When gamers gather to discuss performance issues, complaints revolve around graphics cards, CPUs, and bloated game code. Not too many gamers will pipe up and say, “Y’know, that integrated NIC on my motherboard is really costing me some frag.”
Bigfoot hopes that will change with the Killer2100. In this third iteration of its Ethernet card for gamers, Bigfoot has focused narrowly on building a card that minimizes lag while maintaining maximum bandwidth.
In our discussions with the folks from Bigfoot, they were frank about their past products, noting that the first Killer NIC painted with too broad a brush. For example, few users took advantage of the Linux kernel on the K1, nor did many use the integrated BitTorrent client. While gaming-PC vendors shipped thousands of cards, hardware reviewers, ourselves included, were unimpressed.
Bigfoot’s Killer2100 NIC succeeds in reducing lag—but it may not matter.
Bigfoot went back to the drawing board for the Killer2100. The actual network chip is pretty much the same, but the firmware and drivers have been tuned. The Killer2100 still bypasses the Windows network stack, but where the older products would demonstrate bandwidth reductions in their attempts to improve ping times, the 2100’s bandwidth is at least a match for the best integrated NICs.
Like Killer’s earlier Xeno, the 2100 is a PCI Express x1 card, but unlike the Xeno, it offers only a single RJ45 gigabit Ethernet jack. Bigfoot also includes the Killer Network Manager, which allows you to custom-tailor connection speeds, priorities, and other settings.
We popped the 2100 into a Puget Systems Serenity quiet gaming PC, which is equipped with a Core i7-870, 4GB of RAM, and an AMD Radeon HD 5850. It’s not bleeding-edge, but certainly still fairly high-end. The Asus P7P55D-E Pro motherboard in the Puget comes with an onboard Realtek gigabit Ethernet chip, something fairly common in motherboards.
We loaded up three games: Lord of the Rings Online, Team Fortress 2, and Borderlands, all of which offer somewhat different experiences. LOTRO is an MMO, which optimizes for server distances when you connect. Team Fortress 2 is the classic PvP multiplayer game, while Borderlands offers an almost pure co-op gaming experience. We recorded 15-20 minute sessions with and without the Killer2100, using FRAPS. We connected to the same servers at the same time of day on the same day of the week.
In all three cases, the Realtek adapter showed very high ping peaks. The worst case was in the MMO, which occasionally hit peaks of over 1,000ms (1 second) and often hit pings over 400ms. The Killer2100 occasionally hit peak pings higher than 150ms, but those were fairly rare. LOTRO would sometimes feel less laggy with the Killer2100 during gameplay, but lag was never a glaring problem with the Realtek part. At the time we played, however, our particular server wasn’t heavily loaded.
We saw similar behavior with Team Fortress 2, but the scale was much different. Sure, the Realtek NIC would hit high peaks more often than the Killer2100—but those peaks were still shy of 45ms. We noticed no subjective difference between the two parts with TF2 on a fairly busy, 16-player server.
Like LOTRO, Borderlands would occasionally hit some very high pings with Realtek, while the Killer NIC only exceeded 400ms once (keeping well below 100ms the rest of the time.) Again, though, the subjective experience between the two sessions felt no different.
The Killer2100 will be available from add-in board partners such as EVGA for about $120, as well as bundled into gaming PCs.
The bottom line is that the Killer2100 does what Bigfoot promises—lowers ping times while maintaining high throughput. But unless you’re a twitchy pro gamer, you probably won’t notice any subjective difference. And while the Killer Network Manager is a cool little app, we’re unconvinced that the package is really worth $120.
Bigfoot Killer2100 Network Interface Card
Empire Strikes Back
Lowers ping times relative to integrated NICs; cool control app.
Won't matter for most gamers; unnecessary expense.