Asus K7M Athlon Motherboard - Page 7

Compatibility Blues?  

So how does the motherboard do in this arena? Well, I can safely say that with my existing system, there were no problems at all with my SBLive!!, ATM network card and V2-SLI cards. However, there were problems running it stably on my Creative SDR 32MB GeForce as compared to the ASUS V6600 GeForce sample I received. In fact, on monitoring the Creative Annihilator newsgroups, you would at once notice the numerous “hot” discussions on Athlon compatibility with the Creative GeForce card as a whole. Perhaps it may be useful to dwell on this topic here…

In summary, Nvidia and AMD have acknowledged that there is a problem with running reference designed GeForce cards at AGP 2X and above on Athlon motherboards. The inherent cause of this has been diagnosed to be an AGP bus strobe signal, which is highly prone to noise and needs to be stabilized to run without hiccups on Athlon motherboards. Unfortunately, the fixes lie mostly in hardware where it involves either a change to the AMD 751 chipset or an addition of an onboard capacitor on the motherboard.

So with the ASUS K7M, this is no exception. However, strangely enough the ASUS V6600 does run perfectly fine on the K7M (without any hangups). On closer inspection (after laborous counting of onboard components), I did notice that 2 additional capacitors were added onto the V6600 (near its AGP slot) that distinguishes it apart from Creative’s rendition. The pictures below indicate what I mean.

(Top: Creative. Bottom: Asus) Compare the two, you will notice the difference in capacitor counts.
(Top: Creative. Bottom: Asus). Can you tell the difference?

After consultation with Creative, it seems that the 2 additional capacitors on the V6600 would assist to stabilise the strobe signals but in so doing, would have voided Nvidia’s specs and potentially result in problems running the card at AGP4X in the future. So this doesn’t promise to be an ideal solution too. Hence, this explains why the V6600 is stable on the K7M, whereas the 3D Blaster GeForce isn’t.

As of writing, Nvidia has just issued new drivers that limit the card at AGP1X on Athlon motherboards, which circumvents this problem for reference boards. This was verified to work very well with the K7M with minimal performance drop for the current batch of games. Nonetheless, if you’re in line for a GeForce and an Athlon motherboard config, it would be wise to wait for a new batch of motherboards to arrive with the hardware fixes in place first, before proceeding. Even if you need to proceed with such a config, I don’t foresee you running into any nightmarish problems, as much as I went through prior to the patched drivers being released… ;P

My card ain’t a GeForce anyway. So what’s the conclusion?

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