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GeForce Cards and VIA Chipsets: "Can't we all just get along?" 
  We have had our share of troubles with GeForce video cards.  In an effort to make their cards as fast as possible, NVidia skimped a little on the stability end of the equation.  The result was a very fast, high maintenance video card, which required significant effort to get all games and benchmarks to run properly.  The problems with NVidia GeForce and GeForce-2 cards were particularly noticeable in systems with the VIA KX-133 chipset.

  As just one example among many, the drivers that came with the Elsa Erazor X did not want to run 3D Mark 2000 in a PIII "Coppermine" processor running on a VIA KX-133 motherboard (Abit VT6X4).  The benchmark seemed to run in the background, but the screen went black, and the monitor light went to yellow (standby).  Playing with AGP wait states, AGP 2x vs. 4x mode, dropping the "acceleration slider" 1 notch under the  performance applet, and reinstalling DX 7.0a had no effect on this unpleasant behavior.  Next we tried forcing 1x AGP mode with the following registry setting:

1) Open Regedit
2) Navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\NVIDIA Corporation\Global
3) If there is no 'System' key here, make one. Just right click on the Global key and choose New > Key. Type in the word System, and hit enter.
4) Now select the new System Key, and right click on it and choose New again
5) Now choose "DWORD Value" and type in ReqAGPRate.
6) Set the value for the new key to 1

You will need to reboot for this change to take effect.  Again, changing the AGP rate to 1x had no effect on the 3D Mark 2000 problem.


  Note that you can force 4X AGP mode with the following Registry Key.  I don't recommend 4X with NVidia cards, but you can give it a try by putting this DWORD value in this part of the Registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\NVIDIA Corporation\Global\System

Now right-click on the System key, and select 'New'. Select 'DWORD Value', and type in:

EnableVIA4X

Set the value to 1, and reboot.


  Only one thing fixed the problems we were having with GeForce cards.  Updating the NVidia driver.  The first few versions we tried did not help (3.68 released, 5.13 beta).  The next driver set we tried was the Detonator version 5.22 drivers from NVidia.  This version actually fixed the blank screen problem in 3D Mark 2000, but it was plagued with another NVidia problem, the flickering or flashing texture problem.  Then about a month ago, NVidia leaked the 5.3 version of their Detonator driver set, and that clearly fixed the major problems we were having.  We are now using the 5.3 driver on all NVidia cards from the TNT-2 to the GeForce-2, and they perform very well.  Frame rates are a little slower than with the 5.22 driver set, but it was worth it to get stability.  You can get the latest released and leaked NVidia drivers here:

 http://www.reactorcritical.com/

We have not had time to check out the 5.32 drivers which have been released, but have heard good reports about them.

Overclocking GeForce cards:

  You can overclock all NVidia cards from within their newest drivers by doing a simple Registry edit to enable "Coolbits".  Simply open the Windows Registry Editor by typing "regedit" in the Run Menu of Windows. Then open the following directory:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\NVIDIA Corporation\Global

Right click on the "Global" key and create a new key called NVTweak. Next, right-click on the NVTweak key and create a new DWORD value named "Coolbits." Adjust the value of Coolbits to "3" by double clicking on it and entering "3" in the value data field.

Quit regedit and reboot the system.  Now a new tab called "hardware options" will appear in the GeForce 256 Additional Properties menu. (display properties > settings > advanced > GeForce 256 > additional properties > hardware options).  Go there to change the core and memory clock speeds.  The default values on a GeForce-1 card are 120 MHz core, and 166MHz memory.  We have had good luck with settings up to 130MHz and 180MHz.

  Remember, the 3 things you need with GeForce cards and the VIA KX133 chipset are:
1) The newest VIA AGP miniport driver (install the latest 4-in-1 VIA driver, which you can get here, currently, ver. 4.22)
2) The latest version of Direct X, which you can get here (currently, 7.0a)
3) The best possible NVidia video driver (currently, Detonator ver. 5.30, 5.32 or 5.33), which you can get here.

  I am very happy to report that virtually every problem we have had in the past with NVidia drivers seems to have been eliminated, or at least made un-noticeable, in the 5.3 and 5.32 driver sets. These drivers also allow you to enable the GeForce's full scene spatial anti-aliasing (FSAA). The controls for FSAA can also be accessed through the GeForce "hardware options" menu.  While this feature results in a dramatic performance hit, if your system is fast enough, you can enable partial FSAA and significantly improve image quality in some games.  But if FSAA is important to you, a Voodoo5 5500 card is a better choice.  It's method of generating FSAA is superior to the NVidia implementation.

 For oodles of info on GeForce cards, check out the GeForce FAQ page here:

http://www.tweak3d.net/faq/

Dr. John

Copyright, July 17th, 2000