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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  • yyrkoon - Saturday, July 4, 2009 - link

    Not to mention that ToE is not likely to make much of a difference in gaming ( if any ). Unless that machine is a server that has many high bandwidth connections, or the person gaming is moving files around from one machine to another while gaming (not very likely if they're pro gamers). I remember reading the original cards review, and claims from people saying something like how it improved their gaming experience immensely. I also remember wondering how full of **** these people were, or how much they were getting paid to make such claims. You're never going to see a difference that big, when you're pinging sub 1ms on a local connection, or much more than 10ms to a connection thats a state or two away. Even if there was, that difference will never be noticeable( assuming you're not dropping packets left and right, in which case you've got bigger problems ).

    People who game from home will see very little if any difference as their DSL, or cable service is much, much slower. Even if there was a difference, that difference would not be perceivable.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, July 4, 2009 - link

    Derek, all of Intel pro series cards should have ToE(TCP/IP offload Engine). Microsoft even supports a lot of these cards with special code for server applications. That is, I mean in their Server OSes. The Pro cards also have Link Aggregation, Fail Over, and high availability capabilities through software downloads from Intel.

    Now, I forget which model, but there is model from Intel that is basically two cards in one(two ports) that costs just as much as the Killer NiC here . . . and way out classes it minus the (oh joy) sound processing.

    Anyways, I would expect a person doing a review on a NiC to know all of this already . . .
  • Qi - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Product page:">

    Product brief PDF:">

    And it's also somewhat aimed at gamers:

    The Intel Gigabit CT Desktop Adapter allows you to take advantage of this dedicated I/O by combining Gigabit Ethernet with PCI Express to provide high-performance network connectivity for desktops with PCI Express slots. Make the Intel Gigabit CT Desktop Adapter your choice for applications utilizing rich media content such as video streaming, web applications, music, and gaming.
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Again, nothing about network stack offloading ... just checksums and something about interrupts. Reply
  • mindless1 - Saturday, July 4, 2009 - link

    The faster the system a nic is placed in, the less significant network stack offloading should be. IMO the article has it backwards, those benefitting the most would not have a certain level of higher end system, but at the same time it has to be remembered that networking in general is not an especially high latency scenario on the client side relative to wan latency. Reply
  • Spoelie - Monday, July 6, 2009 - link

    Actually the article has it right..

    While the impact of the killer NIC might be more significant on a old/slow entry system, spending that $120 on other parts will still net you way more performance.

    A killer NIC can only help during heavy network traffic, while a faster CPU is useful in almost any situation. So recommending this NIC to a gamer as an upgrade over other parts of his system is not a good idea IMO, only when there's nothing else to upgrade does this card become an option.

    Maybe some other interesting tidbit is the impact on power consumption, since this is essentially a pc on a chip..
  • Qi - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    The Intel Gigabit CT is a desktop NIC that offloads some of the work to my knowledge. This is on the Intel page:

    'Delivers increased performance while significantly reducing CPU usage'

    And in the product brief PDF we can read this:

    TCP checksum offload – transition control protocol (TCP), user diagram protocol (UDP), Internet protocol (IP)
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    This card does not offload the networks stack ...

    It looks like at most it offloads checksum generation / verification (though it is unspecific) and implements interrupts for some thing (though, again, it isn't very specific).

    That card doesn't do nearly as much as the Killer from what I can see...

    But, as per our article, anything as good or better than an on-board NIC is going to work just fine.
  • lyeoh - Monday, July 6, 2009 - link

    You said:
    "That card doesn't do nearly as much as the Killer from what I can see..."

    "and with no significant difference between the baseline option and the Killer NIC, certainly no other add-in board is going to be worse ... and they aren't capable of being better. "

    But you have provided NO PROOF that an add in card does worse or better.

    We anandtech readers can make such claims as well. Forgive some of us for expecting Anandtech to do reasonably decent benchmarks - just like you do for other stuff.

    If there's a very expensive video card that doesn't do much better than an integrated video, that does not automatically mean that a different add-in video card would do about the same.

    At least with the SSD stuff Anandtech told the manufacturer "hey guys - this sucks", and the manufacturer eventually did something about it.

    It would be good to find out which scenarios this card makes a diff compared to integrated NICs and other add in NICs (e.g. Intel, Broadcom, Realtek, Marvel). After all this card costs about 3 to 10 times the price!
  • GokieKS - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    How many people do you know of that another add-in card NIC for their gaming system?

    For the vast majority, if not all, of the people who would consider buying this thing, the alternative is the integrated NIC on their motherboard.

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