ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

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ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-3-13 @ 11:46

I got into this hobby two years ago (feels a lot longer than that..) and I have basically finished building all the systems I set out to - except my 486. Now that everything else has been built, installed and configured, it is now time to get to work on the unicorn. A bit of a back story here:

The 486 is the first IBM compatible PC I owned as my own computer. Back in 1989 we did own an 8086 as the home PC but within a year I got my parents to buy me an Amiga 500 so it was never something I really tinkered too much with aside from playing a few classic games like Prince of Persia, Leisure Suit Larry and Blockout.

So the 486 I got my parents to buy, in a last minute change of heart from getting them to buy an Amiga 1200, is my hardcore PC initiation platform. Between 1992 and 1997 I had two 486 systems, the first was a i486DX33/4MB/CL-GD5424VLB/SBPro in late 1993 (I can’t imagine how much it would have cost at the time, my dad must truly love me) and the second was an upgrade from this to an i486DX4-100/8MB/CL-GD5424VLB/SB16/CD-ROM in late 1995. These PCs are to this day my fondest memories of messing around with computers.

Anyway, now that I have the 1993+ period covered with my other builds (see sig) I was about to start building a 486 for 1990-1992 (again see sig) but then I decided – hold on, when I planned this I only had two 486 CPUs and one 486 motherboard; now I have a lot more, so why not make this more fun?

So I decided to get back to Vogons, and make this something we build together. I present to you the options, and you make your picks and give your reasons for those picks, we discuss it, and then go with what I ultimately decide on (sorry, someone has to decide, no?). I thought we could start out by deciding on a CPU. We can then move on to things like motherboard, RAM, graphics, sound, storage and software in that order.

Anyway, the i486DX33 is nostalgic to me, but I realize the SX33 is more of a classic budget choice.. I never heard of UMC until I set foot on Vogons but it is a compelling SX CPU as well. Conventional wisdom where I grew up was that your Cyrix 486 was doomed to burn down your house eventually. I never ever dabbled in DX2s, so that also has its charm, and a DX4 is probably great for WfW3.11 and Networking stuff but I feel it kind of steps on the Pentium 133 build’s toes a bit. The goal, as I previously stated, is to cover rather early PC games for a 486 from 1990-1992 so I doubt it has to be a powerhouse; actually playing Ultima 7 and 8 without going all wonky would be a plus for me.

Here is what I have (I also have an Am486DX4-100 with 8KB WB Cache on the way - I will add a photo of it when I get it):

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So let's pick one :cool:
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby Matth79 » 2019-3-14 @ 00:07

So where does it sit relative to the U5SX-33 - you want it to be lower than that?
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-3-14 @ 03:54

Matth79 wrote:So where does it sit relative to the U5SX-33 - you want it to be lower than that?


This build will completely replace the (currently unbuilt) U5SX in my signature.
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby Ponjiayulady » 2019-3-14 @ 06:32

My 486dx4 build system,you can compare it with your system
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby yawetaG » 2019-3-14 @ 06:44

Texas Instruments 486.
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-3-14 @ 11:58

yawetaG wrote:Texas Instruments 486.


Any particular reason you are partial to it?
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby badmojo » 2019-3-14 @ 19:53

I’d go with the good old Intel SX 33, which is what I had back in the day and was a sensible option due to it being significantly cheaper than the DX. Exactly the same speed and unless you were doing CAD, etc, who needed a maths co pro?

It’s also a great example of those sleazy 90s marketing tactics that made the pc market feel like the old west back in the day. Early on Intel were taking working DX’s, disabling the maths co pro, and calling it an SX - all for marketing purposes.

I’m also a big fan of the DX2 66 Overdrive, but DOOM still lags. Anything faster than that is just a Pentium wannabe, so you might as well go Socket 7.
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby jheronimus » 2019-3-14 @ 21:57

I don't see the point of polling people because you kind of seem to have your mind set on a specific build already.

However, if I were to pick something, I'd go with Intel DX4:

- performance is more important than the ability to run some CPU-sensitive games. DX4 should be fine for a really wide selection of DOS games. Frankly, at some point I realised that I obsess about speed-sensitive games way more than I actually play them;
- to me it's the last non-budget 486. I like my builds as high-end as possible. Of course, DX4 wasn't the absolute high-end CPU at the time of its release (Pentium 60/66 was) and its price dropped significantly as soon as AMD DX4 hit the market. But it wasn't a budget upgrade part like AMD 5x86 either;
- in my experience DX4 gives a lot less compatibility and stability issues than, say, 5x86. At least, on VLB motherboards. The performance difference is, again negligible — you still have your P133 for anything DX4 can't run;
- in turbo it should give you something between a 386@33 and a 486@33;
- ideally, I'd pick a WB-cache version of DX4, but the performance difference should be negligible.
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-3-15 @ 04:11

@jheronimus if it read like I have my mind set on any part of this build then I must have miscommunicated myself; I am very much unsure on how to go about it. The only WB 486 I have is an Am486 with 8KB WB; is that faster than an i486 with 16K WT?

@badmojo I had a DX33 in the day but I did not know the SX/DX split did not amount to much speed difference back then - conventional wisdom at the time was that the SX was a no-no, especially for people who used a 386 before (even though that is a complwreyly different story.) I never had a DX2 and dont quite see why I would go for one instead of a DX4 either but it is a chip I never had so there is appeal in that as well. Maybe I have a board that can be wired to the Turbo button to disable the internal multiplier on a DX4 - that would be perfect really.
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby SW-SSG » 2019-3-15 @ 04:25

The UMC! GREEN CPU!! Though perhaps only because it's that weird "other" option people often forget about.
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-16 @ 20:04

SW-SSG wrote:The UMC! GREEN CPU!! Though perhaps only because it's that weird "other" option people often forget about.


I agree, GO GREEN Giant !
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby rasz_pl » 2019-3-16 @ 23:50

appiah4 wrote:I never had a DX2 and dont quite see why I would go for one instead of a DX4 either


There is almost 2 full years between the two, 92-94. DX2 is associated by a lot of people with being a staple of DOS gaming golden years, sweet spot, while DX4 came out as a pleb budget alternative to Pentium 100 almost at the onset of Windows 95. Personally when I hear DX4 I think slow and pointless.
DX2 was the fast alternative to budged 386DX40s.
DX4 is a slow alternative to Pentiums.

When it comes to this time period I am fascinated by processors like Intel 486 SX2-50, was it available at all in retail channels? or only to laptop manufacturers? when did it come out? and how much was it? Seeing as SX-DX was just a marketing scam anyway, nobody other than engineers/scientists ran any FPU code, it could of been a great deal. Another notable Intel 486 CPU would be 1991! DX-50 with insane 50MHz FSB. AMD was quite aggressive at the time, selling 486DX40 (fastest they got) in 1993 at ~1/2 Intel DX2-50 price.

Did some research a while back:
~$700 for DX2-66 in 1992, for comparison SX-33 was $190.
1993 Pentium 66 twice the speed, DX2-66 half the price(~$360).
1994 Pentium 100 again twice the speed, DX2-66 again almost half previous year price(~$200).
1995 Pentium Pro 200 twice the speed, TI DX2-66 1/3 previous year price ($66).
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby Ponjiayulady » 2019-3-17 @ 10:41

1991 486dx-50 is very insane,but only few motherboard can run it stably, 50mhz fsb requires very good quality motherboard, gigabyte ga-486im is one of them

E4B9537A-2DA6-458F-8C06-0588C79C84F9.jpeg


A31A9861-3F3D-440B-9479-7EE0504F0DDC.jpeg
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-3-27 @ 04:59

I am trading away my WT cache Am486 DX4-100 for a Cyrix 486 DX40.

The DX40 would be a nice compromise between the SX/DX-33 and DX2/4 argument I guess? How good is the Cyrix DX40 chip and how likely am I to run into VLB troubles with it?
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby oohms » 2019-3-27 @ 05:26

I have memories of going to computer swapmeets around 1997 (as a poor kid) and starting out with an SX33 and playing older dos games (Jetfighter, anyone?). It did struggle with doom, ran around 10fps IIRC

Later on I got a DX/33 and a VLB board with a cirrus logic VLB card, and doom runs great on it - a bit later on with a DX2/66, and it's slightly faster again

If i had the hardware, I would go back to a DX/33 and a fast ISA card, like a WD Paradise. It caps out at doom, but it still plays a lot of older games
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby Munx » 2019-4-04 @ 16:40

appiah4 wrote: how likely am I to run into VLB troubles with it?

Im putting together a 40Mhz fsb system currently and VLB video is not giving me any issues. Im only using it for video, though, and all other cards are ISA.
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-4-04 @ 20:01

Munx wrote:
appiah4 wrote: how likely am I to run into VLB troubles with it?

Im putting together a 40Mhz fsb system currently and VLB video is not giving me any issues. Im only using it for video, though, and all other cards are ISA.


The trade I went for fell through; if I had indeed been able to get the DX40 chip it would have been my choice for certain; but failing that, I believe my target for now will probably be the UMC U5SX-33, which is roughly equivalent to an Intel SX-40 anyway.

Image

And now, for the motherboard; the contenders are:

Image
Chicony CH-471-A

Image
Data-Expert EXP-8046

Image
ECS 486-UL-1

Image
Octek Hippo-VL DCA

Image
PC-Partner-486-CV.
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-5-08 @ 08:36

No one had anything to say about any of the choices, really? *sadface*
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
S370:P3-1200|384M|GF4-4200|MX300
S754:A3700+|2G|X1950PRO|SB0350
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby GigAHerZ » 2019-5-08 @ 10:19

None of the PCI rubbish! Go VLB!
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Re: ITT: You pick the parts and I build the 1990-1992 486

Postby jheronimus » 2019-5-08 @ 11:01

Yeah, PCI would seem weird for a CPU like that. I'd vote for Octek, but I don't have practical reasons for that. Instead:

- the motherboard looks cooler than the others. What chipset does it use?
- I'd be intrigued to play around with Mr.BIOS.

However, it doesn't have ZIF and personally I hate sockets like that. So easy to bend your CPU pins :(

In all fairness, I think it's pretty hard to know all the characteristics/capabilities of a 486 motherboard without testing it. Compared to, say, Socket 7, they are not well documented, they are not consistent in their features (two motherboards using the same chipset can have huge differences) and there aren't a lot of widely popular models — apart from some Asus/AOpen boards that everybody seems to like. Hence, it's pretty hard to choose a board without some heavy research.
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