First post, by enaiel
Note: This build started out as DOS/Win98 build to showcase my VIA C3 Nehemiah CPU, but I found it lacking in DOS compared to my Ezra-T. It then evolved into a bog-standard Win98 Tualatin build. Sorry about that!
In 2020, I built an Ezra-T based DOS mATX PC that has been absolutely great for playing DOS games. I wanted to expand on that and build something that would be good for both DOS and Win98. Also, thanks to Vogons, I have acquired a few parts and I needed a system I could test them on, and tinker with. After all, how could I fit in Vogons if I was happy with my build and played games on it all day?
I couldn't find a suitable mATX board that supported ISA, PCI, AGP and Tualatin/Nehemiah, so I settled on an ATX board. The rest of the system was built around that:
- Motherboard: QDI Legend Advance 10T ATX Socket370 [P6V694T/A10T]
- Chipset: VIA PRO133T / 694T [VT82C694T + VT82C686B]
CPU: VIA C3 Nehemiah 1.2GHz 133X9 1.45V [C3-1.2AGHZ]
CPU: Intel Pentium III-S Tualatin 1.266GHz 512/133 [SL6BX]
- CPU: Intel Pentium III-S Tualatin 1.40GHz 512/133 [SL5XL]
- Cooler: StarTech FAN3701U Cooler w/ Copper Heatsink
- PSU: Seasonic 350W ATX12V 80 PLUS [SS-350ET]
RAM: 512MB PC133 133 MHz CL3 SDRAM
- RAM: 512MB PC133 133 MHz CL2 SDRAM
- Video: MSI MS-8894 NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4200 64MB AGP [Ti4200-VTD8X]
Video: BFG NVIDIA GeForce FX5500 256MB PCI [3DFR55256P]
- Video: 3DFX Voodoo 3 3000 16MB PCI
- Audio: PC Speaker (Onboard)
Audio: Sound Blaster VIBRA-16S SB16 w/ OPL3 ISA [CT2800]
- Audio: Sound Blaster Audigy 1 PCI [SB0090]
- Audio: Turtle Beach Montego Aureal Vortex 2 Dell OEM PCI [AU8830]
- MIDI: Roland SoundCanvas SC-50
- FDD: NEC FD1231M 3.5" 1.44 MB
- CD/DVD: NEC ND-1100A DVD-RW 4x
- HDD: SD to IDE Adapter + 64GB MicroSD + Custom 3D printed floppy drive bay from some guy on eBay
- USB: USB 2.0 w/ HD Audio 3.5mm Floppy Bay Front Panel + 3.5-Inch to 5.25-Inch Front Bay Converter
- ZIP: Iomega Zip 250
- Case: HEC 7106BB
- Monitor: DELL 2007FP LCD
- Keyboard: Logitech Y-BE22
- Mouse: Logitech M-BE58
- Joy: Gravis Gamepad
- Joy: Saitek P880 Gamepad
Made a few bad purchases for this build:
- NEC ND-1100A DVD-RW, didn't realize it only supported DVD+R/RW. Thankfully was easily flashed to ND-1300A that adds support for DVD-R/RW.
- Seasonic SS-350FK (Rack Mounted PSU) that was shipped instead of the SS-350SFE (SFX PSU) that was ordered. Had to buy a replacement.
- A proprietary DELL floppy drive by accident. Had to buy a replacement.
- 2 proprietary DELL case fans by accident. Still need to convert the 3-pin connector to standard.
Had some painful moments:
- Breaking the metal shield off the bays in the HEC 7106BB case. But it was the only old-school case still available in my area as new.
- Bending the retaining clip on the StarTech FAN3701U Cooler to fit the Nehemiah. Had to be done, since I could not find a Tualatin cooler online.
- Mapping the non-standard USB headers to the standard 9-pin USB connector using this diagram. But I now have working front-panel USB!
Some comparisons and match-ups (DOS only so far):
- QDI P6V694T/A10T vs MSI MS-6368:
Was expecting the QDI to be better quality than the MSI that's in the Ezra PC, but was surprised on how bendy it was and how tight the ISA and RAM slots were. Setting the BIOS write protection jumper or BIOS setting prevented the BIOS from writing any ESCD configuration changes, causing all kinds of problems. But the most surprising and disappointing part was that the onboard SBPro2 that worked so well on the MSI (same southbridge) was so flaky on the QDI that I ended up disabling it in the BIOS. Many games played only some of the sounds, and some played no sound at all. And this is after disabling everything not needed in the BIOS.
- C3 Nehemiah vs Ezra-T:
The Nehemiah works well with Quake, since unlike the Ezra, the FPU does not run at half-clock. But for everything else in DOS, the Ezra is the clear winner. Many speed sensitive games need a 486DX2-66 or Pentium-90 that the Ezra is perfectly able to achieve using SetMul. The Nehemiah is better at achieving 386 and slower with SetMul, but the best it can do for 486DX2-66 is a fast 386, and the Pentium-90 is only achievable with Throttle. A fast 386 runs 486DX2-66 games like Dark Forces a bit too slowly, and Throttle causes too much stutter in Pentium-90 games like Magic Carpet. The Nehemiah should be a lot more useful in Win98.
- GF4 Ti4200 AGP vs FX5500 PCI:
Both cards are significantly faster than the S3 ViRGE GX in the Ezra PC, with the GF4 Ti4200 being the faster of the two. Both have pretty good compatibility in DOS as well. I got them both for fairly cheap (around $20 each), and the FX5500 was supposed to have been an AGP! Will be interesting to compare them in Win98.
- SB16 CT2800 vs YMF719:
The YMF719 is a well loved card here on Vogons, and has gone up in price to around $30 in my area. On paper it sounds great: bug free MPU, genuine OPL3, SBPro2 support, Waveblaster support. But in practice, I found it too buggy: many applications and games stuttered, or crashed in DOS. I downloaded the OPL3SAX.zip from here and ran the included SETUPSA to configure it. On the other hand, the SB16 CT2800 has been pretty stable, and is actually better than any SBPro2 card for late DOS games. For example, you can only hear the opening voice clearly in Tyrian with a SB16 card. The noise floor of both cards seems pretty even as well, to my ears. The CT2800 is semi-pnp: the base address is set using jumpers on the card, and the rest is configured by simply setting the BLASTER variable and running DIAGNOSE /S. The only downside to the CT2800 is the "hanging-note" bug, that I will have to live with for now. The Audigy is what I had back in 2001, and is in the build purely for Win98.
- Roland SC-50 vs SC-7:
The SC-7 is GM only, and is excellent for DOS games. But when I was listening to my old midi collection, I noticed that many of them actually did a GS Reset and sounded off with the SC-7. So I bought the SC-50, which supports GM and GS. The only difference between this and the SC-55 is the MT-32 patches, and about $50 to $100 in my area. The SC-7 is obviously even more cheaper and is a good gaming only option.
I will provide further updates after installing Win98.