First post, by Captain Catnip
this is a question or topic so many have already asked themselves and I've read as much as I can about it - here and in other places. But it's a subjective question, since everybody has different connections and memories to certain time frames, hardware or games. So in hope that it's still okay for another one to post this kind of thing and hopefully also picked the right section, here we go:
I started with building old hardware just some months ago but still had some stuff laying around anyways. The '90s stuff is mostly gone though. I currently have the following:
A build and in case, working Pentium 1 Socket 7 ASUS TX4P with a variety of stuff to put in. Currently configured as a 233 MMX with 64MB, S3 Virge and a 12MB Voodoo 2. I also have a pentium 75, 133 and 200 MMX available.
A build and in case, working AMD Turion with somewhere beyond the 2.5 GHz mark and a board for AMDs Athlon XP. Aditionally to that, there's all kinds of RAM from the '80s until now available for building and two modern computers in form of an i5 and a R5 3600.
Other than these older parts it's a big jump after some PCI cards like S3 Virge, S3 Trio64, Voodoo2, Rage II, Mach64. I have some AGP cards at hand (the TX4P is PCI and ISA only) like an Elsa Gladiac 32MB, TNT2, Matrox G55 and Millenium G450, Geforce 7300GS, GeForce MX440SE-V64, Radeon 9550, 9600 and a weird R92LE 128MB.
CPUs at hand are the mentioned ones but also Pentium 60 SX835, a Dual Core, a couple P4s, Athlon 64, 486DX2, a bunch of AMD Athlon XP, i486 SX419, K5 100 and a ST6x86P166+.
So why did I just give you a long, boring list of hardware that everybody has seen a billion times?
I wanted to show what I have at hand and now what I want to actually do and how useful all these things are for that.
My main enjoyment from retro computers comes from a few things: building and fiddling, learning and improving. Playing games of my childhood, a bit of collecting and comparing.
I mainly want to build for the following period and games:
Early to late '90s, not really much into the early 2000s. Stuff like Dark Sun, Duke Nukem 3D, Heroes of Might and Magic III, World of Xeen, Warcraft I & II, C&C when it was still good, Sim Farm, Tyrian, Raptor, Ultima VII, Unreal, Half Life, Shadow Warrior, Sim City 2000, GTA 1, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, Lands of Lore, Lucas Arts Point and Click adventures, Realms of Arkania 1-3 (Das Schwarze Auge), Heretic, Hexen I & II, NFS 2SE & 3 and most likely stuff I forgot now.
From what I gathered, these fall into three categories:
Early '90s DOS in 2D: 386 to 486, maybe slow Pentiums? Pentiums are already too fast for this
Mid '90s to 97ish 2D to software 3D: Pentium (kind of what I have)
Late '90s to early 2000 3D accelerated: ?
My problem here is, that I find the Pentium, that I have, a bit overpowered for early '90s and too weak for real 3D stuff like Half Life or Unreal, it also feels sluggish in Heroes III for some reason. My test run with an Athlon XP shows that the Mid to late '90s and onwards also work on that rig, so why even have the Pentium? Wouldn't a 486 board with good Turbo function (mhhh, Turbo button and display) and a variety of Socket 3 CPUs paired with a more powerful Pentium 3 or 4 with an ISA slot and Voodoo and something powerful make for a better choice?
I like the Pentium and it's fun fiddling with it. It's an all '90s build complete with the right CRT, speakers, keyboard and mouse. My thought is just that a good, late 486 board with PCI gives more room with the early '90s to maybe 95 96 with the turbo and variety of CPUs than the Pentium, so it's more compatible, not too fast and it has the Turbo button. It was also my first step into building, as before I only had a C64.
Can a Pentium 3 or 4 with ISA handle anything from the mid '90s to early 2000s if it's not too overpowered or are there speed and compatibility issues? I'm thinking of using Win 98SE for everything, maybe pure DOS on a 486.
I hope my thoughts make somewhat sense and that you fine people can give me food for thoughts and some insights, reports of experiences, example builds or stuff you decided on.
Pentium 233 MMX / ASUS TX4P / 64MB / S3 Virge 4MB | Diamond Monster 3D II 12MB / SB16 CT2290
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 / MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon Wifi / 32GB DDR4-3200 / Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB / 1TB NVMe4 PCIe 4.0 M.2