Sunday, December 10, 2006

Asus K8V-MX MoBo with A64 CPU

Summary: happy with my last upgrade, I bought an Asus K8V-MX mini-ATX motherboard for use with a second low-watt A64 3000+ CPU for use as my file server, DVR, and media server. I was sorely disaapointed in the Asus - I'd assumed by preputation the Asus would be easy to use; I was wrong. I may still buy Asus in the future, but for now this motherboard has proven unusable.

My second upgrade was from an old, overloaded Intel Celeron to a socket 754 Athlon 64 3000+. The Celeron had had trouble - even with hardware-assist from graphics and PVR cards - playing encrypted DVD smoothly if there was any network activity. Especially since this was also a file server, remote access during playback would cause hiccups while playing video. The new CPU plays DVD's flawlessly even during file access and the low wattage CPU plus after-market cooler have drastically quieted this worker-bee system. Overall the upgrade was a success, but this is more thanks to the faster CPU and RAM. As I said, this mobo is going.

The Asus K8V-MX motherboard is mini-ATX form with 800Mhz front-side bus, 1 x AGP x8 slot, and 3 x PCI slots. It is a basic motherboard, doing what I need.

  • Good name in supplier (???)
  • BIOS has more options - still missing a few I'd like to see
  • Floppy and IDE connectors up near top where they should be
  • Asus has mobo and Cool-and-Quiet tools; but are buggy (it issues an alarm any time the Cool-n-Quiet CPU cuts core voltage to 1.0 volt since it expects core voltage to be 1.4v and also dies with memory faults)


  • Mobo + CPU were a pain to installed and took nearly 6 hours to get running smoothly
  • CPU area is a bit crowded for a good after-market cooler
  • Putting main power connector so close to floppy/IDE makes that place very crowded with extra wires - assuming you're not using custom short cables. I prefer the main power connector over near the rear of the mobo since it allows excess cable to neatly mounted below the power supply
  • Cannot disable boot sources; only shuffle priorities in limited ways. This means cannot enable floppy boot before hard drive if one also has USB drives plugged in while booting or you cannot boot.
  • BIOS doesn't understand low-RPM after-market coolers; I had to disable BIOS control to avoid it complaining about CPU fan RPM during every reboot. This causes the CPU fan to remain at its lowest speed regardless of CPU temperature
  • Latest BIOS from Asus (which was to fix the RPM issue) doesn't boot Windows 2000 Pro; the AGP driver hangs the system
  • Unlike the PCCHIPS, the Asus "CPU" temperature is a full 20 degree F lower than the K8's direct reading. The PCCHIPS is only 1-2 degrees off.

The first problem I had with the Asus K8V-MX was it would hang upon POST during the USB controller initialization. Of course I started with no drives or AGP/PCI cards in place, but since I have a USB mouse I had been plugging in an external powered DLink USB 2.0 hub. Eventually I discovered the need to plug my mouse directly into the mobo and disconnect the hub to boot successfully. Once I things running better, experimentation taught me that that I needed to change the BIOS setting "USB 2.0 Controller Mode" away from the factory default of HiSpeed/480Mbps to FullSpeed/12mbps. I can understand the desire to default to HiSpeed, I don't see how the BIOS in effect "hangs" when connected to a hub which doesn't appear to support it????

The second problem I had with the Asus K8V-MX was my CoolerMaster KHC-L91-U2 cooper after-market CPU cooler idles at only about 1400 RPM and that causes a POST halt for CPU Fan failure and "Press " error every time I boot. I guess Asus assumes we have one of those 60mm jet turbines whining along at 4000+ RPM. Actually, given the over-clocking reputation of Asus this is one of the LAST problems I would have expected from them. Fortunately (and unfortunately) Asus claimed a BIOS ungrade to v2.11 would solve this problem.

This lead to my third problem. After I upgraded the BIOS to v2.11, the CPU fan error dissappeared but Windows 2000 Pro started hanging a few seconds after the white Windows Logo screen shows up. Trying to boot in Safe Mode also hungs. Eventually with enough goofing around I was able to see a BSOD showing that file viaagp1.sys was failing. The BIOS notes didn't mention any change to AGP support. At this point I pulled my PCI cards out - I hadn't installed my NVidia AGP card yet. Just to make sure this wasn't some driver issue I took an old 30GB hard drive and did a fresh Win 2K pro install without any SP or special drivers. After Win2K was running independly, I used the Asus CD and started to install the Via 4-in-1 driver. It hung during the AGP install. After this, my new Win2K install also hung in exactly the same place. I goofed around looking for BIOS settings to disable or adjust the AGP slot to avoid this hang. Eventually I just rolled back to the old BIOS that came with my motherboard and had to disable the CPU fan support.

My fourth problem was there is no way to disable boot sources and for some reason USB drives seem to be lumped in with Floppy drives. Normally I leave the default order of floppy -> hard drive -> CD-ROM. But once I got the USB setting changed to allow booting with my USB hub, the the BIOS would halt when it detected that the USB thumb drive I often have connected did not include a boot image. It was no big deal to change the order to be hard drive -> CD-ROM -> Floppy since the mobo includes a nice F8 "Boot Menu" that enables me selecting the floppy manually the one or two times a year I'd boot from floppy. But I prefer the "old fashioned" BIOS design with allowed one to only define 1 or 2 boot sources and ignore all others.

Temperature Sensors:

  • W83627EHF is a Super-IO chip with serial, parallel, floppy, smart-card; Asus seems to also use it for any fan control.
  • K8 CPU has direct readout (per SpeedFan documentation)

SpeedFan details (need v4.30 or higher to see K8 Core Temp):

  • CPU of W83627 - is 20 degree F lower than K8's sensor, but reacts to CPU load.
  • AUX of W83627 - seems closer to the real CPU temperature - only 5 degrees too cool and also reacts to CPU load.
  • System of W83627 - assume is the die temp of Super IO chip
  • Core - direct from AMD K8 / A64

My worker-bee system consists of:

  • Athlon 64 3000+ (51-watt CPU)
  • 1GB DDR400 / PC3200 RAM
  • NVidia 6200 AGPx8 graphics card
  • Hauppauge PVR 350 PCI card
  • Sony DVD-ROM
  • 40GB Western Digital as main system drive
  • HighPoint SATA PCI card in RAID 1 to a pair of Samsung 200GB drives
  • Removable PATA rack; I place archived media files on various 200-300GB drives that can be mounted as required
  • All wrapped in a old, clunky mini-tower with bad drive mounting options - I will be moving to a nice Lian Desktop case to keep the height low

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