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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  • DaveatBigfoot - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    Dave from Bigfoot Networks here. We wanted to reach out to comments and forums around the Internet, address some of the issues being discussed, and be available for any questions you may have.

    I worked with Gary while he was writing this review. We have a tremendous amount of respect for him and Anandtech.com. I'd be liar if I didn't admit that we were disappointed with the performance and experience that the Anandtech review reflects. We welcomed the "Pepsi Challenge", and appreciated the real-world approach taken.

    While the performance numbers reported were lower than what our customers report, and what we see internally, we thought one of the best testimonials for the Killer was the blind test where a the Killer was added to gamers PC without his knowledge, and he thought there was a new video card or more RAM in the system. Truly, that is what the Killer is all about...smoother, faster gaming...less lag, better performance.

    Back when this review was written, we did have some issues with our drivers. I believe each and every issue manifested itself during Anandtech's testing. It was very unfortunate and not anticipated. Bypassing the windows network stack and putting a Linux computer on a PCI slot is a bit tricky. We aren't using that as an excuse, just stating it as a fact. Our latest software suite addresses all the issues that are referenced in this review.

    We have also recently released IPtables firewall for the Killer NIC. Many more FNApps are on the way, and with time the Killer's value will increase. A rarity in the hardware world.

    We sincerely hope, at some point, Anandtech will give the Killer another shot. We firmly stand by our product and believe it holds tremendous value for online gamers.

    I am also happy to answer any questions you may have about the Killer, so fire away!
    Reply
  • lwright84 - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    http://hardware.gotfrag.com/portal/story/34683/">http://hardware.gotfrag.com/portal/story/34683/

    explains some of the features and shows some better results with this card.
    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - link

    They only tested two games and both were optimized for the KillerNIC. They give it an editors award for improving FEAR by 6.7%, come on. Reply
  • trajik78 - Sunday, November 05, 2006 - link

    did i mention $300 is f'in crazy for a NIC? Reply
  • cotak - Sunday, November 05, 2006 - link

    This is as useful as something that makes guys quicker during sex.

    As for people talking about this being enterprise storage technology. They use fiber for that with expensive fiber switches not Ethernet and not something you'd be able to afford at home.

    What's the point of reviewing something like this. In the first part of the review they say "the internet is variable". That's your key right there. There's no point in speeding up your connection to your cable/dsl modem when everything else from here to whatever is unknown. 300 bucks on a card like this and connecting it to your typical linksys router with the new VxWorks firmware with limited number of NAT connections it's about as dumb putting huge spoilers on a shitty car.
    Reply
  • trajik78 - Sunday, November 05, 2006 - link

    yup, pretty much every review has confirmed that this product is more than not-worthy of the $300 that could be better used for say a couple kegs of beer, or towards college tuition.

    when it comes down to it, your built in MB ethernet interface is more than worthy of your use for any circumstance, even it be HUGE FRAGFEST AT YOUR FRIENDS LAN PARTY!!
    Reply
  • aswinp - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    Check out this site for more info on TNICS:

    In my (small) experience in enterprise storage solutions, I believe one of the main reason for using TOE NICS is for iSCSI (SCSI over IP) SAN applications, instead of using Fiber Channel or other SAN solutions. So you basically have a SAN whose fabric is not based on expensive Fiber Channel hardware but on regular Ethernet.

    Top 10 Reasons to upgrade to a TNIC:
    http://www.alacritech.com/html/toe_top_ten.shtml">http://www.alacritech.com/html/toe_top_ten.shtml

    Benchmark Reports:
    http://www.alacritech.com/html/benchmark_reports.s...">http://www.alacritech.com/html/benchmark_reports.s...
    Reply
  • mlau - Thursday, November 02, 2006 - link

    I strongly suggest you read this mail and the paper it links to:
    http://www.cs.helsinki.fi/linux/linux-kernel/2003-...">http://www.cs.helsinki.fi/linux/linux-kernel/2003-...

    TOE is another marketing fad, nothing more.
    Reply
  • aswinp - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    I guess Killer NIC saw this technology starting to rise in popularity in the enterprise storage market and thought... "Hey, what happens if we apply this thing to gaming?". And so you get the Killer NIC.

    Although I admit the FNA feature is very interesting, if ever any software ever gets written to take advantage of it.

    What I'd really like to see is what happens when the Killer NIC is put in comparison to true TOE NICS in IP SAN applications. Coz its less expensive than these guys.
    Reply
  • soydeedo - Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - link

    hey guys. there have been scores of complaints regarding lag and such when running the new titan mode in battlefield 2142. if the titan [a very large airship] is moving while many players are aboard it things can get a bit hairy. i've experienced this myself although not very often, but it's pretty aggravating and severely impacts playability. i'm requesting that you play a couple rounds with a moving titan [it's imperative that it's moving] and report back your results with this killernic. i've made a post about this on firingsquad and totalbf2142 to no avail so if you guys would test this out i [and potentially many others if it offers any benefits] would appreciate it. thanks. =) Reply

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