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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  • has407 - Saturday, July 4, 2009 - link

    Doubtful; a decent NIC is going to provide about the same at lower cost. However, 600MB/min = 10MB/sec = pretty slow. Sounds like you have another problem (your network infrastructure is 100Mbs?). Or do you--is 600MB/min really a problem or is that all the clients are demanding? What does your network configuration look like? Reply
  • has407 - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    There is an SDK (and other tools available). I've never used it, but it's the only reason I've bothered looking at the card. It's also a bit old...

    http://www.bigfootnetworks.com/Support/index.php?_...">http://www.bigfootnetworks.com/Support/...arentcat...
    Reply
  • croc - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Nice try Derek... but there are so many network variables involved in testing like this that any reliable test results would be almost impossible to obtain. Nice job trying, but the testing just showed the limitations of the variables involved.

    Maybe with a 250k Cisco Spider platform some reliable tests could be performed. Think Anand would go for that? :-)

    I would have liked to see some packet captures from something like Wireshark, but the average reader may not get much more information from them, and unless you had several captures running on all points of the system in question, it would have been just another pointless excercise. (I doubt that you would get permission to run Wireshark on a WOW server, for instance)

    Way back when, I tried testing an Anthem Eagle 802.10 vs. a Compaq server nic to see if there was any advantage to paying three times the cost for an exchange server's outgoing nic. It was an internal exchange server we were testing to, so I could also capture against that as well. And we had a pretty good network management system for that time as well, even if it was only Openview.... (No spider probes back then...) After poring over all the captures and relevant data from the Openview platform, our best guess was that it would take 50 years for the high end nic to pay for itself.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - link

    That's sort of a conclusion in itself though ...

    I know my tests aren't perfect, but I really couldn't build anything better in a real world environment ...

    Of course, while I couldn't answer the question "is the Killer Xeno Pro always more efficient and higher performant than an onboard NIC" I could answer the question "does any difference in real performance delivered by the Killer Xeno Pro equate to a real difference in experience while gaming" ... the answer to the latter question is definitely no while the answer to the previous question (i suspect) is that the Killer does do more faster ... just not faster enough to make a big difference in modern games or for people to notice in the general case.
    Reply
  • siberus - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    "We played around with WoW for a while, but we don't have a high enough character to do anything where latency could really matter."

    Gotta respect anyone who admits to being a noob :)
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - link

    Yeah, I'm a no0b in WoW, but my EVE character is slightly uber :-P

    Not as uber as it should be for the 6 years I've been playing the game ... but definitely up there.

    Besides, EVE is still where it's at for PvP play in any MMO. Nothing matches it in my opinion.
    Reply
  • JimmiG - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Well I've already got a Quad core CPU where one or two cores remain at least partially dormant while gaming - no need to "offload" anything... Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - link

    well, bypassing the OS could have an impact -- and in fact very likely does have a very real measurable impact -- on response time (and thus lag reduction) ...

    but the problem is that this reduction in latency is very small relative to the rest of the network performance ...

    it really doesn't seem as much to me to be that it doesn't do anything useful -- just that games are currently coded to handle 100+ms latencies in shooters and can even handle many-hundred millisecond latencies for MMOs especially in the style of EVE.

    if network infrastructure continues to improve and game developers demand lower latency performance to accomplish certain tasks (like to support more people on a server for an FPS or MMOs with larger shards), something like the Killer might become more useful.
    Reply
  • flashbacck - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    "This hardware at this price is just not for everyone..."

    What the hell? This hardware at this price is not for ANYONE!
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - link

    well ... while we didn't find much use for the scenarios we tested, it very well might have more beneficial uses in other applications.

    we are actually interested in doing testing, specifically with the voice chat acceleration, with multiple Killer cards to see if has any measurable or noticeable impact on voice lag.
    Reply

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