There is one area that no matter what we do to our computers, we cannot make it faster. We can even spend an insane amount of money on our computer systems in making them faster, but we still are left at the mercy of our internet connection when we play our games online. If we are only as fast as the slowest person, then what can we do as a gamer to help alleviate any system bottlenecks that our computer system may have? To ensure that we are not the “Slowest Person” on the internet. Well besides on spending even more money for a faster internet connection? Sure we can tweak the OS a bit on how it handles network/internet traffic, quite frankly it is still software based tweaks, and not hardware based tweaks. Adding a proper NIC (I do mean proper NIC, because not all NIC’s are hardware accelerated) to our computer systems will normally speed up our computer when it comes to dealing with our internet connections. By adding a hardware accelerated NIC (I will being referring to a NIC quite a bit to simplify my typing, NIC means Network Interface Card, also known as a network expansion card) to our computer systems, will dedicate a NPU (Network Processing Unit) to handle all of our internet/networking traffic more efficient vs. having the CPU to handle everything; which in turns, slows down the response time of our computer.
Today here at the DGC, we are going to be looking at one of the many different types of NIC’s out there. This NIC we are going to be looking at is none other than VisionTek’s Bigfoot 2100 gaming network card. The last time I played with a Bigfoot based NIC, that NIC left me with a rather sour taste in my mouth, almost like drinking sour milk (yep that type of bad after taste). No matter what I tried with the VisionTek Bigfoot Xeno NIC, it kept giving me fits, it did not like MSN, nor it did not work well with my other onboard NIC’s. I was constantly having to change configurations within the Bigfoot configuration tool to even remotely get some kind of enjoyment out of my computer while I either played online or browsed the internet. Since I am the type of person that does not hold grudges against computer manufacturers, I decided it was time to see exactly how the new 2100 NIC stacks up. Every computer manufacturer has its “bad days”, Bigfoot Networks and VisionTek, are no exception. The true question is this, will the 2100 NIC out perform its predecessor? Or, will this NIC fall drastically short and join the countless of other computer components that I personally sent to the deepest, darkest, depths of Overclocking HELL!!!
|Speeds and feeds:Speeds:
10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet, auto-negotiation
Control Panel Application & Tray Indicator
Advanced Game Detect™ (traffic classification)
Visual Bandwidth Control™
Online Gaming PC Monitor™
UDP traffic offload & acceleration
Windows Network Stack bypass
Microsoft Windows 7 32 bit
Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit
Microsoft Windows Vista 32 bit
Microsoft Windows Vista 64 bit
Microsoft Windows XP 32 bit
400 MHz Bigfoot Networks Processor
128MB DDR2 266MHz
Max 10W, Typical 3W
WHQL Certification for: Windows XP 32 bit, Vista, and Windows 7
WHQL – XP and Vista
802.3, 802.3u, 820.3x, 802.3z, 802.3ac, 802.3ab
VisionTek does a have a decent overall presentation of the Bigfoot 2100 NIC. It is not exactly eye-catching, but it does get our attention.
VisionTek uses a standard cardboard box that will contain the 2100 NIC.
This is where I was not completely thrilled to see, the 2100 NIC was just sitting in the box loosely. I would have preferred to see a bit more protection surrounding the NIC itself. But considering I purchased this NIC from Newegg.com, and it was able to survive a trip on the express way of Hell shipping (UPS), and managed to survive, I won’t hold this against VisionTek.
What comes with the VisionTek 2100 NIC. Naturally we get the NIC itself, we get a driver disk (I recommend that you download the updated drivers from either VisionTek, or Bigfoot Networks), and finally we get an installation manual.
The 2100 NIC is not all that large, it roughly measures about 4 inches or so. We should be able to use this NIC in a majority of different types/sizes of chassis with no ill effects of having a NIC blocking airflow, or causing serious issues in our chassis. The VisionTek 2100 NIC uses a full cage design to help protect the main vital components of this NIC. This also makes the VisionTek NIC look a bit more clean-looking.
The backside of the VisionTek 2100 NIC.
Unlike its predecessor the VisionTek Xeno Killer NIC which uses the older PCI expansion port, while the VisionTek 2100 NIC uses a PCI-E x1 port. This NIC can be used in a PCI-E x1, x4, x8, x16 PCI-E ports.
Now instead of leaving the front portion of the NIC shield cover to be open, VisionTek places a small grill here to finish off the look of the NIC.
Here is what the VisionTek 2100 NIC with the cover removed. The NPU core has the famous logo of the Bigfoot Network imprinted directly on it.
A closer look at the memory that is being used on the VisionTek Bigfoot NIC. Looking at the Datasheet from Samsung about these types of memory, I found out these are indeed DDR2 memory with a speed rating of 667 MHz.
What the rear IO port of the NIC looks like. Now again VisionTek did not go overboard with the connectors like we have seen previously on the Xeno NIC. VisionTek kept it simple, and just used one RJ-45 Ethernet port.
On the facing side of the NIC, VisionTek puts the name of the type of NIC that is being used in your computer for all to see.
My computer ‘Mini Me’, this is the “Testing Station” that is being used to perform all of the tests you will see on this review. As we look at this computer, the one item that grabs our attention is the NIC that is being used on this computer, well besides the two water-cooled 6970’s .
An up close shot of the VisionTek 2100 NIC installed into Mini Me. As I stated earlier, this NIC is not all that large. It is roughly one-third the size of my 6970 video card.
A night-time shot of the VisionTek 2100 NIC. Like the previous Xeno NIC, the 2100 NIC uses red LEDs.
|CPU||Core i7 970
|Case||Case, what case?
|Video Card||2 X 6970s
|Hard Drives|| 1 Patriot Torqx 128 Gig SSD, 4 x Seagate Momentus 320 HDD in RAID 0, 1 Western Digital 1 TB HDD
|CDROM Drive||Lite-On Blu-ray|
|Power Supply||Power Cooling 950 Watt
|CPU Speeds Used||4.2GHz
|Operating System Used||Microsoft Windows 7
|Video Card Cooler
||Koolance 697 Water Cooling
For testing purposes, I will see if the VisionTek 2100 NIC will help improve our frame rates while we play our games online. One of the biggest downfalls of having a high ping is that our frame rates suffer. I will also be using SiSoft network bandwidth testing for my overall network bandwidth capabilities, plus, it gives me the Latency of the NIC. I will be comparing the VisionTek 2100 NIC to my onboard Realtek GBE Ethernet port. All results are based from an average of three runs per benchmark. Your results may vary greatly from my own.
Before I jump right into the results portion of my testing, I am going to show you the software that will be installed once you install the driver for the 2100 NIC. They are one in the same, so we cannot just use the driver and skip the software.
Once you get the driver software installed and your computer restarted, you will be greeted with this window, plus the 2100 NIC will ask you to do a “internet bandwidth test”, you can either skip this testing portion or you can let it run its course. I allowed it to run its course, and after it was completed, I had to make some minor adjustments to the control panel to reflect my actual internet connection speed. The internet bandwidth test gave me a 9 mb/s down and 500 hb/s up, my actual internet speed is 15 mb/s download with a 1 mb/s up.
These next few screen shots are just here to give you an idea of what the software for the VisionTek 2100 NIC looks like, and what we can do with it.
The bundled software that comes with the VisionTek 2100 NIC can do quite a bit of different things. We can monitor the network traffic amount of our internet bandwidth we are using, CPU utilization, we can also also set priorities of our programs that we use with the included software. What this basically does is to allow different programs access to the internet, or not to allow these programs access to the internet. We can set our games a higher priority than other programs, so when we are in that game playing online or playing single player campaign, the software will give most of the available internet bandwidth to that game. This software becomes rather useful for those who don’t want to have their online gaming session interrupted by some damn program automatically updated killing our ping times, (all Virus scanning programs, all spyware programs, Adobe, Corel, Cyberlink, pretty much any computer software program that we use nowadays, will randomly start-up on its own to “be updated”). Well, unless you know what you are doing, you know how to turn that crap off already.
Looking at these numbers, I really don’t see much of a difference between 1 NIC to the other. Now granted this test is being performed on my main computer that houses a Core i7 970 Hex core CPU with 12 threads available; which in turn, gives me plenty of spare CPU cycles for just about anything I do. So your results may differ from my own.
In Mega Bytes (1024 KB/s=1 MB/s) per Second Higher = Better
Looking at my SiSoft Transfer rate chart, we can see that the VisionTek 2100 NIC is somewhat holding back my transfer rates when dealing with my home network, by almost half again slower than the onboard NIC. My theoretical transfer rate on my personal home network should be in the 125 MB/s range at a peak, 1000 mb/s (or 1 gigabit) 1000/8=125 MB/s (roughly). This result coincides with my actual sustained transfer rate when I move large files (of 6+ GB’s) from my main computer to my HTPC computer upstairs; that is separated by about 85 feet of Cat 5e cable.
Latency in Microseconds Lower = Better
SiSoft will also give me the actual Latency of my NIC, this is a measurement of how fast my computer can talk to the NIC. Not to be confused with ping, ping is external, latency is internal. Now this is where the VisionTek 2100 NIC shines, it does provide me with a lower latency over the onboard Realtek GBE port. A Microsecond is 10 with a power of -6 or 10−6 we take 160 times 10−6 = 0.00016 seconds for the VisionTek 2100 NIC, and 328 times 10−6 = 0.000328 seconds for the Realtek GBE.
During my use of this little NIC, the experience was somewhat pleasant. I did not have any of the issues I had previously with the Xeno NIC. The software that is included is a lot easier to navigate through, I did not have any conflicting issues with leaving my onboard NICs on while using the VisionTek 2100 NIC. As soon as I got the this NIC, I hooked it up, and was playing on the internet within minutes.
Time for me to wrap things up here. Does the VisionTek 2100 NIC perform the way it was supposed to? In some senses yes, and in others no. Yes because it did lower the latency of my computer when dealing with this NIC vs the latency of the onboard Realtek GBE. No, because it did not increase my games frame rates, and it seemed to hinder my overall transfer rate on my personal network. Considering my main computer is not exactly small, and it is somewhat unorthodox (meaning not everyone is toting an overclocked 970 CPU) you may get entirely different results then my own. The VisionTek Bigfoot Killer Network Gaming Card receives a:
5 out of Ten and the:
Copper Dragon Award