Asus P5E-VM HDMI motherboard

In the ongoing saga to get a motherboard that works well with Vista SP1 going to sleep, I have yet again switched motherboards.

As previously posted I’ve tried an Intel DG33TL board, and an Intel DQ35JO, and I am now using an Asus P5E-VM HDMI board.

I was happy with the Intel DQ35JO, but this did not last very long. A few days after posting I found my machine with garbage characters on the screen, requiring a cold boot. Intel support was of little help, but a few days later I updated the firmware on my ThinkPad T61, and I read that one of the fixes in the firmware was to fix garbage characters on the screen when sleeping on resuming from sleep caused by the AMT feature. The DQ35JO board also has AMT, so maybe that was the same problem.

Not wanting to have more trouble I returned the Intel DQ35JO board to Fry’s, and I ordered an Asus P5E-VM HDMI board from Amazon. There are three variants of the P5E-VM board; the SE, DO, and HDMI, but only the HDMI variant was immediately available on Amazon. I would not be using the HDMI output since I was going to use the ATI HD 2600 XT card, but it does not hurt to have onboard HDMI available.

Installing the board was simple, the RAID still worked, and Vista Ultimate x64 booted without issues. The only missing driver was for the Realtek audio. I tried the driver from the Asus site but that failed to install, rather disappointing. Asus support told me to use the driver from the Realtek site, and that worked fine.

I again noticed that the power LED was intermittently not working, this being the third board with this problem, I was now convinced it was a problem with the actual LED. I contact Antec support, and a few days later I received a new power LED free of charge. I installed it, and problem solved.

Asus provides several utilities to monitor and adjust the performance of their boards, i.e. AI Suite and PC Probe II. I’ll spare you the details but these utilities are of very poor quality, failing to install, failing to uninstall, crashing on start, crashing on sleep, crashing on resume from sleep, and worse when uninstalled they still leave crap behind. I had to delete two tasks from the task scheduler, delete several files and folders, and manually delete several COM objects from the registry. Avoid these tools.

One feature I really like about the Asus board is the BIOS upgrade feature. Just copy the firmware to a USB key, plug the USB key in, boot, enter the BIOS, select the upgrade option, pick the file, and upgrade, so simple.

This time round I waited a few weeks before posting, and I am very happy with the Asus P5E-VM board.

Intel DG33TL motherboard

This article was originally posted here.

Introduction:

After my bad experience with the Abit F-I90HD motherboards, read about it
here, I purchased two Intel DG33TL motherboards.

Although these boards do not have HDMI onboard, they do have HDCP compliant DVI,
and by adding an ADD2 HDMI board you get HDMI and audio over HDMI.

The Good:

  • Onboard HDCP compliant DVI.
  • Intel ADD2 HDMI card support.
  • Vista installed very fast and with no problems.
  • The driver DVD that came with the board installs all devices that is not
    installed by Vista.

    It even lets you set your username and password and will automatically
    reboot and continue the installation after every driver.

The Bad:

  • The DVD installs the 5.x version audio driver, works fine, yet the Intel
    website lists the latest driver as 6.x.

    However the 6.x driver fails to install, reporting that the hardware is not
    supported.

    Intel support says the 6.x driver installed fine on their test system, and
    they recommended I wait for a new driver to be released, or I exchange the
    boards.

    I find it hard to believe Intel support, and I believe the website is
    incorrectly listing the 6.x driver as compatible with this board.

  • Intel Desktop Utilities sporadically reports 0.000V warning messages,
    and lists one source for a voltage reading as unknown.

    Intel support told me that Desktop Utilities is not supported on the 3x
    series boards, yet the DVD that came with the board installs Desktop
    Utilities, and the Desktop Utilities download page lists support for the 3x
    series boards.

    After pointing this out to Intel support, they recommended I reinstall the
    BIOS and the Desktop Utilities, made no difference.

    A new 0262 version BIOS was released that lists some corrections with the
    Media Engine, but this made no difference.

    Waiting for Intel support to respond, or for a new version of Desktop
    Utilities.

  • I purchased the

    Prolink PV-CH7315
    ADD2 card, but connecting the HDMI does indicate that
    there is a HDMI signal, but no picture on the television.

    The Intel GMA control application does list three outputs, monitor,
    television, and digital television, only monitor / VGA works.

  • The Intel 15.7.3 and 15.8 igdkmd32.sys and igdkmd64.sys GMA drivers and Vista SP1 are incompatible,
    the machine blue screen crashes when going to sleep.

    I tested this with Vista Ultimate x86 being upgraded to SP1, and a clean
    install of Vista Ultimate x64 with integrated SP1.

    I notified Microsoft of the issue during the Vista SP1 Beta, was told Intel
    would fix it before SP1 ships, yet the problem still exists even after SP1
    shipped and after the 15.8 GMA drivers shipped. The issue now appears to be
    documented in
    this KB
    article
    .

The Outcome:

  • I have been contacted by several readers that experience similar issues,
    I urge you to contact Intel support and notify Intel of the problems.
  • After several exchanges with Intel support I am still waiting for a new
    version of Desktop Utilities to solve the 0.000V alerts.
  • Intel removed the 6.x audio driver from the download site, and updated
    the 5.x driver, seems the 6.x driver was not supposed to be on the site.
  • I have not been able to get HDMI working with the Prolink card.
  • Waiting for new GMA drivers that do not bluescreen with Vista SP1, the
    issue is now documented in
    this KB
    article
    .

Links:

Antec Veris Fusion Black HTPC case

This article was originally posted here.

Introduction:

I purchased an Antec Fusion Black case to replace my aging HTPC.

The case looks very nice, until you turn on the LCD display…

The Good:

  • The case looks very nice.
  • The construction is solid.

The Bad:

  • The two included case fans do not have speed monitoring wires, I had to
    purchase new fans.

    For such an expensive case this is rather disappointing.

  • There are two fans on the side of the case, both set to extract hot air,
    but hard drives are located in an area with no direct ventilation.

    There is ample ventilation holes around the drives, but it remains to be
    seen if the drives will overheat or not.

  • The LCD display used on the case is an OEM version of the iMON from
    SoundGraph.

    The Antec provided software has far fewer functions compared to the software
    provided by SoundGraph, unfortunately the SoundGraph software does not work with Antec
    LCD.

  • The LCD turns on bright blue when power is applied to the case.

    The LCD only turns off after the LCD software is installed, and the setting
    enabled to turn the LCD off.

    I really expected the opposite, LCD remains off until turned on by
    controlling software.

  • The LCD contrast is very poor, and the viewing angle is severely limit.

    From pictures I expected to see a blue display on a black background, but
    instead I see dark blue on light blue, it literally looks like the backlight
    is way too bright.

    The LCD details are not visible from angles other than almost right in front
    of the display.

    The plastic panel covering the LCD is highly reflective and any light
    sources obscure the display contents.

    The Antec LCD looks like a cheap joke compared to the excellent quality of
    the LCD of my Yamaha RX-V2700 receiver.

    Low contrast setting (text is visible):


    LCD Contrast Low

    Medium contrast setting (text is partially visible):


    LCD Contrast Medium

    High contrast setting (you can’t see the text at all):


    LCD Contrast High

  • Antec support sent me pictures of a similar LCD in a test system, they
    do not have the actual case, and it looks marginally better than mine, but
    still very poor.

    Low contrast:


    LCD Antec Contrast Low

    Medium contrast:


    LCD Antec Contrast Medium

    High contrast:


    LCD Antec Contrast High

    Picture from SoundGraph website for iMON OEM LCD (very different to the
    Antec version):


    LCD SoundGraph iMon OEM

  • The LCD started flickering, I tried rebooting, removing power from the
    LCD, does not stop.

    It does seem that while the PC boots the display does not flicker, but the
    moment the iMON software starts the flickering starts.

    Here is a movie of the flickering in DivX AVI format
    (4.27MB).

  • I returned the LCD module to Antec under RMA, they were unable to
    reproduce the flicker problem, but they did send me a replacement LCD
    module.

    I installed the new LCD module, and the new module does not suffer
    from the flickering problem.

    As for the quality of the new LCD module, the
    text is now readable at the medium contrast setting, but not nearly as good as the picture from the iMON website.


    Replacement LCD Module

  • The remote only starts working once you have logged in, you can not use
    the remote prior to logging in. I am now forced to use a mouse or keyboard
    to log in.

    The original eHome Media Center external IR receiver works just fine without
    being logged in, this allows me to boot the machine, and select an account
    and log in using only the navigation buttons on the remote.

  • The LCD would occasionally hang with strange characters or elements on
    the display. Once this happens you ave to unplug the case and reboot.

    This problem is being discussed in

    this
    thread on the SoundGraph forum.

The Outcome:

  • Several readers emailed me and also complained about the quality of the
    LCD display, and the lack of features vs. the retail iMon, I urge anybody
    that is not satisfied to contact Antec and raise your concerns.
  • Due to the poor LCD image quality and various other issues I do not recommend this case.

Links:

Philips digital photo frame

This article was originally posted here.

Introduction:

I have been looking for a digital photo frame for a while, and from what I
read the Philips Photo Frame
models appear to have very good image quality and good features.

I bought a Philips 9″ wood border model 9FF2CWO.

The Good:

  • The frame looks very nice.
  • The image quality is really very good.
  • The frame’s built in software is very extensive and easy to use.
  • The frame directly displays pictures from cameras or pictures copied to
    to memory cards, no special settings required, no image resizing required.

The Bad:

  • The battery only lasts for about an hour, I see no point in having a
    battery at all if it only lasts an hour, better make the device cheaper and
    lighter without a battery.
  • The included CD launches a very nice looking flash based autorun
    application, from there you can read the manual or install the Photo Manager
    software.

    Unfortunately the launcher software does not work on Vista, clicking the
    links to the documentation or the Photo Manager installation does nothing.

    On exiting the application Vista notifies you that the application is not
    Vista compatible and that it will run the application in compatibility mode
    next time.

    On launching the autorun application again the links now work.

  • When you connect the frame’s USB connecter to the PC, several new
    removable drives are mounted.

    The one drive is the internal frame memory, the other drives are for the
    removable media slots in the frame.

    When I clicked on the drive letter associated with the SD card, Windows said
    the drive needs to be formatted, the Photo Manager software was also unable
    to access the SD card, yet the frame itself can display pictures from the SD
    card.

    Philips tech support confirmed that the card, 2GB Kingston Ultimate, was on
    the compatibility list, but they did say that there are some compatibility
    problems with larger sized memory cards, and they recommended I use a
    smaller memory card.

    I tried a 1GB PNY SD card, again the frame displayed images fine,
    and this time the SD card was accessible in Windows and in the Photo Frame
    software.

  • The Photo Manager software (picture) leaves much to be desired.

    The software is slow, but maybe this is because accessing the frame storage
    is slow.

    It took me a while to figure out how to transfer pictures, no simple
    intuitive copy or transfer, you have to drag and drop them, and you can only
    transfer pictures, not folders.

  • When I tried to delete a photo I got this error “Disk has no enough free
    space. There should be 20% free space at least”, what can I say, dumb error,
    poor English.

    Philips tech support recommended I delete the pictures using the frame
    software, or to delete the pictures directly using Windows Explorer.

    Error

  • The version of Photo Manager (1.0.1.6) I received on the CD and the
    firmware (9.01.38) in my frame was both later versions than the versions
    listed on the Philips support website.

The Outcome:

  • Because the picture quality is so good, I am willing to avoid the Photo Manager software,
    and using the USB connection directly manipulate the pictures on the SD
    card.
  • I can only hope that Philips will replace the Photo Manger software with
    something usable.

Links: