Killer Network Manager and Other Thoughts

We’ve shown the performance of the Bigfoot Killer 1102. It’s good, no doubt about that. Before wrapping up, we wanted to go over a few other tidbits, like the Killer Network Manager utility, availability, and pricing.

One of the core parts of the Killer product line is the network manager utility. This is where you can prioritize network traffic from specific programs—or alternately set certain programs to a lower priority so they won’t interfere with important traffic. As one example, Bigfoot explains how you can run a BitTorrent client while gaming without massive amounts of lag. First, set the BitTorrent client to the lowest priority, and then set the game traffic to highest priority. Bigfoot’s utility already recognizes and prioritizes a lot of modern games traffic, but it’s easy to add other titles and applications. Below is a gallery of the user interface, showing the currently active processes that are using the network.

The ability to prioritize traffic works as advertised, but it only helps when you’re using multiple network streams on the same system. If you’re running BitTorrent on a different PC (or downloading Windows updates or some other large files), lag quickly becomes an issue on other networked PCs. If you want to overcome such problems, you’ll need a router that can prioritize network traffic (QoS). So ask yourself, how often are you in a situation where you have to download something bandwidth intensive while gaming? More likely, it’s your spouse or kids doing the downloading while you game, and they’re on a different PC. A good quality router with gaming QoS features would seem to fit that use case better than putting a single Killer Wireless-N adapter into one (or multiple) laptops.

Putting your money into a good router is thus my first recommendation, but another potential drawback with the Killer Wireless-N that immediately sticks out is the lack of Bluetooth support. Intel’s 6300 is in the same boat, but the Intel 6230 will get you 2.4+5GHz wireless along with Bluetooth; the 1102 with a separate Bluetooth device will typically run about $40 extra. Looking at pricing, some companies appear to be charging a premium for the Killer Wireless (Alienware for instance); $80 extra for the Killer 1103 plus Bluetooth compared to the Intel 6230 is a pretty steep upsell in my book. If you need Bluetooth, you would need a laptop with a second mini-PCIe slot for the Bluetooth adapter.

Another issue with Bigfoot’s Killer Wireless-N products is that they’re currently only available with a new laptop, so if you already have a laptop and you just want to upgrade the WiFi adapter, tough luck. We understand some OEMs don’t make swapping in a different WiFi adapter easy (Lenovo for sure, and probably a others as well). Rather than eliminate all aftermarket sales, however, we feel it would be better for Bigfoot to compile a list of known compatible and incompatible laptops and at least let the enthusiasts upgrade. This is certainly an enthusiast product, after all, and it’s doubtful non-enthusiasts would even be in the market for a new wireless adapter. Of course, finding other offerings is quite difficult; only Intel models are readily available online, e.g. at Newegg.com, or you’ll have to brave eBay and hope you can find what you’re after.

Update: Interestingly, Mythlogic just emailed me to inform me that they're also selling the Bigfoot 1102 and 1103 adapters via Amazon. You can grab the 1102 for $40, or go whole hog with the 1103 for $60. By comparison, Intel's 6200 goes for $24 and their 6300 costs $35 (though the latter is currently out of stock). So, if you have an laptop with poor wireless that you'd like to upgrade, you can take the plunge. I'm going to include this note in the conclusion as well, since this is important information on availability.

The above issues aren’t major problems, but I did want to make note of them before wrapping things up. Like most products, the Killer Wireless-N isn’t perfect. It does certain things really well, and sometimes it makes a few compromises to focus on those areas. As shown on the previous page, range is slightly less than some products, but trading range for performance makes sense for home users, and 5GHz networking is basically the same thing on a more dramatic scale.

What about Wired Ethernet? Bigfoot’s Killer Wireless-N 1102: Living up to Its Name
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  • Aikouka - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Jarred, if you asked me about a year ago... I never thought I'd recommend a Netgear product. My past encounters with their networking devices has been less than stellar. Even with that, I decided to take the plunge, and I purchased a WNDR3700 a few months back. It has treated me rather well so far and that's on stock firmware. It is DD-WRT compatible; so if you prefer their firmware, you're good to flash.

    Compared to the Airport Extreme, it is a bit weaker on the wireless front as it only supports MIMO 2x2, but its newer sibling, the WNDR4000, supports MIMO 3x3.

    The one feature I'd definitely argue for though is simultaneous dual-band. I don't think most people have homes with only 5Ghz devices. So with just a dual-band router, you'd be limited to 2.4Ghz anyway.
    Reply
  • xand42 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Any idea why the (default parameter) netperf tcp transmit results are so horrible across the board? I just ran netperf on my Advanced-N 6200 notebook and got 190Mbit/s to my Cisco E3000 router, basically the same value as with iperf and netcat and every other benchmark. Reply
  • Rick83 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    It would be fairly interesting to see the difference between the Killer NIC, server NICs, laptop NICs and desktop NIC's from different vendors (and in different implementations).
    As I run only a SSD in my desktop, and have my user profile residing on a NAS (Intel i5 powered NAS, though, not limited by the available cycles and RAM) on a RAID 5, with reasonable linear throughput, network performance is quite important for me, as it accelerates such tasks as generating thumbnails of files, listing large directories, local decompression (that's probably the worst offender, and with large archives I do this on the NAS directly) and many tasks that access my user profile that may be latency or throughput limited.

    For this reason I recently specifically got a mainboard with Intel network adapter, hoping for enhanced performance, but only realizing, that I'd have to hack the .inf to get driver support under my OS.

    On the NAS, I am currently using the RTL 8111D chips, one connected to the switch and the other to the modem. If using a decent chip increases my samba/nfs performance, I'd put down the 50 euros for the intel pro chip in a blink.

    Also you could test supported cable length, jumbo frame support, documentation (with some cards the maximum MTU is not properly documented, and it takes ages of non-fragmented pinging to discover the correct MTU) and performance of teaming and fail-over mechanisms.

    Also, 5Ghz was something that I tried in my parent's home, but we couldn't even connect a machine that was one ceiling and wall away, at less than 10 meters distance. Might have been just a spectacularly bad router (Linksys 320N) or maybe 5GHz is really just for line-of-sight applications.
    Reply
  • pityme - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Jarred,

    I think it would be nice to run tests of multiple wireless network interference like the kind observed in apartment/townhouse/condo situations. This is a big problem that no one seems to ever test/talk about.
    Reply
  • ckryan - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    True that. I live in a condo building in uptown Charlotte, NC and every unit has a wireless router of one kind or another. To make matters worse, the elevators seem to interfere somehow -- along with every wireless phone and microwave, the acres of glass and the steel structure. To top it off, there's an office building right next door which has many wireless systems on its own. Reply
  • ckryan - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Sometimes it seems like someone has cast some manner of evil voodoo on WiFi as a whole.

    I bought a Killer 2100 NIC because I thought it was a good idea -- and it was on sale. It is better than Intel's on-board Ethernet (and better still than Realtek) if only just barely. In reality, I just liked the idea of dedicated hardware for my networking needs. It really did make a difference, and really is some good stuff, but probably not worth the substantial premium over garden variety PCIe NICs (for most people). I'm glad I bought it... but only because it was on sale.

    The Killer product line is in the position of having a product family which does perform mostly as advertised, but becomes a tough sell when you already have onboard ethernet or wifi. It has to be difficult to sell a consumer NIC that costs as much as a 80GB SSD or mid range video card. For $65 or $70 it's great. At $140, not so much. As such, I'm glad to see them trying to put their hardware inside other hardware, like networking cordon bleu. Shoving their "NPU" onto the PCBs of video and sound cards, motherboards, and laptops is a good idea and if nothing else add a little variety to the mix. It would easily be worth an extra $25 -$35 premium for a motherboard in any price range to get their NIC over the bog standard Realtek. It can't possibly cost more than the NF200 or Hydra chips on mid and high end mainboards and is surely worth an extra $20 on top of a laptop as well. Whether they can sell this particular device sans lappy at a reasonable price or even at all remains to be seen.
    Reply
  • honvl - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I'm on a wireless card and want to test my latency. Where can I find this GaNE tool? Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    This result really surprised me, I was expecting results like their wired products (no difference). My guess is that the biggest factor is the support for more channels but the performance really does seem markably better. I'm gearing up to by a new Alienware laptop near the end of the year and I may very well check the box for a Killer-N upgrade. Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Isn't there a wide gap between what tech sites review, and what users use ? I know it's part of the purview of a tech site to go for the 0.001%-of-users, bleeding-edge stuff, but... has anyone ever seen a review of mainstream Wifi adapters/laptop anywhere ? As one of the 99.999%, I'd be interested ! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Bigfoot offered, so I thought, "Hey, this could be fun." Well, it wasn't. WiFi testing is a real pain in the butt I've decided. Still, it would be good to look at some other products. We might come back to the subject in the near future; I'm going to see about soliciting a bunch of different WiFi adapters and see what turns up. Obviously, I have at least the 6230 and 6300 from Intel. I want to add the Killer 1103, some Broadcom stuff, etc. Really, I'd want to focus on just dual-band cards, though -- anything that can't do 5GHz becomes less interesting after playing with the Linksys E4200. Reply

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