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'Killer' Network Card Actually Reduces Latency 292

Posted by Zonk
from the i'll-be-a-monkey's-uncle dept.
fatduck writes "HardOCP has published a review of the KillerNIC network card from Bigfoot Networks. The piece examines benchmarks of the product in online gaming and a number of user experiences. The product features a 'Network Processing Unit' or NPU, among other acronyms, which promise to drastically reduce latency in online games. Too good to be true? The card also sports a hefty price tag of $250." From the article: "The Killer NIC does exactly what it is advertised to do. It will lower your pings and very likely give you marginally better framerates in real world gaming scenarios. The Killer NIC is not for everyone as it is extremely expensive in this day and age of "free" onboard NICs. There are very likely other upgrades you can make to your computer for the same investment that will give you more in return. Some gamers will see a benefit while others do not. Hardcore deathmatchers are likely to feel the Killer NIC advantages while the middle-of-the road player will not be fine tuned enough to benefit from the experience. Certainly though, the hardcore online gamer is exactly who this product is targeted at."
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'Killer' Network Card Actually Reduces Latency

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  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:23PM (#17178310) Journal
    But the only real concern in making a killer NIC is keeping all the processing off of the CPU and bus. If the CPU/MB can shuffle packets at and from the NIC at the speed of the data bus, then it can't get much faster unless you want to offload protocols to the NIC etc.

    A killer NIC? LOL what a phrase... Aren't there several of these Nicolas guys in jail already? right next to the killer Bobs and killer Joes.... sheesh
    • by fatduck (961824) *
      I can't see how this is going to help the average gamer that the company is clearly targeting:

      "Whether you have an hour to play at night or you are a dedicated pro gamer: the Killer NIC is for anyone that cherishes their online gaming time."
      I'm a little skeptical about this proprietary Lag and Latency Reduction (LLR(TM)) Technology. Lag and Latency reduction seems a little redundant?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by porkThreeWays (895269)
        It sounds like bullshit, but it actually works. The guys who made this aren't schmucks, but experienced designers. I know 2 people who bought one and they both confirmed slightly lower latency in games. Look at it this way, a 500 dollar pair of running shoes really isn't going to help the average person much compared to a 50 dollar pair. However, a professional runner is going to benefit. This card is designed for the professional gamer (oddly enough, they do exist today).
        • by BJH (11355) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:11PM (#17179382)
          This is an "emperor with no clothes" thing - if you can't tell the difference, you must not be an experienced gamer. Since I'm an experienced gamer, I can tell the difference. HORSE PUCKY, boy!
          • by Z34107 (925136) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @01:28AM (#17182056)

            This is an "emperor with no clothes" thing - if you can't tell the difference, you must not be an experienced gamer. Since I'm an experienced gamer, I can tell the difference. HORSE PUCKY, boy!

            Naw, latency is an easily measured and quantified number and evidently this card does lower your latency somewhat.

            How much that "somewhat" is noticeable is debatable. For those spending $bucks a month for high-speed internet for their $buckbucksbucks gaming rig, a crappy NIC is going to be rather bothersome. Go talk to a rabid "knife-makes-you-run-faster" CounterStrike player and ask him about the importance of latency.

            But, for the rest of us, a NIC isn't really a bottleneck and onboard/generic PCI NICs do just fine. It's not "noticeable" enough.

            Think of it as "online gamer viagra" - lower your ping by 5 ms!

        • Not exactly. (Score:5, Informative)

          by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:57PM (#17179726)
          Look at it this way, a 500 dollar pair of running shoes really isn't going to help the average person much compared to a 50 dollar pair. However, a professional runner is going to benefit.

          The $500 shoes worn by the professional will not be the same as the $500 shoes purchased by the average person. For one thing, the professional is paying for the technology and customization. The average person is paying for the marketing and endorsements.

          That being said, the professional would NOT compare two shoes provided by a shoe company and "tested" on their own track.

          S/He would compare them to his/her CURRENT favourite shoes on his/her current training track.

          And that is where every single one of these KillerNIC "reviews" fails. It is not that difficult to swap a NIC. Yet the "testing machines" are always different. And none of the "reviewers" seem to be able to script a game. Or setup a test network with a test game server.

          The "professional" in this case would setup a test network, with a test game server and a sniffer to see what is happening "on the wire" and script the game on his/her favourite machine with his/her current NIC.

          Then the "professional" would swap the NIC's and re-set everything and run the script to see what difference/improvements there were.

          It's not that difficult and it's not that expensive and yet not a single "review" of this "KillerNIC" seems to be able to do that.

          Sure, you can pay $500 for shoes that were hand stitched by virgins under the light of a full moon with thread blessed by the Pope. And they may perform better than this other pair of shoes I'll give you to run in.

          But in the end, you'd still be paying for the marketing of un-tested technology.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mabhatter654 (561290)
        anand also did a review a month or so ago... what it amount to is that this is a consumer-marketed board that has server features enabled. Thats the same reason a gigabit Intel nic costs $400 when you can get "nearly" the same thing onboard for free. What that review amounted to was that it did work..but only in some cases. Much like expensive server Nics, if you got the other hardware for it it can help...but it's not "magic".
    • by KillerBob (217953) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:47PM (#17178562)
      25 years and counting, they still haven't caught me. :-)
    • by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:33PM (#17179080) Homepage Journal
      The "traditional" network stack shuffles data from the application from memory into the CPU then into kernel memory for running through the protocol stack then into the CPU then into kernel memory for running into the actual NIC driver then into the CPU then onto the bus. This assumes that the data doesn't fall out of cache during any of the processing of the packet.


      A better design would be to have networked data in well-defined regions which the card can DMA directly out of and into. The PCI bus can handle a 4K transfer as an atomic operation on a single channel, so a 4 channel PCI card can simultaneously send and receive streams of jumbo packets without requiring any CPU intervention. The driver would merely need to be passed two lists of physical page pointers - one for inputs, one for outputs - for each of the open connections and to pass back signals from the board that an entire packet and/or message had been uploaded for a given connection.


      (Jumbo packets can go up to 8K, and you can do 8K over two PCI channels, so that's a good unit to be working with.)


      The next improvement that can be made to such a system is to improve the buffering. The network will be slower than the computer, almost always, so being able to queue up multiple packets for sending is a Good Thing. Filtering out packets that have not been sent but are no longer worth sending can be done entirely in parallel and does not require anything extra at the end of the pipeline. Not all packets are of equal value, though. You want to deliver the information in the order that will give the best possible benefit - which may not be the order in which the program generates the traffic. Hierarchical Fair Service Curve, Class Based Queueing, and a bunch of other similar techniques, have been developed to fix exactly that sort of problem.


      If the ISPs would stop being so bloody stupid, you could also enable protocols such as your basic multicasting (for your UDP stuff) and Scalable Reliable Multicast (for the stuff that needs to reliably get through). That hacks, slashes, butchers and roasts (with just a hint of parsley) problems associated with sending identical state information to multiple end-points.


      Bear in mind that Myrinet, Dolphinics, and a bunch of other vendors, use essentially the above mechanisms already and are achieving latencies in the region of 2.5 - 3 microseconds. I say essentially, because I'm not convinced they've optimized quite to the degree I'm suggesting - reliable, scalable multicast RDMA isn't something you'll see a lot of even at a supercomputer fair. True, you're not getting that kind of latency over the Internet whatever you do, but if you can achieve a hard real-time guarantee of 3 microsecond delivery in a LAN party, you WILL notice a difference. At the very least, in the door price, which will now be expressed in exponential notation to fit on the door.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @10:39PM (#17181020)
        You're wrong on somethings..

        1) bunch of blah and stuff about memory. Since your explanation is memory->application->CPU->kernel memory->protocol stack->CPU memory->NIC driver->bus (basically, it was hard to follow with all the fud), you obviously have no idea how an OS works (I can't think of any modern, common OS's that have such a path). None of this happens as you describe, they are all parts, but the flow is nothing like you describe. See LKML for 2.6 on network programming if you want to see how this works on Linux, which is relatively transparent http://lkml.org/lkml/2005/5/17/78 [lkml.org] also you can look at BSD.

        2) The PCI Bus is irrelevant for gigabit ethernet (which is about the only network controller commonly in production, legacy stuff like 10/100 is more common- but is almost out of production) and for faster types (10GE or myrinet or infiniband), totally irrelevant. The 32bit PCI bus limit is about at gigabit speeds, and it is shared with everything else on the PCI bus- therefore suboptimal:

        http://www.codepedia.com/1/PCI+BUS [codepedia.com]

        PCI-X and gigabit controllers directly off the Controller chipsets is how networking is mostly done now.

        3) blah blah, network slower than computers (ridiculous depends on the network and computer exclusively- in consumer computers it swings in a pendulum, when 100Mb came out most of the stuff in the PC couldn't keep up- it was faster to install over the network than from CD ROM because the CD drive was slower, it is going through that again with gigabit- most consumer PCs disk systems can't even approach filling gigabit). Then some conflation about what QoS, and policing can do... QoS only helps if the pipe is full:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_of_service [wikipedia.org]

        or

        http://www.cisco.com/univercd/cc/td/doc/cisintwk/i to_doc/qos.htm [cisco.com]

        4) ISP and stupidity. ISP's may or may not be stupid. They are driven by market forces and the market force is people don't currently want to pay for a tiered service class internet. When they do, they will offer it. Technically it has been feasible for years. Read NANOG mailing list, you will see they are not stupid, but instead are in a low margin business.

        5) blah blah blah, microsecond delay, destinguishable from millisecond via a consumer computer with a common OS by a person?? hahahahah. not without a measuring device. It is possible with enough training (I suppose musicians can). Since you can buy commodity off the shelf lan gear that will turn in sub millisecond delay, I don't think spending the extra-money on low microsecond delay will help

        Bunch of pseudo-science modded up on Slash again...

        Oh and Jumbo FRAMES are commonly 9000B in size (although the term can refer to anything bigger than 1500B:

        http://sd.wareonearth.com/~phil/net/jumbo/ [wareonearth.com]

        or 9K on cisco:

        http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/473/148.html [cisco.com]
      • by tqbf (59350) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:06AM (#17184734) Homepage

        Network-layer, Deering-model multicast is never going to happen. It has nothing to do with ISP business models and everything to do with simple technical feasibility:

        • Routing table management is an issue even in unicast (which is why I can't get an ASN and advertise a /27, even though that would be incredibly convenient and useful). But multicast addresses individual pieces of content --- video streams, game rooms, chat channels --- and requires diverse, interdomain routing for each. This is akin to demanding BGP advertisements for every popular page on the web.
        • The protocols for interdomain routing barely exist and have never been proven; no production network relies on them. Even interior routing for multicast is in flux; just a few years ago, the model changed to single-sender, which simplifies routing but changes the service model so only one source can efficiently send data.
        • Forward error correction may work for streaming media, but it's a disaster for tiny, discrete updates, and outside of FEC there are no proven ideas in multicast reliability. "Scaleable Reliable Multicast" isn't a protocol, it's a position paper from the early '90s. The well-known current multicast reliability protocols all require infrastructure support: strategically deployed "repair" servers.

        There isn't even an agreement among protocol designers about what multicast is supposed to accomplish anymore. BitTorrent is taking a lot of the steam out of it; so are unicast solutions to streaming media that prove that multicast is inessential. Multicast gets used tactically inside of some networks, but if you're on the same LAN as your other players, the network is already plenty fast for gaming even with unicast.

        Forget about multicast.

  • How can a NIC decrease the latency in any noticable way? Especially when playing over the Internet? Does it process ICMP echo reply packets in hardware so that the ping values will just look more l33t? :-P
    • Re:How ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Arker (91948) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:33PM (#17178390) Homepage
      I suspect it will produce a noticeable improvement in situations where your computer is running heavily loaded. If you're playing a game that keeps your cpu pegged or near most of the time, your latency will be noticeably higher because of that (using the typical network card, which is a bit 'winmodemish' in that it's relying on the cpu to do much of its work.) So having a card that does all the network processing itself, without relying on the CPU, would avoid that slowdown.
      • Probably not... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eklitzke (873155)
        It's not like a computer sends you some data and the network card is immediately able to reply. To formulate a response, it probably needs data from the CPU, e.g. about your position, your health, or whatever it is that you need to transfer back and forth in a game.

        An ICMP echo reply is totally different though. Unless you have a weird firewall setup going on, it's pretty much just safe to send out the echo response as soon as you get the echo request. So in this situation, you could peg the main CPU and th
      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:16PM (#17178926)
        Server systems have been using high quality NICs which offload network processing for years. Decades even... I think $250 is a bit steep. But then I'm not a l33t gamer. Kudos to them if they can get people to pay $250 for a $50 server NIC. I call that good marketing.

        Of course they also need to be running 15,000rpm SCSI drives on a decent SCSI HBA as well as a top of the line CPU and loads of RAM and top of the range graphics card.
         
      • by faragon (789704)
        For these cases there is an alternate, cheap, and usually effective, solution: increase the thread priority of the thread doing TCP 'recv/read'. You're welcome.

        P.S. please, be careful when playing with thread priority throttling, it is better keep priority untouched in case you have chances of achieving thread priority inversion (!).
      • by scdeimos (632778)

        So having a card that does all the network processing itself, without relying on the CPU, would avoid that slowdown.

        Last time I checked, network packets get built in main memory by your Berkley/Winsock stack and the final packets with headers and checksums get transferred to your NIC by DMA for transmission down the wire. In a modern gaming machine we're talking a (typically) 800MHz/128-bit memory bus, versues a 33MHz/32-bit PCI bus. How does having a Killer NIC improve this situation?

        All I can think of

        • Re:How ... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Arker (91948) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:29PM (#17179552) Homepage
          Actually, I found some more info on this after I made that post, and it's pretty interesting. Apparently there's more to it. First, they're bypassing the windows networking stack entirely, and that gives a measurable latency decrease. Second, the card is actually a linux machine on a card, so it runs a firewall and the windows drivers disable the windows firewall, and that gives another significant speed boost.

          Of course, all this presumes you're running windows to begin with, so it's useless to me. But for those so afflicted, perhaps a small subset are hyper sensitive to lag enough to make the thing be worth it. And it sounds interesting to me for other reasons - couldn't you stick a hard drive in directly attached to it and run bittorrent on your NIC? ;)
    • How can a NIC decrease the latency in any noticable way?

      It can't. It is most likely doing some traffic shaping tricks to make it look like ping times are lower.

      If you want lower latency and you're using a custom firewall- make sure polling is off on the cards so packet processing is interrupt driven, and check what timer value the kernel is using. Turn off polling on the gaming system as well, but increased interrupts may hurt performance in-game.

      This will, however, result in so little improvement

      • I was interested in whether this was even theoretically possible, so here's what I tried. First, I pinged the broadcast address on my WLAN. There are currently only two computers turned on, so I got this back:

        64 bytes from 192.168.0.2: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.120 ms
        64 bytes from 192.168.0.1: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=1.040 ms (DUP!)

        I wasn't sure if the result from me was actually going over the network, so I tried pinging the loopback address:

        64 bytes from 127.0.0.1: icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.049 ms

        It

    • Re:How ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TodMinuit (1026042) <todminuitNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:48PM (#17178576)
      How can a NIC decrease the latency in any noticable way?

      You'd be surprised what marketers can do.
    • It can't reduce ping times in the real world - ping is almost entirely a function of the network bus, not the network card.

      Sure, it could do neat things with the queueing so that ICMP echo to get it to the wire earlier, but you can do that in the OS anyway.

      The one killer function you need in a NIC (gig and above) is the ability to calculate and verify checksums so the OS doesn't have to. A huge buffer on the card so it can do big bursts of DMA instead of lots of smaller ones would help too.

      Those things wou
    • It decreases latency in the same way SCSI actually made usable CD burners a numbers of years back: it offloads the work from your CPU, this means your networking performance is not dependent on the load on the CPU. At the same time it also means that your CPU is free to do other things. Despite appearances processing network packets is not free work. The ideal computer would use special processing units for anything that a specialised processor is available for and leave the CPU for anything else that can o
    • How can a NIC decrease the latency in any noticable way?

      By skipping the last jump. Instead of web -> card -> [CPU Tread for NIC] -> [CPU thread for game], it's web -> card -> [CPU thread for game].

      How can a NIC decrease the latency in any noticable way?

      By eliminating a bottleneck. If you are taxing your system, you'll notice the difference. If not, well, you won't really notice the ~3 hp you've lost in your car since you let the air filter get dirty, either.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Minwee (522556)
      The secret is that the card comes with a very noticable "Type R" sticker for your case. That alone can improve performance by 12.3% across the board.
  • by MoralHazard (447833) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:25PM (#17178326)
    this card is for the gamer that needs two clocks: one set to tomorrow and one set to Tokyo time, so he knows when to drift race.

    (sorry for mangling to PA quote)

    Seriously, $200? WTF?
    • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:05PM (#17178772)
      This card is most useful for worldclass gamers who could use a 10ms deduction in ping/lag times. For most gamers this is very neglagable, but some gamers can take good advantage of that 10ms. Also it looks like some games have more benefit from this than others. The article lists FEAR and WoW as the most positively effected while Counterstrike and Quake 4 as minimally effected. They list an example in TFA of an _expert_ FEAR gamer:

      I [have] watched him repeatedly go into DM games and use nothing but dual pistols and own the map. Joshua saw distinct differences between his Killer and non-Killer sessions. He was easily able to identify his gaming session using the Killer NIC with confidence. One of the more notable things he conveyed to me was that his "machine was ahead of what was on the server." He explained this was allowing him to take shots and get cover before others had time to react to his presence. Joshua said the the onboard NIC felt the same as his machine at home, but the Killer NIC gave him a better experience in that it, "felt smoother with less lag kills." He went on to note that the overall reaction felt better and the Killer NIC supplied a smoothness of play he did not get with the onboard NIC.

      These kinds of "professional" gamers could use a fancy NIC with lower times. Or if your Richie Rich and you need some extras for your already pimped out gaming rig.

      • by DAldredge (2353)
        I am sure the stack of money in front of the 'killer' NIC enable machine helps as well.
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:54PM (#17179250)
        These kinds of "professional" gamers could use a fancy NIC with lower times.

        In all the "reviews" of this that get posted here, I notice a few recurring items.

        One of the most interesting to me is that they want the "gamers" to test the NIC as part of their entire box. But the real gamers would already have a box built to their specs that they were familiar with ... their home gaming machine.

        Yet the "gamers" never seem to insist that they be allowed to compare the KillerNIC in their own box, against their existing NIC. And if they're serious gamers, they've already spent money replacing the on-board NIC if their motherboard came with it.

        Kind of like if a tire company wants you to like new tires, but they won't let you drive them on your own car. You have to use their car. And you have to compare it to a different car that they have without the tires. And people accept that.

        Under those conditions, I can show you improved ping times using nothing more than cool stickers for your case.
      • This card is most useful for worldclass gamers who could use a 10ms deduction in ping/lag times.
        A 10ms reduction in ping time is not even theoretically possible. The ping time from me to my router is around 1ms. That means, the most any ofloading on my machine can do is cut ping times down by 1ms (assuming the router has an infinitely fast CPU and that the speed of light is infinite. Less than 1ms if we don't make these assumptions).
  • We were ripping at it a few months back... so we are afraid to talk about it.

    However, was this on a net connection, across a cable line? Or was it on a high end switch setup with good cables running at gigabit speeds? No I did not read TFA, I'm just raising a question so I can be yelled at and answered.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:27PM (#17178338)
    Killer network cards have been around for so long, there's actually a Localtalk version here:
    http://www.fiftythree.org/etherkiller/ [fiftythree.org]
  • by bl4nk (607569) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:28PM (#17178346)
    I have a friend who works at a game studio who had their IT guy perform several tests to see if it did anything... chat log:

    > killer NIC. bad.
    > file transfers = 1/4 of the speed of a normal NIC
    > the drivers are fucking TERRIBLE to install/uninstall/update, you have to reboot. then it'll let you do whate you need to do. then reboot AGAIN...
    > and when it does start working, there is literally no difference in either framerate or ping, even on the games they say it specifically improves
  • by nxtw (866177) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:30PM (#17178360)
    Where's the comparison between different onboard gigabit chipsets? (eg Broadcom, nForce, etc.) Where's the comparison between different PCI, PCI-X, and PCI Expressgigabit NICs?

    If applicable, what are the settings for the onboard NICs being tested? Many have options for various CPU offload settings and optimizations for throughput or CPU usage.

    Until we see these, how can we be sure if a high-end regular PCI-e NIC won't work just as well?
    • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:19PM (#17178968)
      And what is this about PLAYING the games? You don't fucking PLAY them! You SCRIPT them so you have as close to the exact same environment as you can get.

      From TFA:
      We watched the engineers as they played through a Counter Strike deathmatch round.

      That is just idiotic.

      While this is not the most scientific way to gather data, it certainly did a good job to reflect what would happen in real world gaming situations.

      If you aren't going to do it right, then you are doing it WRONG. So it did NOT "reflect what would happen in real world gaming situations".

      Bigfoot allowed us to barge into their offices on a beautiful Saturday morning with real gamers in tow.

      Again, you script it. You do not play it.

      Taking all of our testers one at a time, we allowed them about 45 minutes of gameplay in their chosen title. Our testers were given time to setup their own keyboards, mice, and needed add-on software so that they had a system close to what they were used to using at home.

      I'll give the KillerNIC people this, they certainly know how to pick their suckers.

      Seriously. They didn't even bring their own PC's? They used the "testing machines" provided for them. And they think this has anything to do with "real world" performance?

      From there, the gameplay was divide in half. One half of the online play used the Killer, the other half used the motherboard's onboard NIC.

      A far, far better test, even under these biased conditions, would have been for them to use their own PC's. It cannot be that difficult to swap a NIC, can it?

      In a blind taste test, more people preferred Coke over the Pepsi that I had previously pissed in.

      For some strange reason, all I ever see in these "reviews" are the KillerNIC people insisting that the games be run on THEIR machines. And people who are "reviewing" it accepting this strange requirement. And not even scripting it so that they can compare it with their home machines.
  • but no word on what the onboard nics were. And there didn't compare it with other nics either.
    So for what it's worth, the 'killer' nic is probably better than the most cheap ass realtek nic. A 3com 3c905 nic costs hardly costs $30 and performs way better than the average realtek stuff.
    • by dave562 (969951)
      A 3com 3c905 nic costs hardly costs $30 and performs way better than the average realtek stuff.

      The last time I did an sort of comparison with NICs I used that exact card. I had an Asus motherboard with an onboard NIC. The NIC fried so I scavanged a 3c905b out of my old Pentium III. My ping times in America's Army were SIGNIFICANTLY better. Those 3c905s are GOOD NICs. There may be other 100BT NICs that are better, but I doubt that those that are better are better by much.

  • You are better off buying a good set of speakers and a good sound card. Especially in gaming, the aural experience will make the game more entertaining and the card will take a load off your cpu which will buy a few FPS's. This smacks of the physics cards and we know where that market went. So the top gamers will see a benefit. So what? The fact that they are in that category means they wax the rest of us regularly. How will this make that more enjoyable.

    If nothing else, when it comes to enjoying the game,
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:34PM (#17178394)
    What's more interesting is that the card is actually a single-board computer with PowerPC processor and 64 MB of RAM!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What's more interesting is that the card is actually a single-board computer with PowerPC processor and 64 MB of RAM!

      So can you run Linux on it then? You could ssh to it from Windows and get some real work done.
      • by tomhudson (43916)

        Actualy, it DOES run linux - and they'll pay you to write applications that run on it.

        There's one out already - an iptables-based firewall.

      • So can you run Linux on it then? You could ssh to it from Windows and get some real work done.
        According to TFA it does run Linux:
        To put it simply, the Killer NIC is actually a Linux system-on-chip. That basically means that it is its own little Linux computer inside what is likely your Windows box. The engineers at Bigfoot have given you access to this machine.
    • by anothy (83176)
      i have no interest in gaming, but i'm intrigued by this card anyway. where did you find out about the chip? all i could find was generic statements like 400 Mhz, 32-bit. is there a real tech sheet somewhere i can look at?
  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:35PM (#17178420)
    Business Development Guy: We need a new product. Something... niche. Something overpriced. I know! Don't we still have a bunch of boxes of old network cards?
    Hardware Engineer: Uh, yeah. We were about to offload them on eBay to make room in our closet...
    Business Development Guy: No! Lets tack on some parts from China and sell them! We'll call it, hmm.. the Killer NIC! Since no one wants to buy NIC cards, we'll overprice them for no apparent reason! $250 a pop!
    * Hardware Engineer bashes his forehead on the desk.
    Hardware Engineer: You've got to be kidding me. Isn't that, like, fraud?
    Business Development Guy: Not at all. We'll just never say how it works, only that it works. The processor will be for like, decorative purposes. Consumers love that kind of stuff!
  • Snake oil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pilkul (667659) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:36PM (#17178438)

    Latency is 99% percent due to delays over the Internet, not anything that happens on your local machine. What does this card do, sprinkle magic fairy dust over packets so they go faster through the wire?

    This reminds me of gold-plated power cords for sound systems. Guaranteed to create richer, deeper sound!

  • Holy shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:36PM (#17178442)
    Wow, this 'article' is a real gem.
    This more recent fast moving game was used by Keith, our software tester from Dell. He reported ping times during his Killer NIC session to be about 10ms faster on the server that was returning 50 to 70ms pings with the onboard NIC. When quizzed about a discernible difference in Q4 session quality, Keith did not express anything to us that really set one session off against the other. The Killer NIC and Quake 4 seemed to be a wash at best.
    I think that's the only time they actually note anything about "latency reduction" in this advert. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find all the flaws in this testing methodology. What is even more amazing, given the other 3 accounts do not give any confirmation whatsoever is that they come to the most ridiculous conclusion.
    The Killer NIC does exactly what it is advertised to do. It will lower your pings and very likely give you marginally better framerates in real world gaming scenarios....
    Paid product placement at its finest I suppose. But even the vetted boys at HardOCP realized they would have to blow some reality up everyone's ass after all that smoke, and added the following to be "fair and balanced."
    ...The Killer NIC is not for everyone as it is extremely expensive in this day and age of free onboard NICs. There are very likely other upgrades you can make to your computer for the same investment that will give you more in return.
  • by Pizaz (594643) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:42PM (#17178494)
    This NIC card has no clothes. But hey, phishing schemes and Nigerian con artists can be successful so why shouldn't this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxwell demon (590494)
      You probably just forgot to buy the gold-plated ethernet cables as well. BTW, that combination also improves the sound quality of audio files transmitted over the network.
  • by fineghal (989689) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:50PM (#17178586)
    Anandtech has a much better review here: Linky: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx? i=2865 [anandtech.com]
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:50PM (#17178588) Homepage

    I don't see any benchmarks in that article. Here are some, [extremetech.com], and they don't make the thing look all that impressive.

    The only benefit in this thing, apparently, is that, for games which make too many "select()" polls, there's a faster no-data return. This is really a bug in the game, which ought to be multi-threaded by now. As games are revised for multi-core systems, this problem had better go away. In fact, it probably will go away in Vista, which has a multithreaded network stack.

    • Is not how does it compare against an onboard NIC, but how does it compare against a good NIC that does offloading, like an Intel server NIC? I mean $100 will get you Intel's copper 1000mbps server NIC which does support offloading of various functions and, unlike the killer NIC, has rock solid drivers (not just for Windows either). My bet? The Intel NIC probably does near as good a job, and doesn't have any problems, as well as saving you $150.

      Comparing it only to cheap onboard NICs really isn't useful. I
  • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:55PM (#17178632) Homepage
    Maybe where this NIC really belongs is on the MMORPG *servers*?
  • Exactly how much is latency reduced by this card?
    • by Bluesman (104513)
      Well, normal latency reduction is around ten, and these cards, THESE ones right here, they go to eleven.
  • by York the Mysterious (556824) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:59PM (#17178696) Homepage
    It seems a like a lot of what this NIC claims to do (offloading TCP work such as checksumming and segmentation) can be done by an Intel NIC on Windows and Linux (2.6.19 and up at least). So go get a gig Intel NIC for the $35 and invest the rest in a new mouse pad or something that might actually impact your gaming a bit more than that silly nic. http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Intel%20PRO%2F1000%20P T%20Desktop%20Adapter:1993037566;_ylt=Apu.Yd0SJ9f3 4z.56feYYLIbFt0A;_ylu=X3oDMTBic2hxMGNhBGx0AzQEc2Vj A3Ny?clink=dmps/intel_pro.2f.1000_pt/ctx=mid:5,pid :1993037566,pdid:5,pos:2,spc:14489115,date:2006120 9,srch:kw,x [yahoo.com]:
  • How long until we have botnets made up of these things?
  • Hey, Here's an idea: If you don't think it's worth $250 DON'T BUY IT! It's not a hard concept to grasp, I know I myself had a problem with that at one point when I was younger. Stop your bitching and STFU!
    • Here's a clue: if you don't want to read about whether a product is worth it, don't click on a Slashdot article about it. Slashdot would suck if nobody shared their opinions. It would be improved, however, if you reserved your complaining about complaints for articles about how often one should complain.
    • by schon (31600)

      Hey, Here's an idea: If you don't think it's worth $250 DON'T BUY IT!
      Yeah, because god knows that when a company starts selling snake-oil, nobody should ever call them on it, right? I mean, when you see someone telling lies soley so they can make money from the ignorance of others, it's unethical to point that out to people who might otherwise be taken in.

      Stop your bitching and STFU!
      You first.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      What if we smell snake oil? I don't understand why this costs far more than a firewall router with an Intel Xscale processor on a network card that should be capable of a lot more and could probably do all this just by turning on the QoS settings. Certinly, a couple of fresh MBAs can come up with good ideas and implement them with technical help - but it is difficult to get real information on this thing so it smells like snake oil to me.
  • Ooo, another processing unit to help out the "central" one with heavy mathematical computations! Let's see, we have the CPU, of course, the GPU, the DSP on the expensive sound card, myself, tagging along with my calculator and now the NPU! We're getting fast here.
  • Pfft... (Score:3, Funny)

    by flatt (513465) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:39PM (#17179124) Homepage Journal
    While Weird Al is waxing his modem to make it go faster, I've found that cheetah blood rubbed on a network card will significantly reduce latency.
  • I ping from my router to my ISP and get and average of 30ms ping, I do the same from my computer and get 31ms ping. I'm intrigued to know how it can possibly increase my latency without making some modification to my router to make it communicate faster with the exchange which let's face it, is practically impossible.

    Of course they could claim my router is the bottleneck but then, seeing as it's impossible for me to get an ethernet port connected directly to some internet backbone then I have no use for thi
  • Game Servers (Score:4, Informative)

    by dysfunct (940221) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:45PM (#17179182)
    If you see this and ponder buying this card for your game servers first try optimizing the Linux kernel. 1000 Hz ticks, big kernel lock preemption and other latency patches actually does wonders to ping times (and I do not mean ICMP echo or similar but ping packets answered by the game) and latency.

    Many games have their own interesting capabilities for performance tuning. For instance Counter Strike 1.6 has the -pingboost setting which will switch between select() and alert() syscalls (10 ms reduction) or processing a frame for every packet. Other games have similar tuning options that will enhance performance. Then there's also tuning your network settings.

    By the way, as far as I remember this Killer NIC is just some kind of offload engine. How *exactly* does this increase performance when most game specific packets are simple UDP packets that performance-wise are not as demanding as TCP packets (less checksums, no window scaling and other options easily tunable etc.)?
  • ...can it lower /. refresh times?

    I feel some first post karma coming my way...

  • by KalvinB (205500) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:35PM (#17181362) Homepage
    There is hardware, software and internet induced latency. The best a NIC can do is improve hardware induced latency. However that is the least of it. The main thing to worry about is how to reduce the amount of time the software spends processing packet information. There's little you can do about internet latency. Every ms spent rendering the screen is an ms that causes packets to get backed up.

    I wrote a client/server app that had to deal with a rediculous amount of information about hundreds of entities moving around the screen. I found the most efficient way to keep messages being processed was to lock the framerate at 30fps and drop frames if that rate could not be maintained. When a frame is dropped the only thing that doesn't happen is that a frame doesn't get rendered. Suddenly the main look is running at thousands of iterations per second clearing out messages from the queue and processing them because it doesn't have to render a frame for a few ms. 30 ms of focused message processing will reduce lag significantly.

    If I put the emphasis on rendering frames per second the message queue would back up and eventually the app would crash because the buffer was filling up faster than it could empty it.

    Maybe instead of focusing on rendered frames per second, people should be putting more emphasis on iterations per second and getting those messages processed. At 100 fps that give 10ms to render a frame, process all the waiting messages, and perform game logic. Good luck with that. 10ms is barely enough time to just render a frame.

    I bet gamers would have a better on-line experience if they'd lock the rendered frame rate to free up more processing power to handle packets. However, I don't think any modern games allow that. Locking the frame rate typically means locking the entire game processing loop and that's stupid and unnecesary. It is possible to not render a frame but still do everything else.
  • by sofar (317980) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @02:38AM (#17182390) Homepage

    The story only talks about "perceived" improvements, purely from a persons perspective while playing.

    This is the worst story ever. No factual data has been given to support the writers opinion.

    A human being will unlikely perceive the difference between a 50 and a 60ms ping. Only the human ear can distinguish events that close apart in time, but I doubt that even an experienced gamer would be able to tell how high his ping is even in clean situations.

    Why not do a double-blind test with multiple test subject? That would have been at least a fair discussion of how people perceive performance in a marginal field like this.

    This article is horrible, absolutely rock-bottom. What a FUD.
  • Lowering pings (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @03:15AM (#17182566) Journal
    Back in the heyday of Quake II, me and a friend who made the Quake Superheroes and Quake Superheroes II mods put in a superpower that would (ostensibly) reduce your ping time, using some kind of technobabble handwaving. Everyone was convinced that it worked, too, because when you used it, the ping times listed in the player screen would indeed be lower for you!

    What almost no one knew was that the mod API allowed you to simply edit those values on the fly. :) I don't know if anyone ever caught on, but it was funny watching people argue over whether you should take a "real" superpower like flying or teleportation, or try to improve your ping :)

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.

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