nvidia

ASUS 1GB GeForce GT 430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket Review

ASUS 1GB GeForce GT 430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket Review

I purchased the ASUS 1GB GeForce GT430 graphics card to upgrade my Dell Slimline 540s and convert it to a Home Theatre PC. An upgrade was needed because my machine struggled to play High Definition video content smoothly with its original graphics card in MediaPortal and XBMC.

ASUS 1GB GT430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket

ASUS 1GB GT430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket

The original graphics card was an ATI Radeon HD 3400 Series and did not have the power to decode High Definition video content quickly enough. This resulted in dropped frames and choppy playback. Handing the decoding over to the Dell’s CPU was no better; the Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q8200 @ 2.33GHz in my Dell would typically run at approximately 85% utilization or greater. And that’s not good when there’s windows services running in the background and choking the decoding process. HD content was unwatchable.

The ASUS 1GB GeForce GT430 is endowed with 96 CUDA cores, which means it can decode HD content flawlessly while taking the heat off the Dell’s CPU. And it seems to do it effortlessly. It has transformed my weak and feeble Dell into a very capable HTPC.

The other key points:-

  • With a HDMI connection to my TV and the latest nVidia drivers,  the GPU up-scales everything to 1920 x 1080p.
  • The card can alter it’s screen refresh rate to match the frame rate of the encoded video. This is essential if you are likely to be watching video from different countries and sources. It assists in making playback fluid.
  • The GPU works at approximately 60% when decoding 1080p, high frame-rate video. There’s nothing that I’ve found it can’t handle. I downloaded some really high frame rate 1080p test samples from the internet and it played them, no problem.
  • It handles Blu-Ray decoding beautifully.
  • In conjunction with the LAV codecs, it decodes the four Freeview HD channels with ease from my TBS 6280 DVB-T2 tuner card. My original graphics card had no chance decoding these. – Just remember to select the CUDA option in the LAV Video decoder settings to off-load the decoding to the ASUS GT430 –
  • And since the GPU does all the work now, the Dell’s CPU typically runs at approximately 10% with ample overhead for those pesky background services.

Playback with all material is fluid and smooth. No dropped frames, choppiness or stuttering.

The down side:-

  • Initially, the GPU fan was quiet and operated at acceptable noise levels for a HTPC. Shortly after a year though, it became noisy and I performed a BIOS hack to reduce its speed and noise output.
  • The graphics card itself does over-hang the neighbouring PCI slot as the GPU heat-sink is quite deep, but I was aware of this before I purchased it.

A superb piece of electrical engineering that’s breathed new life into a dying PC.

How to Reduce the Minimum Fan Speed of a nVidia GT430 Graphics Card

How to Reduce the Minimum Fan Speed of a nVidia GT430 Graphics Card

If you have an  nVidia GeForce GT 430 graphics card and you want to reduce the card’s minimum fan speed, then these instructions should help you achieve that with relative ease.
ASUS 1GB GeForce GT 430 PCI-E 2.0 with Low Profile Bracket

Introduction

Cards like the ASUS 1GB GeForce GT 430 graphics card are often incorporated in slim Home Theatre PCs (HTPC) because of their low profile fit and their relatively low cost coupled with their high performance at decoding High Definition (HD) video content.
These models have a cooling fan sat inside the heat sink that helps govern the temperature of the GPU. The minimum fan speed is set in the card’s BIOS as a percentage of it’s top rotational speed. My card’s minimum fan speed was set at 60%. I had read of other minimum fan speeds, such as 65%, when I started to research this.
Initially, the card was quiet enough for use in my HTPC. Over time however, the fan became louder at it’s minimum, idling speed. And I wanted to quieten it down by reducing it’s minimum speed and adjusting the fan’s speed v GPU temperature curve. I found I could do most things with software except reduce the hard-coded minimum fan speed. A BIOS hack was required.
I found that a great number of people had been asking how to do this hack via many different internet forums. Solutions were not clear; the posts were old and a lot of the links for the necessary software were dead.
I found two noteworthy sets of instructions here to flash the device from a bootable usb stick running DOS. No matter how I tried though, I couldn’t get mine to flash. And I think it’s because the software revisions have moved on.

Guide for Flashing BIOS of nVidia GPU – techpowerup.com
Bootable USB Drive, Flashing nVidia GPU – Recovering From a Bad Flash – bjorn3d.com

It’s worth checking out how to recover from a bad flash and be prepared for such an event.

What You Will Need

I did everything in Windows 7 x64. There was no need to create a DOS bootable usb drive. All I had to do was re-boot the PC when the BIOS flash reported as being successful.

NiBiTor
nvflash (windows version)

EVGA Precision X

Method

Download NiBiTor and nvflash (windows version) and unzip them if necessary by extracting them to their own folders. Remember their locations.
Download and install EVGA Precision X on your computer.
Click once on Windows Start and type in cmd where it says Search programs and files. Do not press Enter.
The cmd program should be shown at the top of the list under the heading: Programs. Right click on it once and select Run as administrator. Click Yes when prompted.
The command console should appear and look something like this:

Double click the nvflash folder and right click on the directory path at the top of the folder window.

Select Copy address text from the context menu.

You can see here that my nvflash folder resides on my F drive at
F:\GT430 BIOS FLASH\nvflash_windows_5.142

Now click on the cmd window and type cd and a space. Right click and select paste.
The full directory name should be pasted into the window like this:

Press Enter to change into that directory. Notice that if you have your files on a different drive to C, you will have to change to that drive before hand like I have done here with F:

Back Up the Original ROM

In the cmd window, type

nvflash -b original.rom

and press Enter

This will make a back up copy of the nVidia card’s BIOS to your nvflash directory with the filename
original.rom
You can use a filename of your choice.
It is important at this stage to make back up copies of this BIOS image. Store a copy on a usb stick. Store a copy on another PC. Should things go wrong, you will need access to this file. A bad flash may prevent your card from outputting any display at all. So it’s no good just to have the one copy on that machine. You won’t be able to see to get at it!

Modify the BIOS with NiBiTor

Go into your NiBiTor folder and run the program.
Go to File > Open BIOS…
and select the file original.rom from your nvflash directory

You should see something like this as you browse the different tabs:

Change the Min fan speed here to something like 30

Then go to File > Save BIOS…

and select a new name for you modified ROM. Ensure you don’t overwrite your back up file.

Save this file to your nvflash directory. I used the filename:

modified.rom

Ready to Flash the BIOS?

The files in your nvflash directory should look something like this:

The nvflash files; the modified BIOS and your back up file.
Note: I have two back up files of the original BIOS in this screenshot entitled backup.rom and GF108.rom. You will just have the one back up file entitled original.rom
WARNING: The next command starts the flash process!
Ensure that this process is not going to be interrupted by anything.
DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK
Click on the cmd window once more and type:

nvflash modified.rom

and press Enter

The BIOS will be flashed with your modifications. Wait until the program reports success, then reboot your PC.
In the event that the flash goes wrong, you will need your original BIOS rom file to attempt a blind flash using a usb stick. Details of how to do this are explained in the links I gave in the introduction.

Controlling Fan Speed

Launch EVGA Precision X

  • Tick Windows Start Up so the software runs every time Windows boots. If you click on the settings icon (the two gears in mesh – top right) you will be able to select Start minimized if you don’t want this screen to appear every time Windows starts.
  • Change the minimum speed of the fan. (I believe that there is another value in the BIOS that prevents the fan from stalling at low rotational speeds). I found  I couldn’t enter values less than 31% even though I’d set the minimum value in my modified BIOS to 20.
  • Ensure Auto is ticked.

Now click on fan curve and ensure that Enable software automatic fan control is ticked

Here you can drag the points on the curve to create your own profile of fan speed vs GPU temperature. Experimentation and monitoring is key here. Spend a while monitoring your GPU temperature under different conditions of load. Playing games for example will cause the GPU to generate lots of heat. That heat has to be dissipated effectively or your GPU will burn out.
This profile works for me but the sole use of my card is the decoding of HD video. What I’ve done here is:
  • halve the fan’s minimum speed
  • keep the fan at it’s new minimum speed until the GPU temperature hits 68’C
  • then increase fan speed accordingly to maintain 68’C – 74’C operating temperature range when decoding HD content
In a nut shell; silent operation at the expense of running the GPU 10 to 15 degrees hotter than before. It may lessen the card’s life but my HTPC is almost silent now.