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Listen up! What you should know about VIA.

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Anonymous
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May 8, 2001 5:25:07 AM

This information is primarily for newbies who may be considering the purchase of an AMD/VIA platform. The information herein covers but is not limited to the Apollo Pro 133/133A, Apollo Pro 266, KX133/KT133/KT133A and PM133/KM133 chipsets. This information was written only to inform those unknowing individuals of potential pitfalls, performance issues and incompatibility problems concerning VIA chipset motherboards. I encourage newbies and seasoned geeks alike to read all the information as it is both informative and entertaining. Ok, enough. Lets get ready for a wild journey through the bizarre & buggy world of VIA!

First I would like to start off with a few excerpts from VIA’s own FAQ.

<font color=green>Q. Should I install the 4-in-1 drivers?</font color=green>
<b>VIA -</b> All VIA chipset users should install the 4-in-1 drivers to improve performance, fix issues, and <b>minimize</b> any <b>incompatibilities </b>.

<i>Notice that VIA uses the term “minimize incompatibilities” and not eliminate or remove incompatibilities. This is important because we will now delve into the details of some of those incompatibilities which were not “minimized” by the 4-in-1 drivers</i>

<font color=green>Q. My Apollo Pro133A based motherboard with the VT82C686B Southbridge is having <b>stability</b> problems in Windows 2000, especially when transferring large files. How can I cure this?</font color=green>
<b>VIA -</b> At this time, we suggest you uninstall the VIA IDE Busmaster for WindowsÒ 2000 that is contained in the 4-in-1 driver.

<i>Ok. Now wait a minute. In the first answer VIA tells you that you should install the 4-in-1 drivers to “minimize incompatibilities.” Now VIA does a U-turn and is telling you to <b>uninstall</b> part of those drivers or you could face <b>stability</b> problems. So, which is it?</i>

<font color=green>Q. Why doesn’t my GeForce2 GTS based video card run in AGP4X on my Apollo Pro133A based motherboard? </font color=green>
VIA - nVidia has disabled AGP4X on Apollo Pro133A platforms because of <b>compatibility problems</b> with Apollo Pro133A and newer nVidia drivers. Older nVidia drivers with version numbers of 3.xx solve this problem.

<i>Uh oh. GeForce GTS owners beware! Unfortunatily VIA fails to mention that users of all GeForce cards can have compatibility problems</i>

<font color=green>VIA - Special Announcement for owners of Microsoft Force Feedback 2.</font color=green>
If your computer has a VIA USB host controller, the MS FF2 (Force Feedback 2) joystick is <b>incompatible</b> with the USB chip and will not work.

<i>I believe there is a patch available for this incompatibility.
Ok, moving right along.</i>

<b>-DigiDesign</b>

The following was taken from DigiDesign’s FAQ. If you don’t know who they are, DigiDesign is a company that makes very high-end Professional Music/Sound production software and hardware which is used by many music/production studios. In fact the popular TV show “Survivors” uses DigiDesign’s products. On the music side, Christina Aguilera & Nine Inch Nails are a few music artist that use there products. My point is, is that DigiDesign makes very high-end sound equipment and are serious about what they do. Any way with out further ado…

<font color=green>Here is what DigiDesign has to say about VIA Chipsets.</font color=green>

The VIA chipsets handle IRQ routing and the PCI bus in a way that does not work well with bus master cards. Because Digi 001 is a bus master card we can not support motherboards based on the VIA driver - this <b>incompatibility</b> is consistent with other digital audio cards that are bus masters.

<i>Whoa.. that last sentence is explosive. Nearly all decent soundcards use PCI bus mastering, including the wildly popular SoundBlaster Live! cards. Even though Creative Labs has not publicly admitted that there is a problem (in fear of lost sales, no less) there is certainly evidence of a problem. Again, beware of which soundcard you choose to use with you’re VIA motherboard.
Some common problems using Soundblaster Live! cards with VIA chipsets:
• Sound crackling
• DMA issues
• Sporadic system hangs</i>

<b>-Hauppage</b>

Hauppage is the manufacture of a great line of TV cards for PC's. The WinTV cards are very popular and have solid drivers and software, well, I should say solid drivers until you try to use them on a VIA motherboard.

Hauppage had this to say about it :

"Causes for System Lockups: Some non-INTEL PCI controller chipsets on the motherboard will not allow the WinTV to <b>bus-master</b> video into VGA cards, and therefore will cause a system lockup. All motherboards which use Intel PCI bus controllers work with the WinTV. Also, if your motherboard chipset is compliant to PCI 2.1 specifications, you should be o.k.

Known chipsets that will cause lockups are certain SIS, VIA, UMC, ALI, and some OPTI. Our latest software has some added updates for SIS and VIA incorporated in the software which may address the problem. If the problem persists, sometimes the motherboard manufacturer may provide an updated BIOS which can fix the problem. Also, if the board is based on a VIA chipset, some updates available at VIA's website may also address the issue (http://www.via.com.tw/drivers/index.htm)"

<i>Well, I hate to sound like a broken record but, buyer beware. Hauppage has been trying to get around VIA’s poor bus mastering scheme with updated drivers but many users are only having varied degrees of success with them.</i>

<font color=green>More VIA incompatibilities, bugs, fixes, patches and general information. </font color=green>

<b>-Microsoft</b>

Microsoft released a patch to Windows 2000 correcting a particularly annoying <b>incompatibility</b> with the VIA AGP chipset. But if the problem is not that bad, MS said, better wait for the next service pack to really fix it.

The issue is a pair of nasty bugs with VIA AGP chipset compatibility that causes machines to hang with 3D rendering and on resume from hibernate mode. The hibernate mode problem is particularly nettlesome, since a user could conceivably get caught in a loop of resumes and OS hangs.

The patch provides a complete fix for both VIA AGP chipset issues, <b>but MS isn't making any guarantees. The patch comes with a disclaimer that it hasn't been fully regression tested and a recommendation that users wait during the next few weeks for a service pack release for Windows 2000, which will incorporate a properly tested version of the patch.</b>

<i>Ok, it seems that Microsoft has released a patch to correct another AGP issue with VIA chipsets, but the patch is not officially guaranteed to work. Microsoft says to wait for SP2. In any case, it’s always good practice to install new service packs as they are released.</i>

<b>-Other VIA related issues</b>

<font color=green>IDE-controller of the VIA south bridge and Ultra ATA/33 CD-ROM (CD-RW, DVD)</font color=green>

Some ATAPI CD-ROM (CD-RW, DVD) drives which support Ultra ATA/33 mode work incorrectly when connected to the VIA BusMaster IDE-controller included in the VIA south bridge via a standard 40-thread cable. The problem lies in breaking of the integrity of data while reading discs or in a wrong recognition of the format when first applying to the disc. There are two ways to solve it. The simplest one is to prohibit usage of Ultra ATA for such storage device in the BIOS or in the diagnostic utility from the VIA IDE BusMaster Drivers' set. The second way can be used in those cases if you don't want to restrict drive's performance, then you have to connect it with a 80-thread Ultra ATA/66-cable (despite the fact that the device will work in Ultra ATA/33 mode!).

<font color=green>Disabling of the secondary IDE channel with BIOS </font color=green>

In case the secondary channel of the IDE-controller was disabled by BIOS the system manager in Windows 98 can lose the both IDE channels (showing them as disabled), as well as define the USB-controller as a disabled device with "Code 12" status. The Windows 98 SE has a bit different reaction on disabling the secondary channel with BIOS: the IDE controller is recognized as an incorrectly operating device and rouses conflict of resources when making a request for interrupt. The users of the Windows 98 SE can solve this problem having loaded the patch from Microsoft which can be found at www.entry.kiev.ua/Support/245682US8.exe. The Windows 98' users should either renew the OS up to Windows 98 SE (and then use the aforementioned method) or use the Windows system manager functions (not BIOS) in order to disable the secondary IDE channel.

<font color=green>Sound subsystem of the VIA 686A/B south bridge. Game port </font color=green>

Some boards with the VIA VT82C686A(B) south bridges may feature the following problem: after the integrated sound card (AC'97 Audio) was deleted from the system manager the joystick for a game port left in the list of existing devices. The reason is that the driver of the game port (vjoyd.vxd) can not in fact define whether the device is included in the system, that's why once installed it starts up every time with the system' booting. In order to solve the problem you should delete the device manually.

<b>Conclusion</b>
OK. If you have made it this far I have to congratulate you on your endurance. Well done.
So what can we make of all this? Simply put, VIA’s chipsets suck. Or if you prefer we can blame all the problems on DigiDesign, Hauppage, Nvidia, Creative Labs and Microsoft. Either way, whomever you choose to blame the problems and incompatibilities will still exist. Keep in mind a whole book can be documented to this subject. For practical reasons I choose only to list a few examples. But one thing is certain, with a VIA motherboard new users are forced to hunt all over the net looking for drivers, patches, fixes and updates in hopes of –what many Intel users take for granted- a trouble free system.



(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?

More about : listen

May 8, 2001 6:12:44 AM

I have to give you credit for your hard work. That’s a nice looking post. And thx for letting me know about Digidesign, they have a pretty cool website (if your into harddisk recording).


I’m sure I could find some compatibility problems with Intel if I looked hard enough. I don’t think there has (or ever will) be a perfect chipset. Also 90% of most users will not ever run into these problems. If I ever do run into problems with my A7V hard disk recording you will be the 1st to know. I just don’t have the motivation to go and find Intel chipset problems.

Thx & Cya


<font color=red>There are only 2 types of hard drives. Ones that have crashed and ones that are about to.</font color=red>
a b à CPUs
May 8, 2001 6:48:34 AM

The Intel chipsets that have problems are 810, 820 (to a lesser degree) and 840. Since the 810 is a low performance chipset without external AGP support, it is not relavent to this forum. The 820 has so few problems when used with RDRAM that they are not worth mentioning, especially since hardly anyone in this forum would use RDRAM on a PIII. The 840 is also irrelevant to this forum for the most part. 98% of the Intel users in this forum would use either BX or 815E chipsets, and you would be VERY hard pressed to find any serious issues with those. I am a system builder and have personally witnessed EVERY ONE of the VIA problems listed above.

Cast not thine pearls before the swine
Related resources
May 8, 2001 7:03:43 AM

I've been telling ppl for months about digidesign and I even giving 'em a little link so that they can get the free version of protools, I've paid a bundle for mine and I would not run it on a stupid via based crap-burnt offering from AMD/VIA no matter how fast it goes(it's only gonna crash faster)

so, here's the link again <A HREF="http://www.digidesign.com" target="_new">protools</A> see if this runs on your AMD/VIA burnt offering.

"AMD...you are the weakest link, good bye!"
May 8, 2001 7:37:25 AM

Meltdown
You should change your sig to “VIA you are the weakest link”. That would at lease make sense.

Cya


<font color=red>There are only 2 types of hard drives. Ones that have crashed and ones that are about to.</font color=red>
May 8, 2001 11:07:56 AM

But then again there are the users like me who pootle through life quite happily never tripping over a VIA chipset related issue.

You pays your money and you takes your choice.



-* This Space For Rent *-
email for application details
May 8, 2001 11:40:42 AM

Unfortunately people dont listen to you because you keep crying out "WOLF!".


<font color=red>"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and dispair!"</font color=red>
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 8, 2001 3:06:47 PM

Well, you surely spent some time finding all these. Im not going to contemplate the issues you bring up, neither am I going to say VIA makes the best chipsets around, but I think we have to see this in the correct perspective.

First of, most of the issues you bring up, seem to be related to the Apollo Pro 133 chipset. Indeed, not one of VIA’s greatest achievements, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find many new motherboards using this chipset nowadays. Besides, very few people here will disagree when I say an 815 board is a much better choice for the P3/Celeron.

Secondly, VIA makes chipsets for both Intel and AMD platforms (for P1, P2/3, soon P4, K6, Duron/Atlhon and with various memory interfaces SDR, DDR, .. etc)
.That makes a lot of chipsets, and so a lot of potential for issues, especially if you mix them all together.

Thirdly, like some people already mentioned here, most people will most likely never run into any of these issues. My brother had been using of these “dreaded” Apollo Pro133A boards with a Celeron and P2 for years, switching OS’es and hardware all the time. He has never had any serious issue. I’ve been using a KT133A board for a few months now, and I have yet to see the first problem surface under Win98, 2000 or Linux. And trust me, I run some exotic hardware…

To conclude: you are right that VIA does not make the best chipsets in this world. Intel does that for its own chips, and AMD does that for its durons/athlons. VIA does, however, currently make very affordable chipsets, that run very well in 99.9% of the situations. If that is not good enough for you, than get an intel/amd based motherboard.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 8, 2001 3:21:59 PM

<b>Wow</b>, you've convinced me.
I'll go order a new non-VIA MB right now and sit here wringing my hands until it gets here...

Oh wait, that's right.
My KT133A board works perfectly. My only problem was fixed by a bios update about a month ago.

You've done a nice job compiling a list potential problems and issues to look out for.

Some of them are trivial (deleting the joystick device manually), others are major. Many are fixed or have work-arounds. If you see a piece of hardware there that is critical to you, take a closer look, or look elsewhere. Blanket statements like "VIA Sucks" don't cut it.


In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is.
May 8, 2001 6:42:11 PM

Thank you for this informative post. I haven't built a via platform yet but I was thinking of getting an a7m or a7v133, put the asus CD in and hopefully it would work out. I read posts that you should install only portions of the 4 in 1. So my question is how much trouble am I going to face with either of these motherboards?
I remember they replaced the southbridge by the via one to "minimize compatibility issues".

Sh!t Happens.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 8, 2001 7:25:34 PM

Wow, that's gotta be the longest post I've ever seen. I have to say that two of my systems use via chipsets (KT133, KX133) and I've never had a compatibility problem, except with a software modem which would completely lock the system every 10 mins. The solution? Buy a better modem...

I don't know that VIA are the only ones to blame, however. There have been poor chipsets from many companies over the years. Some examples (from memory):

1. Intel's 820MTH catastophe. It was slow, and was withdrawn due to 'issues'.
2. Intel's server chipsets would not work with more than 4 Xeons originally.
3. Intel's 810 has problems when you try to use a PCI graphics adapter.
4. SiS chipsets are pieces of ****.
5. ALi's MaGiK chipset is slow, and will not boot 266MHz FSB with bios below rev. 1.03.

Maybe 4 is a bit harsh. Comments?

~ The First Formally Rehabilitated AMD Lemming ~
May 8, 2001 8:01:26 PM

<font color=red>4. SiS chipsets are pieces of ****.</font color=red>

Actualy there was a time ( way back when) when SIS chipsets were among the best. Then they went the OEM integrated graphics route. However, rumor has it that they have an athlon chipset ready to release that beats all the other chipsets to date...could be interesting.




<font color=green> SiS says this chip is current in mass production. Of course, it'll be best when we see third party testing of this product, but if SiS is being even remotely honest with their benchmarks, the chipset world could conceivably get turned on its end soon! :o </font color=green>

full article found here<A HREF="http:// http://www.jc-news.com/index.cgi" target="_new">http:// http://www.jc-news.com/index.cgi&lt;/A>

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing!
May 9, 2001 4:58:01 AM

Everett6, what is your system. Im curious because you keep warning people about the evils of VIA, do you ever crash? I personally have owned a VIA chipset on every one of my computer except my 486 (which crashed all the damn time on an intel chipset) and never have i experienced a chipset related crash. i have had windows crashes, i have had overclocking crashes, but never, i repeat NEVER in 4 years of many VIA chipsets have I EVER experienced a chipset related crash. maybe im just lucky you might say? as much as i would like to think so, i am fairly confident that i am just like 90% of the people who own VIA. So unless you propose a real solution, please refrain from posting melodramatic propaganda. we see enough of it already.

oh and "hunt[ing] all over the net looking for drivers, patches, fixes and updates" can be done much easier by visiting your mobo manufactures site or viahardware.com if thats all over the net, then you really have to get out of toms hardware and surf.

<A HREF="http://static.stileproject.com/pika.swf" target="_new">Hyakugojyuuichi!!</A>
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 9, 2001 7:30:28 PM

Thank you, I did spend about 2.5 hrs putting information together for that post. It could have easily been at least twice as long but I did not have the time. Maybe I will do a follow up or Part II of this because there are some other important issues that people should know about VIA chipsets.
My intent was not to say a bunch of bad things about VIA to make intel look better.. but to warn people about some possible pitfalls and compatibility issues.



(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 9, 2001 7:35:37 PM

Yes i agree the 810 was probably has been intel's worst chipset. Intel reacted quickly and discontinued it in favor of the 815E which has been recieved well by the public and has proven itself to be rock solid.


(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?
May 9, 2001 7:40:29 PM

I can only comment on my experience with VIA.

I have 1 VIA based machine, a TBird 900 on an Abit KT7-RAID. Since setup and "going live" on Jan. 1st, it has NEVER crashed or locked up. 18+ hours a day, 7 days a week.

I cannot deny that there are problems with the VIA chipset, but I myself have not experienced them. Even my USB ports work properly (another VIA problem).

Perhaps I was lucky with my choice of components that are in my system.

However, I am still looking for an alternative to VIA for my next AMD based system (and may not find one). By the time I am ready, perhaps Intel will have a great, inexpensive processor. We will see....

<font color=blue>This is a Forum, not a playground. Treat it with Respect.</font color=blue>
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 9, 2001 8:00:13 PM

Everybody, may I suggest that you go over to <A HREF="http://www.overclockers.com/" target="_new">OverClockers.com</A> and read the new informative articles about VIA chipsets <b>A Lower Standard</b> and <b>When 10% Are Bad, 90% Don't See It</b>. That site deals almost exclusivly with with the AMD/VIA platform and they have pretty much seen it all.


(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?
May 9, 2001 8:18:48 PM

Wow, that's very magnanimous of you to spend all that time looking up information purely out of the goodness of your own heart and concern for other people. I'm sure you have no axe to grind either for Intel or against VIA or AMD. Are you going to put forth similar effort to find out any possible issues people may have with Intel chipsets?
May 9, 2001 8:36:36 PM

Quote:
(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?

I've got to hit "G" on this rant.....

The article mentioned there's no optimal solution. It's like politicians in the US; they all suck, just different flavors of swamp water. My Via is doing good right now. I've spent upwards of $2500 on every computer system I've bought since the 486's, except this last one. It was under $1300. Those three zero's on the difference (1000) make it rather attractive for my tax bracket. For that much cash, I can start on my pilots license, or learn how to scuba dive.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 9, 2001 8:44:14 PM

Although I dont appreciate your sarcasm.. I will respond to your post anyway.
Spending time to compose a list of compatibility issues with Intel motherboards would be, well, pointless. Since there are so few serious issues that are even worth mentioning. I felt that my time was better spent focusing on VIA motherboards because that seems to be what the majority of newbie DIY are using.


(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?
May 9, 2001 9:51:48 PM

I realize my 2 cents are really only worth around 1/4 cent in here, as I'm farily newbie compared to most people who post here, but I've owned three AMD / VIA machines in the past 3 years and the only problem I've ever had was with an original GeForce card on an FIC SD-11 running an Athlon 700 (problem was power-related). My current machine, a 1ghz Tbird on an Asus A7V has been extremely good to me. No crashing or hanging problems. The only issue I've had was with Asus' Promise ATA100 slots which I finally (whew!) fixed.

I very much appreciate people who do all this research in an impartial and professional manner as it really helps people like myself who lack the time and understanding to do proper research themselves. But even with the information in this thread I still plan to order an AMD 1.33 and an Abit KT7-Raid next week. I've owned Intel and AMD both in the past few years and quite honestly, I love them both!

-- *Ding Ding* Knowledge for the clueless!!! --
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 9, 2001 10:18:47 PM

Hi.. I respect your decision to buy an AMD/VIA system.. but Please..Please do not buy the Abit KT-7 motherboard. During my research I have seen/heard many awful things about the KT-7 boards. If your dead set on a VIA mobo please stick with the Asus boards they seem to be less trouble prone. Believe me I am not biased against Abit.. I have purchased well over 75 of Abit's intel chipset boards and they have all been great. Just stay away from Abit's VIA boards.
I know someone will pipe in and tell me how wonderful and great there KT-7 board is... but I can only tell you what I have seen and read about the KT-7 makes me cringe.



(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?
May 10, 2001 1:55:16 AM

Thanks. I appreciate that info. I've always prefered Asus boards until the Promise driver problems I've had to deal with on my A7V. That's why I've been looking for an alternative. The KT7-Raid looks like the best "alternative" since I need to run 5 IDE devices. I've heard equal amounts of good and bad on the Abit boards so I figured I could just give it a chance. I'll certainly do more research into the newer Asus boards.

-- *Ding Ding* Knowledge for the clueless!!! --
May 10, 2001 4:58:44 AM

Everett, Just ran across an article form Ed Stroligo at Overclockers.com. I consider him one of the better writers on the web. So here is some more ammo for your anti Via campaign.

Cya




<A HREF="http://www.overclockers.com/tips456/" target="_new">http://www.overclockers.com/tips456/&lt;/A>

<font color=red>There are only 2 types of hard drives. Ones that have crashed and ones that are about to.</font color=red>
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 10, 2001 5:25:57 AM

Yes that is a well written article and its right on the money. It's definetly going into my arsenal. ;) 


(A)bort, (R)etry, (G)et a beer?
May 10, 2001 6:02:43 AM

From the Ed Stroligo article at overclockers.com:
"The problem we have is that people are looking to upgrade, but most want an optimal solution, and we see no optimal solution out there. Any selection right now has significant trade offs. <font color=red> Any selection. </font color=red>" (the color highlight is mine)
Read: Selecting Intel also has significant trade offs! I don't believe it!!!

My brain has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down
May 10, 2001 6:48:09 AM

You can bet that he won't put forth the effort because he does not follow technology but instead follows companies. Clearly he is a follower of Intel.

I have owned both a TX and LX chipset from Intel and had issues, lockups, etc. Not only has Intel put out some shady chipsets, they have even put out two buggy processors (the more recent the Pentium III).

If you are a newbie, then I would suggest you don't waste your time reading a one sided argument. What does it profit you to know half of a truth. Rely on reviews that are written by reviewers that your trust to be honest and thorough (myself I trust the reviewers of Tom's Hardware Guide).

If you buy into this biased one-sided bullshit you are liable to have regrets later on when you are more informed. If anyone is going to put out a post like this they should have the integrity and honesty to tell the other side. Anything to the effect of "well Intel does not have significant issues" is a flat out lie.

Intel is so proud of it's product's that it tries to sue honest reviewers like Thomas P. so that they can be silenced. Many really cool stories on this on the web about this. Naturally, after there image went down because of this they backed off. Though it certainly illustrates the mentality of the company. Also, you will find many of the followers of the company are just like that. They can't intimidate the educated people with cheap Jedi-mind tricks. Though they can brain-wash the newbies.

Cheers....Chris

It worked yesterday! :lol: 
May 10, 2001 7:09:09 AM
May 10, 2001 7:22:12 AM

Might I quote one of those links: "Though the glitch occurs somewhat rarely, three circuit board ("motherboard") designs have been canceled in response."

If Via recalled buggy motherboards, this wouldn't be a problem.

-Raystonn

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my employer. =
May 10, 2001 7:32:36 AM

As far as the ABIT KT7 RAID goes.... I've got one in my gaming rig and it's never once caused a problem. The FSB overclocked easily, and I've never once had stability issues with it.

There's a reason a lot of Do It Yourselfers are going with VIA for their AMD systems. VIA is, primarily, CHEAP! Not only is it cheap, but for the vast majority of people, their VIA mobos are perfectly stable for the tasks they are required in, and have the performance one would expect with a higher end chipset.

Most people building a home system or gaming rig aren't going to be running into the problems that are most often associated with VIA.
May 10, 2001 8:06:09 AM

Bahahaha.....63,100 results found for "AMD+BUGS". WTF is going on here?

Your new hardware is out-of-date
May 10, 2001 9:31:23 AM

I also have experienced serious problems with a VIA motherboard. I have documented the problems on this board before, but after reading this thread, I think I should describe the situation once again. I'd like to be brief, but that may not be possible! <GRIN>

First off ... believe me, I am not a VIA-hater, anti-AMD, or some kind of Intel-shill. I'm not political in nature, and don't really care what company puts out which processor or motherboard. The only thing I have ever been after is a stable, fast system at a decent price. I'm glad that there is competition, because price wars are good for us, the consumers ... but beyond that, I have no real interest in the situation.

I bought my computer from Alienware in South Miami last August. Component list:

MSI K7T Pro mainboard
KT133 chipset
nVidia GeForce2 GTS 64DDR
256MB Virtual Channel PC133
Adaptec 29160N SCSI controller
IBM 18.3GB SCSI drive
Plexwriter CD-RW - SCSI
Pioneer DVD - IDE
300-Watt Antec power supply
Win98 SE

That's all the components that really matter for the discussion in this post.

Initially, I had no problems with the system. Except for locating decent video card drivers that were compatible with the VIA chipset (which was a tough thing to do in August of last year, because nVidia was only releasing Intel compatible drivers at the time.)

For several months, the system ran just fine. I was pleased with the purchase. I recall recommending similar systems to friends and family, both for the price, and the performance.

Then around January, I was running a game, and the system locked up. I got a blank screen, and the system wouldn't boot up for a couple of hours. It wouldn't enter the POST routine, and although there were no beep codes, the fact that the video card would not initialize led me to believe that I was either dealing with a failing video card, a failing power supply, and/or a problem with the power supply feeding clean current to the AGP bus.

As it turned out, I was right on all counts. And the problem was the VIA mainboard.

It took quite a while to isolate the source of the problem. I posted here, and in other forums, looking for any information that could help me fix the machine. As it turned out, I also received a ton of abuse in the process, primarily from members of this board, most of whom seemed to have either a love affair with their VIA boards, or an extensive hatred of anything Intel. Take your pick. I suspect that the majority of people who decided to be anything but helpful, or forthcoming, came from people who have never really pushed their systems ... especially using benchmarking programs, or intensive 3D games. And if you guys know anything about Alienware ... this is a company that specializes in building gaming computers. This is one the reasons I had them build the system in the first place. (The other was the wholesale prices I couldn't get anywhere else at the time.) So I was more than a little disappointed when these problems started cropping up.

Within a week or so, the video card failed, and in the process, caused damage to the other components in the system. Some of it was obvious at first, such as one of the memory modules failing. Other parts took longer to die.

I ended up buying two more power supplies before I found one that could run the system, replacing the memory, and buying a new video card. It would have been nice to have been able to have this done under warranty, but Alienware was adamant that there was nothing wrong with these VIA motherboards, and basically, refused to honor the warranty.

I'm not kidding, not in the slightest, I called these people over 40 times between Febuary and the beginning of May, attempting to get replacement parts. Three weeks ago, I really got pissed off, because the hard drive suddenly failed. I had often mentioned to the Alienware techs that the drive's burst rate had been cut in half after the video card died, and was completely ignored. I was told on a dozen different occasions that the parts were either on order, had already been shipped, or were temporarily out of stock. Once I was told that the parts had been shipped to a guard named Trotman, in a guard post, somewhere in Virginia. Obviously someone took a wrong turn. I live in North Carolina, and have never met anyone named Trotman. It was a pretty pathetic lie, in my opinion.

So what I had was an expensive, dead can.

I can't even begin to tell you how many websites I went to, or how much literature I read. Suffice it to say ... it was a long, drawn out education. I tried driver after driver, patchs, fixes ... you name it; I gave it a shot. I spent over 200 hours in just one month, looking for possible solutions. I also spent far too much time in various forums, arguing with people who insisted that VIA chipsets were the greatest thing since spun sugar. I can't agree ... not after all I've seen, and the money I've spent.

Eventually, I added another 256MB memory module and installed Win2k, hoping to add additional stability to the system. That worked for about 4 weeks ... as long as I didn't attempt to play any games. Thirty seconds of any game ... the system locked up, despite the fact that I was using a different video card, new memory, and a new power supply. And between all the problems, and my shrinking wallet ... I was willing to give the games up if it meant that the damned computer would run reliably. And it did, except for the games ... until the hard drive failed.

These are some of the primary issues I discovered during my research.

One ... in order to run a Geforce card in a VIA motherboard, and use intensive 3D apps, you need a power supply that can handle 20 amps for the 3.3v line. And this can't be the maximum drain on the power supply, because the 5v and 3.3v lines "share", so if one line is pushed to maximum, the other goes to the miniumum. A lack of power can be nearly as tough on your components as a sudden shock. So the power supply must be able to handle 20 amps for that 3.3 line, at minimum. And an Antec 300-watt cannot handle the job for more than a few months, providing only 16 amps for the 3.3v line.

Despite claims to the contrary, the Antec 400-watt is so inefficient that it is actually worse than the 300-watt. I installed one ... it died in two weeks. It was just a waste of cash.

I finally installed a dual-fan Leadman 400-watt, and found it to be a better constructed, much heavier, more powerful unit. That solved the power supply problem.

The next thing I should mention is that the power leads VIA and AMD have used on their mainboards are just puny, for lack of a better word. This is due to the patent for the technology being held by Intel, and so an alternate method of supplying current to the various components had to be used ... and it sucks.

However, you may not ever run into this issue if you use your system mostly for 2D apps, because the problems with getting clean power to the AGP bus don't surface until you start pushing the system, such as when playing heavy duty games.

There IS an end to all of this moaning and bitching. Two weeks ago, I hired a lawyer, and sent a Registered Letter to the CEO of Alienware, Alex Aguila. I received a response almost immediately, and during the conversation, Mr. Aguila and I had a long discussion about VIA mainboards.

He admits to there being an entire host of problems, especially with VIA motherboards shipped late last year. It didn't help that the company was in the process of moving to a new location, and had some changes in the upper management ... Mr Aguila is the new CEO of the company. This caused tons of problems with their shipping department ... and especially, with technical support and quality control. As if I didn't know that already.

Due to these hardware problems, Alienware has changed the brand of power supplies they use. I was also told that it is recommended, if you have an Award BIOS, to use an older version. My system shipped with version 1.6. I had upgraded the BIOS to 2.4. It was interesting to discover that version 2.2 could actually cause damage to the chip! The version currently being tested that appears to be stable is 1.5 ... but that might cause a loss of ATA-100 support, necessitating the use of a third party controller for these faster drives. That sucks, too ... but it's just yet another thing you'll have to deal with when running a VIA board.

The end result of my conversation with Mr. Aguila is that I have been sent a brand-new replacement system. It was nice of him to allow me to choose anything I wanted. And that's exactly what I did. I was very appreciative of the amazing attitude change in the technician assigned to build the machine ... I wonder where that arrogant ass went that I had spoken to so many times before? <GRIN> Nothing beats going right to the top.

I learned my lesson, and I now have an Intel machine with an Enermax 550-watt power supply, running Win2K, with a Geforce3 card, and 512MB of RDRAM. I installed every game I own on one of the drives, and set up the system with a particularly intensive demo that I ran for 3 days straight. It seems to be doing the job ... but if it doesn't, I have a new three year warranty, and the home phone number of the company CEO. If there is a bug in the 850 chipset, I'm going to find it before everything in the machine goes up in smoke. And I will never again purchase a system with a VIA chipset, regardless of how attractive the price may be. I'm not going to allow myself to go through an ordeal like that again ... no more replacing the chipset and video card drivers every month, no more lockups when trying to play a game, no more system instability, no more referring to page after page of notes to get the sequences straight when installing drivers and updates ... no more playing around with disabling ACPI, messing around with IRQ's that conflict with the video card, no more sweating over AGP aperture sizes, AGP driving values, memory latency settings, Fast-Writes, etc. Now I have a system that just runs ... correctly, and does what I ask without dying in mid-session. And that's all I wanted in the very beginning for my money ... I didn't want to devote my every spare waking moment to research; attempting to fix what should have worked in the first place.

That's my story. If your VIA mainboard is functional, more power to ya. If it has never caused you problems ... I think that is great. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones ... one of the mythical 90% I've seen mentioned. (And you got that real-world percentage from where, exactly? I'd like to see that facts behind that number, instead of just an uneducated, ignorant opinion straight out of the deep blue sky.) But if your system makes you want to pull out your credit card and start pricing large-bore weapons, I urge you to consider making a gift of your computer to a local charity, and starting over from scratch. (Or do what I did, and scream until you get to talk to someone who can remove the offending machine and replace it. Just be prepared to take legal action, if you get ignored.) It's one thing for a system to be educational ... and learning new things is cool. I'm all for people getting their heads out of the sand and stop acting like computers are only for super-geeks. I've been an IT tech long enough to wish that most people would at least give a computer a try before calling it the spawn of Satan. But there's a limit to how much time and money anyone should be willing to invest in just one can ... and I've had my fill of VIA and AMD. And it's entirely their fault.

Good luck to all ...

Toejam31



<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Toejam31 on 05/10/01 08:32 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 10, 2001 10:15:30 AM

I own a VIA chipset with integrated sound, and I have had some weird problems within Windows 98 SE. Although, under Windows 2000, my system is several times more stable. I do think the BX chipset was the most reliable motherboard, I've never had any problems with it at all.
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
May 10, 2001 10:55:00 AM

I'm sorry to hear about your ordeal with VIA, I have the same motherboard you had from MSI, except it's micro ATX with integrated sound. The general thing about AMD and Intel is from what I understand is:

For speed at the expense of stability, go with AMD

For stability at expense of speed, go with Intel.

Although I haven't had many problems using AMD system, I do have more problems with VIA KT133 than I did with BX (which I had none).
May 10, 2001 11:08:51 AM

AMD cpus have suffered a lot with the crappy chipsets they were mated with, VIA for one. i wont even count SiS.

recent reports on AMD 760 and ALiMagik chipsets say otherwise. now AMD platform is more stable than before, plus has more options, costs much less and 100% compatible with intel. what more do you want?

so now "if you want stability <b><i>and</i></b> speed <font color=blue><b><i>and</i></b></font color=blue> that too at much lower cost go for AMD!!!"

the BX was a gem of a chipset intel produced, too bad they discontinued it now, the 815 in its all incarnations is expected to succeed the BX legacy, and i hope it lives upto it. as far as VIA KT133x is concerened, it is nowhere near the BX, wonder if anybody could pair a intel southbridge with KT133... 90% of VIA problems would be over.

girish

<font color=blue>die-hard fans don't have heat-sinks!</font color=blue>
May 11, 2001 6:46:57 PM

Well thanks for spending so much time warning us about the
pitfalls of VIA-AMD.

Fortunatly I'm happy to report I have NONE of the those problems with any of my Abit KT133/AMD systems. And NO problems with my CD-ROM ATA-100, NO problems with SB-Live, NO problems with VIA 4 in 1 drivers, No problems AGP-4X, NO problem with MY GeForce2 GTS! ...HEHEHE

But thanks for the warning, lol...I needed the laugh.

I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.
!