RD2 PC Geiger

RD2 PC Geiger


Introduction

The RD2 PC Geiger from IOSS and VICS Technology is essentially a hardware monitoring system, independent of any operating system. A Port 80H card is included which handles most of the work and passes information to the 5¼" bay mounted panel. The brushed aluminium look fits in perfectly with most Lian-Li / Coolermaster range aluminium cases - although not a total match.

PCGeigerCase.jpg

RD2 PC Geiger

The front of panel comprises of a plethora of connections and switches, some of which can be hooked up to other items (such as fans, cold cathodes etc...). 2 USB ports are provided, which connect to the USB headers on most motherboards, and a pass-through firewire socket (where available). A four digit 7-Seg display will show all the numerical readings from 4 different operational modes : Bus Frequency, Bus Utilisation, PCI Data Transfer, Port 80H Codes.

PCGeigerLayout.jpg

As the PC Geiger is totally hardware based, any operating system and software can be used and still be 100% functional. The Post 80H PCI card was installed in 3 different motherboards (Soyo Super Socket 7 board, Soltek KT266 board, Gigabyte KT266 board) and it functioned as claimed.

One problem that may occur is the need to disable "Auto detect PCI/DIMM Clock" in the BIOS, the Soltek and Gigabyte boards would not display any information until this option was disabled.

Included Items

The PC Geiger comes in a dismantled state, requiring some basic assembly. A small PCB has to be connected to the front plate with some hexagonal screws and that is about it.

There is a substantial bundle of items included in the box, mainly connecting cables.

Included Items:
  • RD2 Port 80H PCI card
  • RD2 PCB
  • RD2 Front Panel
  • Ribbon Cable
  • Switch Cables
  • USB hub Cables
  • Fireware Cable
  • PCI Bracket
  • Hexagonal and Machine Screws
  • Spacer
  • Manual
  • Hexagonal Key
PCGeigerBox.jpg

Box Contents

PCGeigerCables.jpg

Cable Assortment

Installation and Configuration

Installation of the PC Geiger is a fairly simple task, and anyone who can follow clear instructions would be able to do it. The first task is to assemble to PC Geiger unit, which is accomplished by screwing 4 spacers between the front plate and the PCB, then adding a pair of brackets.

PCGeigerInstall.jpg

PC Geiger Assembly


After the assembly of the main unit, there is a bundle of cable that must be routed to different parts of the system:
  • Install the PCI Card into a free slot, and connect the ribbon cable from the card to the Geiger unit
  • Locate the secondary USB header on the motherboard and connect the cable from this to the Geiger unit
  • If you want to switch other controls over to the non-allocated buttons, connect the 2 pin cables to each corresponding component (i.e. fans, reset switch, BIOS reset, BIOS Saviour unit etc..)
When installing the USB cable to your motherboard header you must be very careful to make sure you know the correct pin connections, as each motherboard is different. You are given a blank 10 way socket along with a bundle of wires with plugs on the end that snap-in place in the socket, you must be sure that these are installed correctly for your motherboard if you wish to get an extra 2 USB ports.

The Soltek board proved to be difficult as the socket would fit on the header, but only if I moved the jumpers around on the header next to it. Instead, I opted for a tight squeeze - forcing the socket in place, slightly bending the header pins. This was the only option unless I wanted to extend the socket manually. All the other motherboards I tried this on had no problems, but it is worthwhile checking you have some clearance around your motherboard USB header.

Now that the cable connections are made you can mount the unit in a spare 5¼" bay. I'd recommend using some small cable clips to tie the bundles of cables around the side of your case - as there is going to be a lot of them!

Performance

After installing the unit it its default state, I hooked up 2 case fans to the switches on the front of the unit... if the case becomes too hot I can flick one of these switches and turn either or both of the case fans on. In this instance the switches are not put to best use with fans, as you would really want them to come on automatically as the case gets too hot - better uses would be to manually control case lighting and any other electrical modding items.

The RD2 unit claims a resolution of 10Khz for the Bus Frequency measurement - which means the reading is accurate to about .03% (assuming 33Mhz Bus), in reality this will not effect the displayed value as only 0.1% increments are available. The unit has a set of dipswitches on the front of the unit for 1x,2x,3x,4x FSB : PCI ratios, this allows you to view the CPU FSB up a max of 133Mhz default - for anything higher than this, the CPU FSB won't be viewable.

PCGeigerPCIBus.jpg

Bus Frequency

I left the Bus Frequency with the default multiplier of one, so I could easily work out the AGP/FSB speeds. When testing this feature on the Soltek board I recorded a 33.5Mhz value for the FSB, and rose to 35Mhz when overclocking.

PCGeigerPCIUtilisation.jpg

Bus Utilisation

This mode will tell you the percentage of clocks during which the PCI bus is used, this is handy for finding where a problem could be hiding with your hardware - but mainly giving an idea of the current load of your system. Hardware developers would advanced versions of these on prototype PCI cards, finding out the utilisation / throughput ratio.

PCGeigerDataTransfer.jpg

PCI Data Transfer

Data Transfer mode show the amount of data transferred through the PCI bus in one second - i.e Megabytes per second. Most of the PCI bus bandwidth will be used up by your hard drive if you are reading a large file, as it will attempt to utilise all available bandwidth. There are not many real uses for this information except to see if an upgrade to your computer was worthwhile (i.e handling higher loads)

PCGeigerPort80.jpg

Port 80H Codes

These output codes are possible the most useful feature of the card as it will help diagnose any serious problems you are having with your PC starting up. When any computer POSTs (Power on Self Test), it runs a diagnostic on all the major peripherals plugged into the motherboard (PCI Cards, Hard drives, Keyboard etc...). If any of this hardware is not functioning correctly a hexadecimal code is given out, which the PC Geiger will display. This will be displayed on the 7 Segment displays just like the other functions and you will have to look up the code given in the manual. In a fatal bootup where nothing is displayed on the monitor this can be a big saviour, as it should display what the problem is (if one exists) - however once you are out of the BIOS stage, any error happening from here on will not be reported here.

Custom codes can also be sent to the Geiger unit in this mode, but you need either a pre-written program or some programming knowledge. A custom program would allow you to display things such as CPU load, Temperatures, and even random numbers if you so desire.

Conclusion

The PC Geiger unit offers some great features, for the most part unavailable on other devices that are easily got hold of. The brushed aluminium look is the new "beige" in computing terms (not literally!), most high-end cases are becoming this style - and only high-end users would want such a device. For the average user, this would have no purpose except to look "cool" in a case, where as an overclocker can push a system a little bit further with this device.As someone who is constantly taking computers to bits, reviewing and replacing components, this is a perfect partner. On the occasion when something goes wrong while starting up, I can quickly check the Port 80 display to check for a silly mistake (generally opening the case up is an easier option). If this product is to become more appealing, there is one feature that should be added in future revisions:

With some minor modifications, this unit could comprise of an extra function mode for internal case temperature measurements (at the very least) and hopefully include some fan headers that are controlled by a set temperature.

If you are a real power user and require a unique all-in-one debugging tool, this is your best bet. From a reviewers standpoint, it is ideal - I can view the real speed of the the FSB, which was previously impossible without software (this is a complete hardware solution) - allowing for greater depth when review motherboards. The stylish enclosure is a big selling point, as aluminium accessories for Coolermaster/Lian-Li cases are few and far between. A good buy for the avid overclocker.

Author
Ian Cunningham
First release
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