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Best PC config for late ('98~'02) DOS demos?

category: general [glöplog]
I recently assembled a solid 5x86 (486 class) for 1996/7 and earlier DOS demos. It works well.

http://www.bytecellar.com/2014/03/11/behold-the-5x86-system-build-is-complete/

I now want to config a DOS machine for _DOS_ demos beyond this time, all the way out to, what, 2002 or so? I saw some such configs using an Atholon Thunderbird 1400C, but I've been told this might be overkill, too fast (sync issues here and there). A P3 800 was suggested to me. I'd use a GUS, and if there was a 2nd ISA slot, a SB16. Ideally AGP video, but PCI workable.

Can some here comment on what config would be best for what I am after? Not really interested in Windows / 3D accelerated demos. DOS.

Thanks.


bp
added on the 2014-03-15 14:36:53 by blakespot blakespot
I'd say a PII ~300Mhz with ~64MB RAM should be sufficient?
added on the 2014-03-15 15:19:24 by Gargaj Gargaj
it's been a while since i setup a machine for that era, might get some facts wrong, but let me try to add 2 cents anyway:

p3 sounds good. most demos of that time run ok even on a p2, but the more cpu the better. demos with framerate sync bugs are usually from the 486 era afaicr.

i would probably put an sb64awe instead of sb16 as second soundcard though.

and you'll need to find a decent gfxcard (i think the s3 trio was the one i used to have), something that doesnt crap up with advanced vesa modes, dont really remember the best model names anymore, but some demos required weird 24bpp and 32bpp modes that were only accessible with vesa drivers.

also, there are a few DOS demos of that time that need a 3d graphics card, not that many, but some do, so maybe you would rather consider one of the earlier graphics card that already had 3d acc? although most of those demos that require 3d acc were already for windows 95 / 98 afaicr. and those graphics card with early 3d acc were mostly filled with incompatibility problems afaicr.
added on the 2014-03-15 15:19:47 by psenough psenough
I saved myself the following parts for someday configuring as a DOS machine: P3-600 based Midi tower, Gus PnP, SB AWE 32, and Riva TNT2 PCI graphics card.
added on the 2014-03-15 15:35:43 by noname noname
Quote:
I'd say a PII ~300Mhz with ~64MB RAM should be sufficient?


Yes, I think that would be about right.

Quote:
i would probably put an sb64awe instead of sb16 as second soundcard though.


Does it matter? If a demo uses hardware mixing, it will support GUS, and if it uses software mixing, then an SB16 does the job just fine.

Quote:
and you'll need to find a decent gfxcard (i think the s3 trio was the one i used to have), something that doesnt crap up with advanced vesa modes, dont really remember the best model names anymore, but some demos required weird 24bpp and 32bpp modes that were only accessible with vesa drivers.


Yes, this is VERY important. Stay away from Matrox cards, as they have limited support for VESA lowres modes (I've had various cards that only exposed 640x400ish resolutions in 24bpp or 32bpp, when you really want 320x200ish stuff).
S3 Trio64 should be a good choice, but I seem to recall that my 1 MB model was rather limited, so try to get a 2 MB one.
I think an ET4000 would also be an excellent choice (there should be PCI-variations of this card around), or an ET6000. From what I recall, they had very good performance and good VESA support (and some demos even have native ET4000-routines if I'm not mistaken).
added on the 2014-03-15 15:39:35 by Scali Scali
well, some folks say audio quality on some sb16's was crap. i always had a 32awe so i don't have proof but well, i don't think the price difference matters that much at this point, would rather play it safe.
added on the 2014-03-15 16:17:37 by psenough psenough
also, that gus should probably have 8mb ram.
added on the 2014-03-15 16:20:17 by psenough psenough
now that noname mentioned i recall the tnt2 was pretty standard decent that most folks had. i think the s3 trio64 was better though. damn my memory of those things is really crappy, damn drugs.
added on the 2014-03-15 16:21:55 by psenough psenough
IIRC there were demos that required 3DFX. The later cards had built-in 2D support as well, not sure if it was good enough for the VESA modes mentioned.
added on the 2014-03-15 17:26:14 by absence absence
Got the following machine and it runs pretty much anything I throw at it.

Pentium III 800MHz
256MB SDRAM
Voodoo 2 12MB PCI
Nvidia TNT2 32MB AGP
Terratec EWS64XL ISA

TNT2 works really well with pretty much everything so far and I can use the Voodo for some more obscure prods & gaming, planning to SLI it someday.
TNT2 was really kickass back then and still works. I used a Voodoo3 (Combined 2D and 3D) originally but it had issues with DOS stuff. Matrox also had some issues (Games like Jazz had jittery scrolling). Either TNT2 or Geforce2, both had a really long life and GF2 had good compatibility as well from what I remember.
ESW64XL Doesn't have the best compatibility but it works really well as long as you use it as a SB Clone. Plus 32+2MB of RAM for MIDI soundfonts makes it sound pretty decent for MIDI. Also has custom driver support for various music programs including one tracker.
But personally I would go for AWE/Similar since those area easier to find and the EWS64XL munches tons of IRQs with a full install.

Personally I think that S3 or other lower tier cards are better for the older build, at this point you had bunch HW accelerated content.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb--0u7wago and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dPls3y62Ao are from this config to give some idea.
added on the 2014-03-15 17:35:54 by oasiz oasiz
As a sound card I´d recommend GUS (with full 1mb ram) or interwave (with 4 MB or more RAM, and an SB32 with at least 2 MB ram and a wavetable add-on attached for midi stuff (preferably yamaha xg, roland gs or dream chipset with 4MB, it will let many dos 4ks sound best).
Avoid newer SB cards (including the last SB16/32/64) - unlike the original ones they have replaced the yamaha opl3 with a less desirable relacement.

Software wise watch out if you can use UMBPCI - it helps highloading dos drivers without requiring the dreaded emm386 kicking the cpu into v86 mode.

Also make sure that the vga card supports vesa 2.0 (or is at least compatible with univbe)
i had a trio64 back then, which was ok - but still not perfectly compatible with some weird vga register tricks providing smooth split screen, unusual resolutions, fake true color or hardware copper fx. At least it was slightly better than the compatibility of ati mach/rage cards.
added on the 2014-03-15 18:04:12 by T$ T$
Quote:
Personally I think that S3 or other lower tier cards are better for the older build, at this point you had bunch HW accelerated content.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb--0u7wago and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dPls3y62Ao are from this config to give some idea.

Any DOS demos not 3D accelerated on that P3 800 rig I can see on YT? Thanks.


bp
added on the 2014-03-16 00:05:31 by blakespot blakespot
Maybe I need a P3 866 (133MHz bus vs. 100MHz for P3 800). But...why not 1000MHz? Where is the limit? DOS / VESA is my target.

Amusingly, I gave away a P3 700 that was given to me for free just 2 years ago, I could have geared that up for where I'm going. Ah well.

What's a good mobo for this config? ISA slots, 2 ideally. Tnx.




bp
added on the 2014-03-16 00:44:01 by blakespot blakespot
I think that the shad2 was software rendered since it had some bugs with the card I had at the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soqV1yGRnEw This is without acceleration but I guess It's not what you're looking for :)
added on the 2014-03-16 01:56:02 by oasiz oasiz
I´d go for an intel BX440 based board: compatible with p3, isa and other legacy hardware, can fit a lot of ram, and solid like a rock.
added on the 2014-03-16 03:41:30 by T$ T$
That's a good thread. I was gonna thinking buying a highend dos machine, for late demos, games and those slow qbasic demos. Maybe Pentium 2 is enough, but if I want to give ultimate power to some slow stuff, Pentium 3 with proper gfx card I guess.
added on the 2014-03-16 10:33:05 by Optimus Optimus
I often use my Pentium MMX 200 @ 250 MHz \ 128 MB RAM \ sucking Matrox Linoleum or S3 ViRG4E 4 MB for some 1998-2000 DOS demos and they works good. But my FIC VA-502 motherboard uses VIA Apollo VPX chipset, which is much slower that Intel 430TX (although it hasn`t support >64 MB RAM caching) and have some issues with ISA bus DMA routing (i can`t use ISA videocard and my SB32 together because sound begins to lag and slow on VPX, on 430TX all OK). That`s why because Zida 5STX rules :)
I`m also looking for AMD K6-2 processors (because i`m too lazy for finding Slot1\Socket 370 mobo :P) and fast PCI 3D cards (like NVidia Riva TNT).
Springtime is baytime. Yesterday I saw an Amiga 500 gone away for 20 euro-bugs, again. and me too stupid... also a lot of old tower-PC's owned by women are present, so it's clean and often you find cool additional cards in it. I would build up about 3 different PC's with ISA-Slots from 486' to 1GHz AMD. It's fun anyway. Last one, I rescued some days ago was this one (PII 750MHz, ATI Theatre something): http://tinyurl.com/m3slmws I got it for free last summer. It's not demo-ready yet, because I want to look deeper at the close to the end HDD first when not posting in forums too much. :D
added on the 2014-03-16 14:37:09 by aqu aqu
T$ werent the GUS PnP somehow better then the GUS classic?
added on the 2014-03-16 15:02:12 by psenough psenough
nYx^ thumb up for a bag of potatoes! :-D
GUS P&P has an InterWave chip, which can mix at 44 KHz regardless of the number of channels used, where the original GF1 would gradually reduce mixing rate from 14 channels upwards.
So yes, on paper the P&P is better. It can also use more memory, but I'm not sure if that makes much of a difference, since I assume that most music is composed for the original GF1, likely aimed at 512KB or 1MB at most.

I'm not sure if there are any compatibility issues between GF1 and InterWave. I have a P&P Pro myself, haven't used it much, but never ran into problems afaik. I mainly used a regular GUS MAX in the old days. Must say I never actually noticed the quality difference either (I suppose most music also doesn't use that many channels).
added on the 2014-03-16 17:16:04 by Scali Scali
I had a GUS PnP back in the day and never encountered any compatibility problems with the GF1. The PnP's DACs were pretty horrible tho; a lot of background noise and the mid range was a bit underrepresented, giving it a kind of flimsy sound (as opposed to the very 'beefy' original GUSes that a lot of people preferred).

Also to get the improved mixing rate you had to use it in full Interwave mode, in GF1 compat mode it also reduced the rate with more than 14 channels.

Still one of my favourite cards tho; tracked music with lots of channels never sounded better :)
added on the 2014-03-16 17:56:54 by kb_ kb_
ps: depends - basically all demos which support the additional interwave features also support proper mixing for sb/pas/mss/... as well, while basically all "gus only" demos actually just use the genuine GF1 features.

For watching demos any GUS with 1MB or more should do well, the situation might be different when using it for tracking or mod playback: full 32 channel playback runs at 44,1 kHz on interwave, but drops to just 19.2 kHz mixing rate on GF1

About VIA chipsets: Sounds like the PCI latency quirks, try whether the zero latency timer tool improves the situation.
There are a bunch of other tools which can improve the behaviour of the VIA chipsets as well, but in any case I´d rather recommend 430HX for Socket 7 or 440 bx for PII/PIII. At least if reliability and compatibility is more important than clock speed - which is generally a good approach for a retro system.
added on the 2014-03-17 01:11:11 by T$ T$
btw. I put 2x2MB RAM in my GUS PnP pro long time ago. After a whyle it only was recognizing one memory stick in all combinations. Two in it doesnt work. Never had problems using only +2 MB, but hey. Any idea? (I also will check this out by myself if not. The analogue output sounds pretty nice compared to other more modern ones after all the time, never had problems running demos with it.)
added on the 2014-03-18 13:14:01 by aqu aqu
Another benefit of the Gus Pnp is that it runs fairly well under win2k (using some third-party drivers).
added on the 2014-03-18 15:04:51 by hfr hfr

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