More Via action

My wildly speculative post yesterday about possible problems with Via-based motherboards led to a pretty good discussion in the comments with Fyodor of FullOn3D. Based on what we've been able to determine about Gateway's configuration on their GHz Athlon systems, I think we're talking about two very different things: one problem with Gateway's GHz Athlon systems, and another with Via's KX133 chipset. (The crucial hint: Gateway doesn't appear to be using Via chipsets.) So we'll let Gateway's issue fall by the wayside for now.

Regardless, there may well be a lock-up problem associated with the KX133 chipset's AGP implementation. Several folks have written me relating experiences similar to my own, and I've not received a single comment or message from a 100% satisfied owner of a truly stable KX133 rig. (If you're out there, make yourself heard!) On top of that, Kim Noer sent along the following bit of info from EPoX tech support, which details a problem with A3D (Aureal?) sound cards and the KX133 chipset. This is not the exact AGP problem I've seen, but runs along the same lines, and I suppose the malfunction could be related. Get a load of the suggested fix:

''VIA Apollo KX133 System Lockup caused by A3D Audio Chip ''
Location: Technical Bulletin
Article #: 1269
Last Modified: 7/5/2000
Product: EP-7KXA


Audio cards that use A3D audio chip causes KX133 system to deadlock when system traffic is heavy.


A3D chip issues one memory read request cycle to North Bridge and expects a grant within 4 mico-sec of latency time. If PCI TRDY# is not asserted after 4 mico-sec, the A3D hardware will de-assert the FRAME# and REQ# to terminate the operation. However, the A3D audio software driver cannot acknowledge the termination and continues waiting for hardware response. Hence causes the system to deadlock.

This issue will only occur during heavy system traffic when the North Bridge cannot grant access to A3D audio chip within the 4 mico-sec latency time.

Source: VIA Application note Serial #AN137 Date 07/05/00.


Since the above issue has no work-around on the VIA Apollo KX133 chipset EPoX suggests against using sound cards based with the A3D audio hardware with our EP-7KXA.

Clearly, Via has had some difficulties with the KX133 North Bridge implementation, and it's caused motherboard manufacturers some grief. Now I'm not sure yet whether this mysterious AGP problem I've been hunting is a bona-fide bug in the KX133 chipset, but similar such problems certainly do exist.

For all of you AMD fans reaching for your pitchforks right about now, know this: I'd like nothing more than to hear that the lock-up issues we've seen here are very uncommon or are easily resolved. The Athlon is a spectacular CPU, and I wouldn't be writing about this if I hadn't spent considerable time trying to make it work right in more than one system. But it hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, we'll keep digging.

I seem to recall another big-name chipset manufacturer issuing an extensive recall recently. I would hope Via would have the character to do the same, if needed.

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