A cautionary tale of woe (please don't buy Asus video cards)

I am writing this from a customer's house. I have spent well over 20 hours diagnosing this system over the past few months (MONTHS!) and here's the straight poop.

The system was not loading into windows after all the windows updates were performed. After testing all the components, which always tested fine, despite the hard drive clicking on boot, the system was a-ok. This evening I tried removing the video drivers I was using (the latest nvidia drivers for his 7900GTX SLI configuration). The system boots, no files get corrupted, everything is ok. It turns out that the Asus reference boards differ enough that installing anything but asus drivers resulted in catastrophic memory allocation errors which eventually led to the system's total failure. Right now I've got the drivers from the disc installed and am currently installing the latest Windows updates. Things to learn from my experience:

1. Test all components first: This is obviously necesssary to make sure bad parts are not the problem.
2. Install drivers off of manufacturer's disc: If you require later updates (if the user is a gamer, for instance) do so after you make sure everything goes as planned.
3. Don't rule out what may be "Obviously not the problem": Something as simple as drivers can manifest themselves as a completely different problem. In this case the drivers were causing what appeared to be a textbook case of either Hard drive failure or memory failure.

I'll update this post when I get home later tonight with how it ends, but so far so good

Just to clarify what Stylez said, this system was from a customer who we dealt with at our former Geek Squad store which closed over a month ago. We dealt with him for a month before that and Stylez has been tending to him in the month since we closed. I had worked on the system and paid several visits to the customer's home before I wrote him off and decided I wouldn't get involved anymore because it was driving me nuts. Kudos to you Stylez for figuring that out. A friend of mine had an Asus RADEON 9600XT a while back and was experiencing crashes in WoW. It was a known design issue with the card and there's no fix for it.

I think Asus is beginning to sit on their laurels a little bit as their quality has plummeted in the last few years. Their failure rate has gone way up and I find that their cards and mainboards are starting to ship with BIOS errors or other bugs. That one of their highest end NVIDIA cards has a flaw which causes only the always-outdated Asus drivers to work properly is insane. Their support has also gone to crap. If you try to download driver or BIOS updates, half the time you get 404 errors from their server and when you do get a link to a server, you're lucky to get 3K/sec. Much like Norton, they're still extremely popular despite rapidly declining quality. If you want NVIDIA, your best bet is still BFG.

Ok I'm back now, and thanks to Parallax for the clarification, I wrote my piece in a fit of damn near furious anger. Incidentally, the same driver problem was causing all sorts of issues with his USB devices as well. I just can't believe a system with such expensive, supposed quality components would give me so many problems.

If you want NVIDIA, go BFG. If you want ATI, go Genuine ATI. Best mainboard is in my opinion MSI. I also had a recent experience with what at the time was the highest-end Intel based Asus mainboard available (the P5WD2 Premium) for a high-definition video editing system. The first one was DOA, the second one needed a BIOS update (which was brutel to get) to POST reliably and the insane hodge-podge of disk controllers on the board made it a nightmare to get Windows XP Pro installed on it. When I posted in their forums my experience with the board, I got flamed by the moderators as someone who basically didn't know what I was doing and just came there to beat up on Asus to cover for my own ineptitude. I was using the board because the high-def hardware kit required certain models. Next time, I think I'll order one of the other models even if it takes a lot longer to get.

Hmm...never had problems like that with any Asus products.. video cards or motherboards.. in fact I wont buy anyother Motherboard but Asus.

Though I will agree their tech support forums and BIOS update methods suck.. little or no documentation or worse documentation thats just wrong.. thankfully their products are so popular with the community that perusing any of the large tech forums will usually result in the fix or workaround I need.

Yeah, I've never had any issues with anything Asus I've ever owned, mainboards, video cards. I had an Asus 9800 Pro that I flashed to an XT, something you could only do with the Asus, and it was bombproof. The friend that bought it off of me is still using it.

I've also heard good things about their whitebook notebooks.

Sorry you're having trouble though, guys.

I was under the same philosophy as Guru when I was working in a Clone shop selling parts. The Asus boards never seemed to give me problems but it's been just this last year I've been running into more and more problems with their boards, videocards and their support (oh god, their support). I may have been a little harsh on them earlier, but really as PXA said, BFG and official ATI is the way to go for video. Just avoid yourself some headaches

Nahh.. I've built several systems in the past month with Asus Nforce 4 X16 SLI boards for AMD systems.. and I just bought myself the Asus Intel 975X motherboard for my Conroe system I'm building tommorow (provided my heatsink arrives)

And as Lester said their Notebooks are pretty kick ass for the money..

Support wise.. I just never call any support anymore.. at the most I look in their official forums.. I'll ding them for what I said previous but in terms of product they are still top notch.. there isnt a manuf. currently that I would chose OVER Asus.. but there are others that I do use.

The 7900GT and GTX were problematic at best.. and thats fairly common knowledge.. but its with every single one.. since the flaws are from the original design.

For the record I had the exact same issue with using Nvidia drivers with my MSI and EVGA 7900GTX I currently use in 2 of my systems... I had to actually use the drivers off the CD that came with the cards.. instead of simply removing the 7800GTX's that were in there and upgrading the Nvidia reference drivers..

But once I did use those CD drivers.. I could then once everything came up clean upgrade in place to the Nvidia reference drivers like normal.

I suspect it was some .inf issue causing problems.

New Conroe system eh? Ooooh be sure to give it something heavy to chew through as a test

I'm hoping to do an upgrade before next year, but with a new TV and damn 360 games costing various body-parts worth of my gaming allowance It'll be a trick to afford it.

GG, what kind of specs you looking at? The 6800? I have a 6600 headed my way in a week or two. I wish I could afford more than the 7900 GS vid card though.

cartoonin99 wrote:

GG, what kind of specs you looking at? The 6800? I have a 6600 headed my way in a week or two. I wish I could afford more than the 7900 GS vid card though.

yeah.. I got a 6800 and 2 ATI X1900XTX's to do Crossfire.

Sweet. I didn't get an SLI board though, so no Crossfire for me.

Ah well, this is still the best system that I have ever gotten so I won't gripe too much.

What do you think of the Crossfire setup GG? I haven't had any experience with one yet but I'm not keen on Nvidia for my next system.

Stylez wrote:

What do you think of the Crossfire setup GG? I haven't had any experience with one yet but I'm not keen on Nvidia for my next system.

Havent built one yet... I have a system at my office that has a single X1900XTX in it that is very impressive.. its amazing how much better ATI's IQ is over Nvidia.. even after all these years.. zero shimmering and none of those texture "blurrys" I've been living with for years since the 9800 Days ended.

So I'm eager to see how Crossfire is in terms of raw power on my 30" LCD.. shame though..I should have waited a few more weeks since the X1950XTX is now going to come out and those in Crossfire basically beat the Quad 7950GTX solution from Nvidia.

Ahh well.. it should still tide me over until Vista and the DX10 cards.

TheGameguru wrote:
Stylez wrote:

What do you think of the Crossfire setup GG? I haven't had any experience with one yet but I'm not keen on Nvidia for my next system.

Havent built one yet... I have a system at my office that has a single X1900XTX in it that is very impressive.. its amazing how much better ATI's IQ is over Nvidia.. even after all these years.. zero shimmering and none of those texture "blurrys" I've been living with for years since the 9800 Days ended.

So I'm eager to see how Crossfire is in terms of raw power on my 30" LCD.. shame though..I should have waited a few more weeks since the X1950XTX is now going to come out and those in Crossfire basically beat the Quad 7950GTX solution from Nvidia.

Ahh well.. it should still tide me over until Vista and the DX10 cards.

Sometimes Gameguru you make me cry.

I am going to have to stay out of threads where upgrades are mentioned they are starting to depress me. Maybe I will get lucky this fall and, well, fall into some money.

I've had problems with an Asus Vid Card after I rebuilt my old gaming machine (now a MCSE test box), it looks like it's because of installing the reference driver w/o ever installing the Asus one. I'll let you know how it goes...

Just purchased and installed a Asus Crosshair MB. This was after one DOA and another incredibly flaky Abit board both of which I RMAd. Previous to this upgrade I have been using MSI boards. My first custom system build was with an Asus (back in the early 486 days). It is good to come back to them and see that the quality is still there. They have some incredible features that I think I will not be able to do without again. Two quickly come to mind, EZ Flash which give the ability to flash via a USB drive and the Crashfree BIOS which allows the ability to completely recover your BIOS after a screw up. Color me suprised if their non-MB products are POS. Especially given that many vendors do not alter the reference design of video cards.

Many do not, but Asus does. It's been an issue with not only the Asus nvidia graphics cards but the ATI ones as well. They have all sorts of special features that can cause issues (the "heatpipe" fanless heatsink comes to mind).

Has anyone else noticed a rediculous shortage on product lately? My local shop that usually is stocked to the brim is bare now, and I'm not sure why.

well first impressions were really good.. Crossfire is just as easy as SLI to get up and running.. the whole Master/Slave card is dumb.. but supposedly its going away with the DX10 cards for a more Nvidia like approach..

especially annoying is that the X1900XT Master card runs a bunch slower than the X1900XTX slave card.. bleh..

Though I see the X1950XTX Master and Slave are identically clocked.. more reason I shoulda waited a few more weeks.

Personally I like the external dongle as opposed to the internal bridge.. but thats just me.

Speeds are very nice.. going to load up some more games and do some more testing.