Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

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Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-22 @ 22:27

Many of you might have come across a system like this. In offices, large market chains, schools. They are cheap. They sometimes claim having 3D graphics. Sometimes lack of obsolescence. What they had was an AGPless i810/i815 chipset motherboard with a Celeron CPU and integrated graphics that leeched off the main system memory.

I got such a system ~2001, for schoolwork and playing games. 950MHz Celeron and everything integrated on the motherboard.

Needless to say, running games on this thing was not easy - sound would cut out from the CPU getting too loaded, tons of incompatibilities and error messages, etc. However I tired and many games were played. Until games like Mafia and Battlefield 1942 showed up. When I saw the screenshots in magazines I knew that I would never be able to run them. I could not even run Counter-Strike, a game that everyone was jumping into and I could not, as the game would lock up my system upon loading it.

Some time later I would finally get a gift - a Geforce2 MX400. A card capable of running these amazing new games! Only problem? IT WAS AGP! So I had to wait more, until even later, I got a cheap, yet still gaming capable Athlon system to put that MX400 in, which I re-built in this post!

Which kind of makes me wonder...was it necessary? Would have it been enough to just get a PCI card to play games in early 2000's?

So here is what I will be tryong to answer today:

Were these systems really a dead end and were not worth upgrading?

Lets find out!

The motherboard - Intel D815EGEW, i815EG chipset:
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The CPU - a Poppermine based 950MHz celeron
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Aaaand...thats it, really. 128 megs of ram, a 32GB HDD, W98SE, integrated AD1885 audio and Intel graphics.
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Also, a small disclaimer - the benchmarks here are less about hard numbers and more about "is it playable?", so please don't go reading into this expecting 30x run averages, driver analysis, etc. :dead:
This is a sloppy project to get a general idea


Let us begin!
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Firstly, we'll be testing what the stock system is capable of.


some 3Dmark benchmarks:

1998/11251 3D marks in 3DMark99
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809 3D marks in 3Dmark2K
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And 506 in 3Dmark2K1 SE
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Many of the games I played were still 2D and ran acceptably and showed no errors, like Stronghold and red Alert 2. There was some sluggishness, however these games were still playable. However I would not recommend playing these online on such a PC, as micromanaging units, especially in RA will become a nightmare.
Image

Image

One 3D shooter that i played to death was Unreal Tournament. And it ran!

On lowest settings I could even pull off 29FPS in DX mode!
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Software renderer gives 24, so at least Intels integrated solution is not a deccelerator
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IF you run it in lowest settings, that is. if the settings are turned up a bit, the framerate is actually very slightly better in software mode, AND it doesn't suffer from the sound stutter the DX version gets...
Hardware:
Image
Software:
Image

Next up is a game that I REALLY wanted to play and my system was within specs, however the game just wouldn't work. Counter-Strike.

AAAnd it's actually playable in software more. P6-based Celeron is flexing it's strong FPU here. Some nasty FPS drops to sub-20, but still playable. Don't try more than 5 bots, though.

Image

DirectX renderer crashes the game, however OpenGL works. I expected the opposite. And it actually runs good! Again, some FPS dips, especially when playing with bots, however I would have been perfectly happy playing this way. If only I could get it working all those years ago.

Image

Next up, a game that I could not get running at the time as well - Quake 3. Manages over 43 FPS!
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IF you lower the settings enough to make it look like garbage, that is...
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With proper settings, you get 14FPS. A build that I did a while ago, that had a cheap Savage4 and a 350MHz K6-2 managed 23 FPS on the highest settings
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Next up in GTA3, which SHOULD run.
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Give me some frames instead, please.

Mafia, the game that I drooled over?
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Fun little fact - I knew the entire story to this game before even playing it. A friend from was playing it and sharing the story every day as he progressed. I could not help and be amazed by it, which only made me sadder knowing I couldn't.

I think we lost more that the tail. Pretty pathetic display.
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Lastly, Warcraft 3, which even mentions i810 in the requirements, meaning it should run PERFECTLY!
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It does not.
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And that's pretty much it. Other popular games of the time needed full DX7 graphics hardware, which this thing did not have. Upgrade incoming!
Last edited by Munx on 2018-11-22 @ 22:52, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-22 @ 22:29

Firstly, a PCI graphics card will be added - the cheap yet capable GF2 MX400, sporting 64Mb of memory. Last years flagship performance for a low price!
Image

Also a RAM upgrade - 256MB, the maximum limit for i810 systems.
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Starting off with the old games and benchmarks to see the difference:

5315/12444 3Dmarks in 3Dmark99
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4034 in 2K
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2147 in 2K1SE
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640x480, 16 bit, high settings. UT manages 29 FPS.
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1024x768, 32 bit. Nearly 28 FPS.
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Quake 3 - from 14FPS to 60!
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1024x768 gets 36 FPS
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Big jump for CS on low res
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Still smoother than integrated graphics with 1024x768 resolution
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Warcraft 3, while with slowdowns, is now also playable!
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Maybe mafia is now playable too! Well, no...
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Still runs like crap and has massive slowdowns, even with minimum settings.
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What about the other open-world crime games?

GTa3 is playable, however there is stutter in some areas, especially when driving in higher speeds
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Same with GTA VC, which needs a geforce card to run
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Need for Speed underground, a HUGE game everyone played at the time is...not playable
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framerate can drop to single digits in some areas or tight turns, sadly.

Call of Duty? Nope.
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Worms 3d? Nope.
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Unreal Tournament 2004? Can keep the framerate above 30 in small maps with 0 enemies and lowest possible settings. sub-20 in actual gameplay. Nope.
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Battlefield 1942? YES!
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Actually playable 800x600 on medium settings. Hooray!

And finally, dare I try Half-Life 2? Why not?
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Ooh, this is why...
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So...was it worth upgrading? Well...no. Not with a DX7 card.
While it did make many games playable, many still remain out of reach. Also, it looks to me that many of the games that became playable would work just as well on a non hardware TnL card.
GTA VC Battlefield 1942 are the only 2 games that require hardware TnL. For example, 36 FPS in Quake3 is easily achievable on plenty of older PCI cards.

So unless you REALLY wanted that Battlefield 1942 fix, it seems to me that just getting a cheap DX6 card and saving the rest of your $ for a new PC would have been the smarter option.


However...this is NOT over. What if we pushed this platform further? Is it still possible to turn this build into a viable early 2000's gaming machine with more hardware upgrades? Let us see in the next post!
My builds!
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-22 @ 22:30

2 upgrades to try and make this system go further:

A Tualatin based Celeron, running @ 1200MHz, which should able to match the high-end Coppermine P3's
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And for further CPU load reduction - a soundblaster Live! card
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First - the ussual 3DMark benchmarks

6564/16250 for 99
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4684 for 2000
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And 2347 for 2001SE
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Speed bump in UT - almost 37FPS
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A tiny bump in Quake 3 - 39FPS
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Battlefield 1942 got even better
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Warcraft 3 is now pretty nice to play, at least on lowest settings
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Slight improvements in GTA games, though the stutter problem still remains
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Image

Mafia? STILL unplayable
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CoD? Still unplayable
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Worms 3d? Stil unplayable
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Half-Life 2? Still unplayable
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Games that DID become playable?

Unreal Tournament can now be played on smaller maps, although larger ones with action going on in them are still a no-go.
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Need for Speed Underground is now also playable on lowest settings, although there are still uncomfortable FPS dips in tight turns and car build-ups
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So...would this have been a worthwhile upgrade? Hell naw. Risking spending your $ on a CPU that might not even work on your board due to incompatibilities with Tualatin CPUs and only to get unstable 25FPS in NFS:U? And UT2004 where half the maps are still unplayable? No thanks.

Sooo...yeah. PCI only socket 370 = dead end. Great for 90s games, not much more
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-22 @ 22:33

Though I am still thinkin...does 39 FPS in Q3 on a friggin geforce sound right? Or many other games here? It's way above the requirements for most of the games that were tested.

Lets check out if PCI is really a mojor bottleneck for hardware TnL cards.
To test this, I will commission my Thunderbird build - a 1411MHz Athlon with an OC'd FSB (166MHZ), 1GB of DDR333 RAM and a SB Audigy sound card.
Don't mind the panel, I need the fan to keep the PCI geforce cool, as the passive cooling is a bit lacking for my liking.

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The opponent for PCI MX400? - an AGP MX400!
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Lets just do a quick comparison for a few games, as I'm quite tired of running the same games so many times and I dont wish to spam this forum so much..


Unreal Tournament:

PCI
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AGP:
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A small, yet welcome bump in FPS



Quake 3:

PCI:
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AGP:
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Aaaand I think we found the culprit on why Q3 ran in the 30's on a geforce... 39 vs 65FPS..


Mafia:

PCI
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AGP:
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While a small bump on AGP, it ACTUALLY MADE THE GAME PLAYABLE.


Half-Life 2

PCI:
Image
Image

AGP:
Image
Image

Surprisingly, a more modern game like Half-Life 2 runs fine on a PCI MX400, even with the settings turned up to 800x600, Medium. Still, switching to AGP gave a notable bump in FPS.

Call Of Duty

PCI:
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AGP:
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An image worth a thousand words. Even with maxed settings on 800x600 yo can get 400% more FPS
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So indeed, even for these early DX7 cards, PCI is a bottleneck, though how much depends very much on the game.

A fun little experiment for me personally. And I finally get to rest easily knowing that upgrading to Socket 462 and leaving S370 was a good idea.

Let me know what you think!
My builds!
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby weldum » 2018-11-23 @ 01:52

which driver and os did you use?
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby appiah4 » 2018-11-23 @ 03:58

The PCI MX400 is 64 bit. Iyit is effectively performing like a TNT2 Pro.

Install a Radeon 7500 PCI (rare) or a 9250 PCI (common) and watch that sustem fly.
1989:A500|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
1992:HIPPO-VL+|DX2-66|8M|GD5428|CT2290|S2
1995:PCI597-1|P133|32M|Trio64|V1|CT3980/2M
1998:S1573S|K6-2/400|64M|RagePro|V2/SLI|CT4500/32M
2001:GA-6OXT|PIII-1200|512M|GF3Ti200|MX300
2004:K8V-D|3200+|2G|X1950P|SB0350
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-23 @ 05:37

appiah4 wrote:The PCI MX400 is 64 bit. Iyit is effectively performing like a TNT2 Pro.

Install a Radeon 7500 PCI (rare) or a 9250 PCI (common) and watch that sustem fly.

I believe that the MX400 I used is 128 bit. SDR, though :lol:

A big issue that I came across here was that some games, like CoD, just refuse to play well on PCI. I spent tons of time playing Worms 3d on the agp variant back in the day and it ran way better than in this system. Same for NFS. Some games will get a boost for sure, but performace will still be crippled and some wont be playable still.

weldum wrote:which driver and os did you use?

W98SE and 45.23 for the Celeron system.

For the Athlon system it was WinXP SP3 and 81.xx
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The FireStarter 2.0 - The wooden K5
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The Voodoo powerhouse - The power-hungry K7
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby appiah4 » 2018-11-23 @ 06:31

Post MX400s fillrate results in 3DMark2001SE pls, 128bit on PCI is very very improbable.
1989:A500|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
1992:HIPPO-VL+|DX2-66|8M|GD5428|CT2290|S2
1995:PCI597-1|P133|32M|Trio64|V1|CT3980/2M
1998:S1573S|K6-2/400|64M|RagePro|V2/SLI|CT4500/32M
2001:GA-6OXT|PIII-1200|512M|GF3Ti200|MX300
2004:K8V-D|3200+|2G|X1950P|SB0350
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-23 @ 06:40

appiah4 wrote:Post MX400s fillrate results in 3DMark2001SE pls, 128bit on PCI is very very improbable.

I'll run the test in my Athlon rig when I get back from work today as I only saved the main results.
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Almoststew1990 » 2018-11-23 @ 10:09

How do you handle drivers for an i810 plus GPU? Is the intel graphics driver different to the intel chipset driver? I had lots of issues trying to install the chipset drivers and then the nvidia drivers. Do you need to uninstall the i810 before installing the GPU?
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-23 @ 10:21

Didnt have any problems with drivers. I installed the card first and then remived the intel driver w/o problems. Used the newest ones Intel had on their website for this motherboard. Could not find any specific chipset drivers, only separate ones for graphics, storage, etc.
EDIT:
appiah4 wrote:Post MX400s fillrate results in 3DMark2001SE pls, 128bit on PCI is very very improbable.


Not sure how fillrate helps calculate memory bandwidth. Isn't is calculated by the TMU's+GPU clock?
Anyway:
Image

Also HWinfo on the card shows 128bit
Image
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby agent_x007 » 2018-11-23 @ 22:29

There is even a 64MB 128-bit DDR AGP version :D
This is MX2 from GeForce 2, NOT to confuse it with MX4 from GeForce 4 lineup.
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Error 0x7CF » 2018-11-24 @ 03:37

What did you end up doing to make HL2 run? Is it the newest patch? It keeps failing me on my Athlon XP since it lacks SSE2. Only version I could get to run was a release-day copy.
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby appiah4 » 2018-11-24 @ 05:02

Munx wrote:Didnt have any problems with drivers. I installed the card first and then remived the intel driver w/o problems. Used the newest ones Intel had on their website for this motherboard. Could not find any specific chipset drivers, only separate ones for graphics, storage, etc.
EDIT:
appiah4 wrote:Post MX400s fillrate results in 3DMark2001SE pls, 128bit on PCI is very very improbable.


Not sure how fillrate helps calculate memory bandwidth. Isn't is calculated by the TMU's+GPU clock?
Anyway:
Image

Also HWinfo on the card shows 128bit
Image


Texture fillrate is memory bandwidth related. Your card’s fillrate is 400MTexels, a 128bit cars should be 800. Its 64bit. HWinfo is wrong.

http://www.gpureview.com/GeForce2-MX400-card-117.html

Nearly all MX400 PCI cards are 64bit:

http://www.gpureview.com/GeForce2-MX400 ... d-373.html

Its TNT2 Pro/Ultra like performance is expected and it of course wont run games from 2001 etc well. :blah:

Get a Radeon 9250 PCI or GeForce 6200 PCI.
1989:A500|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
1992:HIPPO-VL+|DX2-66|8M|GD5428|CT2290|S2
1995:PCI597-1|P133|32M|Trio64|V1|CT3980/2M
1998:S1573S|K6-2/400|64M|RagePro|V2/SLI|CT4500/32M
2001:GA-6OXT|PIII-1200|512M|GF3Ti200|MX300
2004:K8V-D|3200+|2G|X1950P|SB0350
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Putas » 2018-11-24 @ 05:47

agent_x007 wrote:There is even a 64MB 128-bit DDR AGP version :D


Show me please.

appiah4 wrote:Texture fillrate is memory bandwidth related. Your card’s fillrate is 400MTexels, a 128bit cars should be 800. Its 64bit. HWinfo is wrong.

http://www.gpureview.com/GeForce2-MX400-card-117.html

Nearly all MX400 PCI cards are 64bit:

http://www.gpureview.com/GeForce2-MX400 ... d-373.html

Its TNT2 Pro/Ultra like performance is expected ...


Don't confuse him. The card is not near chip's fillrates because in such clean tests it is that much bandwidth limited even with 128 bits SDR. And his card is 128 bit, just look at her.
And out of those 64 bit cards plenty will have DDR memory, making them not that bad.
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby appiah4 » 2018-11-24 @ 06:12

128 bit SDR = 64 bit DDR in terms of bandwidth. Same difference.
1989:A500|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
1992:HIPPO-VL+|DX2-66|8M|GD5428|CT2290|S2
1995:PCI597-1|P133|32M|Trio64|V1|CT3980/2M
1998:S1573S|K6-2/400|64M|RagePro|V2/SLI|CT4500/32M
2001:GA-6OXT|PIII-1200|512M|GF3Ti200|MX300
2004:K8V-D|3200+|2G|X1950P|SB0350
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Munx » 2018-11-24 @ 07:30

appiah4 wrote:Its TNT2 Pro/Ultra like performance is expected and it of course wont run games from 2001 etc well. :blah:

Get a Radeon 9250 PCI or GeForce 6200 PCI.


I did tests on the AGP version too, which received the same scores.

Image

Image

If it was really 64bit, shouldn't I have gotten ~700, like the MX200?

Also despite getting the same scores this card gave some big boosts in actual games.

I'm sure those cards you mentioned would give a boost too, but plenty games that ran smooth on an AGP MX400 got crippling penalties on the PCI version which tells me that PCI during this time was a major bottleneck and still not a good idea.

Error 0x7CF wrote:What did you end up doing to make HL2 run? Is it the newest patch? It keeps failing me on my Athlon XP since it lacks SSE2. Only version I could get to run was a release-day copy.


It's the release day version.
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Re: Upgrading a dead-end(?) system - PCI in the DX7 era

Postby Putas » 2018-11-24 @ 09:49

appiah4 wrote:128 bit SDR = 64 bit DDR in terms of bandwidth. Same difference.


By number of possible transfers, sure. But Geforce2 MX is one such card that does better with SDR.
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