VOGONS


The quest for the perfect retro laptop: a saga

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Reply 380 of 398, by ragefury32

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keenmaster486 wrote on 2020-12-23, 08:10:

I've installed my standard DOS/Win31/Win9x triple boot system on so many laptops, I have it down to a science and it goes pretty quickly now.

I'll post pictures of my new Thinkpad 240 when I get the chance. But the long and the short of it is: it's a really fun little machine, works perfectly, clearly one of the better Classic Thinkpads, but in terms of compatibility it's the exact same as the 600E but less powerful. Should make a great ultraportable (edit: I spoke a little too soon without thinking. The sound chip is better, an ESS Solo-1 rather than the crap-o-phone Crystal chip in the 600E). More powerful than the 560X, which I have Linux on anyway.

I also found a Thinkpad 770. That will be interesting to try out. More on that after Christmas.

I’m glad you liked it. In terms of family resemblance, it's more like a 600 with a Pentium II - the 600E has a Neomagic 256AV that hangs off the AGP Bus, while the 600 has the Neomagic 128XD off the PCI slot, and one RAM channel taken over with soldered RAM.

Wait. Are you sure we are talking about the Crystal CS4237B on the 560X, or the CS4239/4610 on the 600E? I had the CS4237B with my Latitude CPiD for nearly 2 years, and it wasn’t a bad audio chip (it was also used in the Orpheus card, except with a YMF289 doing the FM stuff). I am not sure how different is the 4239 compared to the 4237B or the 4624 on my T21 (which is similar to the 4630 in my Turtle Beach SantaCruz), but they sound just fine to me (granted, I don’t have any laptops with Yamaha YMF, my AOpen Cobra and the YMF724 are both inside thin clients that I barely have time to play with, and to me minor variations in timbre doesn’t bother me as much as playing the wrong instruments or missing notes). When I have my T21 side-by-side with the 240 and heard FM synth from the Crystal versus the ESFM off the Solo-1, I actually prefer the Warmer tones on the Crystal, but that can be due to the superior stereo speakers built into the T21. The 240 only has that tiny one under the right side of the palm rest.

Too bad IBM didn't make too many things with the Solo-1 (or the Yamaha YMF715s like on some of the Acer built i-series machines).

Reply 381 of 398, by sangokushi

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I am planning to buy an old DOS/Win31/Win95 laptop, can someone recommend two games (prefer shareware which I can download) for testing dos sound and windows sound to make sure the driver is working properly?
Thanks.

Reply 382 of 398, by ajacocks

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sangokushi wrote on 2020-12-27, 11:48:

I am planning to buy an old DOS/Win31/Win95 laptop, can someone recommend two games (prefer shareware which I can download) for testing dos sound and windows sound to make sure the driver is working properly?
Thanks.

You should start a new thread, to ask a tangential question, like this. To avoid being a complete jerk, though, I suggest Descent.

- Alex

Reply 383 of 398, by keenmaster486

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ragefury32 wrote on 2020-12-23, 20:58:

Wait. Are you sure we are talking about the Crystal CS4237B on the 560X, or the CS4239/4610 on the 600E?

So, the CS4239 is not as good as the CS4237. There were so many tiny differences between those chips it's hard to remember exactly why, but I think the FM is better. In fact, I don't think the 560X even requires any PnP initialization, if I recall correctly, whereas the 600E does.

The 600E is a pain in the rear end with PnP setup, too.

I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.

Reply 384 of 398, by ragefury32

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keenmaster486 wrote on 2020-12-28, 06:17:
ragefury32 wrote on 2020-12-23, 20:58:

Wait. Are you sure we are talking about the Crystal CS4237B on the 560X, or the CS4239/4610 on the 600E?

So, the CS4239 is not as good as the CS4237. There were so many tiny differences between those chips it's hard to remember exactly why, but I think the FM is better. In fact, I don't think the 560X even requires any PnP initialization, if I recall correctly, whereas the 600E does.

The 600E is a pain in the rear end with PnP setup, too.

Eh, it's one of those subjective things on Vogons, isn't it - the eternal midi wars between the OPL clones. Some says ESFM is fine, others think it's terrible. Some likes Crystal FM, others think it's an abomination. Hell, I’ve heard purists crap on the earlier YMFs or the later ones. How different was it, and is it actually attributable to the sound chip or the caps/amps onboard?

The 600E was very different from the 560X. The 560X use an old-school ISA sound setup off the 430TX chipset. The 600E is one of the first 440BX + AGP laptop that try to do AC97/PCI with a fallback legacy ISA sound support on the same chassis. It contains 3 sound chips - the AC97 codec off the Neomagic Magicmedia AV (which is a combo VGA / AC97 codec chip), the Crystal 4610 (which is supposed to be a DirectSound accelerator that interfaces with the AC97 codec), and the CS4239 (which sits on the ISA bus using, what, the 440BX/ZX's ISA bridge)? Someone at IBM Yamato labs (the facility in Japan where IBM designed their Thinkpads) probably looked at the Neomagic AC97-only setup and went "Nope, this won't cut it, we better engineer something with Sound blaster legacy support for native DOS or OS2 Warp 4". Dell....would tell you to use a Win98 DOS box or sell the machine with Windows 2000. As a former owner of a Latitude CPiA (Dell's 600E), those were Neomagic AC97 from what I remembered. Backwards compatibility with legacy sound? Not happening. That's probably why not much old schoolers buy CPiA/CPiR (the 600X equivalent, also Neomagic AC97-only).

Last edited by ragefury32 on 2020-12-29, 02:58. Edited 3 times in total.

Reply 385 of 398, by Warlord

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you don't really want too fast of a CPU though. Higher the CPU you have the less it will throttle with cpuspd. and less multipliers you have to go slower. I'm speaking of this utility here. CpuSpd - A Hardware Based CPU Speed Control Utility for DOS/Win9X Retro Gaming

With that I been able to successfully throttle down the 850mhz PIII in my Toshiba 2805-s402 to play wing commander just as a test to see how low it will go. the CPU has a 8.5 multiplier. But when you go power saver it switch the CPU to 7x multiplier. The laptop seems to have some kinda dual down clock feature with its power saver feature. The CPU is unlocked but only down from 8.5x to 7x If you go FULL than it multiplies 8.5x by the system bus in 8.5 / 8ths. But if you go power save it multiplies 7x in 8ths. at 7x its 700mhz then downclocked by 8.5 / 1/8th it is 82mhz with like 12mhz system bus. THen disable the L2. It will run at like slow 286 speeds. that seems to be the floor it you want l1 cache.. If you disable l1 and l2 it will probably run like an XT. I am not certain on all the numbers. I need to benchmark all the variables. I just know wing commander ran fine. and I got sound in pure dos, and on the same laptop I can also run unreal tournament. So I can go from XT to PIII 850 on same laptop

Reply 386 of 398, by ragefury32

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Warlord wrote on 2020-12-28, 13:18:

you don't really want too fast of a CPU though. Higher the CPU you have the less it will throttle with cpuspd. and less multipliers you have to go slower. I'm speaking of this utility here. CpuSpd - A Hardware Based CPU Speed Control Utility for DOS/Win9X Retro Gaming

With that I been able to successfully throttle down the 850mhz PIII in my Toshiba 2805-s402 to play wing commander just as a test to see how low it will go. the CPU has a 8.5 multiplier. But when you go power saver it switch the CPU to 7x multiplier. The laptop seems to have some kinda dual down clock feature with its power saver feature. The CPU is unlocked but only down from 8.5x to 7x If you go FULL than it multiplies 8.5x by the system bus in 8.5 / 8ths. But if you go power save it multiplies 7x in 8ths. at 7x its 700mhz then downclocked by 8.5 / 1/8th it is 82mhz with like 12mhz system bus. THen disable the L2. It will run at like slow 286 speeds. that seems to be the floor it you want l1 cache.. If you disable l1 and l2 it will probably run like an XT. I am not certain on all the numbers. I need to benchmark all the variables. I just know wing commander ran fine. and I got sound in pure dos, and on the same laptop I can also run unreal tournament. So I can go from XT to PIII 850 on same laptop

Ah yes. Geyserville, the original speedstep from Intel - the first 2 iterations were, in so many words...primitive.

The Coppermine P3 Mobiles uses Geyserville 1 (Intel Speedstep), while the Tualatin Mobile and Mobile P4s uses Geyserville 2 (Improved Speedstep). Only difference? Geyserville 2 has some logic to detect system load and kick the machine to a higher clocking and then step it back down as the load falls back off, but the clock changing process takes, like, hundreds of cycles. Intel made a little Speedstep widget in Win98 so you can change the speedstep operations mode.

There's always a "high performance" mode which runs at the highest rated clock possible, and a "power saving mode" which is between 150-300MHz below that on the Mobile Coppermines. The Tualatins have a wider speedstep margin, while on the Pentium 4ms I remember they jump between highest clock....and 1.2GHz.
The Pentium III/500 (non-BGA model) clocks back to 300, while the Pentium III/1GHz clocks down to 700MHz. Think of an automatic transmission with 2 gears dating back the 60s, with all the performance issues it inevitably cause. AMD's Powernow on the K6-2+/3+ has multiple steppings at 50MHz, going from 200Mhz all the way to whatever your CPU is rated for. The later Geyserville III/Enhanced Intel Speedstep (EST) found in the Pentium-Ms, Yonahs and above allows you to step in 100MHz increments from 600MHz all the way to the maximum clock, change steps much faster, and lets you tune the voltage at each step. Definitely much more sophisticated and one of the many reasons why the Pentum-M were such good mobile CPUs - kicks ass, takes names, sips power. The whole thing just made the Mobile Pentium 4 look bad and was a worthy foe to the Thoroughbred/Barton Athlon XPs.

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As for cpuspd, it depends. I didn't see a substantial difference between L2 on and off with Wing Commander I/II/Test Drive 3 - On my 850Mhz machines (the T21 and the C600) it's still too fast whether it's on or not. With L1+L2 turned off, the machine ran like, yeah, somewhere between a 286/16MHz to a 386/SX25, and Wing Commander/TD3/Monkey Island 1 went from too-fast-to-react to too-slow-to-get-through. The throttle option didn't help that much either - in fact, a 300Mhz Thinkpad 240 does not throttle at all - it always return throttle status as 8/8. Using throttle (the application) just makes it skip screens. cpuspd is also rather touch-and-go on the C600 - sometimes it works, sometimes it'll pagefault-and-freeze the machine.
Both machines as it stand will play anything requiring a Pentium 90 all the way to UT'99/Q3A, the SavageIX in the T21 outperforming the ATi M3 in the C600 for DOS/VESA applications when fastvid is loaded (it looks like the fastvid MTRR jiggery-pokery made the Savage better but made the M3 worse). On the apps that require slowdowns at the 386SX to 486DX2 range, I whip out the 560E (with a P55c/166Mhz). That one seems to throttle down well via cpuspd.

Last edited by ragefury32 on 2020-12-29, 06:00. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 387 of 398, by keenmaster486

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ragefury32 wrote on 2020-12-28, 07:18:

Eh, it's one of those subjective things on Vogons, isn't it - the eternal midi wars between the OPL clones. Some says ESFM is fine, others think it's terrible. Some likes Crystal FM, others think it's an abomination. Hell, I’ve heard purists crap on the earlier YMFs or the later ones. How different was it, and is it actually attributable to the sound chip or the caps/amps onboard?

Some of them sound very similar, like real OPL3 vs CQM.

ESFM is the closest of the SB clones.

Crystal FM is the one that varies wildly within itself. I'm not sure what they were smoking at that company, but some of the Crystal chips are pretty OK and others are total crap. The one in the 560X sounds fine for most things, while the one in the 600E has obvious flaws in even simple music or sound effects.

Where an OPL3 clone will almost always fail, however, is when you try to play complicated music that uses the OPL3 functions rather than just OPL2. Most clones have no trouble with OPL2-only stuff. But once again, ESFM does the best with this. Crystal chips invariably fail miserably, dropping entire instruments while others sound completely wrong.

I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.

Reply 388 of 398, by dr_st

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keenmaster486 wrote on 2020-12-29, 05:46:

Where an OPL3 clone will almost always fail, however, is when you try to play complicated music that uses the OPL3 functions rather than just OPL2.

Do you remember off the top of your head some game music which fits this description, and can be used as a "gold standard" test suite?

https://cloakedthargoid.wordpress.com/ - Random content on hardware, software, games and toys

Reply 390 of 398, by vorob

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While I wait for my ultimate 2805 with GeForce 2go I bought Satellite 5205-S503 for 13USD. Good condition, dead hinges. Installed Win 98 and games in win dosbox have general midi support. Pentium 4 onboard, 512ram, 40gb hdd, GeForce 460go. But I still didn't find a proper 460go driver for win 98. Installed a desktop one with inf correction, but I can't set the native resolution (1400x1050). Need help 😀

Reply 391 of 398, by keenmaster486

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dr_st wrote on 2020-12-29, 07:09:

Do you remember off the top of your head some game music which fits this description, and can be used as a "gold standard" test suite?

I don't play any games that have this type of complicated OPL3 music, although you might try Descent.

What I use for testing is Adlib Tracker II. It comes with a bunch of demo files which require a lot of the OPL3. Try the Diode Milliampere ones specifically.

I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.

Reply 392 of 398, by ragefury32

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bjwil1991 wrote on 2020-12-29, 07:20:

Jill of the Jungle is one of them, I believe or something else, but I cannot recall.

Duke3D Shareware's grab-bag, Doom E1M1 (Shareware), Descent 1 Shareware and yeah, Jill 1. Epic Pinball (the shareware version) also works well.

For full version software I usually do:

Wing Commander 1+2 (usually for throttle testing)
Prince of Persia 1
Simcity 2000 (very common game so any deviation from the norm is extremely noticable)
Monkey Island (the original, non-talkie version)
X-Wing or TIE Fighter
Ace (an oldbie here) did an entire series called "The Many Sounds of: - A look at various different sound cards and the sound they produce in DOS games" this has a pretty good overview of what various cards sound like on X-WIng. It's really too bad that the videos were not well maintained (the annotations on the videos are missing and some videos are gone), and he did not post comparison videos of common Crystal Soundfusion variants found on laptops. He is also rather complimentary regarding the ESS Maestro.

Reply 394 of 398, by Intel486dx33

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For best DOS game play performance. You really need a Pentium CPU.
First gen. Pentium 83mhz thru 233mhz.

So I would say the IBM Thinkpad 380 with 166mhz CPU is a good choice.
It has a 4x CDROM and floppy drive built in.
Easy to repair and upgrade.
Reliable.

Reply 396 of 398, by ragefury32

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keenmaster486 wrote on 2020-12-30, 20:17:

Thinkpad 38x (all models) have NeoMagic and jerky scaling. Just something to be aware of.

We really should do a comparison between the common Neomagic variants - the PCI NM2070 (MagicGraph 128), 2090 (128Z), 2093/2097 (128ZV/ZV+), 2160 (128XD), The AGP connected 2200 (MagicMedia 256AV), 2300 (AV+), 2360 (ZX) and the 2380 (XL+). I don't think they all perform the same. I certainly didn't remember the 2160C on my TP240/Latitude CPiD being that awful. I ran some tests on games that are said to be jerky on the 128XD (Golden Axe, Volfied, Stargunner, Supaplex) and they all ran just fine - it’s too bad I don’t have a VGA video capture device. My questions are:
A) are the games on the latest patches?
B) Is fastvid engaged?
C) are you sure it’s not due to the LCD screen that it is connected to?

Oh geez. That 380. They sure make them thick (2.4 inches/62mm) back then, don't they. Looks like something people use to house cheap firearms.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/254820885959
Just looking at this eBay ripoff attempt masquerading as a much more rare (and asian market only) 240Z made me throw up in my mouth a little - here's a clue, look at the system unit serial number on the BIOS screen - the first 7 digits (2635-JBU) maps back to an IBM Model #/subtype, and that's a Thinkpad 380XD.

The 3-series are old budget machines, and they are not something you really want in a retro laptop.
They usually come with passive matrix STN/DSTN displays, and in 800x600 resolution. The auction above is for an XGA TFT Active Matrix model (denoted by "Z").
It's not a portable machine, and the drives are not modular like the Ultrabay ThinkPads. Similar specs (PMMX or PII MMC1 machines, EDO RAM, Crystal CS423xB) can be had on the much more numerous Dell Latitude /CPM/CPi series, and you have a choice between an SVGA 12" (ST) or an XGA 13" screen (XT)
If you have to do a comparison, the Latitude CPi D300XT is a better machine versus the 380Z, since it's 25% smaller, about 1 lb lighter, with modular Latitude C-bays and a 256MB (dual 128MB max EDO slots) RAM limit, rather than the 160 on the 380Z (32 soldered, 128 in one EDO slot). The 380? *ugh*. If you are gonna buy classic, might as well gun for something better designed to begin with, not one designed around penny pinching.

That being said, I don't like 440 chipset machines running EDO memory - its performance is kinda meh, and it is such an expensive preposition trying to max their RAM out to keep it from swapping - 128 MB is the largest SODIMM for them and they are not cheap (eBay quotes 128MB EDO laptop RAM at 50 USD each, while 256MB 16 chip (low density) PC100 RAM goes for 15 USD each...and both are common 440 kibble). If you gun for an EDO 440 machine, might as well just buy a full 440.

A Dell Latitude CPM233XT would be a fun machine to own - Tilamook MMC-1 socket CPU (which is easily upradeable to a PII), 233Mhz, good throttling support, Neomagic 128XD PCI graphics, Crystal 4237B, 13" XGA screen, 430TX chipset on an EDO memory setup, decent plastic grades so less lightly to age out and crack, it's fairly light and can use Dell C-Bay modules. They were also formerly really cheap and easy to come by - not quite nowadays though.

Last edited by ragefury32 on 2021-01-02, 18:57. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 397 of 398, by vorob

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Guys can you please share some info on GeForce4 460 Go? Its pros and cons. Currently I faced strange behavior in Sky Roads and Sea Legends:

https://youtu.be/temDvlb2QV0

p.s. Pentium 4 2000mhz is good for dosbox emulation?

Reply 398 of 398, by vorob

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Well, this Toshiba 5205 is surprisingly unfriendly dos the laptop. It doesn't have BIOS and will alter its brightness only via Windows app, if you go into dos brightness will be always on minimum. Also, like I mentioned above, I've got some strange artifacts in dos games. Later dell with GeForce 4200 doesn't have them. It's strange.