Robust system diagnostic card – Joe
I received a number of inquiries on pricing – UXD does not publish prices in order to protect their International Distributors. However, UXD is offering “All customers who mention Overclockers.com when they call in for pricing will receive a nice discount” (their emphasis).
They offer a range of products, hardware and software based, offering various capabilites at different price points and I would suggest a call to see what might fit your needs. I will be reviewing more of their products shortly.
SUMMARY: Incredibly versatile tool for serious PC hardware trouble shooting and burn-in.
I purchased this tool from UXD a while back and have been using it to burn-in motherboards and test systems for overclocked stability. I recently received an upgrade to P.H.D.PCI2 and thought a look at the newer version would be of interest.
The beauty of using this tool is that it is a PCI card – after the system clears BIOS, the card takes over and begins to work its magic – the OS never gets in the way. The card has multiple uses – it’s not only for debugging:
- Tests check that the system meets PCI specs
- Tests the PCI bus and all PCI slots
- Tests all motherboard components, including
- PCI Local Bus
- DMA Page Registers
- DMA Controller
- Keyboard Controller and Keyboard
- Interrupt Controller
- CMOS RAM and Real Time Clock
- System RAM
- Color Video Card
- Tests peripherals, including floppy, hard drive and CD ROM
- Burns-in new or repaired systems
- Detects random errors through round-robin testing
- Certifies a system as fully functional and error free
This is not “all or nothing” testing – you can set test parameters such that only one or a few items will be tested. In addition, you can print out test results if you need a paper record. This newer version also includes two ports for temperature monitoring of individual components using thermal probes (not included). What’s also nice is that the card can be updated with UXD’s latest testing software as the card uses a flash ROM.
In use, you select among three different modes:
- PHD Diagnostics
- Extended Diagnostics
- Forced Start
This mode runs an unattended series of tests on all the system components as soon as the BIOS clears POST. As the card runs through its tests, if something is missing it will skip the test and note that it skipped the test, so you always have a record of what was tested. If something fails, it’s noted under PASS/FAIL and the specific area is noted under SUBTEST RESULTS TABLE. This level of discrimination allows you to zero in what the problem is.
Under this mode, after POST a screen appears which allows the user to select from a variety of options. If nothing is selected, the card goes into Burn-in, which means that the tests will run until manually stopped. You can also set up a test script in which you can select which tests are run and for how long.
- Q. Inventory displays system configuration data
- Configuration is a more detailed process of
gathering system information. The list includes: SMI/DMI;
I/O; IDE; PCI; PNP; Sensor; SPD; ACPI, and APM
- Diagnostics gives you the option to run
complete component testing
- Burn-in allows you to run tests continuously
- Help provides technical and product information
As an example, this shows a portion of the detailed information you can get from reading the RAM’s data:
I found this very useful as some RAM that is marketed at one spec is really designed for a lower spec.
I also found the card’s component testing feature of real value – this is a screenshot for a hard drive’s Smart data:
You can test a keyboard:
And you can do a detailed test on drives – this for a CD ROM:
Frankly, I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of testing and detailed information you can determine from using the card; suffice to say that just about anything that you want to know of a system you can probably find with UXD’s P.H.D.PCI2.
Both of the above testing modes requires that the system POST and includes a power supply, CPU, RAM, keyboard and video card. But what happens if the system does not POST?
Now this is really cool – you have a system that does not POST, appears dead, or POSTS every now and then and you can’t figure out what’s wrong. With this card, you can FORCE the system into testing – the card initializes on its own and does not require the system’s BIOS.
The minimum configuration using this mode is power supply and CPU – that’s it! You don’t need RAM or a video card – in this mode you can use the card’s video jack (standard VGA pin).
I rooted around my test lab and found an MSI motherboard that fits this criteria – it was always a “problem child” and it’s been sitting in a neglected corner for a couple of years – an ideal test subject. I hooked up a power supply, threw an AMD CPU on the board with a Glaciator to cool it, fired it up and quickly found the following:
How about that – the keyboard controller was the problem all along! As the manual states “In some systems, the keyboard controller is a programmable device. This is a high failure rate component.”
UXD’s P.H.D.PCI2 is a serious tool for the hardware tech – it tests and easily reads out a level of detail that is almost mind-boggling. I’m sure that if you were determined, you could cobble together a bunch of software programs that would deliver perhaps as much detail, but I don’t think they would work independent of an OS (Si Sandra as an example).
As good as I think P.H.D.PCI2 is, it does beg the question of motherboard repair – is it worth it? In most cases I would think not, but for warranty purposes, I would think you’re on a lot stronger ground to specify the failure point than not.
If you’re in the business of assembling systems, using this card to certify a system’s operability is not a bad way to go; having done that for a while, I think it’s a strong Burn-in and marketing tool for a system builder.
Overall, UXD’s P.H.D.PCI2 is worth a serious look.