[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Building Your Own Computer Like My Super PC

How Fast Is It?

First, have you ever heard of 4in1 drivers? I hadn't. And if you are using a Via chipset then you need to know about them! They don't get installed when you install Windows. And without them the AGP is disabled even if it's marked as enabled in the BIOS which means the performance of the graphics card is drastically reduced. Once installed, my graphics performance tripled yes, tripled! It's very devious this absence of 4in1 drivers because everything looks fine, both in terms of detail and performance. And, if you're like me and upgrading from a slower system, the new speed will be impressive and you'll think everything's fine. But the 3Dmark2000 benchmark results made me suspicious even though all the demos and games I tried looked great! so I scouted around and stumbled upon a mysterious reference to 4in1 drivers. I've talked to very knowledgeable PC enthusiasts who've never heard of the 4in1 drivers.

The Via 4in1 Drivers are the motherboard chipset drivers for the ABIT KT7A. Any retail purchased motherboard will include a CD-ROM that contains the motherboard chipset drivers it needs. And there will be an even more up-to-date version of the drivers available online. This NVIDIA FAQ regarding system crashes and lock-ups identifies how and where you can find the latest drivers for the chipset on most motherboards.

To check if your AGP is disabled, download and install a freeware program called "wcpuid". AMD3D provides a download page that includes wcpuid. When you run it, the first screen will look something like this (these screen shots are from WCPUID V3.0f):

How to build a computer - WCPUID

Pushing the "Chipset Information" icon on this page (the mostly green icon with a chip looking thing in the middle of it, it's near the top of the page), brings up a screen that looks like this.

How to build a computer - WCPUID chipset information

Notice the right-hand side of this screen shows the AGP Information. I have AGP Spec. Revision 2.0 and it shows as enabled. It showed disabled before I installed the 4in1 drivers.

I wonder how many PC users are running merrily along thinking everything is swell and in reality their AGP is disabled? More than a few, I'll bet! Lucky you if you've never heard of them and you're reading this! I include a link to the drivers later! Again, they are only for Via chipsets.

With this vital bit of information out of the way, let's get on to the benchmarks. SiSoft Sandra Standard, version 2002.1.8.59 provides the motherboard benchmarks.

My results were achieved with absolutely no overclocking used on either the processor or memory. I don't really have anything against overclocking, but see Build A Computer Like My Super PC - Overclocking for more information.

On the other hand, I did tweak the BIOS settings to give myself every performance advantage I could. Again, the ABIT KT7A is a beautiful board because it gives you complete control over your system. For detailed information on what values I use for my BIOS settings and what each setting means, check out Build A Computer Like My Super PC - BIOS Settings.

Note that in the following diagrams that My Super PC is the first pair of measurement bars. The next two pair of measurement bars are for comparison purposes against similar systems, such as an Intel Pentium 4 system running at 2.0GHz and a typical AMD Athlon XP 1800+ system.

Here are the results of the processor test for the AMD Athlon XP 1800+ in My Super PC.

How to build a computer - SiSoft Sandra CPU Arithmetic Benchmark result

Right on target! Look at how the AMD Athlon XP 1800+ processor is nip and tuck with the Intel Pentium 4 running at 2.0GHz!

Here are the results of the memory test for the Crucial PC133 CL2 memory in My Super PC.

How to build a computer - SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth Benchmark result

Great! Looks like the BIOS tweaks are helping My Super PC edge out the "typical" expectations. And these numbers are substantially better than what you would get if you went with the BIOS "Failsafe Default" values!

And to round out the "raw" motherboard performance benchmarks in SiSoft Sandra, let's take a look at the CPU Multi-Media Benchmark.

How to build a computer - SiSoft Sandra CPU Multi-Media Benchmark result

Another bulls-eye!

One upgrade made to the ABIT KT7A over the ABIT KT7 is the ABIT KT7A's usage of the Ultra DMA/100 IDE protocol, often expressed as ATA/100. Although the ABIT KT7 is no slouch since it supports ATA/66, this upgrade gives the ABIT KT7A slightly faster hard drive access, assuming the hard drive configured with the motherboard also supports the ATA/100 interface, as the IBM Deskstar 120GXP does. In "raw bandwidth" terms, hard drive access on the ABIT KT7A is 50% faster than the ABIT KT7. However, in real world terms, there's very little difference. In normal day-to-day usage, expect something like a 2% improvement in disk-based performance. Surprised? Well, it shouldn't really be too surprising. After all, the overall time it takes for, say, an application like AOL to load and start is only fractionally taken by accessing the hard drive. And the IBM Deskstar 120GXP includes a 2 megabyte cache, so if whatever is being accessed is still in the cache then the access time is identical on both the ABIT KT7 and ABIT KT7A - and super fast as well!

Still, no respectable PC performance analysis would be complete if it didn't include the benchmarking data for the hard drive, so here it is for the IBM Deskstar 120GXP 80GB hard drive in My Super PC. By the way, be sure to disable GoBack and defrag the hard drive before running this particular SiSoft Sandra benchmark.

How to build a computer - SiSoft Sandra 120GXP hard drive benchmark result

The graphics driver I'm using is the NVIDIA reference driver version 21.83 WHQL Certified (posted 10/11/2001 on NVIDIA's site). I describe the procedure I used for updating the graphics drivers on my Build A Computer Like My Super PC - BIOS Flash Updates And Driver Updates page. After installation, My Super PC showed these results.

Date of Driver as shown under System Properties, Device Manager
How to build a computer - NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 200 Properties Driver Date

Version of Driver as shown under Display Properties
How to build a computer - NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 200 Properties Driver Version

Optimizing the graphic drivers for performance with acceptable compromises in quality is not difficult. GeForce Tweak Utility is freeware and it does most of the work. Download and install the utility. Installation of the utility is straight-foward. Double-click on the downloaded file to start the install. After the install, an entry is included in the Start menu so it can be started by clicking Start -> Programs -> GeForce Tweak Utility.

At the bottom of the GeForce Tweak Utility screen is a button labeled fast settings. Push it. You're done! Well, almost, except for changing the settings circled in red to be as shown. Note that the GeForce Tweak Utility automatically and immediately saves a new value applied to a setting. Push the Quit button to exit. But first you may want to set the overclocking settings under the tab named NV Clock.

The Links & Disclaimer tab shows which version of GeForce Tweak Utility I used, namely version
How to build a computer - GeForce Tweak Utility Information tab

The System tab includes support for enabling AGP. Pushing the button fast settings checks all the appropriate boxes under several tabs at once, including under this, the System tab ...
How to build a computer - GeForce Tweak Utility System settings

... and under this, the Direct3D tab ...
How to build a computer - GeForce Tweak Utility Direct3D settings

... and under this, the OpenGL tab ...
How to build a computer - GeForce Tweak Utility OpenGL settings

Changing the red-circled settings from their fast settings default values to the values shown can make a vast improvement in quality with only a slight, and unnoticeable, impact to performance. It also brings the settings in agreement with the values suggested by MadOnion on Driver Tweaks.

One interesting tab that is left is NV Clock, which allows overclocking values to be entered for the Core Clock and Memory Clock! Pretty cool! But what values should be used? There's no "safe" or "recommended" overclocking values and some people will push these settings as far as they can just to see how high a benchmark score they can reach. It's true that overclocking the graphics card is an effective way to increase overall system performance since it's the bottleneck (assuming you are doing graphics intensive operations, like most games), but if you push it too far then you will start to get graphics anomalies, such as shimmering pixels or artifacts - or maybe worse things can happen.

This table may be helpful and shows the clock settings I use. Especially since I have the "Golden Sample" video card, I'm not too concerned that nudging my clock settings will be detrimental.

Configuration Core Clock Memory Clock Comment
GeForce3 Ti 200
Default settings.
GeForce3 Ti 200 "Golden Sample"
Default settings.
My Super PC
GeForce3 Ti 200 "Golden Sample"
These overclocked settings works for me just fine. And look! The Memory Clock value is the same as the default setting for the GeForce3 Ti 500! I've seen reports of values as high as 240/550 being used without problems. Maybe that's so. But you never know how thoroughly those settings were really tested or if they held up over time. I've chosen these values since they are widely reported to be stable. I've experienced no problems at all. I could try pushing it further, but why bother?
GeForce3 Ti 500
Default settings.

So my NV Clock tab looks like this.
How to build a computer - GeForce Tweak Utility NV Clock settings
[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]