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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:14 pm 
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I'd like to go for the AX8, but I'm a little worried about it being up to par in terms of BIOS, overclocking, stability, performance, etc. with the Soltek, because I haven't found a single review of the AX8. Firewire isn't a problem, as this Firewire 800/400 PCI Card solves the problem of Firewire with the bonus of getting 1394b as well for future proofing. I don't care too much about aesthetics because I'm using a 3000B shoved in a corner, so nobody will ever really see the inside of my case. If anything, I don't want there to be too much orange with the Nexus fans in there too ;).

I don't want to have to worry about the Gigabyte burning up because the NF4 is producing too much heat for a passive heatsink to cool, but because I'm probably going to wait another week to pick these things up, I can wait for some feedback from the people who are ordering it now.

And yes, I am looking for some firm answer to my dilemma :p. I'm so indecisive, but I'd like my first home-made computer to be perfect, as I won't have a lot of extra money to go buy more parts after I'm done. This should last me a while. I'm also a little worried about return policies at places like Newegg, because the majority of the stuff that I'm buying is either not at local stores (e.g. Microcenter, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc.), or is absurdly overpriced.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 4:34 pm 
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I've been quite impressed with Newegg's return policy. Haven't had to pay a restocking fee, even for items which I ordered mistakenly before understanding the significance of some important features/performance parameters. They don't even want you to return items under $25!

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Sonata w/ Mk II front panel, fans: Nexus exh @8-12V & YL in @5V, Seasonic S12-430, passive 9600 Pro w/ modified VM-101, LG CD/DVD burner
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 Post subject: Got it now
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 7:04 pm 
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Hello:

NeilBlanchard wrote:
Hello:

I have a Gigabyte "GA-K8N Ultra-9" coming early next week, so I hoping to be able to tell you folks about it. And here's hoping the BIOS is not "flakey", but rather very stable! :?


An early update: I got this motherboard today and I had it up and running -- until I created a RAID 1 with the two 80GB Seagate SATA NCQ drives -- and now I'm reinstalling Windows XP Pro... :roll:

I have all four 1GB Corsair sticks installed and it boots just fine. The Thermalright XP-120 just fits! The heat pipes are on the RAM side (the capacitors on the other side are too close), and they clear the first stick (w/ normal heatspreader; not the new lighted jobbies!) by about 1.5-2mm; whew!

Oh, Thermalright doesn't get it quite all right, btw. They don't supply a back plate, and I had to go buy 3/4" long #6-32 screws and nuts (stainless steel for strength) in order to use the stock one; which is plastic and it used barbed plastic pins, btw. Luckily, the XP-120 seems to be even a little lighter weight than the stock HSF, so I feel fine about this

I don't have the Zalman on the XFX 6600GT yet -- man, the stock fan makes a strong HUMMMMM! :? It's drowning out the two Yate Loons (one on the XP-120 and one as the case exhaust. The S12 500 has a five blade high speed ball bearing Yate Loon...so far I can't hear it; nor can I hear anything out of the Seagates -- no seeks even! :o

More updates as I go along...

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 Post subject: Re: Got it now
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 9:30 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
The Thermalright XP-120 just fits! The heat pipes are on the RAM side (the capacitors on the other side are too close), and they clear the first stick (w/ normal heatspreader; not the new lighted jobbies!) by about 1.5-2mm; whew!


Thanks for the update, Neil.

When a heat pipe is this close to a RAM module, is there concern the RAM module will be heated by the heat pipe ? Could this close proximity cause any performance or stability degradation ?

Thanks !


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:07 am 
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Hello:

The XP-120's fins are very cool -- I'll check the pipes, though. I don't think this will be a problem.

A small update: the Zalman VF700-AlCu at 5 volts is much quieter than the the stock XFX HSF! Also, the stock HSF also (partially) blocked the adjacent PCI slot, so the Zalman has no disadvantages, and it cools better at much lower noise levels. :twisted: I just got my Zalman FanMate2's and the Nexus 92mm for the front intake -- gotta try and cool the Seagates down -- they get warm when the side cover is off the Evercase. I also should block the two side grills, so as to pull more air over the HD's.

I found out (the hard way) that if you want two RAID arrays on the nVidia SATA controller, you must hook up all four drives all at once, and then set up both RAID arrays at once...because if you set up one, with the intent of going back later to do the second -- it won't even "see" the newer drives! :x Why is setting up SATA so tough? This also made it necessary to install Windows XP Pro for the third time; sheesh.

Oh, and I cannot get the SiL SATA driver to install at all! The CD-ROM that Gigabyte supplied crashes before anything is installed :evil: and I had to download the drivers from their web site, burn 'em onto a CD-R, and the SiL SATA driver fails to install! I also had to make a floppy for the nVidia SATA so I could even install Windows -- Gigabyte should supply this!

The mobo came with the 'F2' BIOS installed, which is the newest one available.

[Edit] Why would CPUID indicate that the RAM is running at 160mHz, while the BIOS says 200mHz? Remember, I am using four 1GB sticks of RAM; of which Windows "sees" 3.25GB with the PAE. I hoping/assuming that WinXP Pro 64 will allow use of the fule 4GB -- am I right?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 1:31 pm 
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Have you had any heat problems with the passively cooled northbridge on that board? Have you had a chance to check stability with the usual assortment of software test? Are you going to check out the overclocking later?

Thanks for the great mini-review so far. I don't have to deal with RAIDs or anything, as I am using a single 1614C Nidec (160GB) drive for my setup, and I'll partition it to what I need.

Is there space for passive cooling of the VGA? I think I might go for the Aerocool VM-101 or the Zalman ZM80D-HP, if they will fit on whatever board I choose with a Leadtek 6600GT. Otherwise the Zalman VF700-AlCu looks the best for active cooling.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 3:02 pm 
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Quote:
I'm not too worried about not being able to use DIMM 1 on the AX8, as I am going to be using 2 512MB PC3200 Corsair Value Modules in Dimms 2 and 4. Does anyone know the compatibility issues (if they exist) with the XP-120 and the Soltek?

I've read that the XP-120 fits Soltek's K8T800 Pro. Just by looking at the K8T890, it looks like the XP-120 would also fit the board. Maybe blocking DIMM 1. Though Lydia (Soltek rep) said the board will run dual channel in slots 3 & 4.

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 Post subject: con't. update
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 8:17 am 
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Hello:

Some more info in the Gigabyte GA-K8N Ultra-9 motherboard, in no particular order:

The NB passive HS gets warm, but not very warm. I may try removing it to be sure the paste is okay, but it seems to be fine. I do not plan on overclocking as this is a machine for a client. [Edit] The XP-120 fins and heatpipes are cool to the touch, so the closest RAM would seem to be quite safe!

The F2 BIOS (which is the latest one) is not fully functional: there is a CPU voltage control (under and over!), but it does not appear to work; for undervolting, at least. :( I dropped it to 1.45v and then to 1.40 (IIRC, it has increments of 0.025v), but the CPU-Z voltage still shows as 1.51v.

Running Folding@Home, the Athlon 64 4000+ (Newcastle?) with an XP-120 and a Yate Loon low speed at minimum on a FanMate2 (~700RPM) -- the temp is hitting 50C, with the case temp at 25C. I also have a Yate Loon at minimum for the exhaust, the S12 is running very quietly, and I have a 92mm Nexus at 5v in the front of the Evercase 4252, and the Zalman VF700 AlCu at 5v.

The four Seagates (two 80GB, and two 300GB 7200.8 SATA NCQ all) are mounted in the stock cages on the metal "fingers", and audible at idle with a very low whine/whirring. They have fairly muted seeks, and the Nexus fan is audible within very close range (ear next to intake louvers). The two Yate Loons (which are pretty close together at the back) at a similar range -- are quieter than the Nexus is -- these 120mm Yate Loon fans are pretty special! :D And the S12 is fairly quiet as well -- it is slightly warmer exhaust air than the case exhaust.

So the remaining issues with this machine are the BIOS (undervolting, and possibly Cool N' Quiet), and odd 160.8mHz RAM speed that CPU-Z reports -- which btw might explain the fact that F@H doesn't feel all that quick. Maybe I'll have to pull out a stick or two of the RAM to see what happens... :?

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Last edited by NeilBlanchard on Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:27 am 
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hrm well the 160mhz ram could be triggered by cool'n'quiet (which from memory uses the 5/6 ram divider when in minimum multiplier state - try disabling cool'n'quiet and see if the ram is still reported low. alternatively, put the cpu in a high-load situation (priming) and see what cpu-z tells you then.

otherwise it could just be the ram divider being set that way in the bios ;) i don't know what else it could be, the htt should be at 200, the cpu/ram divider is derived with ceiling(cpu_mhz / ram_divider / htt_mhz), so unless your htt is for some reason set to 160mhz which is way out of spec, your cpu for some reason has chosen 15 as its ram divider when it should be 12 (ceiling(2400/(1/1)/200) = 12) which isn't really possible.

hrm just on a hunch, your newcastle's minimum cool'n'quiet state should be 4x multi, 5:6 memory ratio, at stock 200mhz htt. therefore ceiling(800 / (5/6) / 200) = 5 as your ram divider, 800/5 = 160 ;)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:31 am 
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On nForce4 mobos currently shipping you can expect that a 4 memory modules configuration runs at DDR333 and maybe even single channel.
This may change with new BIOSes and the new Atlhon64s with better memory controller. WindowsXP allows applications to use upto 2 GB of memory. WindowsXP 64-bit will allow full use of 4 GB or more.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 10:35 am 
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Hello:

I'll check on your suggestions when I get home -- though I was running Folding@Home at the time, so I would have thought that would prevent CN'Q from kicking in, but I also remember an ASRock mobo that would stick in the the lower speed if CN'Q was turned on...the only other problem is that I did not see CN'Q mentioned anywhere in the F2 BIOS... :? :roll:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 1:16 pm 
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can't believe i forgot to check that:

ram divider = ceiling(2400 / (5/6) / 200) = 15
2400/15 = 160mhz ram

try removing 1 or 2 sticks and see what happens :(


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 Post subject: con't. update
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:22 pm 
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Hello:

Well, the good news is that Cool N' Quiet works! It drops from 2.4gHz @ 1.5v down to 1gHz @ 1v, and it does this with all four DIMM's installed.

The bad news is that having all four DIMM's installed, does indeed drop the RAM from 200mHz down to 166mHz, though it is running them dual channel. It runs 2 DIMM's at 200mHz...

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 Post subject: Re: con't. update
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:36 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
The bad news is that having all four DIMM's installed, does indeed drop the RAM from 200mHz down to 166mHz, though it is running them dual channel. It runs 2 DIMM's at 200mHz...


Thanks for the updates, Neil. I'm very interested in this board for a new build and the info is greatly appreciated.

Is this speed drop due to the memory controller on the CPU ? Is this something a BIOS update can fix ?

Is your initial impression of this board still positive ?

Thanks !

Randall


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 Post subject: Re: con't. update
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:36 pm 
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Hello Randall,

rbrodka wrote:
NeilBlanchard wrote:
The bad news is that having all four DIMM's installed, does indeed drop the RAM from 200mHz down to 166mHz, though it is running them dual channel. It runs 2 DIMM's at 200mHz...


Thanks for the updates, Neil. I'm very interested in this board for a new build and the info is greatly appreciated.

Is this speed drop due to the memory controller on the CPU ? Is this something a BIOS update can fix ?

Is your initial impression of this board still positive ?


I wish I knew -- I'd have to guess it's the memory controller -- but we can hope it is the BIOS...

Yes, overall I like it, because: it has a passive NB, it has room for an XP120 (only just), it has four DIMM's, loads of SATA controllers (I did seem to get the Sil SATA controller working -- I had apparently disabled it in the BIOS). The BIOS is still "partially baked", however -- there is no way to adjust the RAM timing, for example.

After I installed the up-to-date CPU driver, which is what got CN'Q working -- the CPU voltages are now working! Which is cool...when I set it to 1.425v, I get 1.44v so the actuall voltage is a bit higher than the setting would indicate. I'll see how the stability is, and keep on lowering it... :twisted:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:43 pm 
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you can set the ram timing from within windows (regardless of your motherboard's bios) using a64tweaker - i haven't kept up on the revisions so i don't know whether 0.31, 0.5 or 0.6 is prefered at the moment. seems this forum post suggests the author still recommends 0.31.

the memory controller is a known problem apparently, and something that many are hoping is fixed with the new e-stepping a64s that are coming out april-ish.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 8:36 pm 
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Wraith wrote:
I've read that the XP-120 fits Soltek's K8T800 Pro. Just by looking at the K8T890, it looks like the XP-120 would also fit the board. Maybe blocking DIMM 1. Though Lydia (Soltek rep) said the board will run dual channel in slots 3 & 4.

Someone else reported that DIMM slot 1 can be used on that board with the XP-120, but the DIMM must be inserted before the XP-120 is installed.

It is good to know that one can use slots 3-4 on that board if only two DIMMS are needed.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 12:06 am 
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Kheoinn wrote:
Woops. By the way, I wasn't talking about having active cooling, but rather having a 20-pin power connector. My last point was pretty bad ;).

Is it really true that the NF4 boards have 24-pin connectors and mostly active cooling, and the K8T890 boards have mostly passive cooling, but 20-pin connectors? How annoying!

So, is the 20-pin dilemma a real problem or not?

I use 20-pin PSU with nForce4Ultra MB (four pins remained empty) and so far (4 weeks) I haven't noticed any problems yet.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 3:49 am 
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Hello:

m0002a wrote:
Someone else reported that DIMM slot 1 can be used on that board with the XP-120, but the DIMM must be inserted before the XP-120 is installed.


Thanks for reminding me -- on the Gigabyte GA-K8N Ultra-9, you do have to install the first RAM stick before putting on the XP-120. And putting on the XP-120 is not very elegant -- you have to connect the two hooks on the side opposite the heat pipes first, which tilts the HS up at about 45 degrees -- and then you have levle it out and connect the other side of each clip with a straight screw driver. Kind of awkward -- and I would NOT want to do it with a unprotected CPU!

Another note: the RAM sticks get quite warm -- as warm as anything in the case. :shock: Warmer than the heat pipes on the XP-120 -- by a fair bit! I am not pushing the RAM voltage at all...

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 8:24 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
Thanks for reminding me -- on the Gigabyte GA-K8N Ultra-9, you do have to install the first RAM stick before putting on the XP-120. And putting on the XP-120 is not very elegant -- you have to connect the two hooks on the side opposite the heat pipes first, which tilts the HS up at about 45 degrees -- and then you have levle it out and connect the other side of each clip with a straight screw driver. Kind of awkward -- and I would NOT want to do it with a unprotected CPU!

Forgive my ignorance, but what is meant by "unprotected CPU"? How does one protect it?


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 Post subject: another issue...
PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 8:32 am 
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Hello again:

Another issue has raised it's ugly head: I had noticed that Windows (for some bizarre reason) had installed with the boot drives (RAID1 of two 80GB Seagates) as drive G:\!!

I wondered about it, but I didn't realize that this is a BIG problem: both programs that I attempted to install from CD-ROM's so far, have failed! They both have error messages saying the drive has no space -- the C:\ drive was one of the memory readers that I had in the Mitsumi unit, and the D:\ drive was the other one. Next come the two optical drives -- and so the boot drive ended up at G: and the second set of hard drives as H:! :shock:

The only thing I can think of is that at the time that I installed Windows, I had the memory cards above the RAID drives in the priority list in the BIOS! So, it looks like I'll have to reinstall Windows again for the fourth time! :evil: And -- of course -- I had just Activated Windows, so now I'll have to call and activate it on the phone, and explain the reason... :roll:

And, I'll have to ask Gigabyte why the heck their BIOS would do this in the default settings!? :x

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:46 am 
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Neil, this isn't just a BIOS boot order issue, and it's not really Gigabyte's fault... Windows is notoriously stupid about enumerating SATA drives correctly when you're installing, especially if you have a mix of SATA and PATA drives. The quickest and simplest way to be sure of getting it right is to physically disconnect every drive except the volume you want to have designated as your C:\ boot drive (and the optical drive you're installing from of course), set the optical drive as first in the boot sequence, then install Windows, then set the SATA array as the first boot drive, and only then reattach any other drives.

Hope this helps...


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:55 am 
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I just went through this too. I had an IDE drive connected when I installed Windows XP/SP2 on to my SATA drive. Sure enough, Windows happily installed on D. Ugh. Since I noticed right away, I disconnected the IDE and reinstalled. After installing, I reattached the IDE and all is fine. You'll probably want to install without your floppy/flash drive attached so Windows doesn't try to make the flash C.

Moral of the story is only have the minimum hardware installed when installing Windows.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 12:59 pm 
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Hello and thanks,

I did try to do this at first -- the problem that I had (that I hopefully will be able to avoid!) is that after I installed on the single drive, when I added it to the RAID1 array, it wiped the installation! :evil: I will hopefully have better luck this time! :roll:

Any other hints?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 1:32 pm 
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Hmm... you've lost me slightly now. Do you mean you initially installed Windows to a single SATA drive and then tried to build a RAID1 array by adding another drive after the event?

I'm shooting in the dark a bit as I'm not familiar with nforce4 boards and their RAID utilities, but if you want Windows on a RAID1 volume, wouldn't it be better to just create the array first using the BIOS setup procedure, and then create your system partition and install Windows?

I know Intel's "Matrix" RAID system can allegedly create an array nondestructively using existing live partitions, but I don't think you can do that with your mobo... the creation of the array will nuke any pre-existing data on the drives.

Sorry if I'm not understanding what you're doing here... :)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:39 pm 
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Hi Nick,

No, you've got it right. I guess I won't try that again. I did also discover that you must create both RAID 1 arrays at once -- it simply won't recognize the stand alone disks if you install them after the first RAID array is already made, so you cannot make the second RAID array afterwards. So, I've already done what I need to get ready to reinstall Windows: I removed the USB connector for the memory card reader. I suppose I could also remove the second optical drive...

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 2:42 am 
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I doubt if you'd really need to remove the second optical drive, but you might as well since you're having to disconnecting stuff anyway...

The important thing is to remove anything that Windows can recognise as a HDD partition (removable or otherwise), leaving only the drive array you want to install to. This is particularly the case if you have any PATA drives attached to IDE 0 and/or IDE 1, because if Windows setup finds a partition there it will always be given priority over a SATA drive in the drive letter sequence, regardless of how you've set them up in the boot order. You'd only be able to create a C: partition on a SATA drive by deleting all the partitions on the IDE drive(s) first, which isn't much fun if they're full of data you want to keep...

Given the length of time SATA drives have been around now, it really is pitiful how the Windows installation procedure handles them... and having to use a floppy to install the drivers is a major PITA if your PC doesn't have a floppy drive...

Hope you have better luck this time anyway... :D

edit: I've just re-read what you said about having to create the second array before doing anything else... as long as both arrays are composed of SATA drives hopefully you should be OK...:wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 6:23 am 
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An XP install disk slipstreamed with SP2 can install on SATA without any need for a floppy. That likely isn't true of RAID though.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:10 am 
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Location: UK
Yes, that works most of the time, although I gather it isn't 100% dependable with all SATA controllers and RAID support is iffy as you said. I suppose if you're going to the trouble of creating a slipstreamed install CD you could also incorporate your drives' own third-party mass storage device drivers, but not everyone has the tools or knowledge to do this...

It's really your only option though if you need to install Windows on a SATA drive in a PC without a floppy drive, or any way of temporarily connecting one...


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:12 am 
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Location: Maynard, MA, Eaarth
Hello:

BTW, the SATA2 connectors an cables that Gigabyte supplied with the GA-K8N Ultra-9 motherboard are excellent: they have a metal spring-clip on the side of the male plug on the cable, and the female on the motherboard has a full surround. They are very secure, as you need to depress the clip in order to remove it! :o

They supply four of these SATA2 cables (the yellow ones) and four tight-fitting SATA (1) cables (the red ones), as well. Nice.

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Sincerely, Neil
http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/


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