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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  • stmok - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    Yeah, I do agree.

    Its targetting at the wrong crowd. This product should be really for the hardcore enthusiasts. (I'm talking about those who actually use the command line on a regular basis). You don't expect clueless Windows users start tinkering with Linux, do you? :)


    As for SLI and Crossfire? Its a bloody joke.

    You buy two video cards today, and in 12 months time, they'll be outperformed by a single next generation video card. Yeah, money well spent there, isn't it?
    Reply
  • stmok - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    To be honest, if they opened up the specs for the card, and work with the community, you'd have a different product. (So they only focus on selling hardware and advising enthusiasts in how to develop software solutions for the card). Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    So the fact that Intels NIC cards regularly perform better than atleast 99% of the competition, and the fact they have made a PCI-E card is completely lost on you ?

    BTW the price of the Intel card is FAR less . . .
    Reply
  • Zebo - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    It's you who is stupid. Video you get your monies worth unlike this POS, anywhere from 60-75% inprovement moving to that second card in SLI/xfire config. Reply
  • mlau - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    as i said, i think this card is targeted at the wrong crowd. but then i don't doubt
    that the windows network stack is a POS and offloading it completely to a piece of
    hardware will free the host cpu for other tasks.

    as for sli/xfire, performance improvements are almost not noticeable (and sometimes
    perf decreases). noone except a few impressionable 12 year olds care about your fps
    in fear and other shooters. i play games to be entertained and not to watch the fps
    meter and tell my "friends" that "oooo i can play far cry in 2560x1200 8aa16af and still
    get 120 fps!!!1!!11oneone, you cant!!". you people are pathetic.
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    "as for sli/xfire, performance improvements are almost not noticeable"

    Clearly you have never used a higher end gaming PC on modern title. I can assure that the improvements are VERY noticeable if you play with a larger LCD (even 1920x1200) and want smooth frame rates, or if you even load up Oblivion at moderate resolutions. Yes, an increase from 100 to 170 FPS in some titles is basically meaningless, but going from 20 to 35 FPS in Oblivion makes the difference between sluggish and smooth gameplay. Whether or not it's worth the price is up for debate, but just because you can't afford it and don't play enough games to justify the purchase doesn't make is pathetic.

    BTW, I've got news for you moron: 12 year olds are NOT the people running SLI/Crossfire setups! But then your penis envy probably blinds you to that fact. Even in Linux, I doubt this card is worth the price of admission. $280 for another "coprocessor"? Lovely, except in another week or so $250 would add two more CPU cores and make the whole situation meaningless. Now let's just hope Vista has network stack improvements so that mutliple cores are truly useful for offloading audio and network tasks in games. Actually, that's probably at least partially a matter of getting game developers to do things more threaded-like.

    Hey Gary, did you test Quake 4 with a non-SMP configuration? I understand Q4 optimizations for SMP essentially consist of running the client and server code in separate threads, so maybe the server is already offloaded and there's nothing new for the Killer to do? Gee why can't other devs do this? Lazy bums!
    Reply
  • KAZANI - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    "Whether or not it's worth the price is up for debate, but just because you can't afford it and don't play enough games to justify the purchase doesn't make is pathetic."

    To my mind going into a 600$ expenditure so that you can play overhyped duds such as Oblivion counts as pathetic. I am still not convinced that it's the heavy gaming that warrants dual-GPU's and not dual-GPU's warranting heavy gaming.
    Reply
  • bob661 - Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - link

    quote:

    To my mind going into a 600$ expenditure so that you can play overhyped duds such as Oblivion counts as pathetic. I am still not convinced that it's the heavy gaming that warrants dual-GPU's and not dual-GPU's warranting heavy gaming.
    In MY mind (the ONLY mind that's important), people that criticize others choice in computer hardware and games IS indeed pathetic. I AM convinced that you are as jealous, self-righteous, asshole that probably drives in the left lane on the freeway at the speed limit because no one needs to go faster than the almighty YOU.
    Reply
  • rushfan2006 - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    Agreed...there is a lot of people being dicks on this thread. I just don't understand it.

    If you don't like a game or something, just don't buy it - you can make your opinion about it so long as it offers some kind of value -- calling out the performance or problems with the product. But to associate someone's buying choice then calling them names its just gets ridiculous....its like grow the hell up already.

    Reply
  • KAZANI - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    Escuse me? You're spending 600$ to play Oblivion and you're telling me to "grow up"? DUDE, YOU NEED TIME OFF THE COMPUTER!

    Reply

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