Asus M2NPV-MX, M2NPV-VM and additional graphics card

Mul­ti­ple of our office com­pu­ters are based on the fine Asus M2NPV-MX or M2NPV-VM main­boards. Now one of the com­pu­ters should get a second moni­tor. First attempt: One into the board’s DVI plug, one to the „nor­mal” VGA port. Works flaw­less­ly, the Linux NVi­dia dri­ver allows to set­up both ports inde­p­ent­ly and within some minu­tes you have a very nice and wide Xiner­ama desktop.

Second attempt: Put an addi­tio­nal gra­phics card into the com­pu­ter with ano­ther DVI port so that both moni­tors are digi­tal­ly con­nec­ted. I purcha­se a cheap fan­less PCIe gra­phics card with NVi­dia 6200LE chip. Plug in. Boot. Works. Errr. Sort of.

I am not able to acti­va­te both cards at the same time. BIOS allows to defi­ne eit­her onboard or PCIe gra­phics card as pri­ma­ry card. But the non-pri­ma­ry card seems to be total­ly dis­ab­led and unu­seable for the ope­ra­ting sys­tem. Linux’ hard­ware infor­ma­ti­on does always only report one of the gra­phics adapters.

Ok, the BIOS. It’s an ‑MX board and its BIOS 0509 is from Oct 2006. Cur­rent ver­si­on: 1101 from Sept 2007. I per­form the update. Cool. Now the gra­phics opti­on is dif­fe­rent: „Acti­va­te eit­her PCIe or onboard” and „Acti­va­te BOTH PCIe and onboard”. This seems simp­le: Second opti­on, saving, reboot­ing. Hoo­r­ay! Linux now reports both gra­phics adap­ters available.

Unfort­u­na­te­ly, it still does not work. the board does always only acti­va­te the PCIe card. Any attempt to access the onboard chip is eit­her unsuc­cessful or even cra­s­hes the sys­tem. We’­re test­ing and try­ing the who­le after­noon. No chan­ce. Dig­ging through the inter­net brings some reports of simi­lar pro­blems.

Final­ly, we remo­ve the PCIe card and replug the moni­tors to the buil­tin gra­phics ports. Now the work­sta­tion is useable again with both moni­tors. I see three pos­si­ble solutions:

  • Wait for the next BIOS update which hop­eful­ly fixes the problem.
  • Con­ti­nue living with the cur­rent set­up. But the­re is a dif­fe­rence bet­ween ana­log and digi­tal video signals!
  • Buy ano­ther PCIe card which con­ta­ins two DVI ports on its own. The che­a­pest are around 80 EUR. That’s quite some money, espe­ci­al­ly as the board its­elf cos­ts less.

Ok, the­re is an oppor­tu­ni­ty that we have over­seen that one BIOS set­ting which makes the dif­fe­rence. But we real­ly tried lots of them…

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