Despite computer hardware advancing in leaps and bounds, we sometimes find ourselves cursing the heavens and violently shaking our monitors. Sure, the latest offerings from AMD, Intel and Nvidia will boost our frame rates and allow for speedy HD encoding/decoding, but it all goes to Hades if our Internet connection isn't cooperating.
If you insist on downloading copious amounts of media while playing an FPS or MMO, latency between you and your favorite server may become an issue to say the least. Until now, whenever we fire up Quake Live or Warhammer Online, torrents get paused and take a backseat to the action. However, Bigfoot Networks wants you to download and play at the same time with no sacrifice in performance.
Starting at $130, Bigfoot's new Xeno line of network interface cards are about five to ten times more expensive than an average NIC. However, that premium price comes with a promise from Bigfoot that you will never be the victim of latency again. The Xeno Pro and Xeno Ultra both sport a PCI Express x1 connection, offering more throughput than their older M1 and K1 brothers. Each card boasts gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 as well as audio input and output. The audio ports are included because the Xeno cards tout built-in voice chat processing. This combined with a 400 MHz NPU (Network Processing Unit) means your CPU and motherboard are no longer responsible for voice or networking. With that processing power now freed up, Bigfoot claims you will see a noticeable difference in your games frame rates.
There are two primary differences between the Xeno Pro and Xeno Ultra. The Ultra comes with 256 MB of onboard memory compared to the 128 MB on the Pro. The Ultra also boasts a "bling bar," which can display link speed, network status, "or anything else you want it to say." However, this bar is attached to the side of the card, so unless you have a case window, you won't be able to see any of the displayed information. The cards offer a number of other goodies, including a built-in firewall, built-in BitTorrent client, bandwidth control, and game networking acceleration, which "bypasses the Windows Network Stack to transfer packets directly to/from the game." Bigfoot has also announced that eVGA has signed on as a partner and will release its own NIC's based on Killer Xeno technology.
The Xeno Pro will go for $129.99 and the Ultra will set you back $179.99, and both will be available within the next month. If playing Doom 3 online while simultaneously downloading the Doom movie is that important to you, this card may be answer to your prayers. If you're like me and run BitTorrent while sleeping, then perhaps a nice $15 Ethernet card is more your cup of tea.