Bigfoot Networks has, for the past few years, been trying very hard to bring high powered, intelligent network interface cards to the desktop. We previously looked at their Killer NIC with some interesting results, and today we've got the Killer Xeno Pro in our labs.

The major difference between the older Killer NIC and the newer Killer Xeno Pro is the inclusion of an audio path and audio processing for voice chat acceleration. They Killer Xeno Pro also has twice the RAM of the original. Despite the improvements, one of the major benefits is that the Killer Xeno Pro will be available at a lower retail price than the Killer NIC was. Oh, and it is sort of cool to see the new hardware dialog talking about a PowerPC Processor:


I sooo want to hack this thing now.

In our original investigation, we did see some situations where the Killer NIC could make some difference, but, for what you get, the cost was much too high. One of the ways that Bigfoot is trying to combat this is by selling chipsets and letting vendors like EVGA build and market boards. They've managed to get their costs down and the price of the Killer Xeno Pro, while very high for a network card, is much more reasonable than the original offering. The EVGA Killer Xeno Pro can be had for about $120 USD.


The EVGA Killer Xeno Pro in all its glory.

Let's start by saying that this isn't going to be a network card for someone hanging on to a 7 Series NVIDIA card or a Radeon 1k part from ATI in a single core CPU system. When upgrading, spending the $120 cost of the Killer Xeno Pro on a better graphics card will net you a great deal more performance. Even putting that money into the CPU is likely to get you more for your money in general. This is a card that should be targeted at the online gamer with a good system who wants to make sure every possible advantage is covered.

This hardware at this price is just not for everyone. It still needs to come down to more of a commodity price in order to see wider adoption. In our opinion, those who should even consider this card should already have a modern dual core system with single GPU graphics hardware capable of delivering a good, steady, high framerate at the preferred resolution in the majority of games. We don't expect that everyone who has such a system will want to invest in the Killer Xeno Pro either, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Up first we will look at the Killer Xeno Pro, its features, and why we should expect some level of increased performance at all from a typical network card.

The Card and Features
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  • MrHorizontal - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    Could you pit the Bigfoot NIC's against some other NICs.

    I'd like to know what the difference between using a 'Server Adapter' such as the Intel PRO/1000 PT Dual port would be (on a LACP compatible switch, even a cheapo one like the Netgear GS108T) for example, or even a direct comparison with the single port Intel PT card, since they all do a lot of TCP offloading work, though not the entire stack like the Bigfoot seemingly does...

    I do give a LOT of attention to my network connection being a very keen MMORPGer, so I'd genuinely like to know what I can do end-to-end beyond just having a good ISP to make my network as good as it can be with a fairly reasonable eye on cost (ie not forking out for f5 and Cisco kit!)
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    The Killer isn't targeted as competition to server NICs, some of which do a lot more like 10GbE and have specific optimization for handling massive numbers of VMs all trying to use the network at once ... Even server NICs like the Intel ones you point out -- even if they did do full network stack offloading -- are very likely not going to be of any more benefit to gamers than the Killer Xeno Pro.

    But there is no replacement for testing.

    It is something we will keep in mind, but with the limited usefulness the Killer Xeno Pro shows it's sort of hard to justify putting a lot more time and energy into this sort of investigation. I'd like to satisfy my own curiosity on the subject, so maybe it will be something we get up ... but no promises. :-)
    Reply
  • MrHorizontal - Monday, July 06, 2009 - link

    The Killer may not be targetted to server NICs, but as I and a lot of the other comments have noted the price point of the Killer is equal to that of a server adapter. As for whether or not the stack offloading in the Killer NIC and the TCP/IP Offload Engine in the Server Adapters are different and perform differently, only benchmarking both cards would actually provide a good and honest result.

    I'd like to see ping tests and iperf results using both cards, with and without jumbo frames, using Link aggregation where possible (LACP is effectively SLI for a network card after all) and a comparison with the best and worst mobo adapters versus the Intel / Netgear 'desktop' NICs and the Intel server NIC's versus the Killer NIC.

    Essentially what I'm asking from Anandtech is to find what kit we need to get and what configuration changes we need to make to the registry, routers and switches to get absolutely rocking performance from our LANs... which are after all one thing we can control and where a significant amount of lag originates over and above the latency in the ISP's network.

    That would be a useful article of the quality that I'd expect from Anandtech. Harping on about a product that noone including yourselves really believes has a market isn't a good report...
    Reply
  • UnclePauly - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    WOW! COUNT ME IN FOR TWO! Reply
  • Myg - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    This article started with the best of intentions, but fell flat on its face when it came to real value (just like the card apparently).

    You can't expect a network card to increase FPS (we all know thats just a marketing ploy) and you lot know better and should be able to see through that.

    This is a networking device, so it should be treated like one. A suite of dedicated server programs should of been used for the testing. It is terribly lazy of anandtech and seemingly a growing trend to not bother with going that extra mile (which made you guys popular in the first place).
    Reply
  • mesiah - Saturday, July 04, 2009 - link

    They are testing it for what its marketed towards. The manufacturer makes clear claims in their marketing and this review tested those claims. While it may have some value as a server card, that is not what it was designed for and marketed for. Corvettes have a shitload of power, but whens the last time motor trend talked up their towing capacity? Its beyond the scope of the article. Reply
  • HotdogIT - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    Why would they test it as a "networking device", when it's clearly being markteted to gamers? The manufacturer themselves claim ping improvements and FPS improvements in GAMES, so not testing GAMES is silly.

    Every site who has tested this product, HardOCP, Anandtech, TomsHardware, have come to the same conclusion: It's a 125$ NIC, that's better spent on other components. It either has no impact in gaming, or so minimal that it's within the realm of just dumb luck.

    The only benefit it might have is throttling of network connections, be it torrents (which you can throttle manually, unless you're an idiot) or downloads (Firefox has a plugin to throttle, and I'm sure it can be done with IE, somehow).
    Reply
  • hooflung - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    In fact, it doesn't do TCP/IP offloading the way you think. It does UDP offloading. That is why your EVE test is flawed. EVE uses a TCP not UDP because it needs a guaranteed connection. The Xeno and original Killer claim WoW FPS goes up, specifically in Really overworked zones, because it offloads that UDP to the NPU.

    So thanks for your totally crap review filled with misinformation.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    Actually, bigfoot makes it very clear that it's the whole network stack that is offloaded. this includes TCP and UDP. which is also why it has a separate mode for applications that expect a dedicated software network stack.

    In fact, the WoW example is important, as they told us that WoW uses TCP and NOT UDP -- thus it was not specifically detected as a "game" application (it's the "unknown" blip in the bandwidth control pages).

    The Killer Xeno is definitely able to offload TCP because, as we showed, it reduced WoW latency (and potentially could benefit overall performance in heavily populated areas).

    I'm not sure whether EVE uses TCP or UDP, but it doesn't matter -- the Killer Xeno Pro should handle both just fine.
    Reply
  • hooflung - Friday, July 03, 2009 - link

    Funny that, since I have played EVE Online for nearly 6 years and also have had a killer NIC since they came out.

    I have talked to their engineers and they told me that the Driver does not do TCP accelleration unlike UDP. Also, WoW uses UDP unless the WoW developers are wrong, which I doubt, and the Bigfoot engineer I talked to, aka the guy who designed it who also put a few hundred million into Intel's pocket by creating the offload engine for the Intel Server NIC's is wrong.

    I'll just assume you got your facts mixed up. Also, EVE absolutely uses TCP. If you for a single moment loose your TCP connection you will disconnect. You don't from WoW... because they use UDP after you handshake and authenticate to their login server.
    Reply

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