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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  • neothe0ne - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    "And Dell, Asus, Acer, and Sony all do the same thing."

    Are you sure about that? I was under the impression HP and Lenovo were alone in the industry with the WLAN whitelist. And anyway, Dell does offer the Intel Centrino 6230 on the XPS 15 now, unlike HP's dv6 which is stuck in budget-tier Intel WiFi Link 1000 land.
    Reply
  • cjl - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    Dell, at least in their Alienware products, definitely does not whitelist. After reading this article, I got one of the Killer 1102 cards for my M11xR2 (which comes with a rather terrible card by default, and there were no upgrade options offered), and it works just fine. I popped it in, installed the drivers, and everything has been working great since. Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    Hello,

    -Thanks for the article, but did you tested those adapters with or without any security/encryption/password protection scheme? I mean WEP or WPA/WPA2 - I think encryption put some overhead in the throughput.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    All testing was done with WPA2 AES. Most modern cards do fine with that, though a few years back it was sometimes slower IIRC. Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    -Okay, thanks for the clarification. :) Reply
  • Yummer72 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the informative review.

    I wonder if Bigfoot will continue to have an advantage if the "WLAN Optimizer" program was used with the other WiFi cards?

    http://www.martin-majowski.de/wlanoptimizer/

    I have personally seen significantly improved performance and the elimination of "lag spikes" (QuakeLive) with this software tweak.

    Any comments?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    I'll give that a try; it could very well remove the spikes, leaving the primary advantage as the lower base latency. Reply
  • bhima - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    You should review that 95% color gamut matte screen in that Mythlogic ;) Reply
  • loopingz - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    First of all thanks for highlighting that I can change my wifi adaptator on my laptop. Mine is always frozing during transfert in windows (linux is fine).

    Second thanks for helping me choosing the good one.

    I hesitate now between intel 6300 for range, correct performance and price, and the 110 2/3 for pure performance.
    May be best of two worlds intel 6300 in the eeepc that travel a lot and bigfoot in the main home laptop.

    Can I recycle a my old wifi card or a new one using an antenna and puting it in my desktop computer?

    I will give try to Wlanoptimizer too because watching movie from the raid5 nas still not perfect (router linksys e3k).

    Thanks for the good job.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    "Wireless networking also tends to need more overhead for error checking and interference losses, and there’s a question of whether the streams are linearly independent enough to get higher throughput, orientation, directionality of signal, etc. Even though you might connect at 450Mbps or 300Mbps, you’ll never actually reach anywhere near that level of throughput. In our testing, the highest throughput we ever saw was around 75% utilization of the available bandwidth, and that was on a 300Mbps connection."

    This is not a useful description of the situation. The nominal speed of a connection (ie the MCS index) already includes error correction overhead --- that's why you see a range of bit-rates, with the same parameters (modulation, number of streams, bandwidth) --- these different bit-rates correspond to different levels of error correction, from the strongest (1/2 coding rate) to the weakest (5/6).

    It is also unlikely that corrupt packets and the retransmission (what you are calling "interference losses", though in your environment noise is likely more relevant than interference) are substantial --- both ends aggressively modify the MCS index to get the best throughput, and try to keep the number of corrupt packets low.

    The real issue is the MAC --- the negotiations over who next gets airtime. This used to be a big deal with wired ethernet as well, of course, but it went away with switches around the time we all moved to 100TX. The basic 802.11n MAC does not rely on any real co-ordination, just on timing windows and retries, and it wastes a phenomenal amount of time. 802.11e improves the situation somewhat (I expect all the systems that get 75% efficiency are using 802.11e, otherwise they'd see around 50% efficiency), but it's still not perfect.
    What one really wants is a central arbiter (like in a cell system) that hands out time slots, with very specific rules about who can talk when. For reasons I don't understand, 802.11 has been very resistant to adding such a MAC protocol (802.11e has elements of this, but does not go full-hog), but I would not be surprised if we finally see such as part of the 802.11n successor --- it's just such an obvious place to pick up some improvement. The real problem is that to do it right you have to give up backward compatibility, and no-one wants to do that. At least if we'd had it in 802.11n, then we'd be part way to a better world (people could switch it on once all their g equipment died, eg at home).
    Reply

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