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Why an EISA 486?

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First post, by 2Mourty

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I have an opportunity to purchase and AMI Enterprise-IV 4 motherboard. It is a socket 2 motherboard 4 EISA slots and 2VLB slots. From the few things I have read on this site about EISA people seem to have a favorable opinion of it.

What is the advantage of an EISA board. I have a decent 486 PCI setup is their an advantage to switching over to EISA? Thank you for the time.

Reply 2 of 38, by Anonymous Coward

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I saw that enterprise IV on ebay. It looks like a pretty nice board. AMI is pretty much cream of the crop for quality.

But the previous poster is right, you have *almost* nothing to gain unless you have EISA cards. That being said, EISA SCSI controllers and network adapters are pretty easy to come by. What makes EISA so attractive to me on a 486 is that it is really the only option for 32-bit expansion cards if you want stability and bus mastering. (MCA is a good bus too, but way too proprietary for practical use).

VLB works quite well for graphics adapters as they do not really require bus mastering (at least that is my understanding). This makes it somewhat unsuitable for high end hard disk controllers. However, you can somewhat get around these limitations by using a caching controller with lots of RAM. The other major drawback of VLB is that it is usually poorly implemented, causing potential compatibility problems and interference which can lead to data corruption. For all practical purposes, you can have no more than 2 VLB cards in a machine at a time.

PCI when used on a Pentium is a great 32-bus, but not so much on 486 systems. PCI came on the scene pretty late in the 486 game, so most efforts at producing a good PCI 486 system were half-assed at best. For the most part its bandwidth is severely limited, and I'm not sure that bus mastering really works at all (at least it the majority of cases). The main attraction of having PCI on a 486 is that you have an excellent selection of late model graphics adapters to choose from.

If all you want to do is enjoy classic DOS games, then EISA is not worth considering. If you are trying to build the ultimate 486 and really like playing around with old hardware, EISA is definitely worth exploring.

"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 3 of 38, by 2Mourty

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Thank you for the responses. I think I will buy this to play with and get a eisa scsi controller to go with it. I love tinkering and I really would like a HIGH quality 486 motherboard. I have some wierd off brand one right now and it is a bit quirky.

I have a few vlb video cards I can use with this including an s3 928 chipset vlb video card. I know an et4000 would be a great vlb video card, is there any other ones that are nice and fast that I should keep a look out for?

Reply 4 of 38, by HunterZ

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I remember wishing I had bought a PCI motherboard for my 486DX4-120 instead of a VLB one. Even with a decent VLB video card (don't remember which now) I wasn't able to play DirectX 3.0 games in Win95 worth a damn. Specifically, Dink Smallwood was an unplayable slideshow and Jedi Knight was barely playable even at 320x200. I think the CPU was as much a limiter for JK though. I was able to run most DOS games at 640x480 as well.

Reply 5 of 38, by 2Mourty

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I do know that the pentium overdrive 83 mhz processor makes a big difference with jedi knight. With that cpu in my board jedi knight was quite playable and then just for kicks and giggles I threw in my monster 3d 3dx card and i was running the game in 800x600 on a 486 motherboard, it was fun!

I just don't know much about vesa local bus video cards.

Reply 6 of 38, by fillosaurus

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Your S3 is a decent board. I have one myself, a SPEA/V7 S3 928 with 2 Mb. Not so fast as a Tseng ET4000 VLB, but compatible with every game I tried on it. Cirrus Logic VLB cards are a good choice too.
Stay away from Trident; they have good compatibility, but are slow.
I know nothing about ATI VLB, since I did not messed with one.

Voodoo box: Celeron 800 MHz, 512 Mb SDRAM, Voodoo 3 3000 AGP, 80 Gig Seagate, Yamaha OPL3 SAx 718+NEC XR 385, SoundBlaster Live!, NEC USB 2.0 PCI card.
WIP: external midi module based on NEC wavetable (Yamaha clone); VLB 486

Reply 7 of 38, by 2Mourty

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Well, short update on this 486 project which due to life was left on the back-burner for a while. I just purchased these tWo cards for this rig

BusLogic BT-757C EISA SCSI 2 Host Adapter Floppy Cntrl (320730803166)

and

Diamond Stealth 64 2Meg VLB
http://www.ebay.com/itm/260836875374?ssPageNa … #ht_1843wt_1095

I have my POD 83 in the box and I finally have some ram of the right density being delivered in the next few days. When it is up and running I will post some pictures.

Also I just won this auction for a Gainberry 486 Maximizer CPU Upgrade http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem … 3#ht_500wt_1110

From what I could see this is the Cyrix 5x86 120 chip upgrade. It will be fun to plug this in and see how much better it performs than the POD 83.

Reply 8 of 38, by swaaye

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HunterZ wrote:

I remember wishing I had bought a PCI motherboard for my 486DX4-120 instead of a VLB one. Even with a decent VLB video card (don't remember which now) I wasn't able to play DirectX 3.0 games in Win95 worth a damn. Specifically, Dink Smallwood was an unplayable slideshow and Jedi Knight was barely playable even at 320x200. I think the CPU was as much a limiter for JK though. I was able to run most DOS games at 640x480 as well.

Yeah it was more the CPU that was your problem. PCI is best left to Pentiums because of the horrid quality of 486 PCI chipsets and boards. Although really the early Pentium boards were not so hot either.

Reply 9 of 38, by HunterZ

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swaaye wrote:
HunterZ wrote:

I remember wishing I had bought a PCI motherboard for my 486DX4-120 instead of a VLB one. Even with a decent VLB video card (don't remember which now) I wasn't able to play DirectX 3.0 games in Win95 worth a damn. Specifically, Dink Smallwood was an unplayable slideshow and Jedi Knight was barely playable even at 320x200. I think the CPU was as much a limiter for JK though. I was able to run most DOS games at 640x480 as well.

Yeah it was more the CPU that was your problem. PCI is best left to Pentiums because of the horrid quality of 486 PCI chipsets and boards. Although really the early Pentium boards were not so hot either.

Yeah, I do recall that Quake 1 was just barely playable (12-15 FPS maybe?) in pure DOS as well, although Daggerfall thankfully ran a little bit better.

It amazes me how fast these games can now run in DOSBox on modern PCs. This is probably why I've not missed retro hardware so much (other than MIDI synthesizers I suppose, if only because they aren't all perfectly emulated yet) 😀

Reply 10 of 38, by feipoa

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A few users commented that PCI wasn't well implemented on the 486 (socket 3) platform. While this may be true for some 1994-1995 era boards, there are a few in late 1995 and 1996 that perform quite reliably, even on the fastest cache/RAM settings.

Please refer to the World's Fastest 486 and the Ultimate 486 Benchmark Comparison for two such examples. There are undoubtedly more out there. I formed a list at one point, but it seems to have slipped away from me.

As for EISA, if it has a VLB port, this may turn out to be a fast system. If you can find a reliable 4MB VLB video card, an Ultra SCSI EISA and a 10/100 EISA ethernet adapter that would be even better. Maybe it'll be a good match for the World's Fastest 486? Does it have PS/2 mouse port and will it run with a Cyrix 5x86 or AMD X5-160 under the hood?

I recently ran across someone running a Pentium-233MMX. The useability of that machine in W2K felt significantly slower than my 486 in NT4.

Ultimate 486 Benchmark | Ultimate 686 Benchmark | Cyrix 5x86 Enhancements | 486 Overkill Graphics | Worlds Fastest 486

Reply 11 of 38, by 2Mourty

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For the video card I got a VLB card with an s3 864 chip on it. It only has 2mb of ram for now, but when I have the time I will find expansion chips for it to get it up to at least 4mb.

It does have an PS/2 mouse port though I will need to find a connctor for it. I'll show you the pin lay out in another post.

Last time I looked at the manual I believe it says I can put a cyrix 5x86 or x5-160 in it. I need to find that manual! We just moved and unpacking is a female dog. 😊

I have it set up with a POD 83 right now, BUT I have had the good fortune to get my hands on a cyrix 5x86 120! I am really eager to test it. Now if I could only get a fabled cyrix 5x85 133.

Anyways I should be able to post a few pictures by Saturday.

Reply 12 of 38, by Anonymous Coward

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Which motherboard are you using by the way?

"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 14 of 38, by Amigaz

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2Mourty wrote:

The motherboard is an AMI Enterprise-IV.

"We want pics" 😁

What chipset is it using? SiS?

Found some crappy pics on the net of the mobo, it looks to be made around 1993-94 judging by the 72p simm slots..it's not often you see an Eisa mobo with 72p simm slots only

My retro computer stuff: https://lychee.jjserver.net/#16136303902327

Reply 15 of 38, by Anonymous Coward

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I don't know. AIR made a pretty nice VL-EISA board with only 72-pin slots. I believe it was the 486EI. I would have preferred that, as 64mb 72pin SIMMs are easier to find than 16mb 30 pin.

"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 16 of 38, by GL1zdA

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Amigaz wrote:
"We want pics" :happyhappy: […]
Show full quote
2Mourty wrote:

The motherboard is an AMI Enterprise-IV.

"We want pics" 😁

What chipset is it using? SiS?

Found some crappy pics on the net of the mobo, it looks to be made around 1993-94 judging by the 72p simm slots..it's not often you see an Eisa mobo with 72p simm slots only

I think it's basically like the Enterprise III but with 72 pin slots.

getquake.gif | InfoWorld/PC Magazine Indices

Reply 17 of 38, by DonutKing

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Amigaz wrote:

Found some crappy pics on the net of the mobo, it looks to be made around 1993-94 judging by the 72p simm slots..it's not often you see an Eisa mobo with 72p simm slots only

I had a HOT-407 EISA board with only 72 pin slots.

Reply 18 of 38, by 2Mourty

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Sorry guys, I was sick in bed with the flue all weekend, so I wasn't working on anything. I will try and at least get a photo of motherboard posted by tommorrow.

Reply 19 of 38, by 2Mourty

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Here are the promised pictures. 😅 Sorry about the quality. I had to use my crappy camera phone because after the move my good digital camera is currently missing in action.

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  • 017.jpg
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    Motherboard Shot
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  • 018.jpg
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    Video Card Shot
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  • 019.jpg
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    Shot of the PS2 connector, looks like a usb connector on a modern motherboard.
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    and here is the default color scheme.
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    The bios has a funny setting to change color schemes. Here is a fairly normal color scheme.....
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