Do you remember the day's when your network controller was actually on a separate card? Well those days might be returning through the efforts of Bigfoot Networks. The Killer 2100 is a network interface controller designed for online games and boy does it get the job done.
The premise of the Killer 2100 is that the way network traffic is handled in most computers sucks for games. Network traffic is generally sent through the windows stack and the CPU handles it when it gets a chance. In most cases that is not a huge problem, but during an intense gaming match, where the CPU is very busy, this can cause some serious delays or lag as most gamers would say. The Killer 2100, on the other hand, using an onboard chip to do processing and detection of game traffic. Once game traffic has been detected, the Killer 2100 will route that traffic around the windows network stack, ensuring speedy delivery. When I first heard this explanation, I thought it was just a bunch of market nonsense. It has to be my lousy Internet connection that is causing me to have such bad lag and a card cannot do anything about my connection to the Internet, right? Well it turns out, it can and definitely does.
How much better does it make your connection? Well to figure that out, Bigfoot Networks kindly provided me with some benchmarks. Of course, I rarely trust the benchmarks that a company makes itself, so I made a few of my own. Happily the results from all of the benchmarks were the same, impressive.
Benchmark 1: Self Coded TCP
This is my own coded benchmark which sends TCP packets various computers a few hundred times. It records the average round trip time(RTT), the minimum RTT, and maximum RTT to each computer. As can be seen in the graph, the Killer 2100's minimum RTT was the same as the onboard NIC. The minimum RTT is basically determined only by the Internet connection. The average and maximum on the other hand show a much different story. While the computer is busy, the Killer 2100 shows an average improvement of 10 ms, and even more impressively the Killer 2100 keeps the maximum RTT 40 ms shorter. If you think this is impressive, wait till you see the UDP results.
Benchmark 2: Netperf TCP and UDP
Netperf is a well known and widely used benchmarking tool. It focuses mostly on data transfers. The data from this benchmark was very revealing about how the Killer 2100 was designed. In the TCP test, The Killer 2100 actually transferred slower than my onboard card. Not by much, ~5%, but still slower. On the other hand, the UDP test showed the Killer 2100 to be over 500% faster than my onboard card. The Killer was designed with UDP acceleration in mind and boy does it deliver.
Benchmark 3: GANE UDP
GANE is a benchmark created by Bigfoot Networks. While you put your computer under load, they recommend running the Resident Evil 5 Animation Benchmark, it sends out small UDP packets on a regular basis. It sends these packets from both of your network controllers while the test is running. This means that the packets were sent out in similar network and CPU conditions. The size and intervals of the UDP packets are meant to mimic normal game behavior, so they are sent out roughly 50 ms apart and are fairly tiny at 100 bytes. The results of this benchmark will blow you away.
Mean Ping Time Adapter 1 = 0.222018, Std Dev Adapter 1 = 0.080121
Mean Ping Time Adapter 2 = 7.619022, Std Dev Adapter 2 = 8.984156
Avg of worst 10 Pct Adapter 1 = 0.304167
Avg of worst 10 Pct Adapter 2 = 27.829032
Killer 2100 was 34.3 times faster than on board with 112.1 times less jitter
Wow… just wow. This benchmark just amazes me. I thought it must be a fluke, but according to other reports that I have read, people are really getting these kinds of numbers consistently.
Now that you know how awesome the Killer 2100 is technically, let us look at how you go about using it. Installation is easy as you plug it into a free PCIe x1 slot. It is a very tiny card so it shouldn't get in the way of your video cards or mess with your airflow. Next, you install the software that comes on the cd, or download it from the Bigfoot Networks webpage. Then you can plug your ethernet cable into it and you are good to go.
The software itself is very nice and easy to use. The main screen shows you all sorts of stats about your computer and your Internet connection, assuming you have the pc monitoring tool turned on.
On another page, you can look at all of the applications that are accessing the Internet. From this page you can see exactly how much bandwidth each application is using. Even better than that, you can actually control each applications bandwidth. Finding that your favorite downloading client is slowing down youtube? Well you simply use the slider next to that application to lower its bandwidth cap.
Finally there is a place to view all sorts of stats, such as ping times, memory usage, and FPS. This allows you to see if something in your computer caused the lag, or if it was just your Internet connection. It is well organized into graphs that can be saved as a csv files. This allows you to easily use this data in other visualization tools, or as input to an analyzer.
The Killer 2100 is really an amazing piece of technology. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves their online games. To make things even better, just this week the piece has dropped from $129.99 to $89.99 MSRP.