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The Dell hell - Part 2, of 19 widescreens and 1440x900 resolution support

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

/ by Srikanth Eswaran

Just got the time to complete Part 2 of this torture, so here goes. You must have read part one of this article, which explained my frenzied monitor buying process with Dell India. Now read about getting the damn thing to work properly. Upon unwrapping this monitor I find a big print on the monitor soft cover that there are SPECIAL instructions for me to get the magic optimal resolution of 1440 x 900 @ 60Hz. This being the * ONLY * reason I bought a widescreen monitor, I am completely overjoyed with the prospect of Dell understanding my needs so promptly. For those of you who are wondering what 1440 x900 is, in short - its a pain in your ASS for older motherboards!


It is only at this resolution on a widescreen that you dont find your icons bloated up and stretched as through you are seeing them on a convex mirror. If you have seen yourself on a convex mirror, you would understand that the mirror stretches your body and makes you look short stout and perhaps pregnant!! This is the same effect the icons on the wide screen monitor have for any resolution below 1440 x 900. So it was time to address why on earth would the DELL monitor I painstakingly bought spending 10 grand wont work at that magic resolution.


A few reasons why it may not work is because there is no support for that resolution. The culprit could be either my motherboard, or my inbuilt graphics card or my BIOS or my monitor itself. Now I tried reasoning out with my inner self which one of this it is.


Monitor: It cant be my monitor, since DELL clearly stated that they do support this resolution and there are "SPECIAL" instructions inside the box as to how to get this possible. All I found was a dumb CD which said there was a monitor driver meant for the stone age, which neither had any documentation nor had any details on supported motherboards or BIOS. So I safely assumed this was not the culprit


IGC: (In built graphics card): My IGC was a SiS 650 chip and I updated my driver from the SiS website for this IGC (www.sis.com) I then eagerly set my resolution to see the highest and poooof ! 1440 x 900 IS NOT THERE!


BIOS : My urge to NOT change my motherboard made me approach a company called www.eSupport.com for an upgrade of my AWARD BIOS in the hope of making my BIOS support higher resolutions for my monitor. This was a cost of $30 which I took up on my head using my credit card. I used a software called Everest Home Edition, which gives you details of the PC chip by chip! Its a fantastic software which is of a lot of use to know your system internals without opening the case! I suggest everyone of you must install it for their own good for future upgrade knowledge. It was Everest that told me about eSupport.com and I went with them. They were very prompt and I got the software (255kb) by email. This was supposedly the latest BIOS for my motherboard (ASUS P4SGX-MX) and I went ahead with their SureFlash software and flashed my BIOS. I was praying to the almighty not to test my already worn out patience by causing a power cut in my great Silicon City and screw up my motherboard once and for all. And the almighty granted me that boon, I was safe. BIOS upgrade over, $30 well spent I thought and booted up my PC only to find another pooooooooooof ! 1440 x 900 resolution not supported.


XP: For sure I knew XP had all support for many types of display chipsets. So I would not doubt the super rich Bill Gates with such obvious problems!!


Show does not end there. My motherboard has a solitary AGP slot so I heard to our friendly neighbourhood Computer Warehouse, and try atleast 3 Nvidia GE Force MX cards of 1.6 grand, 2.5 grand and even 6000 bucks value. None of them supported 1440 x 900 resolution. Thankfully I decide not to buy any of those cards and instead think of going in for a new 945GC Intel motherboard itself. That would also mean I jump into the Dual Core Core Duo processor madness as well and the great DDR2 667 Mhz Ram as well - a total of 10000 bucks of additional expenditure - all for the sake of the magic 1440 x 900 resolution.


This is when I was going through Wims Bios forums (www.wimsbios.com) which had some useful information about this resolution. There was a member whose nickname was "cp" and he called himself a BIOS guru. I was mighty impressed with his answers. He always had a BIOS patch sent to his customers asking questions, which claimed to be the magic medicine for any BIOS related problems. So I signed up for that forum. And decided to put forth my problem. Also I noted that the Video BIOS (vBios) version was 1.10.0 before and after my esupport.com upgrade. According to WimsBios they said it had to be 2.28.0 or above to support this magic resolution.


After not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, with my stupidity of upgrading the BIOS for $30 without any use, I decided to ask for a refund from esupport.com who were well known (according to them) for refund policies that were customer friendly. I told them I need a refund since my problem was not solved, and they were very prompt and made a refund in two days. $30 back, and feeling much better about my mistakes, I asked the BIOS guru "cp" for vBIOS patch. I must tell you here is that this person is from Germany, and eats BIOS for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He is good and when I say that, I really mean he is a master of BIOS in all terms. I mentioned my motherboard details and pat came the reply with a patched BIOS which I flashed into my motherboard (putting all my belief and trust on the BIOS guru, not even god). If this effort failed I was even prepared to throw my motherboard and go in for the 10 grand upgrade of MB, Processor and RAM.


I flashed the motherboard and booted into windows eagerly. Desktop -> Right Click -> Properties -> Settings -> and VIOLA !!!!!! there it was - the magic resolution that I so desperately needed to protect my monitor investment! For that moment "cp" was my god for all practical purposes. I shot him off a thank you mail with all honesty and I think most good companies in India must think of hiring these kinds of guys! Dedicated gurus/experts always are the most simple of people to talk to really!


Now that I got this resolution and when my investment felt safe, I wanted to bask in the glory of my 19" widescreen. So I played around with the OS for sometime. But then started a horrible flicker that drove me completely nuts bringing me back to the same thought process as before. I asked "cp" again, but with only 60Hz support for this monitor, nothing could be done about the flicker. For sometime my left side of the desktop had clear icon titles, the right side had blurred icon titles. I was zapped beyond words why this would occur on a brand new DELL monitor! I tried calling tech support of DELL only to find that the guys were busy bursting fireworks on their holiday. After a whole day of watery red eyes and unable to bear the flicker, I read many times on the web only to find out that LCDs should never flicker like CRT counterparts. After much of time waste I traced out this problem to the monitor cable that was faulty. Once I replaced it the flicker was gone. Finally and it was about time too, considering that my patience level was frying now. The only thing left out was the icon blurring to be solved. After another whole day of fooling around I finally traced the problem to wrong Phase and Clock values on the monitor, which I solved after adjusting for sometime.


As I complete the post, I now have that secure feeling about this investment that made my hands totally dirty but still provided me with the knowledge that I needed to be better equipped the next time around. And I end up without watery eyes, and with a feel good picture of my new monitor with the magic number - 1440 x 900!



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