Bigfoot Killer 2100 Gaming Network Card Review

ajmatson - 2011-02-20 19:32:42 in Networking
Category: Networking
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: March 22, 2011
Price: $77.00

Introduction:

When it comes to picking components for gaming, you normally think of video cards, fast CPUs and lots of memory. There are some components that are overlooked, including the most important component, which is the network card. The whole idea behind online gaming is sending packets over the Internet to a game server. If the packets are lost or they are slow to get sent out, then your gaming suffers and more often than not, you end up being the one with a massive bullet through your head. To combat this issue, you need the right gaming gear including your CPU, GPU and a proper network card. No matter how fast your system is, if your gaming packets are not first on the wire, let alone making it at all, your skill does not matter.

Bigfoot Networks has designed several gaming network cards over the past few years and today we are going to be taking a look at one of the latest, the Killer 2100. Not only designed with the hardware in mind, Bigfoot paired it with the Killer Network Manager to give you a more granular control over your network traffic. The Killer 2100 has an onboard Network Processing Unit that off loads your networking data from the main CPU and gives it the ability to bypass the windows networking stack for faster packet flow. If you need to make sure your packets are getting to the servers the fastest, then the Killer 2100 is designed for what you need. In addition, one thing to consider is not only does this card help you with first on wire packets for your ISP, but if you attend LAN parties as many gamers do, then those with a faster network card and all other components the same, will be doing the T-Bag dance of glory, as you will have faster first on wire abilities for your packets.

If you’re not familiar with how online gaming works, then here is a brief overview for you. Gaming packets use the User Datagram Protocol (UDP). UDP is a connection-less protocol that does not require acknowledgements of sent packets for re-transmission if they fail. This keeps the data stream running without having to pause or slow down until all the packets arrive. VoIP uses this protocol because a slight hiccup in the stream is tolerable if that means that the communication continues uninterrupted. Gaming does this as well with the UDP style of throwing packets out there and hoping they reach the destination. On a gaming server, the stream follows the same suit. It receives a packet in a one by one fashion and whoever gets there first — well if a bullet is traveling at you, then you know what happens next — his packet reaches the server first and you are waiting the 60 seconds to respawn. If I already have you intrigued, then how about we move on and get started on seeing what the Killer 2100 has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

The Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100 comes packaged in a small-sized box with a "killer" profile. The Bigfoot Networks logo appears on the front of the package, along with some of the features that the Killer 2100 offers, including up to 10x faster communication. On the rear of the package, there is an image of what the Killer 2100 design looks like, as well as a screenshot of the Killer Network Manager. The back also has an expansion of some of the features of the network card. On the sides of the box, Bigfoot has laid out the system requirements and specifications of the Killer 2100, as well as a few testimonials.

 

 

 

The Killer 2100 comes packed up with the essentials needed for you to get started. Included with the card itself is the setup guide and the driver CD. The CD not only contains the drivers, but also the Bigfoot Networks Killer Network Manager.

 

Now that the card is out of the box, let's take a closer look at the hardware.

Closer Look:

The Killer 2100 uses a small compact design compared to many network cards on the market. This piece of hardware is a dedicated network card so there are no other functions that it needs to perform, thus allowing it to focus on its duties. The top of the card is covered with an aluminum grill and had the Bigfoot Networks logo. On the front of the card there is a single network port sitting next to the Killer "K" logo. There are two LEDs next to the port that indicate the mode and activity of the connection. The Killer 2100 can operate at 10Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1Gbps speeds for fast data transfers. The Killer 2100 pairs with the Killer Network Manager to give you more granular control over your network data by prioritizing traffic to fit your needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Killer 2100 uses a PCI Express x1 slot for its transfer interface. This interface can also fit into x4, x8 and x16 slots while still operating at x1 speeds, so any newer computer system can use it. Removing the mesh cover, you can see the network processor and the onboard memory. The CPU is a 400MHz Network Processing Unit (NPU) and the memory is 128MB DDR2 running at 266MHz. The use of the onboard CPU and memory offloads the data from the system CPU and memory, increasing processing speeds and lowering ping and game lag.

 

 

 

With the hardware under our belt, let's take a look at the software that helps drive the Killer 2100.

Closer Look:

To compliment the Killer 2100 hardware, Bigfoot Networks has designed the Killer Network Manager. The Network Manager allows you to control the upload and download speeds for applications accessing your network resources, as well as allowing you to prioritize packets from specific applications over others based on what you want to have the quickest network access. The application is laid out in sections, making it easy to navigate to what you need. The first menu is the Overview tab, which gives you critical system information, including network activity, average time for round trip ICMP and UDP packets, and current NPU usage. The second tab is the PC Monitor section, which allows you to view in real time your CPU usage, round trip ICMP and UDP ping times, and current network utilization for incoming and outgoing traffic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third tab is probably the most important tab, the Application section. This is where the application control brings into light what the Killer 2100 can do. In this section, you can set priorities for network traffic. There is a scale of 1 to 3, with one being the highest priority and three being the lowest. You can set a default priority to all applications, which I did as priority 3, and adjust specific applications to a higher priority based on need. In addition to setting priorities, you can specify the upload and download maximums for each application. In the example below, I placed the Bittorrent application to have a maximum of 1Mbps upload and download, which keeps it from using my total network bandwidth for just that application. The last two tabs are the Network and Advanced tabs. In these two sections, you control the settings of the Killer 2100, including your ISP speed settings and more. One feature that is nice to have on the manager is the ability to turn off the red glowing LED on the PC board. While some like this feature, as I do, others might not and you have the ability to turn it off.

 

 

Now that we have seen the hardware and the application control software, we can move on to the testing.

Specifications:

Speeds & Feeds…
Model:
Killer 2100
Speeds:
10/100/1000 Mbps auto-negotiation
Features:
Control Panel Application & Tray Indicator
Advanced Game Detect™ (traffic classification)
Visual Bandwidth Control™
Application Blocker
Online Gaming PC Monitor™
UDP traffic offload & acceleration
Windows Network Stack bypass
Compatibility:
Microsoft Windows 7 32-bit
Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
Microsoft Windows Vista 32-bit
Microsoft Windows Vista 64-bit
Microsoft Windows XP 32-bit
Processor:
400 MHz Bigfoot Networks Processor
Memory:
128MB DDR2 266MHz
Connector:
PCIe x1
Ports:
RJ-45 Ethernet
Power Requirements:
Max 10W, Typical 3W
Certification /Compliance:
Microsoft:
WHQL Certification for: Windows XP 32-bit, Vista, and Windows 7
IEEE Compliance:
802.3, 802.3u, 820.3x, 802.3z, 802.3ac, 802.3ab
Regulatory:
FCC Class B (CFR 47, Part 15, Subpart B)
CE
Physical:
Dimensions:
4.75" x 4.97" x .875"
11.1cm x 12.6cm x 2.1cm
Single slot PCIe
Weight:
4 oz

 

Features:

 

All information courtsey of Bigfoot Networks @ http://www.bigfootnetworks.com/killer-2100/

Testing:

Now we get to the point we all have been waiting for. To test the Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100, I will be running a series of tests designed to give us a good idea of how the card performs and how it compares against both another dedicated network card and an onboard NIC. The tests were run with an ISP speed of 12Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. All tests were run in the same manor to eliminate as many variables as possible. For the file transfer tests and the Passmark Network benchmark, I used another computer on my network connected to a Netgear Gigabit switch and using CAT6 cabling.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. SpeedTest.net Online Network test
  2. Real-Time File Transfer
  3. Passmark Performance Test 7 (Network Test)
  4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  5. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with Bittorrent

 

Speed Test:

Speedtest.net puts the most sophisticated broadband testing and analysis tools into the hands of anyone interested in finding out just how connected they actually are. This free service from Ookla opens hundreds of testing locations around the world to anyone curious about the performance of their Internet connection. The test was run three times and the average taken for each one.

 

 

In the Speedtest.net runs, the Killer 2100 actually pulled off the highest download and upload speeds and matched the onboard NIC for the ping.

Real-Time File Transfer:

To measure the real-time abilities of the different network cards, I setup a one-to-one transfer of a 1000MB file between two computers on my local network. Both computers were connected to a Gigabit switch with CAT6 cable between the two hosts and the switch. There were two sets of tests run, one for the upload speed and one for the download speed. The transfers were measured using TeraCopy, which is a free utility for transferring files.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passmark Performance Test 7:

The PassMark Advanced Network Test is designed to test the data transfer rate between two computers, both of which must be running the PerformanceTest utility. One of the computers must act as the server and will sit waiting for a connection. The other computer acts as a client. The client connects to the server machine and sends data to it for the duration of the test. This test measures the average transfer speed for TCP and UDP sessions between the client and server hosts.

 

 

In the Real Time File Transfer tests, the Killer 2100 had the fastest upload time, but turned around and had the slowest download speed. In the Passmark Performance Test 7 runs, the TCP test was in the middle for the Killer 2100, but for the UDP tests, which is what the card is designed for, it had the fastest run by over 20MB/s, which is huge for UDP traffic.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a massive online multiplayer game that lets you battle your opponents on servers all over the world. To effectively play you need a combination of low pings and high frame rates. Game traffic is sent from your game application to servers on the Internet using UDP packets. As mentioned earlier, UDP is used for games because the data is time sensitive and can afford to lose a few packets here and there to keep the flow of communication going without having to stop and retransmit lost packets. For this test, I ran the game and measured the average ping and FPS for a five minute period. I ensured the same server was used for each test to try and keep a constant variable. One set of tests was run with just BC2 and Fraps running. The other set, I also started several Bittorrent file transfers. For the Killer 2100, I used the Network Manager to limit the Bittorrent application to a maximum of 1MB upload and 1MB download with a low priority, to see if it helps the speed of the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 benchmark, the highest FPS came from the Killer 2100, albeit only be a couple of frames, but the pings were a lot lower than the onboard NIC or the Netgear NIC.

Conclusion:

After running the Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100 through the ringer, I have a fond respect for what it does. The claim is that it offers lower pings and higher FPS in games using UDP packet styles, which are the vast majority of online games out there that connect to the Internet for play. UDP is a connection-less protocol that spams packets onto the wire without first establishing a session or using a delivery confirmation method like TCP does. With the nature of UDP, if a packet gets lost it is not retransmitted, which if enough packets are dropped, then you start to notice a real interruption in your games. The Killer 2100 is designed to give your UDP packets first priority to the wire to help lessen the probability of dropped game packets. After seeing the tests, the combination of the hardware and the Killer Network Manager provided UDP transfers that were faster than both the onboard and Netgear discrete NICs.

The Killer Network Manager is one of the key components that make the Killer 2100 as good as it is. The software allows you to control the priority of packets from applications using your system's network resources, as well as the ability to control how much bandwidth each one is allowed to use. As an example, when I was running the tests with the Bittorrent application, I was able to throttle down the upload and download speeds to a maximum of 1Mbps, keeping it from using a lot of my bandwidth. This gave my game the ability to squeeze a few more packets onto the wire faster, which could mean the difference between my bullet killing my opponent or his killing me first.

While this card will not double your network speed, if you are hardcore into gaming and every second counts, then you will benefit from the abilities of the Killer 2100. If you are a casual gamer, then the onboard NIC will suit you just fine. The Killer 2100 is designed for gamers that put everything into their systems to get the most out of it. Think of it like you would your GPU — while some integrated graphics are fine for casual gamers, those who demand the best add better, discrete cards. Your network card is no different — if you are wanting every edge you can, then this is the card for you. I have seen it as low as $77 on some sites, which is a steal for the Killer 2100.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: