I remember the first card nVidia ever put out.. the NV1, which was a PCI video card plus an audio card plus wavetable synthesizer plus game controller board. At the time, all of these functions were handled by several different add-on cards, and certainly not via the PCI bus. That technology was way ahead of its time, which in my opinion is the major reason it was not a commercial success. Because of this, it landed on our list of the 11 Worst Technologies of All Time.
Fast forward fifteen years towards today, and you’ll see that there hasn’t been another technological attempt so epic in the consumer computer market. That is, until you see the VisionTek Killer HD 5770.
It’s a video card. It’s an audio card. It’s a network card… and it leaps over MMOs in a single bound.
VisionTek has combined forces with AMD and Bigfoot networks to deliver an all-inclusive gaming card that delivers nearly everything an enthusiast gamer could want.
The Killer HD 5770 is a one-card, one-slot solution that combines leading-edge graphics and networking to give consumers explosive HD gaming performance for today’s hottest online titles. The Killer HD 5770 card uses the AMD Radeon HD 5770 graphics processing unit (GPU) to deliver DirectX 11 support, multimonitor setup and 7.1 audio via HDMI output. The Killer HD 5770 card also uses the Killer E2100 platform to deliver blazing-fast Gigabit Ethernet networking optimized for online gameplay. The Killer E2100 platform is a new, embeddec version of the award-winning Killer 2100 gaming network card developed by Bigfoot Networks.
nVidia has cornered the market on using the GPU for just about every offloading task you could think of, from game physics to video encoding to finding aliens in outer space (I’m not kidding). The one thing they haven’t used their massivly parallel-processing chip for is offloading the network load, which is something that Bigfoot has been doing for years with their Bigfoot Killer NIC.
We’ve taken a look at Bigfoot’s Killer Xeno technology before (read our article here), which was certainly a gamer’s luxury worthy of drooling fanboys at your local LAN party. The card promises a 40% network performance increase in online games, and a 27% smoother framerate. The VisionTek Killer Xeno bypasses your computer’s slow and outdated network stack and routes all game traffic through Xeno’s dedicated Network Processing Unit (NPU). In theory, this lets your CPU focus on other tasks while the Killer network card handles network traffic, resulting in better performance for online games and applications.
Offloading network load onto a seperate processor sounds like a good idea on paper, but unfortunately the price to experience such technology has been steep for a stand-alone card. Thanks to this product merger, gamers can experience Bigfoot’s networking technology with an integrated add-on card that does everything on the GPU.
We are assuming that the Killer technology shares its processing and memory resources with the GPU, rather than utilizing a stand-alone processor. Bigfoot’s stand-alone products use a dedicated NPU (Network Processing Unit) and dedicated memory. This architechture is so modularized that you can terminal into the processor and issue Linux commands. We’re not sure how well integrated the VisionTek product is, but we’ll run it through its paces when we recieve a test sample.
The major divide I see between nVidia and AMD is in which technologies they support. nVidia has a winning hand with PhysX and video encoding. AMD cannot legally compete with PhysX support, and video encoding support has not been as robust or user-friendly.
Some say the PC game is becoming lost due to the simultaneous release of the same titles on the major consoles. That could be true, except for Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs). The VisionTek HD 5770 card is targeted directly to PC gamers who play these types of games, which promises to reduce lag and give the best visuals possible, even in the next-generation games.
The VisionTek HD 5770 has an MSRP of $199, which is about as much as you would pay for a 5770 and Killer Xeno network card (according to our price checks for a Visiontek 5770 ($159) and Killer Xeno ($60)), so there doesn’t appear to be much of a savings by bundling into one card.
Perhaps things can turn around with the emergence of the VisionTek HD 5770 card. We will bring you a full report of its capabilities once we can put the card through its paces.