Let me preface this next part by saying that I am pretty computer savvy guy. I have built several gaming PCs for myself and others. I tried everything I could think of to figure out what the problem was.
So after running out of ideas I called Mike, hoping that he might provide inspiration. We tried disconnecting all my USB devices and hard drives but I still had no signal. So he suggested that I try re-seating the 280. I looked at the card before I removed it and I noticed that the very left hand side (toward the back of the case) of the PCI-E connector was not all the way in the PCI-E slot. Well that must be the problem!
I took the card out and tried pushing it in all the way. It would not go in. I though the two points on the display bracket of the video card might be too long so I compared the bracket length with my 8800 GTX. They were both the same length. I then took my 8800 GTX and inserted into slot 1 and of course it slid in all the way. For the life of me I could not see the physical difference between the 8800 GTX and GTX 280 that was preventing the full insertition (lol) of the 280. I then tried inserting the 280 into my 2nd PCI-E slot. It slid in perfectly. That is when I finally saw it!
The mother-funking little capacitor on my motherboard to the left of my first PCI-E slot!
I put the GTX 280 back in the top PCI-E slot and sure enough, there was something on the 280 that was touching that capacitor. Pushing on the card was just pushing the capacitor straight down. So once again I looked at the GTX 280 right next to the 8800 GTX.
On every GTX 280 there is a little black box right next to the metal connector plate. This is the 2nd (the capacitor being the first) structure that was making my install so difficult.
This a blurry picture of my GTX 280 and 8800 GTX side by side. Please note the vertical red line I drew on the 280's black boxy thing. My 8800 GTX has a protrusion in the same spot as the 280, but only on the left of that red line. If that black box did not stick out so flat on the right side of that red line, I would not be having this problem.
Now that I had discovered the problem, I had to find a way to fix it. The capacitor is not going any where, it is connected too closely to the board. I tried taking the plastic shroud off the GTX 280 but I failed. I thought I could just unscrew it, but the shroud is attached to the PCB by those thermal sticky pads. I also don't want to cut or dremel away the offending plastic without knowing what is under there. Besides, I don't want to deface a $649 piece of hardware I just bought. I also tried using the GTX 280 in my 2nd slot. I got into Windows, installed the driver for the 200 series and after the reboot my PC displays a message telling me to move my video card to slot 1 before it will let me into Windows.
So my only two options were to return the GTX 280, give up on the review that I had already spent days on and keep my 8800 GTX for now OR buy a new motherboard. Well guess what faithful readers?
Who should I blame for all my mental anguish?
I blame both Abit and Nvidia for my troubles. I am more angry with Abit for seeing fit to place a single un-bendable capacitor directly where it can't be. Nvidia merely made what was an uneven protrudance into a flat uniform protrudance. I would like to stab the Abit employee who put that capicator there in his side with a fork. As for the offending Nvidia employee, I would merely like to slap him across the face with a small mouth bass.
I hope this story will save someone else out there from experiencing this nightmare, so tell your friends to check their motherboards before they buy a GTX 280 or a GTX 260. I hope to have the review ready on or before Friday night so be ready to tell us how sucky it is.
Thanks for listening,