First post, by complain77
Well, during current pandemic times, somewhat happened that i had quite a lot of extra free time. As a long time avid gamer (been gaming since eighties and eight bits) and maybe even bigger hardware fan, i decided to build own piece for Windows XP Era of gaming. Its Era of Gaming which covers release window of many many great games (i will list some of them at the end of this writing). Of course, you can actually play many of them on modern hardware, also thanks to GOG service and various great modders.But… yet we all know, that running game on original hardware will invoke much greater feelings. Well, i will now introduce my thoughs flow, as it came to me. I decided in the beginning of whole process, that i will follow certain limitation and on contrary, i dont want to make too compromises too. Her is my decision:
• Computer should cover late Direct X 8 and almost whole Direct X 9 Era
• I want to play GLIDE games stoo (Glide Wrapper is enough for beginning)
• Upper limit will be end of Windows XP support from game developers. So i still want to play some Heavy SM 3.0 shaders games from early Direct X 10 ERA.
• I want mobo with Floppy support (Still using Floppies), but i also want USB 2.0 support, SATA support with RAID, Core 2 Duo with DDR2 support, PCI bus support.
• I want to play all these games fluently, best at 60 FPS at 1280x1024 with all bells and whistles activated. 1280x1024 – 60 hz is limit done by my otherwise excellent retro monitor NEC Multisync 1970 NXP. By the way, this LCD also supports 15khz frequency and supports Amiga VGA imput too nicely.
• Everything must come in reasonable price (will always announce how much i paid for particular part)
First thing which was coming logically was selection of right motherboard. I already had some things before – namely i had around 20 years old big silver generic case. I dont know brand, but it is solid piece of metal, and it can easily hold one big men like me (100 KG) without broke down. It supports ATX boards and has four 5.25 bracket positions, two 3,5, two USB ports and front AUDIO (which i dont use anyway). I paid for this case 12 EUR in my country of origin (Czech Republic), and guy who sold it to me gave it with two functional DVD RW drives too, which is nice bonus.
I also had my fellow Enermax Modu 82+ 525W power supply, which i bought before aproxx. 12 years for 150 EUR and which was supplying till not long ago times my main computer with Ryzen 2700x and Gigabyte G1 Gaming 980TI GPU. I bought than Seasonic Platinum and had this one like spare – now it comes handy.
So after these things logicaly came selection of board and CPU. I almost instantly decided to skip Pentium 4 CPUs - even last era Cedar Mill based were too weak compared to much slower clocked Core 2 Duo CPUS – i personally remember how massive CPU performance boost came with this architecture. Because i wanted nicely featured board with excellent stability, floppy connector support, and with support of Core 2 architecture, i finally entere driver twice times – my Board of Selection was excellent Asus Commando. I already had this board before 10 years ago – and i have to say i do remember only good thing about it. P965 chipset is more then enough for CPU i will use, it has extra VRM for QUAD Cores and 8PIN connector for extra juice for OCing too. About CPU selection – i wanted to spend as little as possible, but with sufficient power to run all games fluently and to minimize GPU bottleneck. One of the best first gens Core2 were Core 2 X6800 – it was actually special Extreme edition CPU. Well, i decided that closes to this CPU is modernized Wolfdale on some frequency 2,93, Core 2 E7500 with 3MB L2 Cache. I bought this CPU for around 5 EUR without cooler – i used standart intel CPU cooler i had somewhere from past.
I bought Asus Commando as part of interesting lot – for around 50EUR, there was also Soundmax Module, which is not bad sound card at all, 8GB of Geil Black Dragon DDR2 with tight 4-4-4-12 timings on 800Mhz, and Sound Blaster XFI Extreme Gamer Fatality Version. Also i got as bonus from seller VGA cooler Zalman VF-900 Fatality, in original BOX, never being installed – what a shame!
Well, now we are finally getting to interesting part! So i had almost everything, except of hard drive and graphics card. I was incredibly lucky about hard drives. I decided i dont want to use SSD, i felt it isnt sexy enough. But i really wanted something extra – and i got really lucky! In nearby town, some guys brother was selling some stock from closed computer store. He had some lot of very interesting HDD and amongst them were my two BRAND NEWS (really they had 2 hours of using in SMART atribs) 10K Velociraptors with 1TB capacity. These were last models of SATA 10K HDD Western Digital made for end user segment, later it was decimated by SSD drives. Because of SATA RAID ICH8 controller of Asus commando, i decided to use RAID0 performance setup from these drives. And its excellent – not only these Raptors looks great in their Icepacks cooling case, but in RAID0, even crippled little bit by Asus Commando SATA2 interface , they have got around 350-500MB/s read speed. Its still mechanical solution, but very powerfull! I paid for these two Velociraptors 50 EURs together.
Well, we got to most difficult part – GPU. GPU is heart of any gaming computer, acutally second heart, with CPU. It was very hard decision, and finally i tested three cards, before finding inner peace and got what i wanted with as little compromise as possible. Well, my first decision was Gigabyte 7950GT 512MB PCIe card, where i installed before mentioned Zalman VF900 Fatality. Its actually nice card with beautiful compatibility (i used drivers 169.28, because later ones were causing many artifacts in many great games, like Half Life 2). It was sufficient card, nicely supported by Core 2 Duo, for most of Direct X 9 titles – but, not all, and not with all bells and whistles. With heavy heart, i decided to go for stronger contestant. BTW, i paid for 7950GT 12 EUR.
During my everyday browsing of Facebook Marketplace, i got to incredible offer – like a new beautiful Canadian monster – ATI Radeon X1950XTX. It was actually first video card which used DDR4 memory chips, and i think its strongest pure Direct X9 single video card. I used it with Ati Catalyst 10.2 drivers, and i have almost none problem about compatibility. Really, raw horsepower of this card is way better than 7950GT. I enjoyed games with better setting, and only one game where Geforce was better was Quake 4, where traditionaly Nvidia excels. I was also able to play more fluently many more late DX9 games. But still – i would like to play Crysis, Bioshock 2 and many DirectX9/10 borderline games – and there is the place where X1950XTX loses his breath. I had to usually lower down resolution to 1024*768, and sometimes even details. I can forget about AA and Anisotropic filtering. So with very heavy heart, i had to go even further. I bought this beautiful, like a new card for mere 26 EURs. I did only repaste with NOctua NH1 paste. Card was operating usually at around 50 idle and up to 84Celsius during load. What else i can say that picture quality of this Radeon card was really excellent (nicest Half-LIfe 2 ever seen). It got 6800 points in 3DMARK06, which you can get free from Futuremark nowadays, by the way.
So what next? Now pure DirectX9 cards possibilites are depleted. I had to choose from more futuristic models. At least, when i cannot be purist, i wanted something revolutionary, interesting. And i found on Facebook Marketplace antoher GPU gem. Some women was selling Geforce GTX 480 card from MSI for around 40 EUR. I negotiated with her price to 25 EUR approx. When i came for card to their house, i was able to speak with her husband briefly – he said he used it for office computer, but it wasnt able to output 4K resolution (it lacks HDMI or DP outputs). It was quite peculiar, using such monster for office computer – but good for me, chip was probably mostly used in 2D. So i bought this quite rare, and revolutionary card based on Fermi architecture. It was version of MSI card which has reference Nvidia Cooler – but actually despite its reputation, its not so bad. I had to remove whole cooling and thermal past was hard as rock. I was surprised how HUGE this GPU is, compared to many others i have seen. I changed thermal past to Noctua NH1, and now card is very silent, in IDLE its going rarely over 55C and during LOAD maximum is 85 during Crysis Gameplay. When i measured performance of this GPU in 3DMARK06 (SM 3.0), its almost exactly twice more powerful as X1950XTX. Its performance is very sufficient for playing any DirectX9 game in 1280x1024, in from high to max details, AA and Aniso enabled. Also compatibility is very good – so far i got only one bad experience, Clive Barkers Jericho, which was ok before, refuses to run at all. Otherwise, i would say that Geforce 4xx has pretty matured drivers. I used 368.81, last ones for Fermi for XP from 2016.
About sound card – i mentioned i got in lot Soundblaster XFI Fatality Gamer. It was very very high end sound card in its times, but i actually got quite a lot of problem with it. First, i had to sometimes reinstall drivers, otherwise there was no sound whatsoever – and its not good behaviour for sound card, indeed, heh. Also after installing MSI N480GTX, there was massive IRQ conflict amongs XFI and sound portion of Geforce card, so i had to switch to my good ole Audigy 2 ZS. Its excelent non problematic sound card with EAX 4.0 support.