal Tournament. You also have one computer set up as the server, on the same Gigabit Ethernet switch as the 4 "player" machines. The level is a small plain square room with no doors, trenches, or any other features. Each of the "players" is running the same script where they have unlimited ammo and a machine gun, running circles around and around, shooting constantly from the minute they respawn. Let the scripts run for 100 hours and capture the framerate and pings on each machine.

    So you have 4 computer players running around in circles in a small square room, shooting each other for 100 hours. Yes, there will still be randomness, but over the course of 100 hours it should cancel out, and this test should be replicable. Any real differences between the NICs would come out over time. Run it again to make sure.

    Or maybe that's not the best way of doing it. I don't even play UT2003 so I don't know what's really possible and what's not, but I've heard of people doing scripts and stuff. Maybe there are better ways of doing it, but you can eliminate the variable of the Internet connection by limiting your testing to a LAN.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    quote:

    You talk a lot about how it's virtually impossible to test something whose entire performance is based almost entirely on an Internet connection which is inherently variable. That's why you need some more control over the variables in your test. Namely, a LAN.


    We tested over a LAN, the results were not that different, in fact the NVIDIA NIC and Intel PRO/1000 PT cards had better throughput and latencies the majority of the time. We did not show these results as the card is marketed to improve your Online Gaming experience. If the card had been marketed as a must have product to improve your gaming capability on a LAN then it would have been reviewed as such.

    When we tested on the LAN the steps you outlined were basically followed from a script viewpoint in order to ensure the variables were kept to a minimum. We did not provide these results, maybe we should have in hindsight. Our final opinion of the card would not have changed.

    Thanks for the comments. :)
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    The product is targeted at gamers. Look at the marketing material. now, while a LAN party goer might get some advantage out of it, there are FAR more people playing games from home using broadband connections. If this only improves performance in a LAN environment (clearly NOT what is being advertised), then it's already a failure. I like what Gary did here: look at real world testing and let us know how it turned out. Who gives a rip about controlled environments and theoretical performance increases if the reality is that the product basically doesn't help much? What's really funny is that they even show a ping "advantage" in FEAR of maximum 0.40ms and average 0.13ms. WTF!? Like anyone can notice a .13ms improvement in ping times! The frame rate improvements might be good (if they were available in many games)... still not $270+ good, though. Reply
  • Bladen - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Or as you touched on, do the test for a long time, or many many repeats, and let the averages soeak for themselves. Reply
  • shoRunner - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    You pay almost $300 for the ultimate NIC card, and its PCI so it can't even get anywhere near gigbit throughput. AND the CPU utilization isn't even better than an onboard solution. PLEASE. If anyone is truely thinking about buying this, send me a PM I've got some beautiful ocean front property in Montanta to sell you for pennies on the dollar. Reply
  • mlau - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    You underestimate this card greatly. This is the ultimate network card for linux:
    it could theoretically offload almost all of linux' network stack (including linux'
    advanced filtering/routing capabilites and protocols). It's a firewall-router on a
    card. IMHO the card is targeted for the wrong crowd (although I understand it somewhat,
    since gamers are usually stupid enough to buy 2 video cards and other completely
    unnecessary stuff [ageia comes to mind])
    Reply

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