EVGA Killer Xeno Pro Gaming Network Card Review
By André Gordirro on August 3, 2009
Who hasn’t screamed at the monitor when a faltering internet connection disrupted an otherwise good online match? No matter how powerful and gaming-oriented a PC is, sometimes lag is inevitable. To try and minimize these problems, BigFoot Networks released the Killer Xeno Pro, a network card sold by EVGA that takes control of the internet away from Windows and manages the bandwith to the user’s gaming needs. The operation is a bit complex but the purpose of this test is to see if it delivers what it promises.
The Killer Xeno Pro is in itself a PCI Express x1 Gigabit Ethernet card with a network port, a USB 2.0 port, and two audio input/output. It has a dedicated 400 MHz PowerPC processor with 128 MB of DDR2 RAM. Installation is a breeze: just plug it in an available PCI Express slot, disable the on-board network card (either through Windows Control Panel or BIOS setup) and install the Killer Xeno Pro driver so it can take over network management.
The Killer Xeno Pro bypasses the Windows Network Stack to transfer packets directly to/from the game, without using the system CPU to perform any function, differently of what happens when you use the motherboard on-board network card, since Killer Xeno Pro has a dedicated networking processor. In layman’s terms Killer Xeno Pro behaves like an overzealous porter that receives a FedEx addressed to you and immediately sends it over to your apartment, instead of piling up stuff over the counter and waiting to deliver everything by the end of his shift, like Windows does.
The Killer Xeno Pro is like a computer in itself, as it sports a processor, memory and storage capacity (you can plug a pen drive in its USB port, for instance). BigFoot Network promises that some features will benefit by later applications like, for instance, running a Torrent client through its processor and saving the downloaded file unto a pen drive, bypassing the whole system entirely.
Once you click on the Xeno icon, you have access to a menu that features “game mode” (optimizes the system for gameplay); “application mode” (does the same for each selected app); “Xeno configuration” (the actual card control panel) and, finally, “bandwith control” (duh).
The user can fine-tune the bandwidth according to each application and set maximum and minimum download/upload values. It’s also possible to manage the VoIP feature from some games through the card, taking this load of the system and minimizing voice lag among players.
We tested the Killer Xeno Pro playing Team Fortress 2 and World of Warcraft while simultaneously downloading files from a Torrent client to see how the card managed packets and if we were going to have either some gain or less interference while playing. We used the free software FRAPS utility to measure the framerate and put the values against those generated by our own on-board network card.
It’s important to point out that this test is subject to lots of uncontrollable variables. Online game elements are mutable – number of players in a server, amount and intensity of the action etc – so no test is ever the same. Still, in the case of Team Fortress 2, we played on the same crowded server and tried to be at the thick of the action to gather the framerate and latency values.
The framerate improved overall with the card on, both when we played the game without downloading anything and when running the Torrent client. We got a 5 to 6 FPS improvement on both counts, going from 120 to 126 FPS and from 118 to 123 FPS, respectively. We had better results on latency as we usually play on some overseas servers that usually kick us out when we go over their ping limit (either 200 or 300 ms, depending on their mood). Even with a 500 MB file being downloaded we manage to keep on playing without being shown the door (although we almost broke the limits), something impossible with the regular on-board card. Kudos to the Killer Xeno Pro.
World of Warcraft was harder to test because our player character, the mighty Ogrum (Warrior 38), is only a middle-level character. We had to borrow a friend’s account with some much higher-level characters to go to some crowed and more dangerous (i.e., with more action) areas of the game world. Framerate value kept to a steady 70 FPS with either the Killer Xeno Pro on (simultaneously downloading or not) or the on-board card. We had an overall latency improvement of 10 ms with the BigFoot Networks device.
None of the tests revealed a life-or-death improvement or even such an advancement to leave us flabbergasted. We got a better result with Team Fortress 2 because we usually play on overseas servers that are really strict about player latency. We stopped being kicked out with the Killer Xeno Pro. Although the results are not spectacular – a bad connection will always be a bad connection, there’s no magic wand to change that – the gaming network card delivered. Still, it begs the question to whom might get a better value out of it. The casual player will not feel an advance in performance and may not even notice the small gain in framerate and latency. It’s only useful if you really, really need to download something during game time.
The Killer Xeno Pro gaming network card main specifications are: