Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby BeginnerGuy » 2018-5-18 @ 19:37

Ultima VII has always driven the world nuts. Best solution for Socket 3 users is to just keep a 486 33mhz on hand to drop in during Ultima times of the year :cool: .

Another option is to drop your bus down to 25mhz and use a slow video card :lol:

I don't think OP has expressed too much info on the few games we can come up with that were speed sensitive like that. Ultima was unbelievable for a game in 1992 only running right on a select few systems.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby appiah4 » 2018-5-18 @ 21:03

I had a DX33 in 1993/94 and Ultima VII just ran fine for me; I never realized what a pain it was to run. Getting Pagan to run smooth is something I have not succeeded in so far though..
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-18 @ 22:01

Ultima VII is a pretty famous rare example of a difficult game. Good for you if you did get it right on a Pentium, because normal cache tricks don't work - the game's evil enough to override that stuff. DX33 to DX40 seems to be the most optimum range, which you can try to hit using turbo on a super fast 486 or Pentium. (Results vary by mobo implementation and CPU clock speed.)
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby clueless1 » 2018-5-18 @ 22:11

On my 486 DX2/66, just hitting the turbo button will drop speeds to about 486/25, which runs U7 perfectly fine. Seems like a much easier platform to run it on than any Pentium. I'm lucky my POD200 supports test registers, otherwise it wouldn't be able to run it at any normal speed.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-18 @ 22:24

clueless1 is the expert on U7, I don't know much about the Pentium test registers. It's an interesting thread that: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=51782
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby BeginnerGuy » 2018-5-18 @ 22:47

clueless1 wrote:On my 486 DX2/66, just hitting the turbo button will drop speeds to about 486/25, which runs U7 perfectly fine. Seems like a much easier platform to run it on than any Pentium. I'm lucky my POD200 supports test registers, otherwise it wouldn't be able to run it at any normal speed.


Really? I wonder how board dependent it really is. I'll have to give it a try on mine later, but I have the bus running at 40mhz right now so I'll have to drop that down. I ran my bus at 25MHz last time I played (speaking of The Black Gate). I'm also curious how it would run on a DX4 100-120 with l2 cache disabled. Ahh.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby feipoa » 2018-5-18 @ 23:18

Wiki mentions that Ultima VII was released on 16 April 1992. A 486 can't run this game well?
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby clueless1 » 2018-5-18 @ 23:31

feipoa wrote:Wiki mentions that Ultima VII was released on 16 April 1992. A 486 can't run this game well?

A little too well when you get beyond 33Mhz. 33Mhz 486 is the sweet spot. 66Mhz is playable, but a little too fast. Hitting turbo at 66Mhz (at least on my 486) drops speeds to around 25Mhz, which is still a good speed to play at.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-18 @ 23:59

A slow rate doesn't really break up the gameplay too much. Serpent Isle's frame limiter is set at 10 unique frames per second (animations; the mouse cursor updates faster than that). 8 fps already feels pretty "fluid" as it goes, and some people seem to now prefer it even lower given a choice.

clueless1's target for The Black Gate (DOSBox at 9000 cycles) looks like ~8 fps, DX2/66 turbo'd down ~6.5 fps. The round trip he's been measuring is exactly 38 frames of animation by my count.


Anyway, Ultima VII is one of my targets with my own 486 (Am5x86) build. Origin's weird ways left us with three interesting performance goals that I can hit. Wing Commander III-IV SVGA + Crusader: No Regret are demanding at full speed, Ultima VII should be right with turbo toggled, and the original Wing Commander with the L1 cache disabled.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby feipoa » 2018-5-19 @ 03:58

OK, so Ultima 7 should play well on a 486SXL-40, 50, or 66?

Is there also an upper limit for Ultima 8?
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby lvader » 2018-5-19 @ 06:38

clueless1 wrote:On my 486 DX2/66, just hitting the turbo button will drop speeds to about 486/25, which runs U7 perfectly fine. Seems like a much easier platform to run it on than any Pentium. I'm lucky my POD200 supports test registers, otherwise it wouldn't be able to run it at any normal speed.



Are you running the turbo button in the standard way (attched to the mobo turbo feature)?

When I tried on a DX4, it slowed down way too much. Also it looks to me that you got closer to the ideal speed with your POD200 . I’my using the same registrers on the MMX 233 to great effect. I also use toggle swtches to switch FSB and multiplier.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby 0kool » 2018-5-19 @ 06:42

feipoa wrote:OK, so Ultima 7 should play well on a 486SXL-40, 50, or 66??

According to my research, I would't run it on anything higher than 50 (with 25 being lower limit). Otherwise the inherent choppiness of the game will be one of your lesser problems :lol:.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby lvader » 2018-5-19 @ 06:50

firage wrote:
clueless1's target for The Black Gate (DOSBox at 9000 cycles) looks like ~8 fps, DX2/66 turbo'd down ~6.5 fps.


He actually states the perfect frame rate to be 24fps. I remember doing my own tests and this meets my recolection of things.

Anyway an ultimate DOS pc should be able to run Ultima 7 perfectly so its a good challenge.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby gdjacobs » 2018-5-19 @ 07:13

Less of an issue these days as there is an Ultima 7 patch out now. However, it's still a good yardstick for how software independent the slowdown tricks are.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-19 @ 07:28

lvader wrote:
firage wrote:
clueless1's target for The Black Gate (DOSBox at 9000 cycles) looks like ~8 fps, DX2/66 turbo'd down ~6.5 fps.


He actually states the perfect frame rate to be 24fps. I remember doing my own tests and this meets my recolection of things.

Anyway an ultimate DOS pc should be able to run Ultima 7 perfectly so its a good challenge.

The higher fps figures aren't the animation speeds these games play at, rather something derivative or imaginary. You can very simply take the 70 Hz output and single out the animation frame by frame.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby lvader » 2018-5-19 @ 07:38

I understand that, Clueless provides a method for comparing apples with apples. So I was talking about his estimated FPS rate. Unless you disgree with his methodology?
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-19 @ 08:18

It's just a re-representation of the guard's round trip animations per second figure, if I'm not mistaken. Use it for what it's useful for, the conversion is 115/38 x fps. The animation fps has better points of reference, since it can be measured in any scene in the game instead of only while observing the guard animation.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby lvader » 2018-5-19 @ 08:52

OK, but tipically a DX2 66 with turbo button pressed should be way too slow so I”m trying to understand. To work well your turbo must be halving the clock to 33mhz, but that isn’t a typical turbo button behavior.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-19 @ 09:00

The turbo button is pretty much black voodoo on 486's. :lol:

Each motherboard has its own scheme, inserting cache wait states and whatnot. Never entirely predictable for a given board + CPU combo until you try.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby clueless1 » 2018-5-19 @ 09:56

feipoa wrote:OK, so Ultima 7 should play well on a 486SXL-40, 50, or 66?

Is there also an upper limit for Ultima 8?

U7 should run good on those cpus, assuming they can or can be made to perform close to an i486 @ 33Mhz. Ultima 8 has a frame limiter toggle switch built into the menu, so no issues there. Ultima 7 Pt 2: Serpent Isle also had frame limiting built in.

Regarding the commentary between lvader and firage:
firage is correct. 24 is an arbitrary number. I started with the general consensus that 486/33 is the ideal speed, then decided that 24 is a good fps to define for that ideal speed. By no means am I stating with authority that the game is actually measuring 24 fps (though it certainly feels right). :)

turbo buttons are unique per motherboard. Mine drops my dx2/66 to 20-25 Mhz (depending on BIOS memory timings):
time_machines.png


@gdjacobs - what patch? You mean a patch that will work on the original MS-DOS version of The Black Gate?
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