EVGA Killer Xeno Pro: The Impact of Network Offloadingby Derek Wilson on July 3, 2009 4:20 AM EST
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Bigfoot Networks has, for the past few years, been trying very hard to bring high powered, intelligent network interface cards to the desktop. We previously looked at their Killer NIC with some interesting results, and today we've got the Killer Xeno Pro in our labs.
The major difference between the older Killer NIC and the newer Killer Xeno Pro is the inclusion of an audio path and audio processing for voice chat acceleration. They Killer Xeno Pro also has twice the RAM of the original. Despite the improvements, one of the major benefits is that the Killer Xeno Pro will be available at a lower retail price than the Killer NIC was. Oh, and it is sort of cool to see the new hardware dialog talking about a PowerPC Processor:
I sooo want to hack this thing now.
In our original investigation, we did see some situations where the Killer NIC could make some difference, but, for what you get, the cost was much too high. One of the ways that Bigfoot is trying to combat this is by selling chipsets and letting vendors like EVGA build and market boards. They've managed to get their costs down and the price of the Killer Xeno Pro, while very high for a network card, is much more reasonable than the original offering. The EVGA Killer Xeno Pro can be had for about $120 USD.
The EVGA Killer Xeno Pro in all its glory.
Let's start by saying that this isn't going to be a network card for someone hanging on to a 7 Series NVIDIA card or a Radeon 1k part from ATI in a single core CPU system. When upgrading, spending the $120 cost of the Killer Xeno Pro on a better graphics card will net you a great deal more performance. Even putting that money into the CPU is likely to get you more for your money in general. This is a card that should be targeted at the online gamer with a good system who wants to make sure every possible advantage is covered.
This hardware at this price is just not for everyone. It still needs to come down to more of a commodity price in order to see wider adoption. In our opinion, those who should even consider this card should already have a modern dual core system with single GPU graphics hardware capable of delivering a good, steady, high framerate at the preferred resolution in the majority of games. We don't expect that everyone who has such a system will want to invest in the Killer Xeno Pro either, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Up first we will look at the Killer Xeno Pro, its features, and why we should expect some level of increased performance at all from a typical network card.
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Exar3342 - Monday, July 6, 2009 - linkIt is interesting how they don't note any of this information on the box, in the marketing information, or on the EVGA website for the card. This sounds like one of those "bad suprises" you get AFTER you waste your money on this and find out it doesn't do anything. The theme of the review isn't that the product doesn't do what it says it does (it does that well) but that it doesn't make an appreciable difference in the real world. It appears clear this product has paper benefits only, and no real gains anywhere.
hooflung - Monday, July 6, 2009 - linkThis is not a problem. The linux networking stack is more efficient than the XP stack. Even though the NPU isn't doing it in hardware its still not being done on XP.
This is why the whole 'offloading' wording is confusing. The card is bypassing the OS stack, thus 'offloading' it to the card. The card then 'offloads' the UDP and 'some' but not 'all' TCP to hardware routines.
While EVE might use a bit of UDP for non critical things such as polling the market but it doesn't help speed up combat which needs the TCP/IP to poll where your ship is in space, what gun you fired, where your enemy is etc etc etc. If you do not have a constant TCP/IP connection, not UDP becuase UDP doesn't require you to have an active connection, you will be booted off the EVE server.
Its as simple as that. Derek should know that as he said he played EVE for 4 years.
The Card does help somewhat on older PC's since it will bypass the Windows stack but not on newer ones. It also DOES help ping on DSL because of how you can manage the network bandwidth and how it gives UDP priority in game mode.
Moreover, you need to be on a DMZ any time you use this card or the router with screw you over and take any performance you would gain and toss it out the door.
I've been a bigfoot customer and have the M1 in my Phenom II 940.
Rigan - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - linkJust for the record, the USB slot can be seen from the inside Linux install. So yes, it does have a use. And, yes, the thing does allow for the running of Linux apps on the inside Linux box. Works just fine.
But, I'd be hard pressed to recommend this thing to anybody. In the world of modern multi-core cpu's the basic premise is rather silly.
DerekWilson - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - linkI might like to try that ... it could be fun to just play with. I mean from an ubernerd standpoint anyway.
Is that available via their SDK, or is there some other hacking that needs to be done?
Per Hansson - Monday, July 6, 2009 - linkWhy not just buy a decent router that supports OpenWRT and has a USB port instead?
Then you have a great little device that supports QoS and whith which you can also download torrents etc while your computer is offline
The only use for the Killer NIC is if the system is really pushing 1gbps of traffic, think file server of very demanding webserver.
But that of course requires that the thing actually does offload the entire TCP/IP stack, and not just UDP (which I'm not 100% convinced it even does yet)
A cheaper NIC by any of the major players supporting ToE would probably be a better choice for the file or webserver of course (Due to more testing being done by their driver development departments)
Saying that there may be any benefit at all to doing TCP offload for MMO's and other games which work just fine on dialup still to this day (i.e. less than 5KB in bandwidth requirements) is just plain fraud IMO
But then again all reviews on the top sites including this one has come to the same consulsion so ;-)
titan7 - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - linkRead about why Linux considers these a very bad idea and explicitly won't support them:
A friend bought the previous version. Their lousy drivers would bring down his entire system when doing torrents or even some games (e.g. Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor). No noticeable benefit, but it makes his system unstable.
Stay away from bigfoot (and nvidia) NICs!
DerekWilson - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - linkreally, if bigfoot opened up their hardware the objections would fade away...
honestly, bigfoot is probably using the linux network stack itself on the killer...
if linux devs could program straight to the hardware, it might really be something they would have more interest in.
davecason - Saturday, July 4, 2009 - linkI suspect that you will find that this sort of card would help a really old system that had PCI more than a new one. Think of it this way: if the task of the integrated network interface card is a burden for the CPU, this thing might actually help. Instead of an i7 chipset and compatible processor, think nForce 4 with an old 1.8GHz Athlon.
We use Endace DAG cards at work and they work on basically the same principle: offload the Network work to the card.
Essentially the card is a computer withing your computer, dedicated to the task. The vendor recently let us know that we could get the same work done with standard gigabit ethernet cards in a more modern server... which supports my theory: not for high-end systems.
aadder - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - linkHmmm those cards seem rather nice. Any idea where I might be able to buy the Endace DAG card?
has407 - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - linkThe Endace DAG cards are intended for special-purpose applications. Unless you need high speed capture and analysis, you can do better with lower-cost Intel, Broadcomm, Alactitech, etc. NICs.