Data Corruption - not Political Corruption - with NVIDIA’s Latest Boards

Our performance board roundups ended up delayed for a variety of reasons, but we will be back on track next week. Every conceivable problem has hit us from shoddy BIOS releases to repeated problems getting Crysis to benchmark correctly under 64-bit Vista. We are still not sure about the latter problem, as one image works and another does not on identical hardware and software setups. We finally got to the point of being able to benchmark, but it is not a process we would wish upon our worst enemies.

However, none of that compares to the data corruption problems we are seeing intermittently on the 790i and 780i platforms. We honestly thought NVIDIA had solved these problems back in 2006 on the 680i platform. Since the MCP has not changed, it is disconcerting to us that this problem seems to be rearing its ugly head again. This time, the data corruption problems appear contained to memory overclocking, especially on the 790i boards. We are not talking massive overclocks here, but apparently hitting the right combination of FSB rates around 400 and memory speeds above DDR3-1600 seem to trigger our problems. Also, we have been able to reach higher DDR3 speeds with absolute stability on the 790i than on the X48 during extreme overclocking, so this problem is even more perplexing to us.

On the 780i boards, the magical combination is right above 400MHz FSB (1600 QDR) and memory unlinked anywhere from DDR2-900~1200. Our 780i problems have been minor for the most part, but the underlying problem is that after the systems recover from a BSOD, we typically have stability problems or gremlin behaviors until we reload the system. This same problem can occur on Intel or AMD chipset boards, but it is extremely rare in our experiences to date unless we absolutely pushed the memory beyond reasonable settings.


Back to the 790i boards; the data corruption problems have occurred more frequently as the boards (and their early BIOS revisions) seem more susceptible to faulty behavior when pushing the memory above DDR3-1600 with low latencies. We have not nailed downed exact settings at this point, as they tend to fluctuate between test sessions and boards. What we do know is that we are tired of constantly reloading our images after making minor changes to our settings.

It is possibly coincidence only, but over the past couple of months we have lost two WD Raptors, a couple of Samsung 500GB drives, and a WD 250GB drive while benchmarking the 790/780i boards. It may have just been time for these drives to meet their maker, as our particular samples have spent significant time running benchmarks almost 24/7 over the past year or so (it might not sound like a long time, but we totally abuse the drives to some degree when testing in this manner). We have certainly had hard drive failures when testing other chipsets, ranging from complete mechanical breakdowns to index tables being so corrupted that we could not fully recover the disk. It could just be bad luck on our part.

However, we think it goes deeper than that. After the first roundups this coming week, we plan to delve into it. The reason is that we have not had any data corruption problems testing our 650i/750i, GeForce 6100/6150, or GeForce 7050 boards, none of which utilize the MCP in the 680/780/790i boards.  Of course, this could be tied to the fact that we do not push the boards as hard, but knowing about the previous 680i problems makes us think the current BIOS code or Vista drivers need to be revised again.

Other problems

We share test notes on an almost continual basis with each other when testing boards. We thought some of the test notes from our upcoming roundup would be interesting. In all fairness to NVIDIA, we are including our X48 thoughts as we wrap up testing.

790i test notes:

a) CPU multiplier likes to changes at will, causing an inability to POST after changing BIOS options. (Problem is likely linked to bad NVIDIA base code).

b) Poor memory read performance above 475FSB unless you enable “P1” and “P2” which NVIDIA refuses to document operation of or provide information about.

c) EVGA/XFX (NVIDIA reference design) lacks support for tRFC tuning - high density DDR3 configurations often refuse to work unless the module SPDs are tuned from the manufacturer. (This makes them needlessly slow in low-density configurations.)

d) The chipset does not do a very good job of balancing read vs. write priorities with respect to memory access - copy scores lower than X38/X48.

e) Regardless of what NVIDIA says, we think PCI-E 2.0 (and 1.x) implementation is still better on Intel’s Express chipsets - give us SLI on Intel to prove it!!!

f) Possible problem with NVIDIA reference design: sustained overclocked operation at >~1.9V for VDIMM may cause critical failure of 790i (Ultra) SPP. This does not seem to affect ASUS S2E design and is the most critical issue facing the board; we need to verify before making recommendations.

g) Possible HDD corruption issues. (We lost the two 74GB WD Raptors so far…)

X48 test notes:

a) Chipset defaults to tRD values that are excessively loose and are not competitive with NVIDIA’s new 790i. The problem is most MB manufacturers do not allow this to be specifically tuned in the BIOS.

b) DMI interface (x4 PCI-E link) is sloooow….X38/X48 should have been paired with ICH10(R), which will be PCI-E 2.0 compliant on the link interface.

c) Haven’t found an Intel X48 board yet that will handle 8GB of DDR3 properly, even though this is a major bullet for chipset support - board or memory makers? (We need to test this on the Intel DX48BT2 that just arrived.)

d) Chipset runs HOT…might even be hotter than 790i. Intel should have shrunk this thing long ago!

That is it for now and we will have additional information in the first roundup. Now a take on Gigabyte.

Pop goes the MOSFET Walking the Plank with Gigabyte...
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  • haplo602 - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    Geee thanks for the 780G board info. I was just heading into the same disaster with my next platform upgrade ... thanks for the warning .... I will watch the amd board compatibility list and not the manufacturers specs ... Reply
  • perzy - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    Seems like power problems is THE mobo problem today.
    I recently bought a AMD 5000+ Black edition for my MSI K9N Neo.
    It was supported said the MSI webpage.
    But, the bios have no multplier! I'm guessing the mobo cant take the power increase.
    This must have happened to a lot of ppl that bought some black edition CPU's.
    Reply
  • Mr Fox - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    NVIDIA controls the content of the "COLATTERAL" that is put on these boxes this is another example of NVIDIA tieing their partners hands and insulating themself from the "Voice of the customer".

    Every NVIDIA Chipset that has been introduced has had Data Corruption Issues.

    It amazes me that a Company can Engineer such fine video cards can put out such Fecal Matter when it comes to Core Logic Chipsets.

    Now I'm beginning to belive that the Marketing Department has run Amok when they Re-PCB (G92)-400-A2 crank the price $150.00 and call it 9800 GTX.

    Just another example how lost their leadership is when this kind of activity is perpetrated upon your customer base.


    nRollo made the bold statement to me about a month ago that nVIDIA was making record profits, and I reminded him that so was AMD Three Years ago.


    Never a Dull Moment !!!

    Reply
  • nubie - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    Ouch, I just want to run a tri-core Phenom in my DFI Infinity II M2, I don't really know if that is going to happen now.

    I also was planning on running a heavy overclock on my P5N-E SLi with a 45nm Dual Core, I guess it should be fine for that. (currently it is hosting a Celeron430 @3.17Ghz 33°C stable Prime95 loaded, haven't got enough fans on the HR-05 chipset cooler yet to try going higher, and I honestly can't see how to with this Sycthe Infinity hogging all the space, but it was booting fine at around 3.6Ghz before the NB was too hot, it doesn't help that there is no mention of the stock NB voltage, just 4 settings :?, and no granularity :( )
    Reply
  • KillaKittie - Sunday, April 6, 2008 - link

    This is the first time ive heard of these problem's before and it sounds like your just mad and ranting which you are but let's keep it at that.

    Im running the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H 780G motherboard with a 125w X2 6000+ just fine and have been for the last 2 month's with zero problem's. Not only that but im also running 2 hardrives and an 8800GT with 6 80mm fan's sometimes running at 100%.

    Ive had no problem's with system instability and have had no crashes and i play games like Crysis for very long period's of time.
    Reply
  • Zap - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    KillaKittie writes:
    "Im running the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H 780G motherboard with a 125w X2 6000+ just fine and have been for the last 2 month's with zero problem's."

    In the article:
    "Interestingly enough, Gigabyte has qualified the 125W TDP 6400/6000+ X2 processors on this board."

    The review board died with a Phenom, not a 6000+ which according to Gigabyte is explicitly supported. Also, are you overclocking? That seemed to be what broke the Gigabyte board.
    Reply
  • Glenn - Sunday, April 6, 2008 - link

    Perhaps Killa Kittie needs to let us know how much he has maxed out that configuration. After all it is an "Enthusiast" board! And BTW, I thought this was 2008, not 1998! Who has 6 80mm fans in one system nowadays? Reply
  • KillaKittie - Sunday, April 6, 2008 - link

    I have no plan's to max any configuration i have here it's just fine how it sit's.I got the impression throwing any 120w processor will fry this board in minutes so im here to tell you mine has worked very well for what it is.

    2x 80mm on the PS
    3x 80mm in the back with an adjust screw
    1x 80mm in the front wired to adjust screw in back.
    Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Sunday, April 6, 2008 - link

    And, all those fans are powered through the motherboard headers? Reply
  • TrueSport - Sunday, April 6, 2008 - link

    Re: KillaKittie,

    post it on the AT forum,
    before anybody is going to trust you!
    Reply

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