Don't You Hate It When A Plan Doesn't Come Together?
Well I've spent a good few hours toiling away at this problem and have reached the point where I'm calling it a day (it's 2:58 AM where I am at the moment)...
A few months ago I had an idea to build a mini-ITX based PC that featured a single PCI slot. I have a few cards lying around that I would like to use from time to time, so having a small box to plug them into instead of having to disconnect and haul open the larger tower would be a godsend.
I also "believed" that if I could get one of the last PCI graphics cards to be produced (in this case, a PowerColor Radeon HD 2400 Pro) I could also get it to play back Blu-Ray titles (this budget card doesn't perform H.264 acceleration but does have HDCP). This would mean that it could also serve as a HTPC also.
Of course, I wasn't exactly awash with cash at the time, so I just made a shopping list and saved up. Which brings us nicely to today...
I currently have sat in front of me a Intel D945GSEJT mobo featuring the Atom N270 laptop CPU and 945GSE mobile chipset. It has DVI, SATA and gigabit LAN onboard. It also has a PCI slot. And is completely fanless. :cool:
Acting much the same way as I usually do on Christmas Day, I eagerly tore open the pack containing a 2GB SO-DIMM and slotted the memory in, wired up the case connections and plugged in the 75W external brick power supply. So far so good. I plugged in a monitor and USB keyboard and hit the power button. It's alive! :D
After having a flick through the famously sparse BIOS menus, I then turned the PC off and whipped out the PowerColor. I carefully pressed the card into the PCI slot, changed the monitor connection to the card and flipped the power again...
This time, nothing. :eek:
I turned it back off, removed the card and tried again. Works fine?
I tested the card in my main tower. There was some havoc when Windows XP loaded and found a really slow graphics card in addition to the PCI Express one, but other than that it worked fine.
I scratched my head. The mobo works, the graphics card works... but why not together?
Thinking the board may have a dodgy PCI slot, I tried inserting a video capture card. Booted fine.
Then I remembered that there is an option in the BIOS to select which graphics device to use when booting... but this was missing from this particular BIOS(!)
I frantically tried updating the BIOS to the latest version... no dice.
It seems that the mobo won't boot with the PowerColor installed because Intel have kindly hardwired the BIOS to initialize the onboard graphics first, then it has a look at the PCI slot, tries to initialise the device and locks up because it was not expecting another graphics device to be there.
I know that this is something that Intel have done because a similar mobo with the same chipset but the manufacturer's own BIOS (the MSI IM-945GSE) indicates that you can change the primary video adapter to PCI in the manual. It's just a shame that that board is not widely available (and costs twice as much).
Now, you might be thinking "Don't be sad, cos 1 out of 2 ain't bad", but I just find it really annoying that people still go around crippling things for no good reason and spoiling what would otherwise have been a pretty decent little box. :(
So, for the record then: you cannot use a PCI graphics card with the D945GSEJT. I hope that this info helps anyone else who had a similarly bright idea, and maybe prods Intel into doing the decent thing and repealing this senseless edict with an update.
Now I have a £30 PCI paper weight. Let's hope that someone else out there is using a different board and would like the convenience!
Right, rant over. I'm off to bed.