HP zv6000 (Compaq r4000) BIOS update released… will your pc boot afterwards?

October 30, 2006

HP has recently released a BIOS update for the zv6000/r4000 series of notebook pcs. This update, called F1.C, supposedly resolves an issue where users may get a Blue Screen (BSOD) error when using the USB ports and Cardbus (Express54) slot. I, for one, have never experienced this issue therefore I cannot comment on whether or not the issue is improved upon or resolved.

A side note-

I have recieved more than one email stating that after installing this BIOS update your system may no longer boot into Windows. I have not personally seen this issue. However, I have had difficulty in the past when attempting to update the BIOS using the Winflash utility — to the extent that my system was effectively ‘bricked’ and had to be sent to HP for warranty repair.

Typically, a BIOS flash can cause a PC not to boot into Windows if one of the following settings is reverted to default after being changed… or simply changes: APIC mode, ACPI settings, Power Management (S1/S3/s1&s3), and Cool & Quiet. If you are one of the ones affected by this update check these settings first.

My experience with laptops has been the following. As a general rule, **do not** update your BIOS unless your system is specifically affected by the issue that the new BIOS addresses, *especially* if your notebook is no longer under warranty. I have found through my own experiences that flashing the BIOS on a laptop is much more troublesome (and problematic) than doing so on a desktop. There are several more “technical” reasons for this, but the one I will hammer home here is this one: Most laptops do not have a stand-alone OS disk that does anything less than a complete re-format and fresh install of Windows (plus associated “bloatware”) and will not do a repair install.

I have said my piece and you’ve been warned. Now here’s the link:

http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/softwareDownloadIndex?softwareitem=ob-43144-1&lc=en&cc=us&dlc=en&product=453185&os=228&lang=en

Happy Flashing 😉


Blame it on the X300, Part One

October 14, 2006

I have recieved several messages confirming that this problem also occurs on the Xpress 1100m IGPs as well as the 200m IGPs.

A couple of recent comments have specifically referenced the Acer 5102WLMI laptop which employs the newer (and supposedly FIXED) ATI Radeon Xpress 1100m. The 1100m is, for the most part, a rebranded 200m with higher clock frequencies. They are fundamentally the same, both based on the horribly flawed (aka sorry excuse for a GPU) Radeon X300SE. I have my reasons for feeling this way, simply read on.

I recently acquired a Radeon X300SE pciE video card to evaluate so I could get a good baseline as to what to reasonably expect performance-wise out of the 200m/1100m chips. Logically, a Xpress 200m/1100m is a X300 core with half the pipes, reduced clock frequencies (both memory and core) and a reduced memory bandwidth (64bit instead of 128bit, although some X300SE models only come with 64bit) On paper alone, the 200m/1100m should be somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of what the X300 is in terms of performance. 

Through my testing unfortunately, the picture has not turned out to be very pretty at all. The X300 all in all, is a horrible GPU. Where it appears to be most flawed is in OpenGL operations. In many benchmarks frame rates drop to as low as 3 frames per second where in comparable DirectX benches the frame rates are at or around 20.

One thing comes to mind here. Is it any real wonder why the X300 card was the only card of its generation to NOT be ported to a FireGL variant?

I am sorry that this has taken so long. When my research is completed I will post real numbers for all to see and evaluate for yourselves.


A BIG thank you goes out to Killersneak of DNA-Drivers for his effort

September 26, 2006

Recently I submitted several posts to people who specialize in “homebrew” ATI video drivers. Specifically, Omega, DNA, and DHZeroPoint.

Killersneak, of DNA drivers was kind enough to respond to my post and lend me some assistance on this issue. He was nice enough to re-release a reworked Catalyst 4.6.6.8 Beta. It has some memory optimizations specifically for the xpress 200m. I have always liked his drivers, and run them on more than one system.

You can access the forum post and the Beta driver link from here:

http://www.dna-drivers.com/forums.php?m=posts&q=1508

After installing his drivers, I did notice a performance substancial improvement, but nothing that can make KOTOR or any of the other OpenGL apps remotely usable. Killersneak did do a fantastic job, however, as performance improvements can be measured to be anywhere from 100-200 percent better in certain tests. Unfortunately for the xpress 200m, a one to two hundred percent increase is only about 1-2 additional frames per second. Given how bad the frame rates are, the performance gains need to be in the 1000s of percent range to make any real difference. I went into this fairly convinced that this is entirely a hardware limitation (aka Video FIRMWARE problem), but I wanted that final nail in the proverbial coffin.

Just to give you a notion of what kind of improvement is needed here, take the 1-2 frames per second performance we get now as a baseline. At 1fps. 100% better is 2fps. 1000% better = 10fps. 2000% better = 20fps = barely playable) On average an optimized driver can improve performance but definately not at the level that is needed here. This proves beyond most measure of doubt, that no amount of software optimizations or tweaks can help this problem. This means if it looks, smells, and walks like a duck… it is, well, a duck. Duck, in this case, meaning a Hardware issue.

Feel free to download the driver, some OpenGL benchmarking programs and give it a whirl for yourself. I have come to the conclusion that this is without a doubt, a video firmware issue. However, even with this amount of proof I doubt HP, or any other hardware manufacturer, will do much about it.


HP zv6000 owners unite

September 3, 2006

There is a website located at the following address. http://www.notebookanalysis.com

It is specifically dedicated to the HP Pavilion dv6000 series and it’s compaq equivalent, the R4000 series. I urge anyone who owns these (or other HP/Compaq models) who suffer this issue to join up. At some point soon a petition will be started. I am currently shopping my technical findings to as “reputable” of a source as I can. I have even debated sending my findings off to Tom’s Hardware to see if maybe they’ll bite on it.


Research on the Xpress 200m

August 7, 2006

During the time my laptop was on its way to HP for repair I compiled a lot of research on laptops running the ATI Radeon Xpress 200m graphics. Here is some things that I’ve noticed:

There are some newer lines of AMD Turion laptops that are shipping with Xpress 200m graphics that are apparently running KOTOR, Quake, and other OpenGL 1.4 (or above) apps the way they should be. I even tested this theory on a new Compaq Presario floor model at Circuit City. I asked my friend who works there if I could install the Quake 4 Demo on it and run a few tests — after educating him about my problem. I proceeded to do this… and sure enough the Demo ran. Granted this was not great performance… but hell even 15-20 fps is still 14x better than what I’m getting now. I was quite amazed yet frustrated at the same time.

 I began to dig further.

From what I’ve found certain runs of the ATI Xpress 200m chips came with Video Firmwares that are somewhat “bugged” and do not allow for proper OpenGL performance. These chips offload most of the Vertex and T&L operations to the CPU and brings it (no matter its speed) to its knees. For the record, my chip identifier is “0x5955”, with a BIOS version of VER008.025l.004.0000.

I did not note the BIOS identifer on this floor model I tested, but did look around HP’s website for some other information relevant to this issue…

Many of the newer Compaq and HP Laptop models have a revised BIOS downloadable. This BIOS lists in its fixes that it “Resolves a Video Firmware Issue”. Unfortunately, my model of laptop is not supported by this download. The link to it is this: http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/softwareDownloadIndex?lc=en&cc=us&dlc=en&os=228&product=1818493&lang=en&softwareitem=ob-39058-1

If anyone can who is having this issue, please send me your BIOS identifiers so I can compile a list of chips that have this problem versus chips that do not. I plan on re-opening the ticket with HP in an attempt to get them to release a new video firmware for the HP zv6000 (mine) and Compaq M2000 (my wife’s) line of laptops.


My Radeon Xpress 200m ordeal

July 7, 2006

 Here is my story.

Back in November of 2005 I bought a HP zv6270us laptop. A truly awesome machine. Athlon64 3500+, 1Gig ram, 100GB of HDD space, built-in everything but the kitchen sink, and a ATI mobility radeon xpress 200m with 128MB of dedicated Video memory (this made me salivate if I recall.) A friend of mine has a laptop with an integrated intel gfx chip, which supposedly is not even 1/2 of what the 200m is and he can play KOTOR1 & 2 just fine. As with everyone else, my laptop plays these games at about 1-2fps. The character models are very distorted (blacked out eyes, real jagged edges)… all in  all, just plays like absolute doodoo. I have tried everything… omega drivers, old drivers, new drivers… nada. Kind of sad actually.
After doing a lot of thorough research and testing to try and get KOTOR1 & 2 to run I finally gave up. I will begin with what it is not before going into what he problem really is. …

 Lucasarts has said that they do not support any gfx chips that use shared memory. I’ve seen people with integrated intel and SiS chips run the KOTOR series fine. They don’t support it… but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Besides, in my particular case I do not have shared memory… its dedicated. But the 200m has the same issue regardless of the type of memory… (I’ve tried both) therefore it is not a shared memory issue.

  The 200m chip is, more or less, an x300 chip with half the pipes. (2 instead of 4 I believe) Even so, while running many directx games it performs at or near what one of my old desktops ran with a 9600SE a couple of years back… which is just slightly better than a 9000. So as a baseline I say the 200m is right at or very near +/- the performance of a 9600SE. A friend of mine played through and beat KOTOR 1 with an old radeon 7200… which is inferior to the 9000 which is in turn inferior to the 9600se/200m. So using that comparison, the 200m should play (at least) KOTOR 1 just fine. By no means am I saying that the 200m is a great chip… but it can impress when tweaked properly. I play WoW and FF11 on it quite frequently and it does fine. So… if it can play games that demand more hardware than KOTOR… it’s not a lack of gfx power on the 200m’s part that is causing this issue either. 

Now you know what it’s not… on to what it IS…
The problem has to do with the driver and it’s (lack of) OpenGL performance. This is 100% a driver issue. The 200m handles most directx games just fine. But it has very VERY piss poor OpenGL performance. There are several OpenGL games besides the KOTOR series that run at the same 1-3fps. Adobe After Effects is unusable with this card when you use the OpenGL interface… so are many other gfx related apps as well. This chip cimply chokes hard on anything that uses OpenGL. Unfortunately, the Omega drivers do not address OpenGL related issues on the 200m so the ONLY way this gets fixed is if ATI fixes this issue by fixing the drivers to properly support OpenGL on these chips…. …However, ATI does not officially support this gfx chip on their website. The newest Catalyst drivers do not support the 200m, nor do the IGP drivers support this either. The offical word from ATI is to contact the system manufacturer for updated drivers… which in my case the last update was 12/2005… which puts me somewhere near S-O-L. As most people who buy laptops know, manufacturers sunset their products so fast driver updates are rarely available other than the ones that were originally available with the system. It puzzles me to think that ATI has effectively turned their back on this chip. Brand new laptops (I saw an ad for a new Asus brand with a Turion64 X2 due out very soon) are being built with these chips. There are a lot of these chips out on the market, and more are being sold everyday… but yet ATI refuses to support it.

To that I say WTF… it makes no sense. 

So there you have it. Driver issue + No driver support through ATI = we be f***d  

There are a few alternatives though. You could attempt to find newer drivers for this chip through various manufacturer’s websites. Asus, MSI… more or less any manufacturer that uses A64/200m combinations. You could get lucky… although so far I haven’t… but yet again I really haven’t looked too much. I have also heard rumors (although unconfirmed) that notebooks that use A64 chips (HPs especially) that run the performance crippled ddr333, notice a quite substancial improvement in gfx performance with the 200m by switching the memory to ddr400… if your notebook mobo supports it. Whether this would help with KOTOR or not… I do not know. I have some laptop parts on order (1gig ddr400 and a 7200rpm drive) and although I did not order these parts to fix this issue specifically… if it does help I will update this post.