VOGONS


Were VLB video cards ever good?

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First post, by Kahenraz

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I read all about the features of VLB and spot a few video cards on the format. But it seems like video cards for VLB are wholly underwhelming. A quick search on Wikipedia says that both VLB and PCI were released in 1992.

So what's the big deal with VLB? Was it ever good at anything?

Reply 2 of 46, by SodaSuccubus

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My understanding is that PCI wasn't very practical untill later into the Pentium lifecycle. P100/133 years onward. 486 PCI was a bit buggy and of afterthought I guess. VLB filled the gap for most people.

From a performance standpoint, the diffrence between a average-to-good VLB video card and PCI found on late 486 boards is *relatively* minor. 5-10FPS at most from my experience.

Reply 3 of 46, by Baoran

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As far as I know actual pci video cards became popular much later than 1992. It was easier to make vlb video cards than cards using pci bus that was totally different compared to isa. At least I get faster transfer rates with my VLB video cards than with pci video cards when using in a 486 system. I have not seen many motherboard with pci slots before 1995, but many motherboards with VLB slots from 1993-1994.

Personally I would want to use something faster than isa video card with 486 33Mhz and faster cpus because of performance boost you can get in playing something like doom. I suppose there is no point in VLB if you look at things from the future and you have access to pci motherboards and pci video cards since pci cards quickly became the fastest cards from 1995 onward.

Reply 5 of 46, by pentiumspeed

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Not really. ISA and EISA are usually up t0 10MHz which limits the bandwidth.

VLB is just unbuffered 486 pinout at CPU FSB frequency from 16MHz through 40MHz with most compatibility , many overclock to 50MHz but need with care to get that to work well with VLB cards and not all boards can.

There was early low cost 486 processors with 16MHz as I did see the price sheet of all the PC parts at one store I worked with.

Cheers,

Great Northern aka Canada.

Reply 6 of 46, by debs3759

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Kahenraz wrote on 2020-11-12, 01:44:

Were later ISA video cards ever as fast as VLB? Or is VLB consistently better than the best ISA card produced?

A 16-bit card will rarely, if ever, outperform 32-bit.

Reply 7 of 46, by pentiumspeed

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The main issue with ISA-AT is very lightly buffered (just one TTL per one bus signal) serving overloaded bus serving several slots in parallel presents excessive signal load, thereby more and more less compatible when you reach 10MHz. By 12MHz very rare and much less by 16MHz. ISA AT cannot exceed EISA signaling for like clock to clock due to nature of much more wider bus EISA presents.

MCA 32 bits is not same as mentioned above due to design differences and much reliable signaling to allow more than 10MHz, and much developed bus mastering. EISA can transfer so much that as well due to more sophisticated chipsets even at 10MHz but the underpinning is still ISA limits the performance to preserve ISA-AT compatibility, MCA 32 bits can scale up to 80MBps on workstations.

PCI is much more sophisticated and CPU agnostic and runs up to 25-33MHz (standards) but some overclock CPU fsb causes the PCI to run out of spec starting around 40MHz, not all cards works well. At 50MHz much less.

I'm not going into about AGP and PCIe, just suffice that it is beyond the scope of this topic.

Cheers,

Great Northern aka Canada.

Reply 8 of 46, by Intel486dx33

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Yes, going from VGA to SVGA was a BIG improvement in color and graphics and image clarity. But you need too use the SVGA driver for windows 3x.
I remember when I had just an ISA motherboard with an Oaktech VGA card. The graphics where not great.
After upgrading my motherboard to a VLB and adding a SVGA VLB graphics card it made a BIG improvement in MS-Windows 3.11 graphics
So yes, SVGA is a BIG improvement over VGA.

But if you are running Win95 you want to use at least a 5x86 CPU or Pentium , at least 16mb ram and a PCI video card.

Reply 9 of 46, by Grzyb

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Kahenraz wrote on 2020-11-12, 01:44:

Were later ISA video cards ever as fast as VLB? Or is VLB consistently better than the best ISA card produced?

Some VLB cards are dumb framebuffers.
On the other hand, there are ISA cards with 64-bit accelerator chips: ATI Mach64, Cirrus Logic 543x.
So, yes, if you run a benchmark which favours hardware acceleration, ISA may turn out to be faster than VLB.

Reply 10 of 46, by Caluser2000

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Intel486dx33 wrote on 2020-11-12, 04:07:
Yes, going from VGA to SVGA was a BIG improvement in color and graphics and image clarity. But you need too use the SVGA driver […]
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Yes, going from VGA to SVGA was a BIG improvement in color and graphics and image clarity. But you need too use the SVGA driver for windows 3x.
I remember when I had just an ISA motherboard with an Oaktech VGA card. The graphics where not great.
After upgrading my motherboard to a VLB and adding a SVGA VLB graphics card it made a BIG improvement in MS-Windows 3.11 graphics
So yes, SVGA is a BIG improvement over VGA.

But if you are running Win95 you want to use at least a 5x86 CPU or Pentium , at least 16mb ram and a PCI video card.

VGA and SVGA came in ISA format.

There's a glitch in the matrix.

Reply 11 of 46, by Horun

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Going from a early 486 with 16bit ISA video and HD controller to 32bit VLB was a major improvement in speed following IBM's Micro channel. Both VLB and PCI were developed about 1992 but VLB caught on quick for 486 due it being suited for the 486 bus structure. PCI was developed for Pentiums bus structure though some later (1994+) 486 chipsets did support PCI, it was more of a compatibilty thing and not well suited for 486 bus structure like it was for Pentiums.
So Yes ! VLB added to 486 boards was a big deal at that time from 1992 to about 1994 and Yes they do perform much better than their 16bit ISA slot counterparts. If Intel had taken longer to get the Pentiums out VLB would have had an even greater impact on computer history that it currently does.....just my opinion 😀

Hate posting a reply and have to edit it because it made no sense 😁 First computer was an IBM 3270 workstation with CGA monitor. 🤣 Second computer a 286 12Mhz with real IDE drive ! After that came 386, 486, Pentium, P.Pro and everything after....

Reply 12 of 46, by Anonymous Coward

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When is isa ever faster than vlb?

VLB and other local busses were a tremendous improvement over isa.
Differences between local bus cards are usually minor under dos, unless you had a Weitek p9x00. Windows was another story, especially if you needed 24 bit in resolutions higher than 640x480. Vogons is a game oriented site, so people here usually don t care much about acellerator cards.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium

Reply 13 of 46, by Baoran

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Basically I can put the fastest isa card I have into a super socket 550Mhz system and I can put my fastest VLB card into a 133Mhz 486 system and the 486 beats the super socket 7 system in the dos doom or pcpbench benchmarks easily. I assume even 66Mhz and 100Mhz 486 systems would also beat the super socket 7 system that would have an isa card even if I have not tried that.

Reply 14 of 46, by Cyberdyne

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There are even 386 and Pentium VESA boards, but it was meat to go and shine with a 486 or a POD. And even cheap Cirrus and S3 and even Trident boards will run your DooM just fine.

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 15 of 46, by Baoran

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Cyberdyne wrote on 2020-11-12, 06:00:

There are even 386 and Pentium VESA boards, but it was meat to go and shine with a 486 or a POD. And even cheap Cirrus and S3 and even Trident boards will run your DooM just fine.

Even my 486 33Mhz with vlb card runs doom fine at around 14-15fps while if I used same vlb card with 66Mhz 486 it would run it at around 25fps and with 100Mhz 486 with samer vlb card it would max out the 35fps while with fastest isa card and 550Mhz cpu you can't really get above 20fps in my experience. 486 33Mhz is at the limit where you can start seeing the advantage of a vlb card when I can perhaps get 2fps more in doom with my vlb card compared to a fast ISA card.

Reply 16 of 46, by kixs

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Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-11-12, 04:36:

When is isa ever faster than vlb?

VLB and other local busses were a tremendous improvement over isa.
Differences between local bus cards are usually minor under dos, unless you had a Weitek p9x00. Windows was another story, especially if you needed 24 bit in resolutions higher than 640x480. Vogons is a game oriented site, so people here usually don t care much about acellerator cards.

Can't agree with that 🤣

When talking performance/benchmarks only hardware matters.

Last edited by Stiletto on 2020-11-12, 17:39. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 17 of 46, by dionb

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kixs wrote on 2020-11-12, 08:05:

[...]

Can't agree with that 🤣

When talking performance/benchmarks only hardware matters.

Er, if that were the case we'd all be flying Concorde and Betamax would have won the home video wars, not to mention the fact that we certainly wouldn't all be using x86 or ARM hardware in 2020.

Yes, hardware is vital, but only if it supports your killer app. There were far more capable 3D accelerators out there than 3DFx's Voodoo in the mid 1990s, but they were too expensive and/or made for non-PC platforms (SGI...) so it was the less capable 3DFx that actually helped you play Quake at a price you could afford that won out.

Same with VLB cards: the cards that perform best in DOS games are actually some of the most primitive designs out there, lacking all but the most basic acceleration features of their more advanced counterparts. There's far more advanced hardware out there, capable of much higher performance - but that added functionality simply isn't supported in our games so it is wasted or even reduces performance (S3 9xx-range vs 8xx-range). If it were about the hardware, we'd test with the software that best shows off that hardware, i.e. in AutoCAD or Windows 3.x (or indeed 95) benchmarks, and then things like the Weitek 9000 and Appian AGC 98032 would leave our beloved ET4000 and 90C33-based cards behind in the dust.

But it's not just about hardware, it's about applications, so we choose the cards that are fastest in our preferred application instead.

Reply 19 of 46, by yawetaG

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kixs wrote on 2020-11-12, 11:55:

All I said I don't agree with the "Vogons is for gamers". Maybe it is so, but I only play with hardware/benchmarks... 😉

Then you probably bolded the wrong bit in the quote in your post, because right now the bolded bit is about accelerator cards...

And in that case the reactions are justified, because VLB acceleration in Windows was never game-oriented, but Windows GDI and specific software packages such as CAD software.