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3 (+3 more) retro battle stations

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Reply 80 of 91, by pshipkov

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While putting together that 486 DX4/DX5 build (that i posted about recently), i encountered some problems around SCSI and WB1.
This prompted me to look for alternatives such as using VLB IDE controllers instead.
Until then i never spent the time to find-out who is who in this department, but my desire for fully maxed-out system required some exploration.
Sharing here the briefly collected data with the hope that it will be useful to others.

HARDWARE

Appian ADI2
Promise DC-20230C (DC-4000)
Promise DC-20230C
Promise DC-20630B (P2630VL-1)
Promise DC-20630 (EIDE2300Plus)
SIS 83C411 (Tyan S1342/1344-005)
SIS 83C411 (SVIDE-V02)
GoldStar GM82C712
UMC UM82C863
UMC UM82C863 (2)
UMC UM86C418 (US Technology TK-86C418VIO)
UMC UM82C871F
Data Technology Corporation DTC2278E
VIDE-1 (VLMIO 1.4)
QDI QD6500
Holtek HT6560B
ATronics IDE-2015PL
Tans TS2015PL

NOTES

All controllers run at the fastest speed settings - jumpers and driver arguments.
With the next exceptions:
- DC-4000 can only operate in "normal" speed (other options are "fast" and "turbo"). Tried on few different motherboards - no bueno, so using it like that.
- Couldn't find drivers for TK-86C418VIO, so the captured performance is most likely not indicative to what the hardware can actually do.
- GoldStar GM82C712 - not a single mention about drivers online. It performs really well as is, so i wonder if it was driver-less to start with ?

UMC UM82C863's driver is really interesting, it can spawn a sub-menu during config.sys execution. Using that menu user can interactively adjust its settings.

UM82C871F seems like a bad adapter. Does not like CF cards, mechanical HDDs only. It requires you to format the HDD through it, otherwise cannot boot and/or if it sees a partition most of the files/directories appear corrupted. Maybe there is a logical explanation behind this behavior, but didn't bother to check, maybe later. For now i won't include it in the test charts, because i cannot test it against the same CF.

DTC2278E appears to be the latest model of series of IDE/EIDE controllers from Data Technology Corporation. It is an EIDE model with full support for PIO 4 mode.
Similar to SCSI adapters, it takes its time during boot time which is less than ideal, but not too bad to be annoying.

When not using the software driver for the SIS controller, both buffered and linear read speeds are at ~4100 Kb/s. When use the driver, the buffered read goes through the roof, but the liner speed increased only by 700Kb/s = ~4800 Kb/s.

THE CULPRITS

https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … ide_vlb_dtc.jpg
ide_vlb_dtc.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … _vlb_holtek.jpg
ide_vlb_holtek.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … ide_vlb_sis.jpg
ide_vlb_sis.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … e_vlb_sis_2.jpg
ide_vlb_sis_2.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … /ide_vlb_gs.jpg
ide_vlb_gs.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … ide_vlb_umc.jpg
ide_vlb_umc.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … e_vlb_umc_2.jpg
ide_vlb_umc_2.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … e_vlb_umc_3.jpg
ide_vlb_umc_3.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … e_p2630vl-1.jpg
486dx4_promise_p2630vl-1.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … de2300_plus.jpg
promise_eide2300_plus.jpg
promise_eide2300_plus_manual.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … mise_dc4000.jpg
486dx4_promise_dc4000.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … _vlb_qd6500.jpg
ide_vlb_qd6500.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … de_vlb_tans.jpg
ide_vlb_tans.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … cirruslogic.jpg
486dx2_cirruslogic.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … 6dx2_et4000.jpg
486dx2_et4000.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … vga_ide_umc.jpg
vlb_vga_ide_umc.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … _vlmio_v1.4.jpg
ide_vlb_vlmio_v1.4.jpg
https://petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_images … lb_atronics.jpg
ide_vlb_atronics.jpg
https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … aptec_2842a.jpg
adaptec_2842a.jpg

BENCHMARKS

Tested on Asus VLI-486SV2GX4 rev.2.0 motherboard with WB1 patched BIOS, 1024Kb SRAM, 64Gb RAM, AMD 486DX5 ADZ CPU running at 160MHz (4x40).
Added Adaptec AHA-2840-A VLB for a reference, marked in white outline.

Used CF card several generations faster than any of the tested adapters, to make sure they don't get bottlenecked on that side.
benchmarks_ide_vlb_coretest.png
benchmarks_ide_vlb_speedsys.png

Private conversation with jakethompson1 prompted me to test with mechanical HDD as well.
I picked Maxtor 90650U2 (MA540PR0), 5400 rpm, 6.4Gb, Ultra-ATA/66, 2Mb cache.
The UMC and Promise 20630 drivers didn't like it for some reason. Clunky ...

benchmarks_ide_vlb_coretest_hdd.png
benchmarks_ide_vlb_speedsys_hdd.png

CONCLUSION
First of all there is some homework left to do - run more in-depth perf tests that can reveal additional details, but that's for later.
For now - take a closer look at the Holtek and DTC controllers.
Never heard of Holtek before, but it totally kicks ass. Unfortunatelly its driver is not completely stable with the CF card - marked it gray in the charts to indicate that. A red flag.
At the end of the day the best controller seems to be DTC2278E. Top performer, but more importantly - works equally well with both CF cards and mechanical HDD.
Despite the seemingly faster sequential speeds when using mechanical HDDs, in reality they are slower than CompactFlash cards because of slow seek and random access metrics.

Last edited by pshipkov on 2020-09-13, 21:06. Edited 17 times in total.

Reply 81 of 91, by pshipkov

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Updated the perf charts on pages 4 and 5 with with new VLB VGA and IDE controllers.
New pictures on page 1.

----------------------------

HAM/12-W2 (KT216WB) - an unimpressive 286 motherboard.

Cannot work reliably over 16MHz.
Can see maximum 4Mb of RAM.
Couldn't find documentation for it other than a page on stason about similar mobo, but different enough.
There are couple of jumpers - tried different configurations - nothing seems to change.
The board refuses to recognized CF cards, so had to strap a mechanical HDD.

The Wolf3D test quits before it finishes.

https://petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_images … motherboard.jpg
286_ham_12_w2_motherboard.jpg

286_ham_12_w2_stats.png

Last edited by pshipkov on 2020-08-15, 06:24. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 82 of 91, by Ekb

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This motherboard is known as KT216WB (stands for KT2, 16mhz, WinBond?)

They really don't work above 16MHz, is overclocking. The initial normal mode is 12 MHz. They were sold at the beginning as 12 MHz, then the manufacturer clocked up to 16 MHz.

e0c22ddff96bt.jpg

From the Russian site, Jumpers:

JP2: 1-2 к pin33 Jetkey BIOS to +5V через 1кОм; 2-3 к pin33 Jetkey BIOS to GND; (возможно выбор режима работы клавиатуры) === JP […]
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JP2:
1-2 к pin33 Jetkey BIOS to +5V через 1кОм;
2-3 к pin33 Jetkey BIOS to GND;
(возможно выбор режима работы клавиатуры)
===
JP5: (зачем надо непонятно, ни на что не влияет)
pin1 к pin23 Jetkey BIOS;
pin2 к GND;
pin3 к pin24 Jetkey BIOS;
===
JP9 - parrity error check On/Off (использовать или не использовать памяти четности 4xDIP16)
===
JP10: Power Good
1-2 Detect from power supply;
2-3 Detect from board;
===
JP11: (получается актуальная настройка сигнала power good для древних блоков питания)
pin1 - power good;
pin2 - через 470 Ом к pin3 JP10;
===
JP12 - Read RAM wait state 0/1
JP13 - FPU clock Fast/Slow (включает или выключает делителя от основного клокера для сопра)
===
Память:
JPA1; JPB1; JPC1 - Memory control:
A1:
1-2 Минус 128 КБ на нужды системы, наверное или EMS Memory, или shadow RAM, или активировать UMB;
2-3 - OFF;

B1:
1-2 Включение второго банка памяти;
2-3 - OFF;

C1:
1-2 - Объём каждой микросхемы памяти 256х1 кБит (или кратно этому числу если 4-х битная, определяет тип матрицы каждой микросхемы);
2-3 - Объём каждой микросхемы памяти 1024х1 кБит (или кратно этому числу если 4-х битная);

В итоге если принять что соединение пинов 1-2 - это "0", а 2-3 - это "1" получается следующее:
A1 B1 C1
0 0 0 - 512кБ;
1 0 0 - не поддерживается;
0 1 0 - 1024кБ;
1 1 0 - 896кБ;
0 0 1 - 2048кБ;
1 0 1 - 1920кБ;
0 1 1 - 4096кБ;
1 1 1 - 3968кБ.
===
JPA/B/C - Программный лимит подсчета памяти до: 512кб, 640, 896, 1024кб, на большее не проверял.
Дополнять SIPP/SIMM бесполезно, пока не снимите все DIP-памяти, т.к. разводка абс.параллельны.
Примеры (вид сверху):
1 Mb RAM = JPA 2-3, JPB 1-2, JPC 2-3
2 Mb RAM = JPA No, JPB 2-3, JPC No link: https://pp.userapi.com/c841531/v841531640/2ed … MRVXPPYI3e4.jpg
4 Mb RAM = JPA 2-3, JPB 1-2, JPC 1-2 link: https://www.phantom.sannata.org/download/file.php?id=1916

Заменен резистор R26 на 5кОм, вместо штатных 200-400 ом. Это улучшает совместимость со всеми клавиатурами (согласно ГОСТу-стандарта согласования входа-выхода клавиатурного разьема DIN-5). Резистор R26 находится возле разьема сопроцессора.

Last edited by Ekb on 2020-08-16, 05:19. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 84 of 91, by Ekb

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One of the popular Russian-language forums in the CIS is https://www.phantom.sannata.org/search.php?se … d=active_topics

In any case, we only know the motherboard KT216WB, not otherwise. I think that Google Search will give much more info for KT216WB 😀

Here you can see the original board with 12 MHz, as it should be. No factory overclocking.
91efbd93bbb3.jpg

Reply 85 of 91, by pshipkov

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@ekb
Thanks for the link. Interesting. Do you know if sellers ship internationally ?

------------------------------

Biostar MB-1333C-CH/1340C-CH

I usually avoid wide format early 386 motherboards. They are too slow and "rigid" - pain in the bottom to deal with.
This one is no different. Been bugging me for long time.
I saw some topics on the forums going through that stuff, but they appear inconclusive to me.
Decided to check if somebody around figured it out already.

The board supports 2 SRAM configurations - 64Kb and 256Kb. Respectively 16kx4 and 64kx4 chip types, which are not common, or at least i don't posses many. I have 64Kb installed on it atm.
BIOS is littered with timing options and all of them except two can be set to their lowest value. Great stuff !
No, not really. Cache is not recognized no matter what.
There is a chance some of the cache chips are faulty, but the mobo does not report "bad cache" which lowers the chance of it, but does not eliminate it.
Also, the installed cache limits the frequency to 33MHz max. Anything above that with the cache enabled from the BIOS and POST never completes.
So, at least to some extent SRAM is functioning.
I am hesitant to spend coinz on this kind of cache chips - they are way too expensive for what they are and of little use outside of very few boards that use them.

Any 3 chip SIMMs are no-go with this board. It works with parity 9 chip SIMMs only.

It seems that there are at least 2-3 other motherboards which are basically identical - Peak and some others.
Anyone got one of them working with functioning cache for real ?

https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … motherboard.jpg
386_biostar_mb-1333c-ch_1340c-ch_motherboard.jpg

Reply 86 of 91, by pshipkov

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Updated the first post in this page with few more VLB IDE controllers.
Tested all of them with mechanical HDD in addition to the CF card stuff from before.
Some interesting results.

------------------------------------------------------------------

I am not much into hybrid hardware and upgrades, but spent some time today with Alaris Leopard mobo + BL2 CPU on it.

There is plenty of information about IBM BL2/BL3 CPUs, so wont repeat any of it.
The whole thing is unusual - a fascinating hodge-podge of different technologies fused together.

The motherboard is of high quality and well preserved - like new.
It can handle up to 16Mb of RAM and 128Kb SRAM.
Installed 4x4Mb 60ns SIMMs and 2 12ns cache chips to max it out.
BIOS is full of options. All set to their optimal values for best performance. The board takes it with ease.
CPU is running at 80MHz. Heat sink is too small to cool it down once under load, so proper ventilation is required, otherwise the system can hang.
Used Ark1000VL VLB video card - seems to be the fastest thing for DOS graphics and will help the system show the best it can do.

First red flag:
The board refuses to work with VLB IDE/SCSI controllers.
I have a bunch of them covering the entire spectrum - from fast and reliable to slow and flaky.
Not a single one worked. Tried with multiple CF cards/adapters, mechanical HDDs, etc.
Of course, there is a chance that i am missing something fundamental here, but for now i am going to blame it on the motherboard.

https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … motherboard.jpg
386_alaris_leopard_motherboard.jpg

The usual set of stats. Looking pretty good.
alaris_leopard_stats.png
alaris_leopard_speedsys.png

And the usual set of benchmarks.
I was not sure what to compare it to - a 386 system, or 486 one ? If 486 should it be DX2-66/80 or maybe DX4-100 ?
At the end i decided to use my clean 386 DTK Symphony system, because despite all the improvements of BL2 it is still closer to a 386 than 486 machine ... i think ...

DOS and Windows graphics look pretty good.
But here comes the second red flag - computing.
The 3D rendering tests clearly show that BL2 is not much better than overclocked standard 386 CPU/FPU.
It looks to me that the renders are not taking the most of the hardware - internal cache is not being utilized and the CPU behaves as overclocked SX one for the numbers to be similar to 50MHz DX system. Who knows really. Maybe later will give it another spin with broader range of apps and some compilers to learn more.

I should probably strap one of the 386 "upgrade" packages to the DTK Symphony system to make the comparison more interesting.
If memory servers well, TI DLC @50MHz (or was it OC at 60) sent Wolf3D way north of 60 fps. Too late now. Can be material for another study later.
benchmarks_alaris_leopard.png

Back in the day i had no idea about any of these BL CPUs and Alaris boards.
The experience today got me thinking - who was the target audience for this kind hardware ?
Some internets suggest it was the early 90ies enthusiasts ...
Kind of unlikely in my opinion. This mobo and cpu have too many deficiencies to be of interest for the enthusiasts at the time - VLB IDE issues, limited amount of RAM and SRAM, subpar performance compared to 486 DX2 systems, compute seems to be so so.
Maybe Alaris Cougar + BL3 at 100MHz for enthusiasts ?
Maybe.
I cannot think of anything this hardware excels at when compared to the next gen platforms from the same time period.
Wonder what was Alaris's business model and what marketing niche they aimed at.
But still - for what it is - a really fascinating piece of retro technology.

Last edited by pshipkov on 2020-09-15, 08:00. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 87 of 91, by feipoa

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pshipkov wrote on 2020-08-16, 23:48:
@ekb Thanks for the link. Interesting. Do you know if sellers ship internationally ? […]
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@ekb
Thanks for the link. Interesting. Do you know if sellers ship internationally ?

------------------------------

Biostar MB-1333C-CH/1340C-CH

I usually avoid wide format early 386 motherboards. They are too slow and "rigid" - pain in the bottom to deal with.
This one is no different. Been bugging me for long time.
I saw some topics on the forums going through that stuff, but they appear inconclusive to me.
Decided to check if somebody around figured it out already.

The board supports 2 SRAM configurations - 64Kb and 256Kb. Respectively 16kx4 and 64kx4 chip types, which are not common, or at least i don't posses many. I have 64Kb installed on it atm.
BIOS is littered with timing options and all of them except two can be set to their lowest value. Great stuff !
No, not really. Cache is not recognized no matter what.
There is a chance some of the cache chips are faulty, but the mobo does not report "bad cache" which lowers the chance of it, but does not eliminate it.
Also, the installed cache limits the frequency to 33MHz max. Anything above that with the cache enabled from the BIOS and POST never completes.
So, at least to some extent SRAM is functioning.
I am hesitant to spend coinz on this kind of cache chips - they are way too expensive for what they are and of little use outside of very few boards that use them.

Any 3 chip SIMMs are no-go with this board. It works with parity 9 chip SIMMs only.

It seems that there are at least 2-3 other motherboards which are basically identical - Peak and some others.
Anyone got one of them working with functioning cache for real ?

https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … motherboard.jpg
386_biostar_mb-1333c-ch_1340c-ch_motherboard.jpg

Even with 12 ns 64kx4 SRAM, I wasn't able to get 256 KB working properly on this motherboard.

Ultimate 486 Benchmark | Ultimate 686 Benchmark | Cyrix 5x86 Enhancements | 486 Overkill Graphics | Worlds Fastest 486

Reply 88 of 91, by pshipkov

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Thanks Feipoa, good to know.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Added few more VLB IDE/EIDE controllers to the first post on this page for completeness.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conversation with Annonymous Coward prompted me to try TI 486SXL2-50 CPU on the 386 Symphony system. Credit goes to Feipoa for connecting me to somebody who was selling the processor.
Results are pretty great. Updated the related post Re: 3 (+3 more) retro battle stations accordingly (towards the end, under the dashed line).
The system targets year 1993, but consider moving it to 1994 to take advantage of the SXL2 CPU and CL-5434 ISA video card, for top performance ...

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Examined recently a MG branded 286 motherboard.
I don't know anything about MG, other than it is a Japanese company.
Also, couldn't find any info online about it (the mobo), so no idea about exact model.

The board is a looker and really well preserved - crisp.
It came with SIPP memory slots. Did the usual trick and inserted SIMM ones into them. They fit really tight. In fact too tight, but that's a good thing.
There are no jumpers other than 2 for memory parity check and a switch box that controls the few RAM configurations.
Installed crystall oscillator socket.
As i said - couldn't find documentation online, so had to experiment a bit to find the right set of switch states for 4Mb of RAM.
The system cannot handle more than 20 MHz, but ticks pretty well within this range.

https://www.petershipkov.com/temp/retro_pc_im … motherboard.jpg
286_mg_motherboard.jpg

The standard set of stats.
Screen capturing didn't work (red flag), so snapped pictures of the screen.
286_mg_stats.jpg

And the usual set of 286 benchmarks:
benchmarks_286_mg.png

All in all, not a bad piece of hardware, but there is better stuff out there.

Last edited by pshipkov on 2020-09-19, 23:40. Edited 3 times in total.

Reply 89 of 91, by feipoa

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You should be able to get 55 MHz out of the sxl2 . Fpu fully stable at this speed is tough though. Even an IIT x2 50 when pressed will fail

Ultimate 486 Benchmark | Ultimate 686 Benchmark | Cyrix 5x86 Enhancements | 486 Overkill Graphics | Worlds Fastest 486

Reply 90 of 91, by pshipkov

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Yes, sxl2 can tick with 55mhz, but without FPU and RAM reduced to 4mb.
These limitations combined with the overall instability of the system exceed my tolerance threshold 😁
Still, it is interesting to see how far we can roll with 386 class hardware.

Reply 91 of 91, by feipoa

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I've run the SXL2-50 at 55 Mhz on quite a few 386 motherboards with 32 MB of RAM without issue. I have the ULSI DX2-66 FPU, so the FPU limitation isn't so much of an issue.

It's important that you set the registers up properly for L1 and L2 cache when working with an SXL.

Ultimate 486 Benchmark | Ultimate 686 Benchmark | Cyrix 5x86 Enhancements | 486 Overkill Graphics | Worlds Fastest 486