My 486 DX2 Build

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My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-12-03 @ 05:01

Thought I would share the 486 DX2 system I've been building over the past several months. It's basically finished now, I don't think there's anything else I will be changing in it unless I run into problems with any components. Feels pretty satisfying now that I've finished it actually. I ended up acquiring all the parts one or two at a time since the summer. Would've definitely been cheaper to have bought a pre-built PC from eBay or some other place, but I doubt very much that I would've got the same enjoyment from that.

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The hardest part to get for me was definitely this particular style baby AT case. From what I gather, it was pretty common back then. Certainly my family's 386 PC was also in this style (though without an LED speed display) and that's the primary reason why I wanted this case for this build. Plus it feels ridiculously satisfying to power on the PC with this style power switch, haha. The "clunk" sound is great. Anyway, for whatever reason though I had a lot of trouble finding one of these cases. Eventually picked one up for not-cheap via eBay but it arrived broken. Luckily the seller was willing to send me a replacement and that replacement happened to be the same style case! *Phew*...

Oh and regarding my use of the fake floppy 3.5" bay cover... actually that was not part of the original plan but I noticed the sizing of things with this case is ever so slightly different such that the normal 3.5" bay covers I have don't fit. D'oh! So I was forced to use the fake floppy cover that this case came with. Now that it's been there for a little while it's kind of growing on me strangely enough. Kind of a reminder of some of the silly things that they were doing in this era of computing. ;)

I suppose there's nothing super unique about my build versus any other DX2 system you've ever seen, but meh. :) Here is what's inside:

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OS: MS-DOS 6.22, Windows 3.1
CPU: Intel 80486 DX2 SX911 66Mhz
Motherboard: FIC 486-PVT, 256KB L2 Cache
RAM: 16MB
I/O Controller: Promise Technology 560C PDC20630, VLB
Graphics: S3 Trio32 2MB, VLB
Network: 3Com 3C509B-TPC
Sound: Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 CT2600 and Gravis Ultrasound Classic 3.74 1MB
Hard Disk: Quantum Maverick ProDrive 540MB 3600RPM MV54A011
Floppy Drive: 3.5" 1.44MB Sony MPF920-E and 5.25" 1.2MB Teac FD-55GFR
CD-ROM: Torisan 6x CDR-S16
Power: Athena Power AP-AT30 300W

Image Image

^ Not too happy with my cabling / wiring. Heh. Probably will take a second try at it soon, but unfortunately with these things there's sometimes only so much you can do. *shrug*

A DX2 66Mhz processor is of course a very common choice for people who choose to build a 486 PC. For my it definitely is synonymous with "486 PC" so I decided to go with it. I definitely do think it's a solid choice. :) In the future I imagine I will probably play around with a DX4 in this build, but we'll see how it goes. Since I'm primarily using DOS with this PC, 16MB of RAM is of course plenty.

Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 and Gravis Ultrasound both cover basically all of my audio needs just fine. I think it would be nice to get something like a SC-55 at some point down the road, but I'm in no rush. I never had 'nor heard a Gravis Ultrasound back then so it's a new thing to me now in this build but so far in every game I've tried it with I've just loved the difference it makes versus the Sound Blaster. Not that the Sound Blaster is "bad" mind you... far from it! Just that it's a nice change. Right now I'm able to use them both easily enough as I've got them chained together via the line in's.

I had some issues last week with the hard disk and/or I/O controller. Not sure exactly what was going on, but it appears to be "solved" at least for now. After running without any problems for a couple months I suddenly started noticing that the BIOS would sometimes fail to recognize the hard disk on bootup. I initially thought that the hard disk was dead or dieing but after swapping in another disk, a different I/O card and eventually trying different IDE cables and still being unable to solve the problem I decided to try swapping the IDE devices over to the ISA bus. This has so far solved the issue, but I am still a little bit baffled as to why this problem would just suddenly come up. Still something to keep an eye on anyway and investigate further...

I have a few VLB graphics cards and ended up benchmarking them with this system. The S3 Trio32 that I ended up going with was the fastest overall by a very small margin. Plus I don't see too many other people using a Trio32 VLB in their builds so it also feels pretty unique to me as well. :)

The other cards I benchmarked were:

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* S3 805 VLB, 1MB
* Cirrus Logic GD-5429 VLB, 2MB
* Trident TGUI9400CXi VLB, 2MB

The results weren't too surprising as you can probably imagine (all results are FPS):

Code: Select all
            |   3DBench   | Chris's 3D Benchmark | PC Player Benchmark |     Doom    | Quake |
            | 1.0  | 1.0c |  320x240  | 640x480  |  320x240 | 640x480  | min. | max. |       |
------------|------|------|-----------|----------|----------|----------|------|------|-------|
S3 Trio32   | 50.0 | 48.2 |   31.4    |  9.1     |   9.6    |  3.8     | 69.9 | 26.1 |  6.9  |
S3 805      | 50.0 | 48.2 |   27.5    |  6.9     |   9.3    |  3.5     | 67.8 | 26.2 |  6.8  |
CL GD5429   | 47.6 | 46.6 |   28.4    |  8.8     |   9.3    |  3.6     | 69.9 | 26.0 |  6.8  |
TGUI9400CXi | 43.4 | 42.3 |   26.4    |  8.2     |   9.2    |  3.7     | 67.8 | 23.4 |  6.7  |


Probably would've been more interesting to compare results in Windows. Also unfortunately I do not currently have any ISA graphics cards to compare with either (obviously VLB would be faster though).


And Speedsys results:

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Quite happy overall. :)

Aside from games, the primary use of this computer is old-school DOS coding. Not much to say on that topic yet, but I've some projects in the works, probably will share here on Vogons later when I have something demo-able.

Thanks for reading!
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Robert B » 2017-12-03 @ 08:01

Congrats! Well written and executed. I would've probably taken the time to do some Wire Management but this look is Era Period Correct :D

I really like the case!
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby keropi » 2017-12-03 @ 10:21

Nicely done! Kudos!
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby amadeus777999 » 2017-12-03 @ 16:14

Looking forward to your projects and the tools used.
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby firage » 2017-12-03 @ 16:23

Looking good! Nice work.
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby oeuvre » 2017-12-04 @ 01:12

Awesome! Always liked those cases
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby probnot » 2017-12-04 @ 01:45

When I think "classic 486" that's the case that comes to mind. Nice and compact, but sports that cheesy cheap mid-90's style. Very nice!

I have nearly that exact case with a 386 in it at the moment (different power button though). It also has that awful fake 3.5" cover that no one likes :)
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby clueless1 » 2017-12-04 @ 02:07

Well written...great job on that system, man. I'm jealous, I haven't found a nice case like that yet for my 486. But I also haven't been willing to spend much on it either, so that's probably why. ;)
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby SW-SSG » 2017-12-04 @ 02:53

Nice build and writeup!
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby jheronimus » 2017-12-04 @ 10:54

Yess, that's an awesome case. I recently got one like that, too:

Image

I'm waiting for an Intel DX4 to arrive this week, then I'll probably give my AOpen VI15G board another try.
Socket 7: Pentium 166; 64MB RAM; Matrox Millenium+Voodoo 1; AWE32 PnP w/28MB + GUS PnP Pro w/8MB
Socket 370: Pentium III 1000; 256MB RAM; Voodoo 5 5500 AGP; Diamond Monster Sound MX300 + SoundBlaster Live!
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-12-04 @ 11:56

Thanks everyone. :) All the love for this style case and I'm starting to see a part of why it was harder to find, haha.

clueless1 wrote:I'm jealous, I haven't found a nice case like that yet for my 486. But I also haven't been willing to spend much on it either, so that's probably why. ;)


Yeah, I hear you! I definitely overpaid for mine. But I keep telling myself that it was "the" case for this build -- at least to me -- so I shouldn't worry about it.

probnot wrote:When I think "classic 486" that's the case that comes to mind. Nice and compact, but sports that cheesy cheap mid-90's style. Very nice!

I have nearly that exact case with a 386 in it at the moment (different power button though). It also has that awful fake 3.5" cover that no one likes :)


Nice case! I dunno what it is about it, but I love the "Canadian Computer Group" 5.25" bay cover, haha.



But yeah, next thing I've been thinking about for this system is that since I'm using it split 50/50 for games and coding I think it would be nice to get some MDA graphics card. Some developers back in the day would put an extra monochrome card in their system and hook a second monitor up to it. Since the video memory for text monochrome is completely separate from the normal VGA memory, it makes it perfect for putting up debug info. In fact, the IDE I'm using at the moment (RHIDE with DJGPP) specifically supports this when debugging code, leaving your program on the main screen, moving the IDE to the monochrome screen.

Not in any particular rush for this though. I still gotta investigate what my options are for a display. Not a huge fan of the idea of getting some old monochrome CRT or whatever with the DB9 connector. The VGA converter options seem a bit pricey for what is admittedly just a small convenience (currently), but it would allow me to use another display I have on hand that is far less bulky.

Still need to mull over it some more I guess. ;)
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby probnot » 2017-12-05 @ 02:55

I don't mean to hijack, but do you have a photo of the jumper setting for your front panel LEDs? Mine always shows this, no matter what jumpers I install (even with NO jumpers). I've just been leaving it unplugged, but it would be nice to have at least one computer with a MHz readout..

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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby jheronimus » 2017-12-05 @ 07:36

It should be S-501, I have that model in both two and three digit versions. Here is the jumper diagram.
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-12-05 @ 17:50

The one I have is a S-510A-1. I wasn't able to find an exact match for the jumper layout diagram and really I just found the right jumper configuration through trial and error.

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It's the one on the right. The way the jumpers are configured in that photo makes it show "40" which is how it was configured when I got it originally. I had to change only a few jumpers to get it to show "66" from that configuration. I'm at work right now so cannot get a photo of the way I currently have it set (the above photo is one I took before I changed anything with either of them so I had a reference), but I feel like you should easily be able to get it from here if yours is the same as mine.

However, the fact that you're unable to get yours to show anything else at all regardless of the jumper configuration you set is a bit worrying. Sounds like something else could be wrong with it? Might possibly be the same issue as with the one shown on the left of the photo I took above. That one, with no jumpers installed, shows "88" by default (how it is configured in that photo it also shows "40" just like the other one), but it appears to have some dead segments on the display, so it is missing a few always regardless of what I do (which is a shame as I'd use it otherwise... it has the ability to show a different value based on the turbo switch setting EDIT: I guess the one I'm using does this too! I think I missed that in the S-501 jumper diagram already linked, will have to try). It's possible that yours has a lot more dead segments maybe ... ?
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Anonymous Coward » 2017-12-07 @ 12:15

Hmm...I'm really interested in DOS benchmarks for your Trio32 VLB. I wonder what kind of meaningful tests could be done. I'd especially like to compare against a Trio64.
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby chinny22 » 2017-12-07 @ 12:56

Real nice system, GUS and VLB separates it from the average 486 though.
I also like the fake FDD cover! I kept one from a horrible case I thew out years ago, would love to use it but it doesn't fit any of my existing cases naturally.

probnot, I'd still leave the display turned on, looks kinda cool if you ask me, like a logo or something (having the speed would be better though)
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-12-08 @ 00:02

Anonymous Coward wrote:Hmm...I'm really interested in DOS benchmarks for your Trio32 VLB. I wonder what kind of meaningful tests could be done. I'd especially like to compare against a Trio64.


If you have any ideas for benchmarks aside from what I already posted from Phil's DOS benchmarks, I'd be happy to run them.
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Flakchak » 2017-12-12 @ 21:57

probnot wrote:When I think "classic 486" that's the case that comes to mind. Nice and compact, but sports that cheesy cheap mid-90's style. Very nice!

I have nearly that exact case with a 386 in it at the moment (different power button though). It also has that awful fake 3.5" cover that no one likes :)
Image


What!? I love the fake 3.5" drive covers. I have a black AT tower that has them. It's the same case found on Movesurplus.com.

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I was able to find a beige and black (2 separate switches) rocker switch on eBay to turn the thing on. But then, I needed a new AT power supply to attach to that rocker switch.

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I have yet to put anything in that case, so in the mean time, it waits. But I do love AT cases.

My search continues for a small beige AT tower with rocker switch and mhz readout like this:

Image

Unfortunately, Movesurplus.com is dead.
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby probnot » 2017-12-12 @ 23:42

Flakchak wrote:Image

A black AT style case? Without all the round mushiness of most ATX cases? AND a MHz display? Pure sex!

I remember seeing an Acer (I think) desktop sometime around the pentium 1, maybe 486 time period that was this dark green colour. Super cool, never seen anything close to it since. I think it was also the first time I ever saw an Acer branded PC.

Gered wrote:The one I have is a S-510A-1. I wasn't able to find an exact match for the jumper layout diagram and really I just found the right jumper configuration through trial and error.

No go...I think I'm going to have to take mine apart to see what's borked in it.

Anonymous Coward wrote:probnot, I'd still leave the display turned on, looks kinda cool if you ask me, like a logo or something (having the speed would be better though)

Plan B :)
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Re: My 486 DX2 Build

Postby Gered » 2017-12-13 @ 00:41

Oh man, black AT case :D. I had no idea that was a thing. Very nice!
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