Now normally network controllers aren't a huge source of innovation. People simply don't think of them as they do the CPU, GPU, or memory connectivity like M.2 or PCI-E. But the Killer NIC, found in select GIGABYTE Z170 boards, isn't an ordinary network controller. Its proprietary software can classify and prioritize traffic ensuring that latency sensitive applications, such as multiplayer games, will not be impacted while other things like downloads run in the background.
Recently Mark Nelson from The Tech Report visited Rivet Networks' headquarters for a briefing and posted a great writeup on the Killer NICs, explaining how the controllers work and putting them through their paces on various benchmarks.
Here's a brief rundown of the advantages it brings gamers:
Killer tells us its driver has been tweaked to minimize latency, so as soon as it gets any amount of data to send, it puts that data straight onto the wire. In contrast, a driver that doesn't prioritize latency may hold off on sending to do a couple of things. Such a driver might wait to combine multiple small payloads into a single packet if the destination is the same, or it may queue up multiple sends at a time to minimize the number of interrupts taken. Games usually send out data in 128-byte chunks or less, so Killer's driver should minimize the amount of time that game data spends in the network stack. In fact, the Killer Networking folks claim the E2400's latency performance beats the competition by up to 50% during single-application usage.
Here's what Mark found out during his benchmarking. As you can see, the Killer NIC beats the competition by a healthy margin. Check it out: