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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  • zephon85 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Any words on the impact of the different wifi adapters on notebook battery life? Would be quite good to know how much (if any) time you gain by using different wireless cards... Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I could be wrong but given the upper limit on mini-PCI and mini-PCIe power capacity, I'd assume differences between cards on the same interface would be negligible in the real world. You might be able to demonstrate small statistically significant differences between cards using large sample sizes and very rigorous, controlled testing, but that's an enormous amount of time and effort to show that card X yields 5-6 more minutes of battery runtime than card Y. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I'll cover the battery life question in the laptop review; I didn't actually take the time to perform those tests yet. I don't expect much of a difference, as WiFi adapters are usually pulling less than 250mW, but we'll see. Reply
  • Souka - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I'll put my $.02 in.

    Different cards have different drivers....each with their own defaul power settings.

    Unless all the various options are taken into account, it can be really hard to get a apples-2-apples comparison of power needs.

    But I agree to a point, the wi-fi power draw is really low compared to drive, memory, cpu, gpu, and LCD power needs.

    Kinda think of driving a car with the antenna up vs down.... yes it does make a difference, but not much.

    My $.02
    :)
    Reply
  • SquattingDog - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Just to post on this - Wireless being on or off can make a huge difference to battery life on notebooks - so some testing between cards could definitely be good. Eg on a Netbook I have (Asus n10jc), I typically get around 30 - 45min more battery life with wifi OFF.

    In saying that, since upgrading from a 54mbps wifi network to a 300mbps wifi network, I have seen no difference in battery usage on the machine (connects at 300Mbps now).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    True, but you're looking at a netbook that idles at around 7W. A reduction in power draw of .25W would be a lot more noticeable on that than on a full laptop that's drawing 12-15W minimum. Reply
  • Souka - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    with wi-fi on you may have a fair amount of network activity going on...which also increases the draw by the cpu/drive/mb/etc

    anyhow...good points all! :)
    Reply
  • philosofool - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Wireless networking isn't something I really keep up on, so I don't know much past the various 802.11 names. What, forexample, does 3x3:3 mean and why might I like that more than some other configuration? Reply
  • A5 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    From Page 1 of the review:

    "While we’re on the subject, let’s clarify what the MIMO numbers mean. When we’re talking about a 2x2:2 part, the first digit is the number of transmit chains, the second is the total number of receive chains, and the third is the total number of data streams supported. It’s possible to have a 3x3:2 device, for example, which would use the extra transmit and receive chains to improve SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio), but the number of streams cannot be more than the larger of the transmit/receive chains (so 2x2:3 isn’t possible, but 2x3:3 is)."

    Theoretically, a 3x3:3 device offers 3x the bandwidth of a 1x1:1 device.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review, it looks like my bias against everything "killer" will have to be adjusted a bit. While I'm still not sure that the performance difference is terribly meaningful, neither is $20 in most laptops. Reply

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