Drivers, System Requirements and Testing

This driver information remains the same from the M1 to the K1, so this information is again from the first review we published.

Killer NIC Drivers

Installation of the drivers for the Killer NIC is as transparent as installing drivers for any other device you’d put in your PC. 

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The first menu in the drivers allows you to change the link speed, LED lights and some other advanced optimizations like buffers and PingThrottle. 

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Here are some more of those same advanced settings that are better left untouched by the standard user. 

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The LLR technology menu again brings up several options for tweaking the Killer NIC settings; unless you are getting tips from the Bigfoot Networks staff, I’d recommend leaving these alone too.  But it is very nice to see Bigfoot Networks allowing the users access to these settings if they are into the network engineering side of things. 

Recommended Minimum Requirements

Though Bigfoot Networks’ Killer NIC card is using the legacy PCI bus and should work in a large variety of systems, they are recommending a somewhat quick system as the “recommended system configuration” in order for users to get the most out of their investment. 

  • Athlon 64 3000+ / Pentium 4 2.0 GHz
  • GPU with 256MB
  • PCI 2.2 compliant motherboard
  • 1GB RAM
  • Cable modem or DSL broadband
  • English version of Windows XP

I’m not sure why the English language version is required, but in any event, any user thinking of adding a $250 network card to their system should meet or beat these specs easily.

Testing a Network Card

Having never tested a network card (except to stress the maximum bandwidth of on-board solutions), especially one with claims of gaming benefits like this, I spent a long time finding a testing method that I was comfortable with.  Online gaming is notoriously unreliable and unrepeatable as we all should know by now.  Servers can be slower or faster based on the time of day, number of users online at the time; personal ISP connections can vary based on line quality, number of users in the area online at the time; global networks can go up and down and stream traffic anywhere at any time!  Needless to say, getting a scientific, detailed, repeatable testing scenario required some thorough planning.

I first chose a few games to plan my tests around: World of Warcraft (the most popular online game and MMORPG ever), Day of Defeat: Source (based on the same engine as Counter Strike and I had access to a dedicated server) and FEAR (a recent popular addition to online FPS gaming). 

For WoW, I selected a busy server, and attempted to play at the same time during a week day to try and always have a similar traffic level.  My area of interest was the Iron Forge auction house and bank area as it always has lots of other users around to stress system latency and frame rates.  For both DoD:S and FEAR, I used the same server, at the same times of day that was continuously busy with 15 or more players always. 

I then used FRAPS to monitor our frame rates during the online game play and used the in-game ping monitoring for each title, reported every 10 seconds or so to another person writing the answers down.  Each test was run 10 TIMES; nope, not kidding here.  I wanted to be VERY sure that our results weren’t a fluke, in either the Killer NIC’s favor or not.  All of the graphs and results you see on the following pages are averages of all of our tests.

No, it’s not perfect, but no online gaming testing can be in a real world environment.  But if you want to see effects in a real-world gaming experience, this is as good as it gets.

Killer NIC K1 Test System Setup

CPU

Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 @ 2.67 GHz

Motherboards

Intel 975XBX2 Motherboard

Memory 

Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4

Hard Drive

Western Digital Raptor 150 GB – Review

Sound Card

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Value

Video Card

ATI X1950 XTX

Video Drivers

Catalyst 7.2

DirectX Version

DX 10

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit

The on-board networking on the 975XBX2 motherboard was used for the non Killer NIC tests.  You will see we have two sets of graphs for each title: one that looks at the frame rate during our game play and the other looking at ping rate.  

You’ll also notice that this time around we tested with Windows Vista instead of Windows XP; with more and more people making the move to Vista as time goes on, it just makes sense.  Also, one of the advancements that Microsoft claimed was in Vista was an improvement in their networking stack.  What better way to put this to the test than to see if a network card that bypasses that network stack can improve performance?

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