The biggest question I always hear when talking about the Killer NIC is this: is it worth it?
My answer used to be, “probably not, not for 250 dollars,” in the K1 and M1 days. The TCP throughput problems of the Xeno Pro lead me to dissuade folk from it unless they would never use any LAN filesharing tools. After using the Killer 2100, available for an MSRP of $130, my answer has become, “maybe.” Why?
The concept is neat. The technology works as advertised: gains in performance as a result of offloading network computations and such onto a card with a dedicated processor. This is how video, sound, and PhysX cards work, too.
The performance gains are real, if small. If latency is a huge deal to your gaming style, and your computer is already maxed out graphics-wise, then the Killer NIC is for you. First person shooter gamers will find this to be likely more important than a really high framerate. MMORPG players are likely to enjoy it, as well, as they’ll experience less rubberbanding and will be able to react quicker, too.
Are there other ways to see an increase in framerate? Yes, there are. I know folks who have fried $700 processors trying to eke out a 10% increase in frames per second. $100 for another graphics in Hybrid Crossfire or toward another card for SLI or Crossfire or a new one altogether is likely to go a ways. $100 will buy an X-Fi sound card, boosting framerate on supported games. $100 is enough to buy a newer processor for older rigs. $100 could double your RAM in a DDR2 system. You can probably find a PhysX card for under $100 nowadays.
There are a lot of other ways gamers can boost their framerate, so the Killer 2100 and its bretheren shouldn’t be considered for that metric. Reducing lag is the primary goal, and is generally accomplishes that.
However, there are other things to consider, too.
As for prioritization of traffic, most routers are capable of this to some degree nowadays. That’s a part of the reason why Bigfoot greatly simplified its bandwidth controls, leaving only simply per-application priority and the ability simply to prohibit applications from using the network.
ThinkComputers was going to give the Xeno Pro a 7 out of 10, but decided not to publish the review when we found out about the immenent release of the Killer 2100. Most of my gripes about the Xeno Pro have been fixed in the Killer 2100, and the Killer 2100 seems worthy of being in my desktop. I’m still skeptical of its TCP-based file transfer speeds, though. They’ve drastically improved, but they’re still not on-par with my onboard NIC’s speeds.
All in all, ThinkComputers gives the Killer 2100 an 8 out of 10 score. The Killer 2100 is an upgrade in its intended areas, while having some side effects which may negatively effect a certain portion of users. There still exists the fact that there are perhaps better ways to spend $130, but if lag is your greatest foe, you’ll want the Killer 2100 on your team and in your system.
However, it gets our Editor’s Choice Award for being a great piece of technology which I hope will continue to improve and eventually become something found in every gamer’s computer on account of its usefulness and afforability.
Like earlier models, the Killer 2100 will be available through Visiontek and EVGA at Newegg, Amazon, TigerDirect and many other retailers. The Killer 2100 will aso be available in Dell, Alienware, Cyberpower, iBuyPower, Origin, Digital Storm, and Falcon Northwest gaming rigs.
Bigfoot Networks is also a sponsor of Pittsburgh’s own Pittsburgh LAN Coalition LAN party organization, so gamers in the Pittsburgh area (ThinkComputers is based there!) can likely take a stab at winning a Killer 2100 at a future event.
Colin Dean has been a writer for ThinkComputers since 2006.