Best 386 Motherboard?

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Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Jupiter-18 » 2016-8-06 @ 22:36

Greetings!
Since my Super Socket 7 build is taking off (I'll begin ordering parts in a day or two), I thought I'd start looking toward my next build. It will either be an XP machine on an AMD Athlon XP or dual MP, or a Win3.1 machine running on a Cyrix Cx486DRx2/Ti 486SXL2.
For the 386 machine, I am looking for a board with VESA Local bus slots, onboard cache, and sockets for both the 386 processor and the i387 Math Coprocessor, if possible. Unsure about how you build a 386 pc, since there are so few connectors on the motherboard. Graphics? Hard drive? Sound is easy.
Again, my CPU will be the Cyrix Cx486DRx2/Ti 486SXL2 with an Intel i387 Math Coprocessor running Win3.1.
Thanks!
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby nforce4max » 2016-8-06 @ 22:51

You better have deep pockets for this build as the cost at first looks to be deceptive until it comes time to get certain choice parts like that DRx2 and a proper sound card (not the pleb stuff most of us are using these days). You are better off just buying a cheap DLC and a Cyrix Fast math as they are good together without wasting huge amounts of money. As for the board you will end up looking for a Hybrid 386/486 board but you can't just yolo this either or you will end up paying out the ass to a reseller at two or three hundred percent of what it is worth easily. The intel i387 doesn't look to be a great choice and there is better out there but they are more expensive, harder to find, and run hotter like the iit 4c87dlc 40 but as usual Europe has the prices inflated up to $55 a pop. As for the ram just stick to 1mb and 4mb 30 pin simms, don't bother with paying extra for a VLB I/O controller as most are not very fast to begin with.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Jupiter-18 » 2016-8-06 @ 22:56

Just because, what was the best math coprocessor for the 386 era? I HOPE to use the DRx2, but a 486DLC would be ok.
What are some common 486/386 boards of that era?
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby nforce4max » 2016-8-06 @ 23:00

I just told you lol, as for the boards you will have to search through until you spot one as most are not named unlike other boards.

If you want to try your luck you can try looking for a 33mhz weitek 3167 and hope that it copes with 40mhz the only catch it uses a different socket. http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/3167/
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby gdjacobs » 2016-8-06 @ 23:15

Weitek is not for standard floating point. It only works in specialized applications, usually CAD.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby luckybob » 2016-8-06 @ 23:31

I've seen it on the internet, that the best 387 is the cyrix fastmath http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/80387/Cyr ... -40GP.html

The best 386 board is "technically" a 486. It is not worth the time and effort to build one. Instead just get a nice working 40mhz board. If you need a faster system, you can always build a proper 486.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby brostenen » 2016-8-06 @ 23:40

This is my 386 board. Not fast, nor slow for that matter. It is faster than my 286 8/10mhz machine,
and I have a 486dx33 and a 5x86-133 if I want to run faster than the 386.
So my answer to you'r 386 build, is to start building with some mid-range stuff, then get some 486
if you want a faster machine. Like a 486dx2-66/80mhz.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Anonymous Coward » 2016-8-07 @ 02:07

Cyrix Fasmath is tecnically the fastest, but the intel 387 really isn't that bad. Intel updated the 387 core in the 33MHz model with enhancements similar to Cyrix, IIT and ULSI. Intel didn't make a 40MHz model however. The later versions of any of the 387 FPUs should be just fine.

There really isn't such a thing as the best or perfect motherboard. It all depends on what you want. Some of the older chipsets had better DRAM performance, but the later ones had much better cache controllers. Later boards also have support for 486DLC and other 486 type features. In my opinion, it's nice to have a 386 board that can accept 256k cache if possible, but it will only help you if you plan to run more than 8MB of DRAM.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Jupiter-18 » 2016-8-07 @ 16:49

I am for sure going to look for a later 386 board with a cache and VLB slots. What were some popular chipsets for later boards? I know ALi and VIA are good choices, but are there any others I should look for?
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby brostenen » 2016-8-07 @ 17:42

Don't eat stuff off a 15 year old never cleaned cpu cooler.
Those cakes make you sick I tell.... (never tried though)

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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Jupiter-18 » 2016-8-07 @ 17:51

Nice! VLB slots no less!
Are VLB slots good to have in a 386 machine? They are faster than standard ISA, but do many cards use them, like high-end graphics cards?
How do graphics work on a 386, by the way? Sound is easy, and graphics I suppose are easy too, but I know very little about ISA GPUs. Also, there seem to be very few ports and connectors on 386 boards. How do you connect things like power, hard disks, Floppy drives, disc drives, and external peripherals?
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby brostenen » 2016-8-07 @ 18:15

Well..... Basically there are only the difference in the bus. If you look closer, there are differences, like you can load univesa drivers and such.
All in all, there are not really that many differences as such. Connect the stuff, install drivers and use it.
For a more in dept knowledge of ISA/VLB cards, then search Vogons for Univbe and look in Vogons drivers for drivers.

VLB was a really shortlived bus, and the PCI actually replaced it relatively fast. Some 386 boards have VLB, though it was mostly in use, in between the 486dx2-66 and 486dx4-100 line of CPU's. The golden years were around when dx2-66 and dx2-80 were standard CPU's.

The reason for few connectors, were that stuff were connected to expansion cards. Computers were more modular back then.
After 1995 stuff began to get integrated onto motherrboards. Personally I like the old way of modulair stuff.
It gives me more freedom, sadly at the cost of performance and more expensive builds.

The one that I have posted a link for, have power connector. The connector is two plugs, usually called P8 and P9.
When connecting them, you have to remember to connect them with black wires facing black wires.
If not, you will fry or burn the motherboard. For everything else, you need an expansion card on that motherboard.
Don't eat stuff off a 15 year old never cleaned cpu cooler.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby kixs » 2016-8-07 @ 18:17

That board is actually based on 386SX. It has 486slc variant from IBM. It's highly advanced board for 486slc. But in short: this isn't a true 386.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby jesolo » 2016-8-07 @ 22:57

If you want to use a Cyrix based CPU in a 386 motherboard, try and find one that supports the onboard level 1 cache in the BIOS (otherwise, you will have to use the Cyrix software to enable it).
Unfortunately, I cannot really comment on what would be regarded as the best 386 motherboard, but I have two (386DX only) motherboards that seem to have worked fine for me.

  1. The first one is an Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) FA386 motherboard with the UMC UM82C481BF & UM82C482AF chipsets.
    This motherboard works very nice with both an AMD 386DX 40 MHz CPU and a Cyrix 486DLC 40 MHz CPU in conjuction with a Cyrix 87DLC-40GP FasMath coprocessor.
    This motherboard's BIOS supports the CPU's onboard level 1 cache with no problems.
    I initially struggled a bit to find a manual for this motherboard, but after an extensive search, managed to find the motherboard settings in some "PC Engineer's Reference Book".
  2. The second one is a Chicony CH-386-33H/40H motherboard with the UMC UM82C481A & UM82C482AF chipsets (not too sure which of the former chipsets are the latest between the two motherboards).
    This motherboard also works very nice with the two CPU's mentioned in my first point and the BIOS also supports the Cyrix 486 DLC's onboard cache.
    However, the only problem I initially ran into was when I first installed the Cyrix 486 DLC. The PC wouldn't boot up properly, until I went into the BIOS and loaded the BIOS setup defaults, saved and restarted.

Regarding hybrid 3/486 motherboards:
My very first PC (a 486DLC) came with a hybrid 3/486 motherboard (a Jetway brand), utilising the OPTI 495XLC chipset.
Despite later on swopping the CPU out for an Intel 486DX 33 MHz, I could never get a Vesa Local Bus graphics adaptor to work properly on this motherboard.
Unfortunately, the motherboards' BIOS died a couple of years ago and I've recently been looking out for a replacement BIOS.

A couple of months ago, I came across another hybrid 3/486 motherboard (a Dataexpert EXP3406) also utilising an OPTI 495XLC chipset.
I've recently been running some benchmark tests on this motherboard, using AMD 386DX 40 MHz, Cyrix 486DLC 40 MHz, Intel 486DX 33MHz and Intel 486DX2 66 MH CPU's.

Although I'm still conducing benchmark tests, my Cyrix 486DLC 40 MHz runs marginally faster (by using NSSI 0.60 & Landmark Speedtest 2.0) in my "standard" 386 motherboards, compared to the hybrid 3/486 motherboards. BIOS settings between the two were the same, but I suspect it's the UMC chipsets that are slightly faster.

However, my experience has been that the Vesa Local Bus slots don't work properly on either of my two 3/486 hybrid motherboards - I tried two different Vesa Local Bus graphics cards on the EXP3406 and the motherboard just gives me a graphics card beep error code every time (i.e., it cannot "find" the graphics cards).

ISA graphics card performance (on the EXP3406) has also been disappointing with my ET4000AX card, since with Landmark's Speedtest 2.0 it caps out at around 3810 chr/ms (by comparsion, it runs at 5120 chr/ms on my "standard" 386 motherboards). This has also come through on the Doom benchmark test, with almost 1 frame per second difference between the two.

As already stated, you are going to spend a fortune on a Cx486DRx2/Ti 486SXL2. For much cheaper, you can just as well then get yourself an Intel 486DX2 66 MHz on a 486 based PCI or, if you really like, VLB motherboard. Most Vesa Local Bus motherboards I've come across still requires expansion cards, while most PCI 486 motherboards have integrated controllers onboard.

If you want to go with a 386 build, then go for either an AMD 386DX 40 MHz or a Cyrix 486DLC 40 Mhz on a standard 386 motherboard. From what I've heard, the Vesal Local Bus performance on a 386DX (if you can get it to work) wouldn't make a much of a difference, since you are limited by the speed of the CPU anyway.

However, once you start moving onto a Cyrix 486DLC 40 MHz, then you are already moving into 486DX 33 MHz territory and you then need to ask yourself whether you're not better off with a 486DX 33 MHz on a 486 motherboard.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Jupiter-18 » 2016-8-08 @ 01:57

I see.
The only 486SXL2's I could find on ebay are both $119.95 - that is a lot. I think I will probably look to the Ti 486SXL/Cx486DLC.
Is VLB worth it for graphics?
I might look for a board with a Weitek 3167 socket, just because they are esoteric and cool, but I'd start with a Fastmath. Would a fastmath fit in a 3167 socket?
For ISA graphics, what were the top cards for the late 386 era?
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby kixs » 2016-8-08 @ 03:03

Top is most probably a card with Cirrus Logic 5434 chipset and 2MB ram. As usual Tseng ET4000 is also very good.
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby jesolo » 2016-8-08 @ 12:22

Jupiter-18 wrote:I see.
The only 486SXL2's I could find on ebay are both $119.95 - that is a lot. I think I will probably look to the Ti 486SXL/Cx486DLC.
Is VLB worth it for graphics?
I might look for a board with a Weitek 3167 socket, just because they are esoteric and cool, but I'd start with a Fastmath. Would a fastmath fit in a 3167 socket?
For ISA graphics, what were the top cards for the late 386 era?

I think you'll have more luck in finding a TX or TI 486DLC as opposed to a Ti 486SXL. The former are basically just clones of the Cyrix DLC CPU's with also 1 KB of L1 cache. The SXL CPU's have 8 KB of L1 cache onboard.

From what I've quickly read, a FasMath should fit into a Weitek slot, but it's dependent on motherboard and BIOS - refer this page for more information: http://www.cpu-collection.de/?tn=0&l0=c ... l2=386+FPU.
Most 386 (DX based) motherboard's I've come across only has the standard 68-pin math co-processor socket and not the 121 pin EMC socket.

Having a math co-processor on any 386 or 486 (although all DX based 486 CPU's had them integrated) is useless from a gaming perspective, since there are practically no games that utilizes a math co-processor from that era.
It's only when you start moving onto games that were developed for Pentium class CPU's that math co-processors became an important factor (Quake being one of the first examples I can think of).
So, unless you can pick up one for a bargain, you'll just be wasting your money on something that is plugged into your motherboard, serving no purpose (unless you plan on running some CAD programs and Excel spreadsheets :lol: ).
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby snorg » 2016-8-08 @ 15:06

jesolo wrote:
Jupiter-18 wrote:I see.
The only 486SXL2's I could find on ebay are both $119.95 - that is a lot. I think I will probably look to the Ti 486SXL/Cx486DLC.
Is VLB worth it for graphics?
I might look for a board with a Weitek 3167 socket, just because they are esoteric and cool, but I'd start with a Fastmath. Would a fastmath fit in a 3167 socket?
For ISA graphics, what were the top cards for the late 386 era?

I think you'll have more luck in finding a TX or TI 486DLC as opposed to a Ti 486SXL. The former are basically just clones of the Cyrix DLC CPU's with also 1 KB of L1 cache. The SXL CPU's have 8 KB of L1 cache onboard.

From what I've quickly read, a FasMath should fit into a Weitek slot, but it's dependent on motherboard and BIOS - refer this page for more information: http://www.cpu-collection.de/?tn=0&l0=c ... l2=386+FPU.
Most 386 (DX based) motherboard's I've come across only has the standard 68-pin math co-processor socket and not the 121 pin EMC socket.

Having a math co-processor on any 386 or 486 (although all DX based 486 CPU's had them integrated) is useless from a gaming perspective, since there are practically no games that utilizes a math co-processor from that era.
It's only when you start moving onto games that were developed for Pentium class CPU's that math co-processors became an important factor (Quake being one of the first examples I can think of).
So, unless you can pick up one for a bargain, you'll just be wasting your money on something that is plugged into your motherboard, serving no purpose (unless you plan on running some CAD programs and Excel spreadsheets :lol: ).


Seconded. Unless you are a vintage computer enthusiast that also likes mucking about with vintage computer graphics software (which back in the day was limited to 3D Studio for DOS...at $3,000 they were the "OMG so cheap!" competitor to SGIs which were a minimum $10,000-$50,000 for the workstation and another $10,000-$50,000 in software) then there is little point in having a math coprocessor, unless you happen to see one for cheap. Falcon 3.0 is the only game I know of that uses one. Fractint and Povray (freeware ray-tracer) will also make use of one.
So, if you are a 3d graphics hobbyist also and want to cut those times down from days to hours for something that would literally take seconds to do on any modern system, by all means get the math coprocessor :)
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby nforce4max » 2016-8-08 @ 15:56

snorg wrote:
jesolo wrote:
Jupiter-18 wrote:I see.
The only 486SXL2's I could find on ebay are both $119.95 - that is a lot. I think I will probably look to the Ti 486SXL/Cx486DLC.
Is VLB worth it for graphics?
I might look for a board with a Weitek 3167 socket, just because they are esoteric and cool, but I'd start with a Fastmath. Would a fastmath fit in a 3167 socket?
For ISA graphics, what were the top cards for the late 386 era?

I think you'll have more luck in finding a TX or TI 486DLC as opposed to a Ti 486SXL. The former are basically just clones of the Cyrix DLC CPU's with also 1 KB of L1 cache. The SXL CPU's have 8 KB of L1 cache onboard.

From what I've quickly read, a FasMath should fit into a Weitek slot, but it's dependent on motherboard and BIOS - refer this page for more information: http://www.cpu-collection.de/?tn=0&l0=c ... l2=386+FPU.
Most 386 (DX based) motherboard's I've come across only has the standard 68-pin math co-processor socket and not the 121 pin EMC socket.

Having a math co-processor on any 386 or 486 (although all DX based 486 CPU's had them integrated) is useless from a gaming perspective, since there are practically no games that utilizes a math co-processor from that era.
It's only when you start moving onto games that were developed for Pentium class CPU's that math co-processors became an important factor (Quake being one of the first examples I can think of).
So, unless you can pick up one for a bargain, you'll just be wasting your money on something that is plugged into your motherboard, serving no purpose (unless you plan on running some CAD programs and Excel spreadsheets :lol: ).


Seconded. Unless you are a vintage computer enthusiast that also likes mucking about with vintage computer graphics software (which back in the day was limited to 3D Studio for DOS...at $3,000 they were the "OMG so cheap!" competitor to SGIs which were a minimum $10,000-$50,000 for the workstation and another $10,000-$50,000 in software) then there is little point in having a math coprocessor, unless you happen to see one for cheap. Falcon 3.0 is the only game I know of that uses one. Fractint and Povray (freeware ray-tracer) will also make use of one.
So, if you are a 3d graphics hobbyist also and want to cut those times down from days to hours for something that would literally take seconds to do on any modern system, by all means get the math coprocessor :)


That is the reason why some of us call it the "fap unit".
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Re: Best 386 Motherboard?

Postby Jupiter-18 » 2016-8-08 @ 18:34

I guess you could say I am a retro computer masochist. The more difficult hardware and software configuration there is, the happier I am. Thus, I am going to find a Weitek board!
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