Killer 2100 NIC £94
22nd Jul 2010 | 15:10
Killing any hope for third-party network interface cards
Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100 NIC - Overview
The Killer M1 and K1 showed promised, but were undermined by their high costs, and now Bigfoot Network's Killer 2100 is here to put that right.
Since its inception in 2006 Bigfoot Networks has had one thing on its mind – producing gaming network cards.
It initially launched a pair of NICs that promised to offload the handling of network traffic away from the CPU, and thus offering a performance boost for gamers.
The Killer M1 and later the Killer K1 boasted dedicated processors that the company deemed Network Processing Units (NPUs), and were mini systems in their own right, running a version of Linux and having access to their dedicated memory.
Both cards did show a certain amount of promise, but that massive price premium was a problem, particularly as the Killer's benchmarks showed the biggest performance boosts in older machines – the owners of which were least likely market to spend over £200 on something that is generally covered for free by your motherboard.
Bigfoot Networks is back once again though, this time with the most cost-conscious card to date, Killer 2100.
Can the culling of the original NPU's more-esoteric features produce a more focused and rounded gaming network card?
We can but hope…
Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100 NIC - Benchmarks
The Killer 2100 shows some improvements over the integrated Intel 82567LF-2 network controller in our test rig, but the difference is so slight as to be almost impossible to detect in real terms.
We did see a small boost in the framerates in Lead and Gold, but it was hardly game changing.
In World of Warcraft the framerates were untouched, but the latency did improve. Unfortunately the results were significantly slower than when using a common tweak that disables the Nagle algorithm to boost TCP/IP performance.
MMO gaming latency
Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100 NIC - Verdict
Unlike the original M1 and K1, the Killer 2100 boasts a PCI-Express interface, with Bigfoot Networks opting to use a single lane connector that you can plug into any spare 1x, 4x or 16x socket.
A single network port adorns the back of the card, with the main PCB obscured by a black plastic grill that makes a nod to server room styling.
Underneath this grill you'll find the large Killer NPU alongside a pair of Samsung memory chips that provide the card with 128MB of DDR2 to play around with.
Installing the card is straightforward enough, which is a significant improvement over the initial cards, which were plagued with driver problems.
Once finished, the Bigfoot Networks Dashboard tells you how much work the card is doing and enables you to manage and shape your network traffic so that you dictate which applications have the lion's share of your bandwidth.
The Killer 2100 does offer improvements, but they're not as marked as many would imagine or buyers would hope. The problem is, there are so many factors that affect your online gaming that shaving a few milliseconds off that last stage isn't going to revolutionize your experience.
And for just under £100 we would expect something more significant.
Yet again, the machines that benefit from the Killer 2100 are those older machines, where dedicated handling of the network stack frees up your processor to handle the game, and can result in a significant boost in performance.
This is the card Bigfoot Networks should have released four years ago: it's polished, well designed and focused on one job. It does what it sets out to do as well…
Unfortunately the difference this card will have on your system is dependant on its age. Newer systems won't get a tangible benefit from freeing up the CPU, while the differences it can make to latencies are so slight as to make it mostly irrelevant.
As with the original Killer NIC M1, the Killer 2100 is just too expensive.
It may have dropped in price, but compared to the networking that you already have inside your machine, £94 seems a lot to pay for the smallest of improvements.