Anyone who reads a major technical website can't have failed to miss Microsoft's blurted apology over VIA chipset problems under Windows 2000 last month. The solution, they said, was this patch, but it was experimental and had not been tested to the degree Microsoft would normally want their products' standards upheld to. Obviously after a quick chuckle on the floor users picked themselves up and downloaded the new fix, and applied it. One such user was hardware community journal The Tech Report's Scott Wasson, who had been plagued by problems stemming from his use of the ABit KA7 motherboard and a 32Mb NVIDIA graphics card with AGP4x and fast-writes support. Previously, he found, the only way to achieve stability in Windows 2000 was to turn off AGP4x and fast-writes, two of the VIA KX133 motherboard chipset's biggest assets. Well apparently, the new patch has worked its magic, and as Scott put it, "at last, turning up those BIOS options didn't send my Pee Cee into locksville every time I ran a 3D app". But the question he then posed was just how much of a benefit were these supposed, well, benefits. His first step was to confirm that the PC was reporting the various options correctly, and industry-standard check-list hardware application WCPUID confirmed that his PC was operating as he had specified it. The next step was to benchmark the machine in various states to compare the performance benefits of the AGP4x and fast writes options. His results are to say the least interesting, revealing that when pushed, Quake III Arena shows no apparent benefit from either AGP4x mode nor fast writes. Simple AGP2x on its own reveals almost identical results. In one particularly texture-heavy benchmark, the vanilla option outperformed the fast writes! Proving once and for all perhaps that somewhere along the line, someone has realised that Windows 2000 and AGP4x/fast writes don't mix. It couldn't have been VIA themselves, since the chipset is their responsibility, not the software, which leaves either Microsoft or NVIDIA. According to Scott, his readers have uncovered rumours that "NVIDIA simply disabled these features on certain chipsets to avoid headaches, rendering them useless regardless of BIOS settings". The proof, it seems, is in the pudding. Any of you KX133 motherboard / Windows 2000 users out there would do well to take note.
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