More K7Master

Let me tell you what’s going on with this board.

There’s a certain special interest group in this board. A typical email from someone in this group would go like this:

“I need to get a new computer, and would like to get DDR. I do serious work and want something that can both overclock a bit AND be rock-solid. Is this it, and if not, what is?”

These people are asking for more than a couple benchmarks. They want this judged by a higher standard.

From my experiences so far, the MSI has been better than most of the KT133 and KT133A Via boards I have tested, but it hasn’t met that higher standard yet. It does something quirky every once in a while, too often for me to say it meets that higher standard.

For instance, in less than a week, I’ve had three failures to boot all the way into Win2K; the screen just goes blank. No big deal (and it hasn’t done it in a few days), just reboot, but rock-solid machines aren’t supposed to do that.

Yesterday, I got an Explorer crash just by clicking on My Computer. Or Homesite failed to load once; it just hung. Again, neither is that big a deal, but not the sign of something rock-solid.

I’ve been running Winbench in both Win98 and Win2K, and I’m getting some weird results, at least in Win98. Now Winbench is a pretty weird, inconsistent benchmark to begin with, but it’s being even more inconsistent than usual.

I’ve been perusing forum comments and emails by owners, and there are some things I just haven’t been able to check out yet. Right now, I’m using a Matrox G450. Pretty safe to say most of you won’t. I’ve gotten a few complaints about this board and NVidia cards. I won’t have a NVidia card handy for a few days (and 3DMark2001 scores and performance are horrendous (1000-1200 at default 1024X768) with the G450).

In the next few weeks, we plan on buying the Kyro II, but it just won’t be available for a few weeks yet. We also plan on buying a higher-end NVidia card than the GTS we have. By the time we see the regular contenders show up for Via DDR; we should be able to compare and contrast them with a variety of equipment. We’ll certainly retest the MSI with the hot video stuff, too.

But again, this board has a constituency, and what it wants to know about most is stability, day-in and day-out.

We’re also waiting to get Sysmark2000 to do some more conventional benchmarking.

As I’ve stated in the recent past, our reviewing isn’t just going to be about what we found, but also what others are finding. Have spent and will spend a good deal of time looking around for that, too.

I’m sort of feeling my way towards something better than “Here’s eighty-six benchmarks I just ran in the last twenty-four,” and working out the methodology (especially given the level of expectations for stability for potential buyers of this board) is taking some time, but I know from past experiences that three days isn’t enough to prove serious stability.

For the past six months or so, my rock-solid standard has been the IWill 815 board I used in my backup machine. I probably put in about three weeks of work on it, and I had ONE problem during that time. Using Win98 most of the time. It just worked. That’s my definition of rock-solid. The Via boards just haven’t been able to match that level of reliability, most haven’t even come close. The MSI board doesn’t, either, though it’s pretty good compared to its not-so-hot competition.

If your expectations are lower, then see how I do after I use this with the GTS for a while, and decide based on that. It’s certainly a pretty good board; I just don’t know if it’s good enough for the people who want to buy it. 🙂

Email Ed

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