VOGONS


First post, by megatron-uk

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I had a 386SX-40 for a brief time in the early 90's, after moving on my mainstay of a 286-16, but very quickly upgraded to a 486DX2-50. As a result, my experience of the 386 era was pretty short lived, so I wanted to build a system that I would have ideally had instead of that cheap SX-40. Something that would have lasted a good few years, until the DX2-66 or DX4 had become mainstream.

So, I've acquired the following parts to build it:

- FIC 386SC Symphony Haydn m/board with (15ns) 256KB cache
- 16MB of (60ns) 4MB SIMMs
- Am386DXL-40 / Tx486DLC-40
- Cx87DLC-40 (the very late, tiny little qfp chip on a pga carrier)
- CL-GD5428 1MB
- SB16 CT2290
- 3Com 3C509-TP with XT-IDE ROM
- Midiman MM401
- Acer M5105 multi-IO
- Mini tower case
- Modern ATX PSU

In terms of IO, I'll be using a 64GB Sandisk Extreme CF (via a Startech bay adapter) and Zip 250 on the IDE bus, with a 3.5" 1.4MB and 5.25" 1.2MB drives (if I can find a spare of the latter type) .

I have all the parts already and am in the process of refurbing the case I just picked up:

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The chassis section of the case had a few bits of corrosion, so I had to sort those out first:

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I've also given it a coat of paint resembling a galvanised finish:

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Last edited by megatron-uk on 2021-05-08, 15:16. Edited 1 time in total.

My collection database and technical wiki:
https://www.target-earth.net

Reply 1 of 10, by megatron-uk

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The front panel is actually in pretty good shape, mainly dirt and not much in the way of scuffs or scrapes....

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Nothing a bit of soap and water and a little application of a magic eraser couldn't improve:

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Also gave the metal case a respray in Plastikote RAL9010 White (satin finish), which improved things no-end:

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However.

The dilemma is that even with the cleaned front panel, the difference between the two colours is pretty stark:

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My headache now is whether to paint the case again, in something much darker, or paint the front panel in the same shade of RAL9010.... but it's in such a nice condition apart from one side edge which is yellowed (and I would lose all of the lettering for the indicators and switches) that I'm really reluctant to go that route.

My collection database and technical wiki:
https://www.target-earth.net

Reply 2 of 10, by Intel486dx33

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What do you know of this chip company “Symphony”.
I use this chip company motherboard in my 486 too.
Its is labeled made in “USA”
It is a very reliable motherboard I have a few of them.
But I don’t know mush about this company or its musical note logo.

Reply 4 of 10, by Anonymous Coward

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Symphony was a pretty short lived company (came and went in the early 90s), but apparently their 386 and 486 chipsets were pretty good. They also developed an EISA chipset and their own 387 math coprocessor clone before they were scooped up by VIA. In my opinion, those two products were pretty ambitious for such a small company.
I'd be really curious to know more about their history and their engineering team. I believe it was a Chinese-American company based out of California.

"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 6 of 10, by badmojo

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Painting is a good option and I've done it on things like a C64 case that doesn't have any printed text on it, but yeah it would be a last resort to me if original lettering would be lost.

I've had good results with retro brighting bezels like that - heaps of vids online these days which explain how to do it. Might be worth a shot before painting?

Life? Don't talk to me about life.

Reply 7 of 10, by megatron-uk

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Well after a few rounds of benchmarking this system both in 386DX-40 and 486DLC-40 guises, I can say that it's a very good performer - up there with the best of the 386 boards.

Looking at "Phil's Ultimate VGA Benchmark" spreadsheet, the top performing 386 boards are all Forex designs, which I found are very quick, but seem to self-destruct (I have one with no visible or obvious damage and it just refuses to POST - seems a common story with them).

Anyway, the top 3DBench scores for stock clockspeed 386DX-40 systems hovers around the 17.4-17.5fps mark (the fastest scores being with a CL-GD5429, rather than the conventional ET4000AX).

This board benches at 17.2fps, so there's almost nothing in it.

Changing to the Ti486DLC-40, and again using that spreadsheet, the fastest boards are Opti-495SLC chipset based, turning in scores of 23.2-25.9fps.

This board benches at 23.8fps, so it's right up there.

Of course, that spreadsheet is a few years old now, so there may be some differences based on later testing, but it does seem like this Symphony chipset performs very well.

Once I've finished all the variations of testing I'll stick them up here, but other than some hiccups running the VGA test on CheckIt at a 13MHz ISA clock (and that's only with a Cirrus card, with Trident and Tseng cards it's flawless at that bus clock), it seems to run perfectly.

My collection database and technical wiki:
https://www.target-earth.net

Reply 8 of 10, by megatron-uk

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badmojo wrote on 2021-05-12, 04:13:

Painting is a good option and I've done it on things like a C64 case that doesn't have any printed text on it, but yeah it would be a last resort to me if original lettering would be lost.

I've had good results with retro brighting bezels like that - heaps of vids online these days which explain how to do it. Might be worth a shot before painting?

I got another shade of white delivered yesterday - RAL1013 "Oyster White" ... I've given the case a spray in it, and whilst you can clearly see the front panel has faded, this shade has a much creamier tint and it's nowhere near as stark as the original paint code I tried. I'm much happier with it.

My collection database and technical wiki:
https://www.target-earth.net

Reply 9 of 10, by megatron-uk

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Almost finished with this build now, just putting the finishing touches together; modded a DS1287 RTC this evening and fitted a Zip 250 ATAPI drive. All working nicely.

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The case paint is a much better match to the slightly yellowed front. I'm quite happy with it - it's only when you look at the top and right edge of the front bezel that you can tell it's quite a bit darker; the front and left side of the bezel is really quite good:

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... it's that edge that spoils it. But, I decided not to redo the entire front panel just for that top edge.

On the technical side of things I'm pleased to report that this chipset is a pretty fantastic performer. Everything I've thrown at it confirms it's pretty much battling with the top 1 or 2 performing 386DX boards. This Symphony Haydn chipset might be fairly unknown but it deserves serious recognition.

Current setup is:

Texas Instruments Tx486DLC-40
Cyrix cx87DLC-40QP FPU
8x 1MB 70ns RAM
256KB 15ns cache
Novatech 400W modular ATX PSU

Cards:
- PS/2 Mouse ISA card from Rio444
- Acer M5105 multi-IO
- 3Com 3C509B with XT-IDE ROM
- Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428 1MB VGA
- Music Quest Midiman MM401
- Sound Blaster 16 CT2770

IO:
- 3.5" Mitsumi 1.44MB FDD
- Iomega Zip 250 ATAPI
- Sandisk Ultra 16GB CF via Startech 3.5" bay adapter (single 16GB partition using Win98SE / DOS 7.1)

Gaming benchmarks:

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I have a couple of things left planned:

1. Source a suitable heatsink for the DLC CPU - man, that thing gets hot!

2. Build up an MT32-pi installation to fit in the remaining 5.25" drive bay - I've got a spare Pi 3, a couple of 20x2 LCD screens, rotary controller and a spare old Roland USB / MIDI interface, so it should be everything I need. It's a question of building it tidy enough to look good.

My collection database and technical wiki:
https://www.target-earth.net