VOGONS


First post, by havli

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It seems that I actually enjoy more the process of building the retro PC than playing games on it. 😁 So this time i will make a build log and will add fresh info as the project goes by.

The purpose of this machine is to play late DOS and early windows 9x games - both with and without 3D acceleration. The important points for me are good performance, perfect compatibility of sound and video system. And also compact size and quiet operation, which is the reason I am designing the case myself.

The specs are not set in stone yet, but will be along these lines.

  • PIII 700 (allows 466 - 866 MHz range if needed)
  • 256 - 512 MB PC133 SDRAM
  • MSI MS-6168 (i440ZX)
  • Voodoo3 2000 Onboard 8MB SGR
  • ESS Solo-1 + DreamBlaster X2
  • Crucial BX500 120 GB + generic IDE->SATA adapter
  • Intel Pro/100 LAN
  • Custom case - 3D printed
  • PicoPSU
  • Windows 98SE

PIII Coppermine, Intel 440 chipset and Voodoo3 all classic hardware for this purpose, good performance and compatibility is almost guaranteed. I am lucky to have the MSI MS-6168 board, which packs all the good stuff on relatively small space. While it also has somewhat good onboard sound, I prefer to use dedicated audio card with wavetable addon. This board has one ISA slot but to my surprise ESS 1868F doesn't work as good as the ESS Solo-1 PCI. So, Solo it is 😀

The only downside of this onboard V3 is the limited memory to 8 MB. I know MS-6168 exists in 16MB variants too, but it is impossible to get. Anyway this is not the rig to run demanding games, so 8 MB should be just enough. Also I think This onboard V3 is in fact more like Velocity 100 - with one TMU disabled. But it should be easy to enable again in the registry.

I might even consider adding Voodoo Graphics for those few DOS glide games. But first I must check for possible conflicts with the onboard V3. I know for instance that V4/5 + V2 works perfectly... but V3 + V2 doesn't.

Perios correctness is not my thing so using SSD is very convenient way to get best possible speed and perfect silence. Not so mention less weight and space compared to classic 3.5" HDD. PicoPSU (or some chinese clone of it) should be perfectly fine for this build performance-wise and also will help me to make the case a bit amaller.

That is all for today. I'll add some news once I make progress. 😀

HW museum.cz - my collection of PC hardware

Reply 1 of 11, by Joseph_Joestar

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havli wrote on 2021-11-26, 19:13:

This board has one ISA slot but to my surprise ESS 1868F doesn't work as good as the ESS Solo-1 PCI.

This got me intrigued.

Can you elaborate on the problems that you encountered with the 1868F? And how was the Solo-1 better in that regard?

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 Gold / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 2 of 11, by havli

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Well, there are more things. Nothing really major, but why not use the best... 😀

1. The Solo had slightly less noise. At least that is what I heard.
2. The 1868F needs to use the mixer application in order to get maximum volume (the same level as the Solo has by default).
3. There was one game, where sound didn't work with the 1868F. Perhaps Stargunner, but I don't remember exactly.

HW museum.cz - my collection of PC hardware

Reply 3 of 11, by Almoststew1990

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I have a very similar M-ATX 440ZX board. It also has an on-board ESS Solo 1 and it's a really good all-rounder board with AGP and ISA. The Solo 1 sounds very, very good in DOS, especially for a PCI solution. Unfortunately with Slot 1 CPU prices not going down anytime soon I'm stuck with a 450MHz P3! I typically pair it with an AGP MX4 card. I like small builds so I can't see myself getting rid of it any time soon...

Edit it's an AOpen MX6B EZ

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | AMD 6800XT | 2Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
AMD DX2-80 | 16MB RAM | STB LIghtspeed 128 | AWE32 CT3910
I have a vacancy for a main Windows 98 PC

Reply 5 of 11, by havli

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Almoststew1990 wrote on 2021-11-26, 19:47:

Edit it's an AOpen MX6B EZ

Oh, that is a nice board.

---------
There is no AGP slot on this board, but I could Add V4 PCI and V2. 😁

HW museum.cz - my collection of PC hardware

Reply 6 of 11, by MN_Moody

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havli wrote on 2021-11-26, 19:28:
Well, there are more things. Nothing really major, but why not use the best... :) […]
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Well, there are more things. Nothing really major, but why not use the best... 😀

1. The Solo had slightly less noise. At least that is what I heard.
2. The 1868F needs to use the mixer application in order to get maximum volume (the same level as the Solo has by default).
3. There was one game, where sound didn't work with the 1868F. Perhaps Stargunner, but I don't remember exactly.

Most of those single chip ISA cards have a pair of jumpers to flip from speaker/amplified output (default) to line level, which should greatly reduce noise. You should also disable unused inputs (Mic/Line-In) on both cards if you aren't using those connections for anything. There is nothing wrong with using the mixer to get the volume levels to match, it's entirely possible that the Solo defaults to maximum output level while the 1868f card has a more conservative starting point, particularly if you are using Unisound to initialize the card.

What does your SET BLASTER statement look like, curious about Stargunner's audio not working with the ISA card installed.

Reply 7 of 11, by havli

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Oh yes, I am aware of the amplifier - I noticed the noise even with the amplifier disabled. Line in and mic were left at default settings in both cases. Disabling them sound like a good idea, I'll try that.

I am not sure how SET BLASTER was configured at the time. It was two months ago. But every other game ran well (doom, doom2, wolfenstein 3d, duke nukem 3d, etc). So it couldn't be that wrong. Maybe I'll give the 1868F another try at some point just out of curiosity. Anyway, the Solo when running in DDMA mode is hard to beat.

HW museum.cz - my collection of PC hardware

Reply 8 of 11, by havli

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Hello again, It took longer than expected, but I finally made some progress. 😀

I actually have more of these boards and decided to use this one. Is is the later V2 type with color I/O ports and empty spot for TV-OUT... that I don't need anyway. The important thing here is the missing heatsink on the V3 chip. I want to use my own bigger passive heatsink and removing the original glued one is risky... here someone did it for me years ago 😁 More on that later.

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As the first move I had to replace the dead capacitors. Most boards of this era are plagued by that and MS-6168 is no exception.

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It took some work, but I replaced all the bigger ones. I guess Hitano is not that great brand, but for occasional use it should be more than enough.

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Before the board wouldn't even POST, it was completely dead. Now it showed some signs of life on the POST card... but not enough to run properly. After replacing the PIII 700 for Celeron 266, I got no VGA beeps. Ugh, having a board with non-working Voodoo3 is not that great. However, I remember it worked when I bought the board like 10 years ago.

Long story short - the BIOS was likely corrupted. I took the BIOS chip from another MS-6168 and all good now. This is just temporary measure, later I will try to reflash the original chip or replace it by some spare one.

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HW museum.cz - my collection of PC hardware

Reply 9 of 11, by Thermalwrong

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Definitely put a cooler on that V3 chip!

I did a similar project a couple of years ago - put an MS6168 into an Avance H100 half-height MATX case with a Katmai P3-550 and a YMF719 ISA soundcard with a 3d printed bracket (I was just cutting my teeth on 3d printing at the time, that was fun)

Reply 10 of 11, by havli

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It is already in place 😀

It took some minor adjustments to the heatsink to fit - it is very close to the CPU and there is not much space around.
It seems even with no airflow at all temperatures of CPU and GPU are acceptable (around 70°C). So inside the case with proper airflow, it should decrease to much more comfortable level.

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HW museum.cz - my collection of PC hardware

Reply 11 of 11, by moog

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Interesting build! Do you also get those pesky div0s in Stargunner? I would like to see those fixed someday 😀

Epox D3VA, 2x Tualatin-S, 2x Connectland northbridge heatsinks, 4x512MB SDRAM PC133 CL2, SanDisk 32GB CF 160/120MB/s R/W, Plextor PX-800A, Voodoo 5500 AGP, Voodoo 1 4MB, SB AWE64 Gold, D-Link DGE 528T rev B