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BigFoot Networks Xeno Pro

#1 User is offline   kzaske 

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 04:42 AM

Packaging:
First impressions; Honestly, I was not impressed by the brown box or the blue anti-static bubble wrap the electrostatic bags within that held two cards. But then again I knew they would be “white box” cards so I was not upset.

Getting Started:
I did some research on Big Foot’s forums and found an issue where Avira (my anti-virus) conflicts with the modifications that Big Foot makes to windows LSP. I had noted that everyone reporting this issue was using the latest and greatest driver 6.0.0.62 so I thought that using an earlier version of the driver I could avoid that issue. I should have checked Avira’s support forums before I came to that conclusion, but I was too excited and wanted to see how well this new NIC card would work.

On my computer I used device manager to uninstall the driver then disabled the onboard Gigabit NIC in the BIOs, used DriverCleaner.Net to remove left overs, installed the Xeno Pro then installed Big Foot’s 6.0 drivers that were on the CD that came with the cards. The installation was quick and easy.
Because of the modifications to the LSP that the driver had made my anti-virus monitors were disabled, that is when I checked out Avira’s support forums and discovered this issue has been ongoing since Killer NICs were introduced, not good. Avira apparently considers this to be too small of an issue to fix and Big Foot cannot fix the issue and have the Xeno and other (such as the new 2100) cards still work.
When I launched Internet Explorer I found every web site but one (this one) loaded much faster than they had previously. I was impressed.

After about half an hour of researching the issue I started Guild Wars (my favorite game) and for the first time in years it was almost lag free, it was stutter free. Were my pings lower? When I was running two instances of Guild Wars at the same time; towns like Kamadan American D1 my pings were running about half of normal (150-275ms), with only one or two instances of stutter. When I was running a single instance of Guild Wars the highest ping I had in Kamadan American D1 was 168ms and stutter free, with my onboard NIC the lag would be around 300ms or higher with a lot of stuttering. Again I was impressed.

I disabled then uninstalled the onboard NIC on my wife’s computer then rebooted and attempted to disable the onboard NIC in her BIOs. The mother board would not boot with the onboard card disabled! What a pain. For those that want to know her mother board is an MSI 870-G45. I attempted to update the BIOs but their flash tool requires a 32bit OS. Anyway I disabled the onboard NIC in Windows then uninstalled the driver and called it good. The installation of the Killer Xeno went without any unexpected issues.

One of the first tests I tried after installing the NICs into both computers was a simple file transfer from my computer to my wife’s computer of a 113MB file, It transferred at 113MBs. OK, that is about the same speed I had before. The second test was the transfer from my computer to my wife’s computer of a 14.5GB folder with 24 items. It started off at 98MBs and quickly dropped to 80, then 77 by the time half the folder was transferred the transfer rate was down to 65MBs. The onboard NICs did better as they never dropped below 75MBs. That was a so-so result.

Recently a web site published an overview of the various Catalyst drivers over the last year for Linux. Alas I found that no web site had done the same thing for Windows, sounds like a fun project even if it means taking apart my 4850 Crossfire system. Time to see how well the Xeno handles downloads.
When I attempted to download the needed drivers from ATI, I discovered that my maximum download was about 100KBs, period. If I tried to download two drivers at the same time they both came down at 50-55KBs. Once I waited for one driver to get half way down when I started the second driver downloading. The speed of the first download dropped so that both finished at the same time. With the onboard NICs I almost always have a download speed greater than 5MBs.
I should have been able to pull down all the drivers I needed in less than 45 minutes, it took four hours – Epic fail. Only one review of the Xeno Pro cards mentioned this issue, on a rather obscure web site too. None of the big boys (such as Tom’s hardware or HardOCP) had even mentioned that. They reported that the CEO of Big Foot Networks stated that the cards are not optimized for downloads from web sites, they are optimized for UDP broadcasts.

The Good:
Yes the card did what Big Foot Networks say it would do. I had a much better and smother game play experience, I was happy. If you are a gamer these cards are worth having as long as your anti-virus does not lock the LSP. Then again, a gamer will simply change antivirus software.

The Bad:
If your computer is a general purpose computer, meaning games are not a big deal to you but downloading from web sites is, don’t bother with a Killer NIC. What should have been a two minute download for me turned into a twenty minute download, I kid you not.

The Bottom Line:
Where does that leave me? The primary function of my wife’s computer is games, I will be talking with her about removing the card but she is very conscious of how easily viruses can invade her system and the damage they can do. The primary function of my computer is more general purpose and downloading from web sites is a bigger deal to me than playing games. The Xeno is getting pulled, with a little luck I might be able to find a buyer or simply return it (them) to Amazon.

If I had to rate this product I would give it one star for everyday users and four stars for gamers. What do you think?

Ken /|\
:foldon:
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#2 User is offline   Zaevin 

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 06:30 AM

...OK... I have to admit that I am surprised that you so quickly pulled the card. Is downloading important? Hell yes. Bandwidth control is a feature of this card. Did you research it? It has been enabled out of the box in basic mode (on older cards) and can severely limit what you are trying to download if it isnt given a "high" or number 1 priority.

Perhaps you are genuinely concerned about how Avira has decided not to address the LSP issue. It concerned me some as well. Avira needs to fix it, I agree. Will they invest the resources in time and money to do so? Likely not :(. However, Google and other third-party "safe" software , inject DLLs into the network stack too. As far as Avira goes though (and older versions of NOD32 (ESET) you could probably benefit with faster web browsing by leaving the webguard-related features off. I dumped ESET when they decided to change how they monitor web traffic on my PC, by hooking into the network stack too. The only DLLs I want there , are DLLs that "bypass" windows-inefficiencies, not create another I/O layer to monitor how data is flowing from the web and into system memory. Its a very secure "idea", but "overkill" in my experience with similar software (not an apples to apples comparision..I know). Try it though. Is browsing faster with your onboard NIC now that the Avira DLLs are no longer attached to the IPStack?

The "debate" on the Killer forums in years past , was that some security softwares actually attach themselves so deeply into the OS , similar to ESET and Aviras Web-related-features, that they become oddly-like the viruses they are trying to protect us from.

You had great gaming performance. I am puzzled, frankly. You sound "wowed" by the gaming experience and faster web-browsing but understandably-frustrated by the slow download speeds. I'm not denying your experience, but It hasn't been an issue, that I couldn't reconfigure, with my K1 Killer (first gen technology). Bigfoot caters to enthusiasts in my experience. Maybe they need to make their products easier to setup for downloading?

I am pretty certain, based upon my past experience with my K1, you needed to configure your card a little bit differently. They had a "transfer" or download-compatible mode that you had to manually switch the card from UDP-full-on-mode, back to a more usable "everyday" mode. This is due to UDP acceleration at the firmware level, so the mode of the card has to be "switched" by clicking the desired-option. In prior products, those options were accessible by right clicking on the KillerTray app in the system tray.

I will share some screenshots later if you are cool with that, that can better explain how to navigate those areas of their driver . Looks like they have that feature for the Xeno and 2100 too:
http://www.bigfootnetworks.com/assets/Products/Killer2100/bandwidth-monitor.png




Anyway, my card is on the way. I will do what I can to address some of these lingering questions. Can I download fast? Likely so. Maybe not so, with basic setup. Bigfoot has had an "advanced" mode that can be enabled , but hasn't been turned on by default.

I am confident that with a little "tweaking" I can do the same with a Xeno. Thanks for letting me know about this great deal! :)

I think we can get your situation sorted with the MSI errors ....I was able to install Dashboard without any problems.... Worst case scenario though with MSI / Windows installer issues is a full OS reinstall... Hope that isnt the case though. Did Avira reinstall OK? May have to re-register the Windows Installer Service.

-Z
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#3 User is offline   Agent51 

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 10:05 AM

Great stuff here guys,
I would like to see the results after your tweeks Z


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#4 User is offline   kzaske 

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 04:54 PM

What issues with MSI? I have one application (the dashboard app from BigFoot) that fails because a file is not found, that is it. Everything else that uses an MSI to install works fine.

As for the Advanced settings you were talking about, they are not what was expected. I expected a control panel type application that allowed full access and the ability to change "modes." That application does not exist in the current drivers.

I did however find the problem. My Wife's computer still has her Killer NIC installed and due to your comments I double checked her settings. When the bandwidth tester failed during install I had manually set the upload/download at 1/10MBs. For some reason, the manager had the numbers reversed. I corrected the number, clicked test, it failed again. I found that in order for the new numbers to be properly enabled I had to enter the numbers, go to another "tab" (pane would be a better way of describing it) then close the manager. When I reopened the manager the numbers were retained, finally. I then tested the download speed and boom, 600-700KBs (it changed a lot). No where near what I was use too but much better than before. To verify a couple of variables, I attempted to download another driver from my computer. The best download I got was 585KBs due to server load. Half an hour later I was downloading at 1.2MBs on my system.

When you get yours, be sure to check the download/upload speeds listed in the advanced tab. Yes there is a dialog box but what I put in there (I verified the numbers before I clicked OK) appears to have gotten reversed. Then again I may have reversed them, but I don't really think I did that, just not sure...

To address the AntiVirus issue (yes that is very very important) Connie has MSE running now in addation a daily scan by Avira. On a side note it appears that MSE no longer scans incoming e-mail, which is a feature that Windows Defender had. At least it is not a seperate item in the options listing anymore.

Ken /|\
:foldon:

Edit: I added a couple of notes above about download speeds. I admit I did not even think about double checking the band width settings. I still find it hard to believe that BigFoot would make such an error in design in that they would limit downloads based on a manually entered number rather than actually letting the download flow at the highest possible speed.

As for the number of stars I awarded it before: for the average user three stars (minus one star due to the bandwidth limits being set the way they are), gamers still get four.

This post has been edited by kzaske: 31 December 2010 - 05:13 PM

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#5 User is offline   Zaevin 

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 06:57 PM

Nice. Glad to hear the MSI errors were limited to the specific MSI file.

Yeah the bandwidth-configuration-setup of their older drivers (K1 Killer), wasn't as intuitive as I would have liked it either. I made the mistake once of leaving my internet browser at a low-bandwidth-priority. .... I could't figure out why my bandwidth was so low!! I felt so "silly" later when I realized what I had done. I assigned my web browser to priority 1 and that fixed the issue.

I later learned that I could disable the bandwidth option all together and leave the hardware/software-firewall enabled by default ; running my PC firewall entirely on the Killer. I had to leave the modestly-sized-TSR running for the firewall-GUI and prompts, but could turn all the other optional driver features off. I am hoping, and pretty confident, I can do the same with the Xeno as well.

My Xeno shipped today. I think I will see it by 5-Jan-11 to 7-Jan-11. I will let you all know what it arrives.

-Z
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#6 User is offline   Zaevin 

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 11:38 AM

Awesome! I got my Xeno Pro yesterday. I like the new software tools....testing commencing.

-Z
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#7 User is offline   kzaske 

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 09:36 PM

Update: If anyone is looking at buying a Killer NIC, the Xeno Pro and the 2100 are basicly the same card. The Xeno Pro was a marketing driven mistake as it tried to be everything to everyone. On board USB with headphone/speaker jacks that just consumed way too much processor time. With the latest drivers those ports (anti-features) no longer work, they were disabled to improve the function of the networking port.

On a side note; My wife has decided that she likes the improved performance of the new network card. I am no longer alowed to think about sending her Xeno back, which is strange because she finally told me that she likes her GTX460 1GB (after three months of testing it).

Ken /|\
:foldon:

This post has been edited by kzaske: 09 January 2011 - 04:14 PM

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