The rest of us at Ten Ton Hammer have had our gimlet eye on Bigfoot
Networks' Killer 2100 Network Processing Card ever since Ten Ton
Hammer's own Ben de la Durantaye href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/reviews/hardware/killer2100">reviewed
the card and found that
it not only took a swing at our ancient enemy - latency - and
granted greater control of bandwidth but actually improved framerate as
well. Bigfoot took another big step into the GPU realm with today's
announcement of a combination NPU and GPU dubbed the Killer Radeon HD
You can catch the full marketing spin here, but we had a few questions
of our own. Namely, does the Killer HD 5770 do more than free up a PCIe
slot? Is heat a problem with a combined card? What's the target
audience for the combo card, and are your upgrade options limited?
Fortunately, Bigfoot Networks' John Drewry sifted through our
skepticism to portray the Killer HD 5770 as a value proposition
purpose-built for the scores of us mainstream online gamers
ready for an upgrade but unwilling to spend a rent check on a top of
the line GPU. View his responses below.
Ton Hammer: Aside from preserving a PCIe slot, what are the advantages
of combining the Radeon HD 5770 and Killer 2100 on the same card? Is
heat a concern with essentially two cards packed into a single slot?
Drewry: Additional advantages
are simplicity, cost and flexibility. On the simplicity front, Killer
HD 5770 lets a gamer purchase a single card for their mainstream PC to
upgrade it for online gaming. Many of us have older PCs around the
house with integrated graphics or even an older graphics card, and this
provides a good way to extend the life of that system and repurpose it
as a usable gaming PC. On the cost
front, this combined solution offers
customers a savings over buying each component separately. Finally, for
flexibility, we recognize that many users encounter different
challenges in terms of real estate inside their rigs. For users who do
not have room to install a Killer 2100 PCIe x1 card, either because the
slot is filled or possibly even blocked by another component or cooling
solution, this provides another alternative to adding this
Cooling is not a major problem because adding Killer functionality to
the card does not raise operating temperatures as much as adding a
second GPU might. The new Killer HD 5770 does use a cooling fan that is
sufficient to keep everything running properly.
Ton Hammer: Common sense would seem to dictate that you'd want two
cards - cards for which speed is an absolute priority - in separate
slots. We know that the PCIe architecture is capable of incredible
bandwidth to the tune of 8 gigatransfers per second, so are single slot
bus and bandwidth concerns part of the past?
Drewry: Good question. We
expect that PC enthusiast customers seeking to squeeze out every ounce
of performance out of their systems will still prefer to install
separate networking and graphics cards. The important thing here is
that VisionTek customers now have a choice. If they want a solution
that combines graphics and networking on a single card, they can choose
the Killer HD 5770, but if they prefer to install separate cards, then
VisionTek sells separate graphics and Killer cards too.
Ton Hammer: Driver updates are almost a monthly occurrence for GPUs if
not NICs. Will gamers update the Killer HD 5770 in the same fashion as
Drewry: Yes. This was a key
design consideration. We did not want to lock users in to a unique
version of the drivers that prevented them from getting the latest
updates for either the networking functionality or the graphics
functionality. As a result, users will be able to apply driver updates
independently for networking and graphics as they become available.
Ton Hammer: Radeon HD cards are already stretching into the 5800 and
6800s with NIC-less models boasting price points comparable to the
Killer HD 5770. For the hardcore gaming audience looking for
the latest and greatest, does the Killer 2100 boost really make
"slumming it" with an early 2010 GPU worthwhile? Or should the truly
elite keep their Killer NIC and GPU in separate slots, for upgrade
purposes if nothing else?
Drewry: I may have answered
this above, but again, this is really about choice. VisionTek
implemented this first version of the combo card with AMD Radeon HD
5770 GPU technology. The product is targeted more to the mainstream
gamer than the PC enthusiast. For this segment of the market, a
solution that combines HD graphics and superior Killer networking at a
$199 price point represents a great upgrade for online gaming. For PC
enthusiasts who already have a premium class rig and demand
“the best”, VisionTek also offers a full line of
graphics cards that includes the Radeon HD 5800 and 6800 series as well
as standalone Killer 2100 gaming network cards.
Our thanks to John Drewry for this interview, and there you
have it, folks. It seeems that the Killer HD 5770 sounds like
a good fit for mainstream gamers, but the truly hardcore might want to
exercise their choice and keep shopping.