Due to being an OEM sample there is no box or documentation to show. Which, while not ideal I expect the reason you’re here is to see if the Killer 2100 is money well spent or not. As far as hardware goes, there isn’t a whole lot to be said. It’s a PCIe 1x card with the only other connection being an Ethernet port on the PCI bracket. The back holds host to a sticker with the serial number on.
BFN Killer 2100 with shroud removed
Taking the black shroud off reveals two main things, the first being the obvious 400MHz NPU (Network Processing Unit) with 128MB of DDR memory nearby. The more interesting being the empty outlines with the labels “Line Out”, “Mic In”, “HP Out” and “J6”. Bigfoot Networks’ bigger brother to the Killer 2100, the Killer Xeno Pro, is the reason behind this. Both products share the same PCB, with the difference being the Xeno Pro has a USB 2.0 port (where the “J6” label is) and two 3.5mm jacks – designed for use with headsets allowing the Xeno’s NPU to do the processing, instead of the CPU taking care of the onboard audio. Finally, the least obvious of all on the PCB are the two red LEDs, located at the top of the PCB these LEDs will shine through the shroud when the card is installed and has power.
Having installed the NIC into a spare PCIe slot, I went on to download the latest drivers from the Bigfoot Networks website (v188.8.131.52 – released 17/01/2011). Installing the drivers and software is much like any other installation, agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA) and press next a few times, but nice to see was the installer checking the card’s firmware and updating it if required. Once installed the Network Manager does a speed test of the available bandwidth to see what it has available to play with. These values can however, be later manually edited should they not be correct. On the Killer’s product page, Bigfoot Networks state a feature of the Killer 2100 to be visual bandwidth control. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a chance to test this out in full. Firstly, because I use Avast as my anti-virus it uses what are called “Real-time Shields” which route network traffic through specific scanners (Shields) for Mail, Web, P2P etc. and as a result of this, the BFN Network Manager sees only one application using the network. The other reason I’m afraid to say, is what will take up the rest of this review.
One of the first things I tried was going into command prompt and attempting to ping two well known and fairly reliable servers – bbc.co.uk and google.co.uk. Using the onboard NIC, pinging a bbc.co.uk server produced an average round trip of 2ms and 0% loss. An average of 17ms with 0% loss was the result of pinging a google.co.uk server via the onboard NIC. With the Killer 2100 NIC now in use and the motherboard’s onboard networking disabled, pinging the same servers produced average round trips of 152ms and 186ms respectively, both with 0% loss again. Considering the Killer 2100 is advertised as improving latency, something was clearly not right so I went on to try speedtest.net and pingtest.net to see what results they returned.
PCB of the Killer 2100
Using the recommend server (Maidenhead) on pingtest.net, resulted in a 0% packet loss with a ping of 6ms and a 2ms jitter. Repeating the test with the same server gave similar results (0%, 5ms and 1ms, respectively). With the Killer NIC, on the same server, the average results across two tests were 0% packet loss, a ping of 138ms and 108ms jitter. Onto speedtest.net, using the Maidenhead server with the onboard NIC gave a ping of 4ms, 1.98Mbps download and 2.18Mbps upload. Whereas previous tests had shown quite a difference between onboard and the Killer, this test did not, with the Killer getting a ping of 5ms and a slightly slower speeds of 1.95Mbps and 1.96Mbps (download and upload).
With the effectively synthetic tests attempted, I had planned to move onto testing in online games (such as Battlefield Bad Company 2, Unreal Tournament 3 and Team Fortress 2) but this was not to be. My system became very unstable throwing out seemingly random BSODs for no reason. Having tried memtest, MSI Afterburner and LinX my computer was stable but recently something had changed. This was the installation of the Killer 2100 so with both the NIC and all software removed I left it for a bit and my computer was perfectly stable once again. To give try once again, I decided a clean installation of Windows 7 was the best route so backed up all I needed to and set the installation going.
With the installation completed and what I’d consider to be the essential programs installed. I decided it was now time to put the Killer back into my computer (this time using a different PCIe slot) and install the software. This, however, proved to be more difficult than previously as the installation failed twice but upon the third attempt worked fine. With the computer having been restarted as part of the installation, I now thought it worth re-trying the earlier tests (pinging google.co.uk and bbc.co.uk, pingtest.net and speedtest.net) but here another problem presented itself. I could not get any network connection from either my onboard NIC or the Killer. After trying three sets of drivers for my motherboard’s onboard NIC and being very close to binning all I’d done and again doing a new Windows 7 installation I first decided to do a system restore to just before the BFN drivers and software was installed. Lo and behold, system restore had saved me lots of time and it was all the fault of the Killer 2100. It’s disappointing not to get it working properly but there is not much else I could do.