I thought I should write about my extremely negative experience with the Asus P5N-E motherboard for building a computer, because I see many people having similar problems.

As a background, I bought an Asus P5N-E mobo with a Core Duo 6850 processor and 2GB RAM. I planned to run Vista and XP in dual-boot mode since my sound card is not yet supported by Vista, and have a RAID 1 (mirror) configuration.

I bought all the components from Fry’s Electronics in Palo Alto, put them together and started installing Vista but got weird errors. This was unexpected, so I ran memtest and got a bunch of memory errors. I thought maybe the memory sticks are bad, and got errors with both sticks individually. So, I went back to Fry’s (45 minutes away) and tried a few more sticks and got errors too. It was nice of Fry’s to let me test the memory in the store itself. I was at the end of my patience but then came across a stick that did not throw errors, so I bought a pair and came back home only to realize memtest was still giving errors. That was very frustrating. So, it made me suspect the board. In hindsight, I should have tweaked the memory timings to overcome the errors but I never thought a board would need that by default; usually I have only done this to tweak and overclock a system. Tired of fighting with the board, I sent it back to Asus and, of course, had to pay shipping costs to send it to the RMA department. They sent me back another mobo which resulted in a loss of 2-3 weeks time. I hooked up the board and again got memtest errors. I decided to tweak the memory timings and viola, no more memtest errors and I was relieved.

The next step was to install Windows XP and that’s where the nightmare really began, as if the initial experience was not pretty bad already.
The RAID drivers provided by Asus seem to work ok during the installation process (where you need to hit F3 or something like to load extra drivers) but the moment XP started up after a reboot, it crashed. This seemed weird and I thought this was a Windows issue since the installation worked fine and so it had to be that the OS was buggy when it accessed the RAID. This is what even Asus tech support will tell you. In fact, they were blatant and unprofessional enough to tell me that all the blogs and discussion boards that talk about this issue are all garbage. The tech support person even asked me if I believed all the rumors in the school hall. This was downright insulting and I let it go because clearly she was an amateur and being irrational.
So, I called Microsoft support to see what they had to say about it and I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were. They apologized for the problem and walked me through a couple of possibilities. When those failed they even set up a conference call with Asus because I was being bounced back and forth and they believed it was a driver issue. The Asus support was not reachable whenever they tried with me on the line and I realized the futility of the situation.
I decided to return the board and went down to Frys; they were extremely sweet and considerate and took back the board and I ended up getting up a new Abit board. I decided to stayed away from nVidia chipsets and choose an Intel IP35 chipset instead. I brought the mobo home, hooked it up and it started up fine. I immediately loaded XP and it went through flawlessly. The board was rock solid and worked out of the box without any BIOS tweaks. Now, that’s a great product.

After some post-analysis, I think the problem my be that the XP drivers provided by nVidia have a problem and may not be fully WHL (Windows Hardware standard) compliant. So, they run fine in DOS or whatever mode the XP installer runs in but fail when XP tries to use them. I’m not really sure about what the real reason is but I was burned by the experience and will stay away from Asus and nVidia for a while, more because of terrible support.
What’s even more strange is that the Vista installation went fine, so it seems like it is only an XP issue.

Bottomline is that if you have similar problems, you can waste a lot of time trying to slipstream the XP installable or copy over all kinds of drivers to the drivers floppy disk but it most probably will not work. Now, although there are people who claim it worked for them, you should be prepared to return the board. Hope my sob story helped you!

Advertisements