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Socket 370 VIA C3 Retro DOS PC

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First post, by enaiel

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Hi,

In June I decided to use my quarantine-time to make my first retro DOS PC out of a mATX Compaq Deskpro EXD P866 and parts I had accumulated over the years. My goal was to build a pure DOS multimedia PC that would play games from 1987 to 1997, but the 866 MHz Pentium III Coppermine CPU, i815 chipset, Audigy sound card and Radeon 9600XT video card were great for late DOS games, but not good for much else:

  • Audio players like OpenCP, MPXPlay and others would crash or be terribly distorted.
  • Audigy only worked in Protected Mode, so no sound in Real Mode.
  • Strange hang-on-exits and other memory issues fixed by using HimemX+Jemm386 (thanks @keenmaster486) but led to complicated startup menu for different memory options.
  • Only slowdown option was via THROTTLE.EXE but this caused stuttering video and sound, and frequent hangs.
  • A few games completely refused to run.

So I decided to start over. I wanted to keep the mATX case and was trying to decide between a Slot 1 and a Super Socket 7 motherboard when @kolderman convinced me to go in for a Socket 370 motherboard with a VIA C3 CPU instead. Trying to keep costs to a tight budget, I purchased a few components with a focus on compatibility vs price, and built the new retro DOS PC with the following specs:

  • Motherboard: MSI MS-6368 mATX Socket 370
  • Chipset: VIA PLE133T
  • CPU: VIA C3-1.0AGHz CPU Ezra 1000MHz 1GHz 100x10 1.45V
  • PSU: FSP300-60GHS 300W
  • RAM: SDRAM 133 MHz 64 MB
  • Video: Trident Blade 2D/3D IGP (Onboard)
  • Video: Gainward CardExpert S3 ViRGE TRIO64V2/DX 4MB
  • Audio: Sound Blaster Pro (Onboard)
  • Audio: PC Speaker (Onboard)
  • Audio: AOpen Cobra AW744L II [YMF744]
  • Audio: Sound Blaster AWE64 [CT4520]
  • FDD: 3.5" 1.44 MB
  • CDROM: DVD-RW LITE-ON LDW-811S 8x
  • HDD: Syba CF to IDE Adapter + CF to SDCARD Adapter + 64GB MicroSD
  • ZIP: Iomega Zip 100
  • NIC: Realtek 8100 Fast Ethernet Controller [RTL8100] (Onboard)
  • Keyboard: Logitech Y-BE22
  • Mouse: Logitech M-BE58
  • Joy: Gravis Gamepad x 2

So far it has been completely rock solid. I have an abundance of highly compatible sound and video options, and the ability to slowdown the CPU to 386 and 486 levels. Everything I've thrown at it works so far. The only drawback of this build is that late DOS 3D games like Quake and Tomb Raider are much slower than on the P3, and FASTVID and MTRRLFBE have no discernable effect. I ended up spending around $250 instead of my original budget of $100, but I'm super happy with the results. Thanks to everyone at Vogons for all their invaluable help! I will post in more detail about different aspects of this build.

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Last edited by enaiel on 2020-11-04, 17:53. Edited 1 time in total.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 1 of 28, by Joseph_Joestar

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enaiel wrote on 2020-11-02, 23:48:

The only drawback of this build is that late DOS 3D games like Quake and Tomb Raider are much slower than on the P3

This is normal if you're playing them at the 640x480 resolution or higher. Software rendering in those two games is quite demanding at high resolutions, and won't produce smooth frame rates without a very powerful CPU.

For Tomb Raider, you can apply the S3D patch to get hardware acceleration on the Virge. It will give you improved visuals but the frame rates will be fairly low.

FASTVID and MTRRLFBE have no discernable effect

I don't think you'll get much benefit from those on a Virge. Try UNIVBE instead. I remember that giving me a couple of extra FPS on my S3Trio back in the day.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 2 of 28, by enaiel

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I didn't try UNIVBE, but I did try S3VBE with no real improvement. I will give UNIVBE a try later and let you know.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 3 of 28, by enaiel

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I want to talk a little bit about the motherboard. My requirements were that it had to be mATX, Socket 370, support VIA C3 CPUs, and have an ISA slot. The MSI MS-6368 (manual) is one of the very few does all that, plus it comes with USB, Ethernet, and a Gameport. The VIA PLE133T (VT8601T + VT686B) chipset supports DDMA, and comes with integrated Trident Blade 2D/3D IGP video and Sound Blaster Pro audio on board, both highly DOS compatible. They are so good in fact, that the S3 Virge DX and the AWE64 are actually surplus in this build!

There is so much crammed into this motherboard, but it does have a few drawbacks. The ATX Power Connector socket is surrounded by components, making it almost impossible to safely put the connector in, or take it out. I actually had to use an adjustable plier to do this. The socket for the case fan is on the wrong end of the motherboard, needing an extension wire that snakes around the the inside of the case. There is no clear way to disable the integrated AGP in the BIOS. And it has no jumpers to set the FSB (or CPU voltage), the BIOS only lets you overclock the FSB to 100 MHz or higher, so no chance of setting the FSB to 60 or even 50 MHz. Oh, and it wouldn't even boot into DOS initially, because Video BIOS Shadow was enabled by default in the BIOS.

The front panel jumpers also didn't match the case so I had the fun job of using extension cables and matching the pinouts from the old motherboard to the new one. The case needed a new IO shield too, but I found a very nice matching one in my parts bin.

The old Compaq PSU did not have enough juice to even powerup this motherboard, so I ended buying a FSP300-60GHS 300W. There were not many PSUs tiny enough to fit in this case. I chose this one over the others because it was newer, had decent reviews, and was 80plus certified. Didn't come with enough cables, but thankfully I had a few power splitter cables to cover the shortfall.

All in all, I am quite happy with both the motherboard and the PSU.

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Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 4 of 28, by enaiel

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The VIA C3-1.0AGHz CPU Ezra-T 1GHz 100x10 CPU doesn't exist according to Wikipedia. While it is less performant than the 866 MHz P3 CPU it replaced, in comparison, it has been completely rock solid in DOS. It has 15 multiplier steps from 3.0 to 10.0, in half-steps. With SetMul by @gerwin, I can set the multiplier, disable the L1 and L2 cache, and even disable the L1 I-Cache and Branch Prediction, so I was able to get a good variety of speed options:

Setting					SpeedSys	Equivalent
--------------------------------------------------
10 l1e l2e ice bpe 529.35 PII-400
5.5 l1e l2e ice bpe 291.19 PII-233
3 l1e l2e ice bpe 158.83 P-133
3 l1e l2e icd bpd 26.77 486DX2-50
3 l1d l2d icd bpd 12.66 386DX-40

Unlike THROTTLE.EXE, using SetMul does not cause any stuttering of video or sound, nor any hangs. And being able to get to a 486DX2 speed was really nice, as most speed-sensitive games seem to run best on a 486. Best of all, I don't have to set any jumpers or go into the BIOS to make these adjustments. Especially since my motherboard doesn't have any jumpers, and the BIOS doesn't have any options! I "tested" all 45 of my games, and found no issues so far.

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Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 5 of 28, by enaiel

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The Trident Blade 2D/3D IGP is suprisingly good for an integrated AGP. It is almost as compatible as the Gainward CardExpert S3 ViRGE TRIO64V2/DX 4MB that I bought for older DOS games, and better than the S3 for later DOS 3D games like Quake and Tomb Raider. In fact, I have stopped using the S3 and have completely switched to the Trident IGP.

I benchmarked Quake Demo1 timedemos at 640x480 using the S3 and the Trident IGP. The S3 did not show any improvement using S3VBE or UNIVBE. Using FASTVID/MTRRLFBE, the Trident IGP improved slightly, but the gain for the S3 was negligible.

GPU				FPS 	S3VBE	UNIVBE	FASTVID/MTRRLFBE
------------------------------------------------------------
TRIDENT BLADE3D 16.6 20.1
S3 TRIO64V2/DX 12.9 12.9 12.9 13.4

I don't have a CRT, nor do I have the space for one. I had bought a scanline generator for my RetroPie, and I have been using it with this PC. Reading text with it on is not that great, but it looks pretty good in games. It just makes all the pixel art look really smooth and pop out, even though I'm using a 1080p LCD.

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Last edited by enaiel on 2020-11-04, 17:56. Edited 2 times in total.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 6 of 28, by Joseph_Joestar

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enaiel wrote on 2020-11-03, 14:56:

Unlike THROTTLE.EXE, using SetMul does not cause any stuttering of video or sound, nor any hangs.

Is ACPI functionality enabled in your BIOS? If not, Throttle may stutter. It might also depend on how well your chipset is supported. I have been using it for months on my Abit KT7A (VIA KT133A chipset) and never experienced any issues.

In fact, I have stopped using the S3 and have completely switched to the Trident IGP.

I would give the Tomb Raider S3D patch a shot before writing off the Virge. Unless you're getting significantly higher frame rates with the Trident, you're forfeiting the 16-bit color palette, bilinear filtering and perspective correction by using software rendering. You can check how it looks and runs in @swaaye's video that I linked to earlier.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 7 of 28, by enaiel

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-11-03, 17:35:

Is ACPI functionality enabled in your BIOS? If not, Throttle may stutter. It might also depend on how well your chipset is supported. I have been using it for months on my Abit KT7A (VIA KT133A chipset) and never experienced any issues.

ACPI was enabled in the BIOS. The problems I faced were with the old i815 based motherboard. I haven't had a need to try it yet with the new VIA PLE133T based motherboard.

I would give the Tomb Raider S3D patch a shot before writing off the Virge. Unless you're getting significantly higher frame rates with the Trident, you're forfeiting the 16-bit color palette, bilinear filtering and perspective correction by using software rendering. You can check how it looks and runs in @swaaye's video that I linked to earlier.

I will still keep the S3 ViRGE TRIO64V2/DX in the PC, but I think the Trident IGP will be used by default. I remember being blown away by bilinear filtering in GLQuake all those years back, but today it looks extremely blurry in low resolutions. I will definitely try the S3D 3D rendering for the novelty, but I would actually prefer higher resolutions and higher framerates instead.

Last edited by enaiel on 2020-11-04, 17:57. Edited 1 time in total.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 8 of 28, by enaiel

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I tried to run the patched Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider - Unfinished Business with S3DSRVR + S3DRUN but nothing happens. Don't know if my 86c775 based ViRGE DX is supported. Does this work in pure DOS?

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 9 of 28, by Joseph_Joestar

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enaiel wrote on 2020-11-03, 23:38:

I tried to run the patched Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider - Unfinished Business with S3DSRVR + S3DRUN but nothing happens.

You don't need those tools for playing Tomb Raider on your Virge DX. Just the standard Tomb Raider S3D patch. Unfinished Business uses a separate executable which should support S3D out of the box. See here for more details on S3D games: 3D Accelerated Games List (Proprietary APIs - No 3DFX/Direct3D)

Does this work in pure DOS?

It does. Only the ATI patch for Tomb Raider is Windows-only.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 10 of 28, by MKT_Gundam

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Put a 3dfx card. My c3 800 + V Banshee run well with Quake 2. For late 98 and 99 a c3 Nehemiah is better but not very fast.

Retro rig 1: Asus CUV4X, VIA c3 800, Voodoo Banshee (Diamond fusion) and SB32 ct3670.
Retro rig 2: Intel DX2 66, SB16 Ct1740 and Cirrus Logic VLB.

Reply 11 of 28, by kolderman

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You need a real 3D card to play those games. I played through Quake, Quake2 and Unreal1 using a ViaC3 1000mhz and a Voodoo2SLI - this build with limited PCI slots is crying out for a Voodoo3 or even Banshee. They will be about as good as the S3 for DOS games, and smash anything you have for 3D games. The Banshee might be a bit more compatible for games like Tomb Raider but not sure.

Reply 12 of 28, by enaiel

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-11-04, 00:22:

You don't need those tools for playing Tomb Raider on your Virge DX. Just the standard Tomb Raider S3D patch. Unfinished Business uses a separate executable which should support S3D out of the box. See here for more details on S3D games: 3D Accelerated Games List (Proprietary APIs - No 3DFX/Direct3D)

The S3D patch for Tomb Raider breaks my no-cd patch, so I need to hunt for my CD before I can run it. But I have no S3D executable for Unfinished Business, nor can I find any record online of it ever supporting S3D. 3DFX and PowerVR, yes, but no mention of S3D.

@MKT_Gundam @kolderman

A 3DFX card would probably be the best option for DOS 3D games, but besides being out of my budget and not having enough PCI slots, they probably will barely fit and overheat in a tiny mATX case.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 13 of 28, by enaiel

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Sound is usually the bane of pure DOS PCs. The VIA PLE133T chipset has an integrated Sound Blaster Pro, and I thought it being integrated and PCI it would not be very compatible. I was so wrong - every single game I have tried works flawlessly with it. The CQM FM doesn't sound great, but luckily I have a YMF744 with genuine OPL3 FM. The PLE133T also supports DDMA, so I thought I could replace the SBPro with the YMF744. The YMF744 initializes and plays sounds without the need for DSDMA, which is good. But many games crash when using it. Instead, using the onboard SBPro with the YMF744 for just the OPL3 is a better option. It sounds fantastic and is highly compatible. I followed @johnnycontrario's instructions using VIAUDIO.COM and VIAFMTSR.COM, and it worked great. But I had no way to adjust the volume of the SBPro until I found VIASBCFG by @JazeFox. No need to use either VIAUDIO.COM or VIAFMTSR.com. Great little utility!

I thought I had to have an ISA sound card for DOS compatibility, so I bought an AWE64 [CT4520] for nostalgic reasons. The PCI SBPro + OPL3 combination is so good, that the ISA AWE64 is surplus to this build! I only use it for later DOS games that support the AWE synth, and for listening to MIDI files.

All 3 sound options work in Real Mode, so I have 3 batch files that I can run to initialize each card at any time. I always use the YMF744 for the OPL3 FM, so that's connected to the speakers. The SBPro and the AWE64 are both connected to the Line-In of the YMF744 via a simple stereo splitter, since I never use both of them at the same time. I just needed to fiddle with the volume levels in the mixers for the SBPro, AWE64 and YMF744 to make sure they sounded good together. Works surprisingly well.

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Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 14 of 28, by Joseph_Joestar

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enaiel wrote on 2020-11-04, 04:01:

But I have no S3D executable for Unfinished Business, nor can I find any record online of it ever supporting S3D. 3DFX and PowerVR, yes, but no mention of S3D.

I'm not sure if a standalone S3D version of Unfinished Business was ever released for download.

However, the retail version of Tomb Raider Gold includes Unfinished Business on the second CD. If you go to the 3DPATCHES\S3 folder on that disc, you will find the S3D version of TOMBUB.EXE there.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 15 of 28, by enaiel

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-11-04, 05:15:

I'm not sure if a standalone S3D version of Unfinished Business was ever released for download.

However, the retail version of Tomb Raider Gold includes Unfinished Business on the second CD. If you go to the 3DPATCHES\S3 folder on that disc, you will find the S3D version of TOMBUB.EXE there.

Found the CDs. You are right. I wonder why they never released the S3D binary for download, unlike the others.

Unfortunately, it still doesn't work. I get "ViRGE not detected". I don't know if thats because it cannot detect my 86c775 based ViRGE DX, or because my BIOS does not let me completely disable the Trident IGP. Either way, looks like no S3D Tomb Raider for me.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 16 of 28, by Joseph_Joestar

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enaiel wrote on 2020-11-04, 15:24:

Unfortunately, it still doesn't work. I get "ViRGE not detected". I don't know if thats because it cannot detect my 86c775 base ViRGE DX, or because my BIOS does not let me completely disable the Trident IGP. Either way, looks like no S3D Tomb Raider for me.

Oh, I just took a better look at your picture. It seems that you have an S3 Trio64V2. I'm not sure if that one actually counts as a Virge card, for S3D gaming purposes.

My VirgeDX looks like this.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 17 of 28, by enaiel

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-11-04, 15:54:

Oh, I just took a better look at your picture. It seems that you have an S3 Trio64V2. I'm not sure if that one actually counts as a Virge card, for S3D gaming purposes.

My VirgeDX looks like this.

You are right. I should probably stop calling it a ViRGE and call it a Trio64V2/DX.

Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 18 of 28, by enaiel

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I have a working floppy drive and a 40X CD-RW / 8X DVD+RW drive, which is a total overkill for this system. I'm sure it will cause problems if I try to run old DOS games off a CD-ROM, but I don't plan to do that. I always try to find a no-CD patch or use FAKECD / SHSUCD to mount it. I don't want to have to find and pop in a CD everytime I want to play a game. Yes, it won't play CD Audio tracks, but hopefully the game still runs.

I also have a working Parallel Port Iomega ZIP drive, with 2 100MB and 4 250 MB disks. They were in storage for 20 years but thankfully no clicks of death in any of them.

I got tired of the slow speed and loud noise of old hard drives, so I decided to switch to MicroSD. I'm using an IDE to CF Adapter bracket with a CF to SD Adapater, and a 64GB MicroSD. Works great, fast and absolutely silent. I have working USB to transfer files, but I love just being able to pop out the MicroSD card and copy files or image it for backups.

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Socket 370 / VIA C3 1.0 GHz / S3 Trio64V2/DX + Trident Blade3D / SBPro + YMF744 + AWE64

Reply 19 of 28, by Joseph_Joestar

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enaiel wrote on 2020-11-04, 17:25:

I have a working floppy drive and a 40X CD-RW / 8X DVD+RW drive, which is a total overkill for this system. I'm sure it will cause problems if I try to run old DOS games off a CD-ROM, but I don't plan to do that.

The extra speed won't cause any problems, but the drive will become very loud every time data is being read from a disc (e.g. during cinematic intro sequences).

To fix that, you can use @Locutus' CDBeQuiet! to slow your drive down to 4x or 6x speed. I'm using it on both of my retro rigs and my drives are blissfully silent.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review