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Dell to Get Killer NICs Inside XPS Desktops

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 20 comments

Suffering lag issues? Need that extra few milliseconds knocked off your ping? Hardcore online gamers know the difference even 20ms can make when playing a fast, reflex based online shooter – Like the upcoming Quake Live for example.

A lot of readers might remember the release of the Killer NIC in 2006 from Bigfoot Networks. At a ludicrous price for a network card, it was big news. Bigfoot Networks pioneered the concept of a Network Processing Unit (NPU) for consumers when it launched its first generation of the Killer NIC. The whole idea behind the Killer NIC was to offer consumers a very high-end network interface card that would reduce lag/latency while playing online games.

It looks as though Dell remembers the whole craze about the Killer NICs as well – according to a Dell press release they now offer the Killer NIC K1 in its XPS 630 and XPS 730 gaming desktops. Dell tosses this into the mix along with Nvidia’s PhysX card under Dell’s “Gaming Essentials” section when customizing the said system models. Dell has it priced at $149 – which is what you can expect to pay for this specific model of Killer NIC at other online retailers currently.

The Killer NIC is however a client-side device on a network, so it is quite limited as to what it can actually do for the user in terms of improving actual performance over the wire. It does have tricks up its sleeves however. In all reality though, one could sacrifice the cool black PCB of the Killer NIC and big fancy heat-sink on its more expensive model and just purchase an Intel Server NIC for less than half the price and get the exact same features and performance. You’ll just be stuck with a non-attractive card – for those of you with windows on your side panels.

In the end though, the biggest factors will always be the path the packets are taking from your desktop to the server you are playing on. There is nothing you can do about what happens in between.

«*UPDATE*»

In response to this article, Wes Phillips whom which represents PR for BigFoot Networks contacted us to make some clarifications. Here is the response:

«“The Intel card improves throughput while the Killer NIC decreases latency. These are improvements on opposite ends of the spectrum – you can’t have both. Throughput is important for file transfers, while lower latency is vitally important for gamers.”

“The Intel card uses Windows for the networking operations, still leaving the CPU in charge of the heavy lifting. The Killer NIC removes the Windows network stack from the picture, using optimized onboard Linux to handle the networking operations. Windows, and especially Windows Vista, are not designed to offer the immediate network responses required by gamers and their games. The Intel card may offer Gigabit speeds, but still falls victim to Windows lag.”

“The Intel card has no offboard storage capability like the Killer NIC with its offboard USB port, allowing for no-performance-cost torrent download.”

“The Intel card offers no hardware bandwidth control to manage multiple network apps.”

“Also, the version of the card offered in Dell deal doesn’t have the fancy Killer heatsink.”»

Okay, first off let me project an image for everyone here in simple terms that most consumers can understand as most hardcore enthusiasts do not and will not buy this product. The fact these cards are being offered through prefab systems from Dell – the target audience is now general consumers. So I am going to base my response based on this alone.

The data that is sent from the source (client, your computer) to the destination (server, the game server) is subject to many factors such as your network interface card, your physical wiring, your router (if applicable, most people have them these days) the lines outside your house, and the entire path from your house to the destination.

Things such as signal-to-noise ratio determine throughput, throughput and line quality and all the equipment in between determine your transmit latency. There is essentially nothing that can improve the conditions beyond your personal computer, and maybe some of the conditions within your actual home.

We also need to understand that the conditions that your data is subjected to in transit to the server are the same conditions that the data the server sends you is also subjected to – and you definitely have no control over that what-so-ever. There is no circumventing these factors.

That aside , the Killer NIC is designed to offload responsibility from your desktops main processor so that it has more free resource / cycles to handle running your games and other applications. With the speed of desktop processors available today, and other hardware the difference is negligible.

For something that both general consumers would understand as well as enthusiasts, let us look at it this way – if the Killer NIC technology made a big enough difference then companies that focus on making enthusiast hardware would implement similar technology. You would see this implementation on high-end enthusiast mother boards from all the big names such as EVGA, XFX, MSI, ASUS, etc, etc. Not to mention the server market would gobble this technology up as the holy grail. Servers are subject to far, far more input/output than most consumers would ever see. Essentially, from a server stand-point in comparison to playing games – when you view a web page, transfer files AND play games – when that server sends data back to YOU , you become the destination and it becomes the client. Need to look at it from both sides of the fence

As for the correction on the image used for the article - I realize the XPS systems have the K1 card option – but for the sake of the article I thought the version with the cool sink looked good.

So if you want to run certain network applications off the Killer NIC, this card could be for you - but the average consumer doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth to run torrents and play online games at the same and still get a good ping. End of story.

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  • 3 Hide
    OldeFortran , September 19, 2008 12:01 PM
    Wow, Dell offers a PhysX card AND a Killer NIC? Why, no human should be entrusted with such power. The face of online gaming will never be the same, all thanks to Dell.
  • 0 Hide
    blueeyesm , September 19, 2008 12:54 PM
    Oh, THAT'll destroy Dells competition for sure!
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 19, 2008 1:25 PM
    One more thing the world really doesn't need, but some nerds will buy. Well I hope they feel good about it at least...
  • -7 Hide
    Cinrellik , September 19, 2008 4:24 PM
    Comparing it to an intel server NIC is just ignorant. The only ones that come close are not "half the price" they are substantially more expensive.

    The cheaper intel server NIC's do not offer any of the additional features or match the performance in games of a Killer.

    Failure to realize that means you do not even understand the basics of how a Killer works.
  • 2 Hide
    SomeJoe7777 , September 19, 2008 4:45 PM
    "Comparing it to an intel server NIC is just ignorant. The only ones that come close are not "half the price" they are substantially more expensive.

    The cheaper intel server NIC's do not offer any of the additional features or match the performance in games of a Killer.

    Failure to realize that means you do not even understand the basics of how a Killer works."

    What a load of crap. Let's get something straight right now: The Killer NIC cannot improve network latency by any significant amount. Period. It's physically impossible.

    The only thing the network card can effect in terms of latency is from your computer to the switch it's connected to. The time for this transfer is on the order of 100 MICROseconds. If your ping to the gaming server is 15 MILLIseconds, the network card cannot make any more than MAYBE a 1% difference.

    The things this card CAN do are to offload network processing from the computer to possibly improve frame rates.

    And yes, the Intel Server card will have identical performance in terms of latencies, at half the price: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833106011 for the Intel NIC, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833342002 for the money waster.
  • 2 Hide
    mtyermom , September 19, 2008 5:24 PM
    CinrellikComparing it to an intel server NIC is just ignorant. The only ones that come close are not "half the price" they are substantially more expensive.The cheaper intel server NIC's do not offer any of the additional features or match the performance in games of a Killer.Failure to realize that means you do not even understand the basics of how a Killer works.


    you obviously do not even understand the basics of how a server nic works

    get a clue
  • 0 Hide
    nekatreven , September 19, 2008 5:34 PM
    CinrellikComparing it to an intel server NIC is just ignorant. The only ones that come close are not "half the price" they are substantially more expensive.The cheaper intel server NIC's do not offer any of the additional features or match the performance in games of a Killer.Failure to realize that means you do not even understand the basics of how a Killer works.


    How a Killer works? You do realize that that connections to game servers go over the Internet? Like across whole nations and continents?

    The circuitry in a nic doesn't even leave the PC case. See the comparison there?

    Sure you can optimize some, but the idea that a Killer will really help is kind of like owning a half demolished home with trash, rotting food, and fecal matter all over the floor...and then installing polished marble tile around the toilets. Yea...that'll fix it.

    If your ISP sucks, no nic will fix it. Could you be any more gullible?
  • 1 Hide
    estreetguy , September 19, 2008 7:41 PM
    What a complete piece of junk this Killer NIC is. I cannot believe BigFoot is still trying to market this thing. Its targeting enthusiasts, but enthusiasts will never use it because their systems are already powerful enough that getting one of these doesn't make sense. So they deal with Dell to claw money back from clueless consumers. GO BIGFOOT!

    I mean, I run VMWare on my system - run all my BitTorrent stuff in a virtual machine so I can scan my downloads with antivirus before moving them over to my actual main installation. I can play shit like Crysis while I have an XP Home VM downloading crap in the background for frig sakes. And my system is hardly ENTHUSIAST anymore.

    God..
  • -5 Hide
    Cinrellik , September 19, 2008 8:06 PM
    SomeJoe7777"Comparing it to an intel server NIC is just ignorant. The only ones that come close are not "half the price" they are substantially more expensive.The cheaper intel server NIC's do not offer any of the additional features or match the performance in games of a Killer.Failure to realize that means you do not even understand the basics of how a Killer works."What a load of crap. Let's get something straight right now: The Killer NIC cannot improve network latency by any significant amount. Period. It's physically impossible.The only thing the network card can effect in terms of latency is from your computer to the switch it's connected to. The time for this transfer is on the order of 100 MICROseconds. If your ping to the gaming server is 15 MILLIseconds, the network card cannot make any more than MAYBE a 1% difference.The things this card CAN do are to offload network processing from the computer to possibly improve frame rates.And yes, the Intel Server card will have identical performance in terms of latencies, at half the price: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6833106011 for the Intel NIC, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6833342002 for the money waster.


    Can't? Really? Test it; it works, therefore your statement that it "can't" make improvements simply means your as ignorant as your words.

    Morons like you that make statements without actually testing are simply trolls.
  • 0 Hide
    estreetguy , September 19, 2008 8:16 PM
    The Killer NIC is pointless to put into high-end computers - and it has been proven, over and over again on review sites. Putting it into an older system DOES however render somewhat good results - but for the price you are better off upgrading other components that will yield the same results anyways.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 19, 2008 8:40 PM
    First, I wouldn't buy one either

    BUT
    If the end users internet connection to the ISP is overloaded (did someone leave Limewire running in the background...AGAIN) then the NIC could re-arrange traffic to give lower ping times

    THOUGH...yeh, that's the only noticeable way I can think of that it could make a difference.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 19, 2008 8:49 PM
    I've been in the IT industry for many years and owned a killer NIC and it was nothing but trouble. I went through the RMA process with Killer 3 times and still didn't get one that worked properly. The first 2 wouldn't even allow my PC to POST. The 3rd one allowed my system to boot just fine but I would have speed problems in web browsing, LAN transfers, internet access would sometimes fail without warning and the worst part is that my gaming performance showed almost NO improvement expect in WoW. I, however, do not play WoW anymore. I play a different game in which the Killer offers NO improvement but still has it's other odd behaviors. To ME (personal opinion/experience here) this thing is not worth the trouble or the high price. The trade offs are just NOT worth it. I believe most are better off with a solid NIC over this contraption any day. (unless all you do on your PC is play WoW then go for it...) My Intel PRO/1000 PT Adapter wipes the floor with this thing in it's ability to consistently provide stable, fast network/internet access. It's a shame...I had high hopes for the Killer. Maybe some next gen. version will be different. :( 
  • -3 Hide
    Cinrellik , September 19, 2008 9:07 PM
    SomeJoe7777"What a load of crap. Let's get something straight right now: The Killer NIC cannot improve network latency by any significant amount. Period. It's physically impossible.The only thing the network card can effect in terms of latency is from your computer to the switch it's connected to. The time for this transfer is on the order of 100 MICROseconds. If your ping to the gaming server is 15 MILLIseconds, the network card cannot make any more than MAYBE a 1% difference.The things this card CAN do are to offload network processing from the computer to possibly improve frame rates.


    Read the reviews; the killer has been tested. Your claims that it "Cant" improve latency are simply false and based on your assumption that you know better than someone who has actually used the card and tested it vs other cards.

    So please, continue to remain ignorant and make assumptions, or do the research and realize: your simply wrong.
  • 3 Hide
    estreetguy , September 19, 2008 9:12 PM
    The whole idea behind the Killer NIC is not improve the actual connection, but to free up system resources so that your games have more undivided attention of your CPU while you download your torrents in the background.

    The reality is - a difference of 20 to even 30 milliseconds in a game like WoW DOES NOT matter. A difference of 20 to 30 milliseconds in something face paced where reflexes actually matter, such UT2003, COD4 or Crysis the difference DOES matter.

    But people that play games that matter when your ping is +/- 20 turn off crap like BitTorrent and other shit before they play - they are not going to spend $250.00 just so they can download porn torrents while fragging.

    Good idea, bad marketing, waste of time.
  • 1 Hide
    dgomez , September 20, 2008 12:46 AM
    Wait, Tom's Guide not only says this does work, but it's legit:
    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/killer-m1-nic,review-1083.html

    So, not only does it show that this technology works on servers, it shows that the "Intel NIC," doesn't actually offer the same technology.

    I think once again, Tom's has proven itself responsible by having "some guy" reprint the press release and the REAL technologists actually review the hardware. Smart folks!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 20, 2008 4:35 AM
    wow. as if i needed another reason to dislike anything dell they come out with another gimmick here. if anyone is a big enough enthusiast to go to these measures to reduce ping, they would hopefully know enough to realize this garbage cant help you, and TO NOT GAME ON A DELL. even an xps. if someone wants to drop 2000+ on a computer, send me 1200 and ill build one and overclock it to be better than any dell...
  • 0 Hide
    JonnyDough , September 22, 2008 9:17 AM
    Half of the "review sites" that test this card do it improperly and don't have the proper tools to measure it. Furthermore, half of what everyone says on these forums is speculation. I DID research this and put it on the "wish I had it but won't pay the price for it" list. It DOES do what they claim. Does it do much? No. But it DOES work and it IS a good idea. The problem is that the internet just isn't fast enough to make this a viable solution, at least not at the high cost. Now if I2 was out, would I plop down cash for this? Probably.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 23, 2008 2:42 PM
    With Vista being as resource intensive as it is, I'm surprised that any resource savings can be called "negligible". I know this card favours latency reduction over bandwidth, but have you ever checked CPU usage during a large file transfer? It's rediculous. A card that can offload that from the main CPU is a welcome option. The ability to prioritize network traffic is another great option. The ONLY deal breaker here is the price.
  • 0 Hide
    BFN Sean , September 25, 2008 5:18 PM
    Wow, This blew up fast!

    TomsHardware has a policy of deleting manufacturer posts, which I can certainly understand, but I wanted to point out a few things here which should be able to clear things up:

    We've never said you can improve your connection or "fix the internet." (We're working on that.) What we CAN do is optimize your internal network operations.

    It's difficult to dismiss the hardware benefits we offer if you stop to think for a second that:
    - gamers buy accelerated graphics cards
    - gamers buy high performance CPUs
    - gamers buy high performance memory
    - and on and on with hard drives, fans, motherboards, keyboards, mice and cases...
    But gamers are still subject to networking technology and protocols that not only haven't improved to keep pace with games, but in the case of Vista, have actually degraded the gaming experience.

    Again, I think dgomez pointed out above (not too diplomatically) that TomsGuide did a review of our card and summarized the technology and the benefits. The Killer NIC is a monster of a network card, and it handles all of your gaming networking operations with ease as well as Hardware Bandwidth Control to keep your network apps from stepping on your game and Hardware Firewall to let you live worry-free in the DMZ.

    For more info about our technology, read our white papers here:
    http://www.killernic.com/technology/llr.aspx

    For more reviews, here's one of my favorites:
    http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm?loadfeature=1214&bhcp=1

    Feel free to email me at bfnsean@gmail.com or just reply here with more questions.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 29, 2008 6:57 AM
    [SwS]/[AvA]Lee_Stricklin says:

    That would have been cool back when CPUs were measured in MHz back when taking such a small load off of your CPU actually made a difference. I can imagine that thing shaving off quite a bit of lag with it's on-board Linux being that I get far better networking on Linux than I do Windows, but with a skeet price like that the difference is too negligible.