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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  • marsbound2024 - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    "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."

    Dang...did you guys sneak into my house last night and check out my computer? I've yet to upgrade from my antiquated 7600GT, Athlon64 3800+ 2.4GHz single-core processor! The time to upgrade is nigh though. I've been hanging on to that system for a while now because it does everything I need it to at the moment with Windows XP. After work, I don't really care about coming home and doing anything CPU intensive on my PC and I play my games on console. However, Crysis Warhead and such have led me to continue to want to get a new system.
    Reply
  • Atechie - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    1. Eve Oneline is TCP, games that benefit are UDP based.
    2. "Since we can't get an assessment of ping times in EVE, we did some testing on WoW in the same unpopulated area. Normalized to the average latency we experienced while not downloading a torrent, here's the latency incurred by downloading a torrent"

    Unpopulated, not stressing area...why bother is yoo are going to scew the test?

    3. Clueless reviewer
    4. profit?

    Looking at this test it almost look as it was meant to be a less than stellar test
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    The killer benefits both UDP and TCP games ... not just one or the other.

    We tested in an unpopulated area in WoW in order to keep things as deterministic as possible. Some of the tests we ran were not strictly deterministic, but it is incredibly hard to construct tests that work in populated areas that generate usable data at all.

    the WoW test, even in an unpopulated area, did show that there is a difference in network performance while downloading a torrent. We didn't see this sort of difference while not downloading a torrent, however.

    The real issue is that proper testing almost needs to be in a clean room sort of environment where multiple scenarios can be played back across the network and on the PC to show what the actual differences in performance would have been.

    But even when that shows some actual performance differences (as I believe it would) the benefits just don't present themselves to the end user in any truly beneficial way.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Quit your whining. Derek has already responded to these issues. Reply
  • hooflung - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    And Derek was wrong. At least I am not the only one who pointed this out. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Once again --

    EVE uses both TCP and UDP and not just TCP. WoW, it seems by all accounts I can find online, uses only TCP.

    Aside from this, the Killer hardware accelerates both TCP and UDP not just one or the other, so the whole issue doesn't matter one bit.
    Reply
  • stmok - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    While I can see why they tried to target the gaming market, it just feels like its more suited for server or hacker/enthusiast audience. (So I agree with the author in that regard.)

    The irony of this product is that, while it uses an embedded version of Linux on the NIC, it isn't fully supported under Linux! ie: Say if you used Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, or "whatever is your fav distro" in your system; you wouldn't be able to have full access to all its features! Its a "Windows only" thing!

    The product has potential...It just feels the company is focusing on an audience who won't really appreciate what the product can do. Its kind of wasted in that sense.
    Reply
  • trochevs - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    I agree. Until they open the access to the embedded OS and other people and hackers develop apps for it it will be doomed.

    If I had access to the hardware I would install scaled down version of my web server LAMP and shutdown the main PC. If the traffic jumps I would wake the main server and handle the demand.

    Other cool use could be to upload the Asterisk and have 24/7 VoIP PBX without the need to run the PC 24/7

    How about to run my torrent server without running the PC.

    And the end. Keep the PC in hibernate and when I need it for remote access I can connect to the NIC and wake it up.

    This has wonderful potentials, but until Xeno executives wake up from their dream to become the next Gates or Jobs with proprietary platform this would be yet one more great idea and impressive engineering that never going to see light of the day.

    Open platform please. Just like the PC.
    Reply
  • Stas - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    Would be silly to bother with support for Linux when this is marketed as a GAMING product. Windows makes sense. Reply
  • stmok - Saturday, July 4, 2009 - link

    "Would be silly to bother with support for Linux when this is marketed as a GAMING product. Windows makes sense."

    => What kind of gamer would take the time to download the SDK for this product and help develop applications for the hardware?

    This is EXACTLY what I mean when I say the product is aimed at the wrong market. Gamers won't bother. Gamers aren't developers.

    Than again, how much sense does Windows make when you are replacing its network stack with this?
    Reply

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