Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby Baoran » 2019-9-12 @ 17:46

red_avatar wrote: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.


You only talk about playing the very late dos games. Most of the dos game era was much earlier late 80s and early 90s and both of those games you mentioned were released in 1996 which was pentium era and dos era was ending. 486 33Mhz is good for at least 95% of dos games.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-12 @ 20:27

The Serpent Rider wrote:
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.

Yeah, the Pentium platform seems like a good option overall (higher compatibility with newer I/O and availability of parts and so on), generally speaking. I'm saying though, with having a 486 platform, I don't see anything wrong with using a DX4, as someone might care to choose to for whatever reasons, maybe playing Doom and Descent and so on.

Apparently I'm rather lucky that my 486 ISA/VLB motherboard has PS/2, IDE, floppy, parallel, and serial headers, as well as 3.3 and 5 volt CPU compatibility. It also has that classy, cheesy WinBIOS UI. I don't feel quite so bad now paying as much as I did for it, though it was largely an unused backup board someone had, but I digress.

Pentiums are also an interesting beast, being on the latter side of this transitional period in PCs, and, along with Windows 95, what I would probably consider the real, more fully realized start of the modern Desktop PC and internet age, which of course has its own appeal for various reasons. For a classic DOS based system though as apposed to something that is more Windows based, the 486 platform seems ideal for me. Yes, it is somewhat of an arbitrary choice and probably distills down mostly to personal tastes, unless your goal is running newer games and getting into more prominent early 3D games. For me then though, I'd probably just go with an even newer and more capable platform.

There are many platforms to choose from, and I suppose ideally you could have several of them, but for me, if there is one classic latter DOS era platform to rule them all (as it were – toward my own ends) it's the 486.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby The Serpent Rider » 2019-9-12 @ 22:31

maybe playing Doom and Descent and so on.

Descent is far from comfortable on DX4. Vanilla Doom 1-2 or Heretic runs fine, but mods or especially big and busy maps are completely different story.

486 33Mhz is good for at least 95% of dos games.

I would say it's completely opposite. Too fast for the 286-386 era timer sensitive games and too slow for anything past 1992.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-12 @ 22:47

The Serpent Rider wrote:
maybe playing Doom and Descent and so on.

Descent is far from comfortable on DX4. Vanilla Doom 1-2 or Heretic runs fine, but mods or especially big and busy maps are completely different story.

486 33Mhz is good for at least 95% of dos games.

I would say it's completely opposite. Too fast for the 286-386 era timer sensitive games and too slow for anything past 1992.

It looks like more of a video card limit perhaps. I've seen video of Descent running rather well, though not perfectly, even on a DX2 66. https://youtu.be/BoD0KNEdXnY?t=25m47s If you want, I can report back with some of my own testing when I've got everything setup the way I want it.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby Baoran » 2019-9-12 @ 23:53

The Serpent Rider wrote:
486 33Mhz is good for at least 95% of dos games.

I would say it's completely opposite. Too fast for the 286-386 era timer sensitive games and too slow for anything past 1992.


At least with my 33Mhz 486 if I turn off turbo, I have 386 speed and if I disable L1 cache too, I have a 10Mhz 286 speed and if I disable both L1 and L2 cache I have a 6Mhz 286 speed.
That is why I feel it is quite versatile. I have played many 1993 and 1994 dos games with it too and no problems with most games. They still mostly only required 386 from games then. You might wish for a bit faster for doom, but it is still playable.
If you go to any faster PCs, lots of older dos games start running too fast in my experience.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-13 @ 00:01

Baoran wrote:
The Serpent Rider wrote:
486 33Mhz is good for at least 95% of dos games.

I would say it's completely opposite. Too fast for the 286-386 era timer sensitive games and too slow for anything past 1992.


At least with my 33Mhz 486 if I turn off turbo, I have 386 speed and if I disable L1 cache too, I have a 10Mhz 286 speed and if I disable both L1 and L2 cache I have a 6Mhz 286 speed.
That is why I feel it is quite versatile. I have played many 1993 and 1994 dos games with it too and no problems with most games. They still mostly only required 386 from games then. You might wish for a bit faster for doom, but it is still playable.
If you go to any faster PCs, lots of older dos games start running too fast in my experience.

I may want to eventually pick up one of these CPUs as well to optionally swap into my 486 system. We'll see.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby The Serpent Rider » 2019-9-13 @ 01:26

've seen video of Descent running rather well, though not perfectly, even on a DX2 66.

You're kidding? It looks extremely choppy even on level 1. It would be completely unplayable later and on higher difficulty. Hexen also feels barely playable.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-13 @ 02:43

The Serpent Rider wrote:
've seen video of Descent running rather well, though not perfectly, even on a DX2 66.

You're kidding? It looks extremely choppy even on level 1. It would be completely unplayable later and on higher difficulty. Hexen also feels barely playable.

Considering it's on a DX2 66, not a DX4 100, which we we're discussing, it seemed alright. I personally wouldn't call it "extremely choppy" there either, though yes, a bit choppy, but suit yourself.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby Warlord » 2019-9-13 @ 03:05

I don't want to make it seem like I'm piling on :lol: But I don't see good value in hot-rodding a 486 to play later games on. I suppose if you have a really good board like top 99% type of unicorn 486 board like fastest 486 board with best sh*t already on it, it can be a thing for you. But if thats not you than its a dead end platform and its better to use it for what it is a pre Pentium gaming platform. :dead:
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-13 @ 03:13

Warlord wrote:I don't want to make it seem like I'm piling on :lol: But I don't see good value in hot-rodding a 486 to play later games on. I suppose if you have a really good board like top 99% type of unicorn 486 board like fastest 486 board with best sh*t already on it, it can be a thing for you. But if thats not you than its a dead end platform and its better to use it for what it is a pre Pentium gaming platform. :dead:

I'd consider up to about Descent within the overlapping eras of both the 486 and Pentium. I'm not talking about "hot rodding" either, pushing the VLB faster and getting a faster CPU than the DX4 100 and so on.

These are all "dead end" systems we're discussing here (except perhaps DOSBox, which isn't really a system anyway), so I'm not really sure what you're getting at with that. The thread, as far as I know, is in regards to the DOS era and DOS era of gaming.

It's not like the 486 is the only computer I have, and I can of course run these later games on newer systems anyway, so for me at least, they are a moot point regarding the topic of the thread.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby Warlord » 2019-9-13 @ 03:22

Ya but most games that run in dos don't require Pentium class performance, if we look at the entirety of the life span of dos games in general. MDK is a dos game but it probably wont run good on a 486, and all kinda later games like that.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-13 @ 03:42

Warlord wrote:Ya but most games that run in dos don't require Pentium class performance, if we look at the entirety of the life span of dos games in general. MDK is a dos game but it probably wont run good on a 486, and all kinda later games like that.

Yeah, and last time I checked you could buy Descent on Steam, and MDK too, for that matter. That's kind of missing the point in building and using these classic systems though, isn't it?

Windows still ran from DOS to some extent until like... Windows 2000 or XP, but I wouldn't really consider Windows 95 and up to be within the classic DOS era of gaming. Maybe I'm just getting old. :lol:
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby arncht » 2019-9-13 @ 07:39

simply you cannot cover the dos era with one cpu.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-13 @ 13:25

arncht wrote:simply you cannot cover the dos era with one cpu.

Yeah, I guess if you want to be a completionist. For me, my 486 system with a few CPUs and configurations to choose from should be good enough for now, covering what I would consider the height of the DOS era, and newer DOS games that it might not run so well that I might still want to play I can just run on newer hardware I already have.

Not sure I'm up for reliving the additional BSOD era of Windows 95 and Windows 98 just yet. How is NT 4 for gaming? I only used it for a short time in the late '90s.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby The Serpent Rider » 2019-9-13 @ 15:27

How is NT 4 for gaming?

Bad.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby JudgeMonroe » 2019-9-13 @ 15:36

WR3ND wrote:How is NT 4 for gaming?


You know the NT stands for "NoT for gaming".
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby WR3ND » 2019-9-13 @ 16:15

OK, thanks. Yeah, I seem to remember hearing that it wasn't good for gaming, but had never really tried it much for that. Maybe I'll check out 2000 again sometime. I used that for quite a while, and it seemed to work quite well. I'm getting off topic here though.

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

Postby rmay635703 » 2019-9-13 @ 16:59

All my favorite dos games were played on a Cyrix 66mhz AST
Duke 3d, Need for speed, descent, rebel forces along with all the shareware cd games.

I have never played quake and they all ran fine.

Top resolution isn’t needed to have fun.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby j^aws » 2019-9-13 @ 17:45

0kool wrote:But the main question here is this - is it the best all-around dedicated DOS/3.11 machine or early Pentium/DX4 could still do better?

viewtopic.php?f=25&t=53479

Sppedsys scale 600-1.png
Speedsys K6-III+ CPU profile on Socket 7 with De-turbo
Sppedsys scale 600-1.png (32.09 KiB) Viewed 49 times

Some may have seen this already. Besides the CPU profile, this build has two VGA cards, an ISA and PCI card that I can switch between without removing the cards. This takes care of both fast and slow requirements for both CPU and VGA. For reference, Speedsys 0.5 is around a 4.77 MHz Intel CPU in an IBM XT class PC. This is one single build that covers games from 1981 to late DOS circa 1999 and everything in between. Add to this DOS 3D games as well.

Since the title is an 'ultimate' one, this was my goal with DOS. I don't believe there are many builds that can achieve this flexibility. Certainly not a DX4 class build.

It is easier to slow something down rather than speed something up. The 486 was released late 80s, and DOS games and systems were released well beyond that time frame.
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Re: Is 486 DX the ultimate DOS machine?

Postby arncht » 2019-9-13 @ 18:07

the et6100 is not the most compatible card for dos (vga or vesa) :)
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