Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby lazibayer » 2017-9-13 @ 02:38

This is inspired by clueless1's PCI video card benchmark. Back then I wondered if ARK2000 would be faster if another 1MB of VRAM had been added to it, so I got one myself and tested its performance with 1MB and 2MB VRAM.

First test platform:
Pentium 100
SiS530, L2 cache disabled
256MB SDRAM

Results from Phil's test suite:
Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 11.19.31 PM.png


There is no boost from the extra 1MB of VRAM, and I don't know how to make Quake run at 640x480 with ARK2000 and T9680. With the help if SDD53A the performance deteriorated under 320x200 and I got flashing screen if I manually set the resolution to 640x480.
Extra 1MB of VRAM boosted the performance of Quake under 640x480 by 0.4 FPS.

Second test platform:
P4 1.3GHz
i850
1GB PC800 RAMBUS

The following results only include ARK2000:
Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.08.18 PM.png


Now I think it's safe to say adding one more meg doesn't affect sub-VGA performance, and the VGA+ performance has probably more to do with software than hardware.
Last edited by lazibayer on 2017-9-16 @ 04:04, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby luckybob » 2017-9-13 @ 03:55

some cards matter. for example the tseng 4000i.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby nforce4max » 2017-9-13 @ 04:11

Some cards are just crap and the extra memory is pretty useless except for when one wants some more pretty colors or a slightly higher res in windows but useless for gaming or anything else really. The point of adding memory though is for bandwidth on some cards, overall it is more of a big deal on certain cards as well those more vintage than some of the turd burger pci cards.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby lazibayer » 2017-9-13 @ 04:50

luckybob wrote:some cards matter. for example the tseng 4000i.

Do you have a link to some benchmark results?
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby lazibayer » 2017-9-13 @ 04:51

nforce4max wrote:Some cards are just crap and the extra memory is pretty useless except for when one wants some more pretty colors or a slightly higher res in windows but useless for gaming or anything else really. The point of adding memory though is for bandwidth on some cards, overall it is more of a big deal on certain cards as well those more vintage than some of the turd burger pci cards.


I am particularly interested in ARK2000 because it ranked very high in clueless1's test. Definitely not a turd burger.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby luckybob » 2017-9-13 @ 04:54

the arc is a very decent card for dos. I have one in a box somewhere.

As for evidence on the tseng, I know the 4000/w32i has interlaced memory. So when properly equipped 1mb < 2mb. How much I don't know. I don't have a card available to test.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-9-13 @ 05:25

I upgraded a Trio64V+ to 2mb recently and the only difference I could tell was higher resolution/refresh/color options in Win98.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby Mister Xiado » 2017-9-13 @ 05:47

Having less than 1MB is a special kind of suffering all its own.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-9-13 @ 06:45

Mister Xiado wrote:Having less than 1MB is a special kind of suffering all its own.


I have an ISA TVGA9000B 512K in my 486 PC, trust me I know. I wish I could find an affordable 1MB ISA VGA card.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby kixs » 2017-9-13 @ 07:27

In DOS there isn't any difference between 512kb, 1MB or 2MB of memory on any card. In Windows there is another story... chipsets that support memory interleaving (ET4000/w32i or p, Cl-5434, ATi Mach32/64, S3 805p...) will almost double the performance with their proper drivers installed.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-9-13 @ 08:05

kixs wrote:In DOS there isn't any difference between 512kb, 1MB or 2MB of memory on any card. In Windows there is another story... chipsets that support memory interleaving (ET4000/w32i or p, Cl-5434, ATi Mach32/64, S3 805p...) will almost double the performance with their proper drivers installed.


No difference at all? I'm skeptical about that. Regardless, memory speed and bandwidth is probably more important anyhow.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby firage » 2017-9-13 @ 10:46

1MB frame buffer allows 800x600 at 16 bits or 1024x768 at 256 colors in single buffering, which is certainly plenty. In practical terms, the second meg here allows 16-bit color depth in 1024x768 and double buffering in all lower modes; the higher resolutions it opens (up to 1600x1200) aren't very usable in low colors.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby kixs » 2017-9-13 @ 11:19

appiah4 wrote:
kixs wrote:In DOS there isn't any difference between 512kb, 1MB or 2MB of memory on any card. In Windows there is another story... chipsets that support memory interleaving (ET4000/w32i or p, Cl-5434, ATi Mach32/64, S3 805p...) will almost double the performance with their proper drivers installed.


No difference at all? I'm skeptical about that. Regardless, memory speed and bandwidth is probably more important anyhow.


These are some of my tests I made awhile ago (need to redo them again and add more cards):

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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby clueless1 » 2017-9-13 @ 11:34

@lazibayer: I think the theory with the ARK2000 is that because it was a 64-bit chip, that memory interleaving could improve DOS game performance by adding the 2nd meg, but it looks like you disproved that theory! Although, I wouldn't be surprised if Windows performance was improved at least. I'm glad you tried, because my ARK2000 has weird memory sockets and I could never find upgrade chips for them.

In every other card I've tried, adding a meg does nothing for DOS performance. I've tried Cirrus Logic and various S3 chipsets. In no case did I measure even an ounce of difference in performance. Where it made a difference was in games that supported higher resolutions or color depths with the extra memory, like Links LS 1997: with 1MB you are limited to 800x600x65k; 2MB lets you run millions of colors in 800x600 or bump it up to 1024x768 (which is still very well performing on a P200MMX).

Regarding Quake in 640x480, I did need SDD/UniVBE, but after setting it up, it just worked. If 5.3a is not working, try a later version of UniVBE.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-9-13 @ 11:37

16bit color at 1024x768 is fairly significant for Windows so I wouldn't say 2MB is an unsubstantial upgrade..
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby Anonymous Coward » 2017-9-13 @ 13:30

Just to be clear, the 64-bit cards are not using memory interleaving. With 1MB installed, these cards are technically crippled by a 32-bit memory bus. When 2MB is installed, the memory data path is running at full 64-bit capacity. It's not to say that a 64-bit card couldn't be designed to use interleaving (effectively 128-bit), just that nobody ever bothered to make one.
There are only a few 32-bit VGA chips I am aware of that use memory interleaving. One is the Tseng ET4000W32i/p, and the other is the S3 805i. Neither were high-end products at time of release. Memory interleaving does not make the board truly 64-bit, but is said to provide up to 85% of the bandwidth of a 64-bit board. As far as I know memory interleaving was a trick that manufacturers used to cut down on development/production costs while remaining somewhat competitive with actual 64-bit products.

As for an explanation why running 2MB boards with only 1MB installed does not seem to impact DOS performance, I am led to believe that perhaps the VGA core is somehow unable to take advantage of the extra features provided by 64-bit and 32-bit interleaved VGA cards. At least according to documentation I read for the ARK1000 (32-bit) and 2000PV(64-bit) documentation, both chips have an identical VGA core. It might have to do with the way that DOS accesses VGA memory through a 64kb window in the UMB region.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby elianda » 2017-9-13 @ 14:41

It might also be that through PCI only 32 bit at a time is transferred and typical DOS stuff uses a PIO like approach with e.g. REP STOSD to VGA RAM. (If the graphics RAM internal bandwidth is higher than the PCI transfer speed.) So 64 bit memory might start playing a role if you do BitBlt from VRAM to VRAM. But that is all part of the 2D windows acceleration...
I mean vspeed bench goes up to 32 bit accesses only and does not bother testing with 64 bit accesses probably because you wouldn't see a difference anyway as the 64 bit would be split up to two 32 bit accesses.

Another point is likely that a 64 bit memory data path on the graphics card helps to reduce the time needed where the DAC reads, especially in demanding modes. Such that the card doesn't get much slower from programmers side. (DRAM vs. VRAM gets also important here)
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby Mister Xiado » 2017-9-13 @ 15:10

appiah4 wrote:I have an ISA TVGA9000B 512K in my 486 PC, trust me I know. I wish I could find an affordable 1MB ISA VGA card.

Technically, you can afford it, but like myself, cannot justify the expense. People want car repair money for decent ISA cards, and good Win3 compatible PCI cards. That money would be better spent on an 8 bit computer, a 286, or something else to be saved from destruction and upgraded to its utmost.
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby Jade Falcon » 2017-9-13 @ 15:15

The biggest benefit from more vram on such cards is being able to drive higher rez outputs with less lag.
Some cards do need more vram to enable higher res outputs and color settings.

As for gaming at lower res, I only seen one card that had any difference, the S3 vrige
If your playing a game like MW2 at 1024x768 then adding 1mb did help. But I can't think of one other game were adding 1mb of ram helped. And at 320x240 or 640x480 your not see much any benefit
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Re: Does one extra megabyte of video ram make a difference?

Postby lazibayer » 2017-9-13 @ 16:03

clueless1 wrote:@lazibayer: I think the theory with the ARK2000 is that because it was a 64-bit chip, that memory interleaving could improve DOS game performance by adding the 2nd meg, but it looks like you disproved that theory! Although, I wouldn't be surprised if Windows performance was improved at least. I'm glad you tried, because my ARK2000 has weird memory sockets and I could never find upgrade chips for them.

In every other card I've tried, adding a meg does nothing for DOS performance. I've tried Cirrus Logic and various S3 chipsets. In no case did I measure even an ounce of difference in performance. Where it made a difference was in games that supported higher resolutions or color depths with the extra memory, like Links LS 1997: with 1MB you are limited to 800x600x65k; 2MB lets you run millions of colors in 800x600 or bump it up to 1024x768 (which is still very well performing on a P200MMX).

Regarding Quake in 640x480, I did need SDD/UniVBE, but after setting it up, it just worked. If 5.3a is not working, try a later version of UniVBE.


I was hunting for a Trio64 for the same test, but it's now unnecessary because you have already done it :-D
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