Archive

A Review of the Bigfoot Killer Wireless-N 1102 Network Card

Updated Fri, Jun 03, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye

In my job I tend to do a fair amount of traveling over the year. I live on the East Coast and, as luck would have it, most MMOG developers are situated on the West Coast. This means that in any given year I can count on at least 100 or 200 hours that will be spent flying or in airports and for roughly one month out of the year I'll be in a hotel somewhere. Yup, I'm a traveling gamer and as such I spend a fair amount of my work and game time from a laptop. I'm not a rare exception nowadays, either. More and more the popularity of laptops grow every year, being used heavily by professionals, students, and everything in between.

If you've ever experienced wi-fi connections in hotels or aiports you'll know how much of a pain connections can be. So when Bigfoot approached me about reviewing their newest creation, the Killer Wireless-N 1102 embedded Network Card, I was very interested in seeing how it would stand up. I currently run a Killer 2100 Gaming NIC in my desktop and have been quite pleased with it. I was very anxious to see what kind of performance the embedded wireless variation would offer.

Let me preclude by setting expectations. The embedded 1102 obviously cannot magically fix a poor internet connection in say, a hotel. When the network itself is slow obviously anything connected to it will be slow. What it can do, however, is maximize performance for the connection you do have, ensuring that wherever you're connected you're going to see the best possible performance without worrying about your own laptop causing the issues.

The Sweet Suite of Software

The included Killer Network Manager is a powerful application, even on a desktop computer. It becomes even more desirable on a laptop when you're on the go or don't necessarily have the ability to throttle or otherwise manage traffic priorities through a router. And when you're in a hotel, airport or college dorm, it's unlikely you have that kind of control over the network. This is where the NIC really starts to shine.
The Killer Network Manager

The Killer Network Manager makes managing your bandwidth a snap.

Consider this: you're a student in a dorm room and you're using your laptop as a media center for movies, a gaming computer, and of course, homework. You're connected to the dorm network and you've got a project you need to finish by morning which has you bouncing around on the Internet gathering information. However, you also want to download a few TV shows from iTunes to watch after you're done, stream some music to listen to while you work, and patch World of Warcraft to play over the weekend. The dorm network only allows you a maximum of 1.5Mbps downstream so you really have to manage how you're going to do all that.

With the Killer Network Manager, managing those concurrent downloads is a snap. Simply open the Application Manager and drag the bar to the desired bandwidth capacity. In addition, LAN traffic (connecting to local computers without using the internet) can be excepted to any of the rules you set.

The Network Manager also lists all applications that are taking bandwidth. This is useful for obvious reasons, such as manual throttling, but it can also serve as a sort of security system. If your connections seem to be slow, no matter what you do, and you're sure it's not the network you're connecting to, take a look at the running apps. At a glance you'll immediately be able to tell which applications are running and which are hogging your bandwidth.

Advanced Stream Detect

For a real hands-off no-muss-no-fuss solution the Killer NIC also offers Advanced Stream Detect. These priorities will decide which application gets priority traffic. This comes in particularly handy if you've started a download, forgotten about it, and then went to boot up an online game. Instead of experiencing horrible lag, the Advanced Stream Detect will recognize that you're playing a game and automatically give the game priority bandwidth, while throttling your forgotten download. All priorities can be configured manually to set it up the way you want but by default the scheme works like this:

Priority 4 (low) – The default priority for all new or unidentified applications.
•       Torrent downloads
•       File sharing applications such as Dropbox
•       Update applications such as Google Update, iTunes Update, Adobe Updater
•       Email clients such as Outlook
Priority 3 (normal): User-interactive applications
•       Web Browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera
•       User Applications such as PowerPoint, Excel and Word
•       Killer Network Manager
Priority 2 (high): Real-time communications applications
•       IM clients such as  Yahoo, Google, AOL, MSN
•       VoIP clients such as Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, Xfire
•       Video clients such as OoVoo
Priority 1 (highest): Games, Video applications, performance tests  
•       All games and white-listed applications
•       Video chat clients such as Skype, Sightspeed and Vidyo
•       Performance tests such as Netperf and GaNE

Straight out of the box (or straight into the box, since we're discussing an embedded NIC) the Wireless-N 1102 will prioritize the applications that are important to you and ensure that you can do what you set out to do without interruption trying to manage bandwidth. Whether you're watching Netflix or busting up baddies, the Advanced Stream Detect makes it easy to manage.

News from around the 'Net