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Intel acquires Rivet, maker of Killer Wireless-AC gaming Wi-Fi gear

Enlarge / This Killer 1650x is really a rebranded Intel AX200 under the hood—but to be fair, Intel put stuff into the AX200 chipset just for Rivet, which only gets enabled on Rivet’s version of the card.

On Wednesday, Intel announced its acquisition of Rivet Networks—makers of the Killer AC-brand line of gamer-oriented Wi-Fi gear—for an undisclosed price.

Intel Vice President Chris Walker describes the acquisition as “a terrific complement to our existing Wi-Fi products,” going on to praise Rivet’s products—the best known of which is the Killer Wireless-AC line of gaming-targeted Wi-Fi cards—and declare its intent to integrate the Killer line into Intel’s broader PC Wi-Fi portfolio.

Aside from the branding, the major value Intel acquires with Rivet is far more likely to be software than hardware. When privately testing a Killer Wireless-AC Wi-Fi card in a gaming laptop, the card in the laptop did not distinguish itself above a standard Intel 7265 Wi-Fi interface in a Chromebook—but that was without using the Killer’s software stack to specifically prioritize my test traffic.

In reality, the Killer 1535 I tested was a rebranded Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174—as opposed to Killer Wi-Fi 1550 and AX1650 cards, which are based on Intel 9260 and AX200 respectively.

Rivet’s partnership with Intel was much closer than the one with Qualcomm—reportedly, the AX200 actually has additional hardware built into the card, just for Rivet. When sold as an Intel AX200, the additional hardware features are disabled; when sold as a Killer AX1650, they’re enabled and paired with a different driver.

Most gamers using Killer Wireless-AC products can get two potential benefits out of the stack—first, if their router and their gaming system both use Killer AC Wi-Fi interfaces, the router recognizes the Killer card in the gaming PC as a first priority and will ensure its traffic goes into the “lowest latency” bucket when shaping traffic.

Second, the Killer stack can recognize most AAA game traffic automatically and prioritize that traffic over the PC’s own interface. This does nothing to alleviate congestion caused by a second device wanting to use the network—but it does, at least, allow the gamer’s own PC to prioritize game traffic over Web browsing, email clients, and so forth running on the gamer’s own PC.

In earlier models like the Killer 1535 I tested, this happened entirely in software—but the newer AX1650 offloads some of the work onto hardware in the card itself.

Walker says that Rivet’s employees will join Intel’s Wireless Solutions Group, where they will continue developing network-optimization software for Intel to license to customers and channel partners. In an interview with Anandtech, Intel stated that “every person Intel offered a position to took that offer,” and that Rivet CEO Mike Cubbage’s new role at Intel will be senior director of Connectivity Innovations.

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