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First post, by JaNoZ

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What would be the best low cpu load pci nic to keep for use on a 486 era pci mainboard.
regarding any 486 pci chipset.

Any one studied on this, did some benching?
Realtek cards, Intel, Via, 3com, Amd cards.

Also there are new and older 3com and intel nic's with large qfp's and some with small bga's , are they compatible and share the same cpu load?

Reply 2 of 18, by RacoonRider

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leileilol wrote:

I had good luck with Intel PRO 100 however

Me too. Tried two pro100s, one from 1998(?) with a large chip, one from around 2003 with a small chip, both worked equally fine.

Reply 3 of 18, by retrofanatic

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leileilol wrote:

Definitely not Realtek (that CPU hogging 8129 series gave me intermittent CPU pauses during internet games).

I had good luck with Intel PRO 100 however

Same here. ..and yes Realtek sucked for me as well

Reply 6 of 18, by feipoa

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I did do some speed analysis between 3Com 3c905C-TX-M and the Intel Pro 100-something. The data and discussion is on Vogons somewhere. IIRC, with both cards utilising checksum offload, their performances were similar on a 486. I think the possible benefit of the Intel Pro 100 was that it may handle a 40 MHz PCI bus better than the 3Com card. I think the maximum throughput was between 2-3 MB/s.

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

Reply 7 of 18, by chinny22

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Another happy 486 owner using a 3C905C-TXM here (it was lying around)
Intel gets bonus sexy marks in my book though

Reply 10 of 18, by feipoa

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Won't the CPU get utilised at 100% load regardless of what brand 100mb/s PCI card you use? The CPU tries to push for the maximum bus speed but doesn't even come close. An interesting test might be to determine what is the slowest Pentium CPU on a socket 5/7 board which allows for, say, 7.5 MB/s throughput.

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

Reply 11 of 18, by smeezekitty

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feipoa wrote:

Won't the CPU get utilised at 100% load regardless of what brand 100mb/s PCI card you use? The CPU tries to push for the maximum bus speed but doesn't even come close. An interesting test might be to determine what is the slowest Pentium CPU on a socket 5/7 board which allows for, say, 7.5 MB/s throughput.

I agree. I never understood why anyone would use a 100M NIC on a 486. It will free up the CPU to actually use the data if you use a 10M NIC
Any data you will transfer in and out will be limited by the disk space and RAM of the 486 anyway

Reply 12 of 18, by feipoa

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For me, I used to have my http/ftp servers on my fast 486 with lots of RAM and SCSI disk access, so 100 mbit was at least 4x faster than 10 mbit. For any 486 build, if you think you're going to do a lot of large file transfers, or you just don't like waiting around, 100 mbit ethernet is the way to go.

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

Reply 13 of 18, by asdf53

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I finally got an Intel Pro/100 card working on a FIC VIP-486-IO board, but it was a real pain in the butt. I am documenting the process in case it helps anyone.

Card: Compaq NC3120 (this is just a Compaq branded 8255 card that shows up as "Intel 8255x-based PCI Ethernet Adapter (10/100)", same as Intel Pro/100, drivers for Dos/Win 3.1/95/98 from here). Windows 98 and newer already come with drivers for these cards.
OS: Windows 95

Couldn't install Windows 95 with the card inserted, it kept freezing at the hardware detection step. Installed it later, but after a reboot, I kept getting a Windows popup "The network card xxx is faulty and needs to be reinstalled", and in device manager, it showed up with a yellow question mark. There weren't any resource conflicts though.

I figured it was at least half-working, as the Intel diagnostics tool could communicate with the card and detect the cable connection, and at one point, I could even see the PC's name come up in the router. But the tool kept saying that it couldn't properly load the network drivers or obtain an IP address.

When I tested the card on another board, I got exactly the same errors, but re-seating the card to another PCI slot immediately solved the problem, so it had to be some sort of IRQ issue. After an odyssey of fiddling with different PCI slots and BIOS settings, this is what finally worked:

Network card in PCI slot 1, graphics card in PCI slot 2, no other cards installed, with these BIOS settings:

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Tested this with IRQ 5 and IRQ 9 for the network card. Note the "INT A using IRQ 9" setting below - It needs to be set to the network card's IRQ or you will get the "faulty network card" error in Windows. The graphics card somehow didn't need that setting. "CPU to PCI write buffer" needed to be disabled or the computer freezes when doing any network related stuff. Also saw a page in the motherboard's manual about "PCI IRQ pull up/down" that says a corresponding jumper needs to be set for each IRQ that's occupied by a PCI card, but that turned out to be a red herring - it never had any effect on any PCI card I have tested.

Also worth noting, the PCI graphics card refused to work with any other setting than IRQ 11 - Windows just boots to a black screen.

Edit: Out of curiosity, just put the network card from slot 1 to slot 3 while keeping IRQ 9, to see if the slot number really makes a difference. Now I get glitchy graphics in Windows, and device manager says there's a resource conflict with the graphics card, which is still set to IRQ 11. It won't even tell me where the conflict occurs, the resources tab just says "unable to load resources". This is so frustrating because there's seemingly no logic behind it.

Could this have something to do with bus mastering? I remember reading that some PCI cards require bus mastering to work properly, and that the motherboard chipset needs to support it, and sometimes only has it enabled for the first and second slot. This could explain why the network card didn't work in the third slot on both boards that I tested.

Last edited by asdf53 on 2022-07-28, 16:12. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 15 of 18, by Sphere478

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A quality intel nic is probably the best. I use a 1000gt pro something rather

I’d say killer nic but they are hard to find and no 9x support I don’t think

Sphere's PCB projects.
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Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
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SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
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Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 16 of 18, by Intel486dx33

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I tried this out the other day.

I hooked up an AMD 5x86 computer to my Modern Linksys WIFI Extender ( RE-9000 ) which supports Gigabit connections.
The computer was running Windows 95c.
I tried several NIC’s ( PCI and ISA )
The PCI cards had trouble negotiating with the WIFI Extender Gigabit ports and would cause my computer to “lock up” ( stop working ).
But the 3com 3c509b worked great.

So the conclusion is some PCI network cards may require a Pentium class CPU.
Or may just not work well with a Gigabit port.

So I would stick with reputable NICs like ( 3com, Intel, AMD ) for use in a 486.
Windows 95 come with drivers for these NICs and so they are easy to setup.
I am not sure about the Novell NE2000 YES Ready network cards.
I don’t know if Windows provides drivers for these network cards. But they are certified for Novell Netware ( Client and server ).

To put it simple. The 3com 3c509b ( ISA ) is a Legend. It works in just about every network topology, protocol, Operating system, and Scenario. It surprises me how versatile this card is.
If its a 486 it will work with the 3com 3c509b or it most likely will not work with any other network card.

I was able to get on the internet and surf MSN.com using my Linksys RE-9000 WIFI Extender and 3c509b NIC on a AMD 5x86 CPU computer. I had 32mb of RAM and CF card.

All you need is a 486dx2-50 or better and 3com 3c509b, 8mb ram, basic video card, and a WIFI extender. ( TP-link works good )

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Reply 17 of 18, by Intel486dx33

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More photos:

This might be the Best consumer Wifi setup you could get on a 486 home computer.

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Reply 18 of 18, by Sphere478

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Oh wow. I didn’t even realize the internet still talked to old browsers like that…

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)