Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby lvader » 2018-5-19 @ 10:11

clueless1 wrote:
feipoa wrote:
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


Understood, for people looking to build a faster 486, they should not assume they will get similar results with the turbo button, the more common behavior is to switch to 8mhz which would equate to a mid range 386. Even if they get similar results to yourself (486 20-25 mhz) that would be still a little bit on the slow side, but still playable.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby jheronimus » 2018-5-19 @ 10:36

gdjacobs wrote: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.


Wait, what? Link, please?

UPD: I see. You're probably talking about the patch that prevents U7 from re-enabling the cache. Cool, I didn't know it existed!
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby gdjacobs » 2018-5-19 @ 18:08

jheronimus wrote:
gdjacobs wrote: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.


Wait, what? Link, please?

UPD: I see. You're probably talking about the patch that prevents U7 from re-enabling the cache. Cool, I didn't know it existed!


That's the one. It'll make everyone with a K6-2+ time machine happy, I think.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby badmojo » 2018-5-19 @ 23:37

lvader wrote: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.


The turbo function works differently depending on the motherboard in my experience, some introduce wait states, some undeclock the CPU.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby arncht » 2018-5-20 @ 11:06

I benchmarked here some "authentic" pcs, from different ages in the 90s.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

Doom benchmark:
1993 typical 386DX40 4,68 FPS
1993 highend 486DX2 66 VLB 20,63 FPS
1994 highend 486DX4 100 VLB 39,54 FPS
1995 highend P133 67,35 FPS
1996 very late "budget" 486 35,60 FPS
1996 highend P166 79,97 FPS
1997 the latest P233MMX 99,45 FPS

Finally I build two PCs to cover the 90s. One DX4 from 1990-95 and a P3 700 + Geforce from 95-2000. If I would use just one PC, I would go with the P233 MMX and the Riva128 for the DOS.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby lvader » 2018-5-20 @ 11:16

badmojo wrote:
lvader wrote: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.


The turbo function works differently depending on the motherboard in my experience, some introduce wait states, some undeclock the CPU.


Yes, some even just disable cache, some implementations are more commmn than others. Point is don’t rely on the turbo button halving speed because it will probably have a more dramatic effect on speed.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby firage » 2018-5-20 @ 11:25

DX33-40 was the usual goal they went for, for DX4/100+. Been seeing the SX25-DX33 range for DX2/66 now, but I'm sure especially older boards might tend to have more archaic targets.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby amadeus777999 » 2018-5-20 @ 11:58

arncht wrote:I benchmarked here some "authentic" pcs, from different ages in the 90s.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

Doom benchmark:
1993 typical 386DX40 4,68 FPS
1993 highend 486DX2 66 VLB 20,63 FPS
1994 highend 486DX4 100 VLB 39,54 FPS
1995 highend P133 67,35 FPS
1996 very late "budget" 486 35,60 FPS
1996 highend P166 79,97 FPS
1997 the latest P233MMX 99,45 FPS

Finally I build two PCs to cover the 90s. One DX4 from 1990-95 and a P3 700 + Geforce from 95-2000. If I would use just one PC, I would go with the P233 MMX and the Riva128 for the DOS.


Very nice!
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-11 @ 22:49

Having read this thread recently, it struck me how some people seem to be suggesting here that there is no point in going with a DX4 100 486 system when you could just get a Pentium system instead, but then the same applies to Pentium II, VLB or PCI, and so on down the line.

Point being, it's a fairly arbitrary line anyway, but for a classic system, it's reasonable that someone may have upgraded a CPU to a higher speed 486, if their system hardware and software could easily enough support it, same as we might choose to upgrade these same systems today without just scrapping them and going with DOSBox or something – which would miss some of the point though and of course charm.

User built computers (no, selecting customization options when ordering a computer doesn't count :wink: ), at least the ones I've made for myself over the years, don't exist in a set vacuum of time, though they are occasionally moved on from to newer base systems.

My arbitrary cutoff for the classic 93/94/95 era 486 VLB build I'm working on is pre Windows 95 and naturally pre Pentium, in terms of technology progression, not necessarily chronologically. I'm expecting it to handle well enough (though not flawlessly) up to around the time of Doom, System Shock, and Descent, which are from the same time period.

Having both a DX2 66 and DX4 100 that are drop-in compatible with my motherboard messing with jumpers, arbitrarily choosing to not use the DX4 100 (keeping in mind that it's from this same time period anyway) seems senseless for me. Perhaps it's a bit of a moot point, but I'm not trying to recreate a specific system I once had, as I never had a 486 anyway, with it being a bit past the time of the hand-me-down parts I'd tinker with as a kid, and before the time of being able to afford new parts myself. For me it's less to do with nostalgia (beyond maybe the basic AT and ISA platforms – I didn't even game much in DOS back then and was more of an NES kid) and more to do with curiosity, ambition, fulfillment, and respect for the capabilities and variability of these computers in their time and place in history.

Lo and behold, the reign of the Pentium was upon them, and though the venerable 486 was cut low by the scythe of obsolescence, it was not its doom, for the hearts and minds of good people still held sway and memory of glorious times. :lol: Joking aside, for me at the time, before the Pentium, the 386 seemed like more of a prominent game changer, though in retrospect, I'm not really sure why. It may have had to do with the spread of the popularity and availability of PCs to a growing consumer market.

So anyway, as for the thread title question in general, I'd have to say for me the answer is yes.* The 486/VLB/DOS 6.22/Windows 3.11 era seems ideal for a classic DOS gaming machine, living on the cusp of the edge during a fast paced, transitional time for desktop computing.

*Of course, this is only really a question we can answer for ourselves.

Cheers. :cool:
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby appiah4 » 2019-9-12 @ 06:12

DX4 is not Pre-Pentium thats where your argument falls apart.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-12 @ 06:15

appiah4 wrote:DX4 is not Pre-Pentium thats where your argument falls apart.

I'm not sure what you mean by that. I'm not saying that the DX4 is pre Pentium; I'm saying that it doesn't matter that it's not. It's all just arbitrary thresholds we set for ourselves based on our own goals and criteria.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby appiah4 » 2019-9-12 @ 06:19

WR3ND wrote:
appiah4 wrote:DX4 is not Pre-Pentium thats where your argument falls apart.

I'm not sure what you mean by that. I'm not saying that the DX4 is pre Pentium; I'm saying that it doesn't matter that it's not. It's all just arbitrary thresholds we set for ourselves based on our own goals and criteria.


Its not arbitrary in the sense that its in a weird space where it represent the best of neither the pre-Pentium nor the post-Pentium era.

A DX4 is my daily driver these days but historically it has little importance compared to other 486s and Pentiums. It just was out there. I used a DX4 between 1995-1996 and Quake basically killed the platform.
Last edited by appiah4 on 2019-9-12 @ 12:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby Warlord » 2019-9-12 @ 06:31

It's the ultimate DOS machine but its far from the ultimate DOS gaming machine.

The thing I always question is how many games that are speed sensitive are really worth playing on real hardware. People always talk about this point but its probably closer to a couple games and the rest no one cares about.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-12 @ 06:41

appiah4 wrote:
WR3ND wrote:
appiah4 wrote:DX4 is not Pre-Pentium thats where your argument falls apart.

I'm not sure what you mean by that. I'm not saying that the DX4 is pre Pentium; I'm saying that it doesn't matter that it's not. It's all just arbitrary thresholds we set for ourselves based on our own goals and criteria.


Its not arbitrary in the sense that its in a weird space where it represent the best of neither the pre-Pentium nor the post-Pentium era.

A DX4 is my daily deiver these days but histoeically it has little importance compared to other 486s and Pentiums. It just was out there. I used a DX4 between 1995-1996 and Quake basically killed the platform.


OK, I see what you're saying from your perspective and experience, but for me it isn't a line in the sand. Different generations of technologies often overlap in real world scenarios and it takes some time from upgrading an existing platform or changing to a new one.

For me at least, DX4s chronologically being within the advent of Pentiums doesn't undermine their value for use in 486 platforms. I suppose it's more of a pragmatic view than an altruistic one in a sense.

I think part of the appeal of the 486 platform in particular to me now actually is this sort of weird, transitional niche in PC history it seems to be in, like with being used on motherboards with VLBs, and of course being around before, but also during the advent of the iconic Pentium CPU, Windows 95, and more mainstream and advanced 3D gaming; oh, and of course more widespread use of the internet and "web surfing." It's actually quite a remarkable time.

Either way though, to each their own, and they of course can decide for themselves how they care to use these technologies or not.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-12 @ 07:02

Warlord wrote:It's the ultimate DOS machine but its far from the ultimate DOS gaming machine.

The thing I always question is how many games that are speed sensitive are really worth playing on real hardware. People always talk about this point but its probably closer to a couple games and the rest no one cares about.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with taking a modern sports utility minivan to the store to pick up a bag of groceries (several of my games on Steam seem to run in a version of DOSBox, for example), but there's something to be said for taking a classic sports car instead when the mood strikes your fancy. :cool:
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby GigAHerZ » 2019-9-12 @ 07:36

I want to have fastest mainstream 386, fastest mainstream 486 and fastest mainstream pentium(mmx) and i pretty much do and feel good. :)

Am386DX-40 with 256kB of cache (writeback enabled also)
Am486DX4-100 with 256kB of cache
Pentium MMX @266MHz with 512kB of cache

386 is for DOS, 486 is for DOS+WIN3.11 and Pentium is for Win95.

386 is pure ISA, 486 is ISA+VLB, Pentium is ISA+PCI.

386 has 30pin ram, 486 has 72pin ram, Pentium has SDRAM.

I feel that with those 3 computers, i'm pretty much covering a lot, including all kinds of hardware. And i love it!
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby chinny22 » 2019-9-12 @ 10:47

The DX2/66 could be considered ultimate as far as it was the minimum spec for gaming for such a long time, key word is minimum, not a fun place to be.

You could argue 486's were the last of the true dos era and Pentiums were the beginning of the Win95 era, but this is questionable with some of the last dos games even demanding a Pentium.

Apart from Nostalgic reasons I think the 486 gets a lot of love as it can play vast majority of dos games vs a 386 but also more interesting with its ISA and VLB then later socket 3 and above boards with PCI

I'd struggle to call the DX the ultimate dos machine, too fast for early games, too slow for later games. But it does feel more "correct" and it is what I do alot of my earlier dos gaming on as like Warlord said I don't have that many games that don't run (Maybe because my first PC was a DX2/66) and for the few later 3D shooter games that the 486 cant run well I don't feel guilty running on my Win98 P3
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby The Serpent Rider » 2019-9-12 @ 13:53

it struck me how some people seem to be suggesting here that there is no point in going with a DX4 100 486 system when you could just get a Pentium system instead

Pentium MMX is just very flexible* and more or less enough to run any DOS game. Not to mention integrated PS/2 and USB support.
It's more practical and easy to get platform for oldies overall. And you can cover anything beyond it's reach with something like late Pentium 4 or even Core 2.

*Pentium II is not as flexible as Socket 7 platform.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby Baoran » 2019-9-12 @ 14:11

For me the best dos machine has been 486dx 33Mhz. It is perfect for a game like Ultima 7 and at least mine can be slowed down to play original wing commander perfectly which doesn't seem to run that good when you disable caches on faster PCs like K6. With K6 and caches disabled wing commander seems to get random speed ups and slow downs which makes it really hard to play and that doesn't happen when I slow down my 486 33Mhz. It can also be slowed down further to even 286 6Mhz speeds by using turbo and disabling cache and that makes most older games playable except those that require original 4.77Mhz. There are of course those dos games that require faster pc like mentioned earlier in this thread, but those games are not speed sensitive and can be played on wide range of different PCs.

Perhaps it can't be called ultimate dos machine in general, but for me it has been ultimate when it comes down to speed sensitive dos games.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby red_avatar » 2019-9-12 @ 17:19

I had a 486SX 33 which I loved at the time but it makes for a poor 1995 DOS machine. I had the patience of a saint back then to play games such as Duke 3D at a really shitty framerate. Even my friend who had a 486DX 40 (who was lording this fact over me every damn day) pretended he didn't mind that certain games run absolutely terrible.

I remember playing the demo of Tomb Raider on my 486SX and in the smallest window, it actually played pretty smoothly! I was absolutely stunned that I could enjoy this game despite my ageing PC at the time and went out to buy the game only to discover the full game wouldn't even BOOT on a 486SX.

Then in early 1995 my step-brother got a Pentium 70 which was like a legend to me at the time. This was right before his mother and my dad split up so I never really got to use it (she was VERY protective of her son's stuff even though he got to use all my stuff) but the joke's on her: 24 years later, that son (who is a good friend still and a colleague) dug it up from the attic and gave it to me and it has now become my go-to DOS machine. It looks good, works perfectly, is very easy to open and work with and has a very high compatibility rating.

So yeah, I'd say early Pentiums are definitely the ultimate DOS machines since they have the largest amount of playable games. If I disable cache, I can even play games that are a bit too fast. For the few games that won't play at the right speed, I either just stick to DOSBOX or I get out my 386 or 486 but few games really worth playing fall into that category.
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