REMEMBER THE KILLER NIC? No, well, it was a product that was intended to reduce latency for gamers and it was created by a company called Bigfoot Networks. The original version was a PCI card that came in a couple of slightly different versions, both also sporting a USB port, hardware firewall and the ability to run software directly from its onboard SoC. A PCI Express version came out later on with an audio pass-through feature, but neither model proved to be a huge hit. Now Bigfoot Networks are bag with the Killer 2100, yet another PCI Express card.
This time around it seems like most of the gimmicks are gone, as the Killer 2100 only features an Ethernet port. Bigfoot Networks argument for its Killer NIC products is that they are meant to bypass Microsoft’s network stack and some other Windows related drivers. This is meant to lower the latency during game play, as the custom SoC on the network card has its own “Killer optimized stack”.
The Killer NICs run a custom Linux kernel and this is also what allows the custom applications to run on the cards. The new Killer 2100 appears to feature the same 400MHz SoC as the previous Killer NICs, although the onboard memory has been upgraded from 128MB of DDR to 128MB of DDR2. As a NIC you get Gigabit speeds out of the Killer 2100 and that’s pretty much as exciting as the hardware features goes, unless you count the “performance-inspired housing” as a feature.
Bigfoot Networks supplies some fancy software with the card as well which is supposed to detect when you’re playing games. The software has apparently been completely re-designed for the Killer 2100 and a few new features have been added. The way the Killer 2100 is meant to work is that data packets from games are prioritized over other network traffic. This means downloads will be throttled and other network traffic is also shuffled to the back of the queue.
Michael Howse, the CEO of Bigfoot Networks does of course claim that the “Killer 2100 is the fastest network card available for online games, period”. Make what you want of that, as the past Killer NICs have failed to impress reviewers. The good news is that Bigfoot Networks will be at Computex this year, so we’ll make sure to swing by their booth for a closer look. For now we’ll remain sceptical, especially as the Killer 2100 has an MSRP of $129, which is a lot of money for a NIC.S|A
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