First post, by Gered
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.
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:
OS: MS-DOS 6.22, Windows 3.1
CPU: Intel 80486 DX2 SX911 66Mhz
Motherboard: FIC 486-PVT, 256KB L2 Cache
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
^ 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:
* 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):
| 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:
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!