I’ve been on the hunt for a while for an excellent PCI or PCI-Express graphics card to pair with Windows 95 (both Retail and OSR2) and my Ivy Bridge overkill system. I haven’t had any luck with PCI-Express cards from either Nvidia or ATI because their Win 9x drivers just don’t work properly with Windows 95.
I want a card with DirectX 7 and 8 compliance as well as the ability to display at 1080p widescreen.
I found a lot of references to the Radeon 9200 and 9250 PCI cards working with Windows 95 and the Catalyst 3.4 drivers. I’d hate to buy yet another PCI graphics card without knowing for sure if it would work for the task (I’ve gotten quite a few PCI cards over the years that I discovered didn’t meet my needs). So, as I sat down to think about how much I wanted to spend on yet another PCI card, it hit me. I remembered that I had a Mobility Radeon 9000 (AGP, 64MB) in my IBM Thinkpad T42.
I fired up the Thinkpad and installed Windows 95 OSR2 onto its hard drive. While most of the computer’s hardware won’t work properly with Windows 95, Windows detected the graphics correctly using the Catalyst 3.4 drivers. I initially got a blank screen on the laptop’s LCD, but the display began to work for me once I attached my widescreen monitor to the external VGA port. This Mobility Radeon 9000 only seems to work properly with Windows 95 when I have an external monitor attached during bootup (it will display on both the LCD and external monitor simultaneously). Weird!
I then installed DirectX 8 and some benchmarks. I have to say, I’m impressed. A 1024x768x32 resolution got over 60 FPS at high details in 3DMark 2000. I think the AGP version of the Radeon 9000 can definitely game with Windows 95. I didn’t have any stability issues either.
3Dmark also offered to test at 1080p. It got a respectable 60 FPS average at low details in 1080p (32-bit), but averaged slightly less than 30 FPS at high details. Still, I got widescreen resolution that way. The Catalyst drivers don’t offer widescreen resolutions to Windows by default, but I enabled them by adding “1920,1080” registry keys to the 8, 16, and 32-bit color depth keys with defaults values for “60” Hz. That worked to add a widescreen choice to the Windows 95 display options.
I don’t know how much of a difference to expect between the PCI variant and the AGP one in the Thinkpad, but I feel a lot more confident about buying a PCI Radeon 9200 or 9250 knowing that the Windows 95 drivers work pretty darn well.