Via stability: I see the light!

— 11:43 PM on July 23, 2000

OK, after many hours of testing and more than one frustrated post on the topic, I've finally come to some definite conclusions about the stability of Via's chipsets—especially the KX133. You will recall that I had serious lockup problems in AGP-intensive programs on an Epox KX133 board and on the KX133-based Abit KA7, which made me start wondering if the hardware itself was stable (not to mention threatening my own mental stability). Hours of testing and tweaking didn't seem to help.

Until very recently, that is. I was able to run some serious Quake 3 marathon tests on a pair of KA7s and on a Via 133A-based Pentium III system over the past four or five days. One KA7 was running Win2K, and the other machines were running Win98. Both Win98 machines ran Q3 in an endless botmatch for four days straight before one—the 133A machine with a Voodoo 5—crashed back to the desktop. The Win98 KA7 box (with a GeForce DDR) ran another 6-12 hours, finally locking up. Believe it or not, the formerly troublesome Win2K KA7 box, which is my own system and has a GeForce 2 card, got about 72 hours of Q3 testing over the four days' time, and never locked up or crashed once.

I consider all of these performances more than acceptable for a standard motherboard/chipset, given what I've seen on Intel BX systems and the like. 3D games like Quake do crash, and video drivers seem to contribute to these problems. Running Q3 contiuously for four days straight is quite a feat for most any motherboard, in my book. I did have to tweak out the KA7 in Win2K to get it stable; I think the big breakthrough came with NVIDIA's 5.32 video drivers. The two Win98 systems, however, were essentially untweaked.

In non-3D apps that really bang on the CPU, like SETI, the KA7 has proven capable of running for days with zero problems, so only AGP stability was really in question here. Based on my own experience over the past few days and on e-mail messages from a number of readers, I'm sold on Via chipsets once again. Via still has some work to do to make the KX133 more stable in Win2K and to prevent others from going through the lockup hell I had to endure, but the hardware itself must be sound.

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