Performance concerns on PIII machine

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Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-06 @ 10:56

So, i built another machine for a friend, from parts i had, so that he may use it to go to a retro lan-party. I wanted to make it durable and fast enough for most of the stuff he would want to run there, like Quake 3 and early Counter Strike and what not.

I built the following:

FIC Via Chipset Socket 370 Motherboard
Intel Pentium III Socket 370 1GHz. CPU (prod. year 2001)
512 MB PC-133 RAM
NVidia GeForce 2 MX400 GPU
Windows 98SE
SB Audigy2 sound (an OEM one without the markings that i found lying around, but it detects fine in the CT Drivers)

However, when running the machine through some of the games i've been using to test Win98 on my own machines, it seems to have a bit low performance still.

For instance, i choose to try REVolt (the rc car game) from 1999. Using 1024x768 resolution, The GF2MX drops to 40-ish frames per second at times, predominantly with other cars in view. At other times the frame rates are 100+.

Same story trying SiN, which should be not as needing of a game... Frame rates vary a lot. It can drop from 120 to 40-45 when entering certain rooms. Also, multiple enemies on screen drops it to sub-40s. This in a Quake2-engine game, which seems weird.

Also ran it through Unreal. There it keeps 100+ frames per second, but certain rooms can drop the rendering down to sub 30 frames per second.

Final tests where with Forsaken, where once again frame rates are 100+ but with portions of the game dropping it to sub-40s.

Notably, resolution changes have little to do with the portions of the games that are slowing down, and only seems to affect top framerates...

Is this normal behaviour or is there something going on here? I am suspecting that maybe the CPU hampers rendering somehow, but i still think 1GHz. should be enough to drive the games chosen... For instance the notoriously slowing down REVolt, have some recommended specs of like P200 and 4mb. 3D accelerator, and in my view that makes it hard to imagine it would choke up a 1GHz. PIII and a GF2MX400.

AGP Speed is set to 4X as the FIC doesn't handle 8X.

I have tested to replace RAM, HDD, Video boards (a TNT2 just keeps the portions of low frame rate and only lowers top frame rate).

Drivers are fine, updated and working.

Is this normal behaviour, or should i look at some adjustments? Would like to hand over as good of a unit as possible for my friend to enjoy the party.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby dr.zeissler » 2018-12-06 @ 11:12

Re-Volt is a demanding game! Runs perfect on MacMini GMA950 in WinXP (60+FPS)
Please checkout a Voodoo3-3000 in that machine. The V3's are the best Performers in such machine und for games before t&l and truecolor.
CPU: PII 133-333 MOBO: SNI-D981 RAM: 512- FDD: Dualfloppy 3,5"HD/5,25"HD - 3,5"HD - 5,25"DD ISA-Catweasel HDD: 2x40GB - DVD
ISA(3): Audician32-S2Dreamblaster - GusACE PCI(3): Monster3D- Intel NW AGP(1): 3dfx V3-3000
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-06 @ 11:50

I will try out a Voodoo3 later, that i have in some other machine at the moment and see if it improves the slowdowns in general. I think it's a V3-3000 (i haven't opened that machine up to check yet)...
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Baoran » 2018-12-06 @ 14:12

Unfortunately GerForce 2 mx400 is much faster than any voodoo 3.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-06 @ 15:09

Tried the Voodoo3. Like the TNT2 i also tried, it doesn't remove the slowdowns in particular places in the games tried. It just lowers the maximum framerate. So no matter what video card, the slowdown areas are there still.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby wouterwashere » 2018-12-06 @ 15:37

Don't forget that the GeForce2 MX is the "crippled" of the GeForce2. It has a very low memory bandwidth, especially the ones with SDRAM. It is more or less in the league of the higher end TNT2s.

The GeForce2 GTS has double the memory bandwidth and even then it is useful to overclock the memory, as you can read here.

Although memory bandwidth may seem like a plague on theoretical fill rate, there are actually worse evils in the world of rendering. We have yet to consider what happens when the data attempting to enter the card's memory can not be stored because of lack of space. Since the computer can not throw this information away or display only half of a scene, additional memory needs to be called upon in a process known as AGP texture swapping.


You could test in 16-bit to see if it makes a real difference with the drops.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby dr.zeissler » 2018-12-06 @ 15:44

I just recently read an article about these VIA chipsets...perhaps they a "part" of the performance-problem.
CPU: PII 133-333 MOBO: SNI-D981 RAM: 512- FDD: Dualfloppy 3,5"HD/5,25"HD - 3,5"HD - 5,25"DD ISA-Catweasel HDD: 2x40GB - DVD
ISA(3): Audician32-S2Dreamblaster - GusACE PCI(3): Monster3D- Intel NW AGP(1): 3dfx V3-3000
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby lost77 » 2018-12-06 @ 20:41

I just did some fast testing on one of my systems:

Pentium III-S 1.4Ghz
Intel 815EP
512MB PC133
Geforce 2 MX200 32MB

This is the slow version with 64-bit memory.

Re-Volt with highest settings:

1024x768x16 40-90 fps
1024x768x32 20-45 fps

Dont be fooled by the minimum requirements. There is a long way from playing at 640x480x16 at lowest settings with 20fps average to the kind of performance you are requesting.

A Geforce 4 Ti 4200 at 1024x768x32 was around 110-300 fps, much more enjoyable :-D
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby swaaye » 2018-12-06 @ 22:07

GeForce 3+ really boost high resolution performance thanks to improved efficiency of the memory controller and the early Z rejection mechanism. I saw Daikatana jump like 50% at 1600x1200 on a GF3 vs a GF2 Ti.

VIA might be a problem but it's not certain for games. I've seen big discrepancies with VIA and XP GUI performance vs NV and Intel chipsets but 3D games work differently. Still I wouldn't say I desire a Socket 370 VIA chipset. I don't even like their end of the line K8 stuff much. :) Only keep a KT333 around for its 3.3v AGP support with Athlon XP.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-06 @ 23:51

lost77 wrote:I just did some fast testing on one of my systems:

Pentium III-S 1.4Ghz
Intel 815EP
512MB PC133
Geforce 2 MX200 32MB

This is the slow version with 64-bit memory.

Re-Volt with highest settings:

1024x768x16 40-90 fps
1024x768x32 20-45 fps

Dont be fooled by the minimum requirements. There is a long way from playing at 640x480x16 at lowest settings with 20fps average to the kind of performance you are requesting.

A Geforce 4 Ti 4200 at 1024x768x32 was around 110-300 fps, much more enjoyable :-D


Very interesting. Thanks for testing it. Do you by any chance have access to SiN to test that? That game is the one puzzling me the most... I can understand how REVolt is demanding enough to warrant the framerate drops on an MX400, sure. But the guy I’m building for requested SiN to be added, and when I’m testing (I’ve never played it before) I see a fairly standard looking 1998 game based on Quake 2 engine tech, that somehow manages to have scenes in the game that bring the GF2MX from 120 FPS down to 45 for no obvious reason. And it appears to choke the Voodoo 2 as well, with the V2 dropping as low as 26 FPS in places. Either the game wrings some serious magic out of the Q2 tech or something is up... Because I DO have lots of play time in the past on Q2 using a Voodoo 2, and I do know nothing Q2 did could bring that setup to sub 50 FPS...
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby mrau » 2018-12-07 @ 00:13

quake2 is very lightweight compared to sin;
same engine != same load
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-07 @ 07:14

mrau wrote:quake2 is very lightweight compared to sin;
same engine != same load


I know. But they are still the same tech, from the same timespan. SiN was released in 1998, so what magic would it bring from the engine that would cut frame rates on a 64mb 2001 video card (albeit an MX) to a third in places!? It may be the case, I don’t know much of the game so I can’t say, but it does seem as if there is either an issue with the hardware, the game in question was in fact grossly unoptimized even back then, or it does some magic stuff with the tech it uses that causes it to be more demanding in places than 2001 games released 3-4 years later using newer tech. This is what puzzles me.

I have no experience of SiN from before this build though, so it may be reasonable.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby lost77 » 2018-12-07 @ 14:01

Most games will have a very variable frame rate, this is also true in modern games.
It depends on how much effort is put in on optimizing the game. Since this is time consuming and therefor costly it is often not prioritized.

SiN is a poorly optimized game. Ritual used the Quake II source code as more of a learning tool but wrote most of the game code themselves.

But you also have to consider that Quake II was released almost a year before SiN, and back then that was a long time.
A fast graphics card at the release of Quake II was the Voodoo Graphics. For SiN it was the Voodoo 2 which was more than twice as fast in games using multi-texturing.

I think you either didn't experience this period yourself or have forgotten quite a lot about it (was quite a long time ago). Here is some points about that time as i remember them.

Resolution:
1998 Introduced the 800x600 resolution as a playable option, via the Voodoo 2. That didn't mean you didn't have to drop down to 640x480 in later games though (like SiN), as they got more demanding.
And this was with one of the fastest option available. Hardly anybody was using the much more expensive SLI option.
I still remember playing Halo at 800x600 in 2003 since my graphics card wasn't very fast. I think that was the last game were I had to play below 1024x768.

Frame rate:
I remember people on forums back then trying to get their machines to get above 30 fps average in Quake II demo1, that was the goal for a playable experience.
Demo1 is not very demanding so that would probably lead to game play drops to 15 fps or less.
Some of my own recent testing shows that I have originally played many of those old games with frequent drops to 12-15 fps. This was considered by many a playable experience.

So even though your machine has a Geforce 256 SDR (1999) equivalent you are playing at a unreasonably high resolution for that time and are puzzled but what would be extremely high minimum fps numbers back then.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-07 @ 16:28

Put in a GeForce 4 Ti4600 in there to test. Frame rate still drops to sub-40s in SiN in places. In REVolt, in 1024x768 on botanical garden track, it goes as low as 29 frames per second in places. Now this is on a high end card released many years after the games themselves, in the upper market segment. I know full well what the time period was like, and yeah, sometimes even the most powerful hardware of the day wasn’t enough. But surely a 1GHz CPU and GF4Ti released many years after the games themselves, as upper end hardware should be enough, no? If not even the mighty GF4 can pull through, it would be the most unoptimized releases known to man ;)

Now, interestingly, the lowest frame rate is the same between the GF4 and GF2MX which seems to me like something else is choking it...
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby lost77 » 2018-12-07 @ 19:00

I checked out SiN (wow, that's been awhile). Used "FPS 1" to see fps. In the start of demo2 there is an exploding truck where my fps did drop to 40-ish. This is running in 1024x768 32-bit color on the Ti 4200. 16-bit color it dropped to 70-ish.

I'm not getting as low drops as you in Re-Volt. 62 fps is the lowest I get, right at the start of botanical garden, when the camera flies over the cars. 1024x768 32-bit max detail.

This is at 1.4Ghz. Is your CPU the EB variant?
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-07 @ 21:22

lost77 wrote:I checked out SiN (wow, that's been awhile). Used "FPS 1" to see fps. In the start of demo2 there is an exploding truck where my fps did drop to 40-ish. This is running in 1024x768 32-bit color on the Ti 4200. 16-bit color it dropped to 70-ish.

I'm not getting as low drops as you in Re-Volt. 62 fps is the lowest I get, right at the start of botanical garden, when the camera flies over the cars. 1024x768 32-bit max detail.

This is at 1.4Ghz. Is your CPU the EB variant?


Same settings then in REVolt to compare one to one... I get 32 fps at the same spot in Botanical Garden (Camera panning). This is with 1GHz. and GF4 Ti4600. So half the framerate, with a more powerful GPU. Could the CPU really account for that much?

CPU is 2001 PIII 1GHz B on Socket 370.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-07 @ 23:08

Some more interesting observations, as I’m now able to put in some more time on this machine. Tried a few more games. Interesting observation is that Quake 2 runs fine, at maximum FPS cap no matter what. Smooth as butter. So that works really well.

Further observations in REVolt: Changing resolution to 640x480 and/or turning off some video options make NO difference at all. However, disabling opponent cars does. Massively so. If I’m the only car in the track frame rates are in the 85-180 range, even on botanical garden. If any opponent is added that goes down to 30-75. Regardless of resolution, and if the opponents are visible to me or not. This I interpret as a CPU issue.

My theory is that there is some CPU limitation (quite severe it seems) that stalls rendering, affecting many games, but not Quake2 or Hexen2 for whatever reason.

Can someone link CPU-Z that would work on Win98SE or similar measuring program, to make some CPU checks? Also, I’m more and more beginning to suspect this VIA chipset as a culprit.

Further checks, AGP speed is 4X which is max for this board, it seems. Installing the chipset drivers seems to do nothing as Win98 uses the Microsoft ones and ignores the drivers I try to install.

Some more tinkering to do obviously. I predominantly do work on 1975-1990 mainframes and PCs, and not even those are simple to get going, compared with this project :)
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby lost77 » 2018-12-08 @ 00:45

Just tested Re-Volt again on another system:

Athlon Thunderbird 1Ghz (133Mhz FSB)
512MB PC133 RAM
VIA KT133A chipset
Geforce 4 Ti 4600

This should be comparable to your setup.

Botanical Garden intro, 1024x768x32 Max settings: 66 minimum fps. This increases if I lower settings, up to about 150 at lowest possible settings/resolution.

I would try to get those VIA 4in1 drivers installed, I've never had a problem installing those myself. You might try version 4.35 or 4.43.

I also use Everest to check my AGP status (its under chipset). You can get it here: https://www.portablefreeware.com/index.php?id=4
Unfortunately the free Home Edition does not include a CPU benchmark or stress test.

Try out SysID, its a small utility kinda like CPU-Z and contains a benchmark unlike old version of CPU-Z. It was last updated in 2002 so the systems you can compare to are in the ballpark of yours.
Get it here: https://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/sysid.html
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-08 @ 09:23

lost77 wrote:Just tested Re-Volt again on another system:

Athlon Thunderbird 1Ghz (133Mhz FSB)
512MB PC133 RAM
VIA KT133A chipset
Geforce 4 Ti 4600

This should be comparable to your setup.

Botanical Garden intro, 1024x768x32 Max settings: 66 minimum fps. This increases if I lower settings, up to about 150 at lowest possible settings/resolution.

I would try to get those VIA 4in1 drivers installed, I've never had a problem installing those myself. You might try version 4.35 or 4.43.

I also use Everest to check my AGP status (its under chipset). You can get it here: https://www.portablefreeware.com/index.php?id=4
Unfortunately the free Home Edition does not include a CPU benchmark or stress test.

Try out SysID, its a small utility kinda like CPU-Z and contains a benchmark unlike old version of CPU-Z. It was last updated in 2002 so the systems you can compare to are in the ballpark of yours.
Get it here: https://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/sysid.html


First, thanks for helping to test and compare. Indeed it seems like something is going on with this motherboard and CPU combo. It’s really weird that the VIA drivers won’t install. I tried several versions, including the ones from the manufacturer (Gigabyte board). But no success. If I look in device manager on the VIA controllers they all say “no driver installed or needed” and appear to use the OS standard drivers. Rather annoying. And that might be a cause for concern.

Will check some stuff using the tools you linked (thanks), and see if I can figure something out.
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Re: Performance concerns on PIII machine

Postby Der_Richter » 2018-12-08 @ 12:43

Ok. So the Everest results indicate that AGP support is 1x or 2x and it runs at 2x. But BIOS says 4x. Also, Everest reports crazy memory latency on one of the sticks, but reports the other faster one as speed reduced, for some reason. Also, no luck in getting the VIA drivers on there. Everest lists CPU as Pentium III Coppermine 1.0E. FSB timings seems fine, and the speed sensor indicates CPU is clocked right. However PCI speed lists as 33...

Starting to loathe this motherboard.

Mb is Gigabyte GA6VXC7-4X according to vendor id.

Right now I’m seriously contemplating to just toss this guys stuff and give him a P4 build with the GF4 for his retro lan :)
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