First post, by Joseph_Joestar
- Athlon 64 3400+ (NewCastle core)
- Asus K8V-MX (VIA K8M800 Socket754)
- 2GB Kingston DDR400
- Leadtek GeForce FX 5900XT
- Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum (SB0090 + SB0010)
- Kingston 120GB SSD (Windows ME + Security Update 2004)
- SanDisk 240GB SSD (Windows XP + SP3)
- Lite-On 16x DVD-ROM
- Sony 3.5" floppy drive
- Seasonic S12 III 650W PSU
- Chieftec tower case
- Samsung SyncMaster S24B420BW 24" LCD monitor (1920x1200 native resolution)
- Logitech X-530 Surround Sound Speakers (5.1 system)
I had a spare Socket754 motherboard left over from when I purchased a lot of random components. After watching some of Phil's videos, I wanted to see if I could use this board to make a powerful but fairly quiet Win9x gaming rig. For this purpose, it was imperative to avoid mechanical hard drives, old PSUs, noisy CPU/GPU/chipset fans and so on. In the end, I think I mostly succeeded and I'm quite pleased with the end result.
This Athlon 64 3400+ CPU is pretty nice for Win9x gaming and provides excellent performance even in the most demanding titles. Cooling is handled by Deepcool Ice Edge Mini FS V2.0 which keeps temperatures below 50C even under full load. This cooler is definitively quieter than period correct Athlon 64 cooling solutions, and it's more efficient as well. I've also installed a 120mm exhaust fan at the back of the case to further help with the airflow.
While building this system, I initially encountered an obscure problem with this motherboard. For some reason, GPU performance under Win9x was only half of what I was getting under WinXP. With the kind help of some folks here, I was able to narrow down the issue to the BIOS. It seems that only the oldest BIOS for this motherboard (v0112) works properly under Win9x, so that's the version which I ended up flashing. On the upside, this board uses the VT8237R Plus southbridge. The "plus" is the important bit here, as that revision appears to have fixed an incompatibility with SATA3 drives which the original release suffered from. I did have to set the SATA controller to RAID mode in order for WinME to boot from it, but that appears to be somewhat common with SATA implementations from that time.
This Leadtek GeForce FX 5900XT is a slightly overpowered GPU for Win9x gaming. It allows me to run most games released up to 2002 using the 1600x1200 resolution at 60+ FPS, as long as Anti Aliasing is kept to a minimum, while Anisotropic Filtering can be safely set to 8x. I'm using the 45.23 driver (forced install) since that version appears to give me the best compatibility with older games. The stock cooler does a fairly decent job and isn't too noisy even at full load. To be extra safe, I mounted a 92mm intake fan on the side panel of the case, so that it blows cool air directly at the GPU, keeping temperatures down to a minimum.
The Audigy1 works well as a Win9x sound card. It has excellent EAX capabilities, fairly clean output and can use VxD drivers which are more compatible with older titles. I've hooked it up to my Logitech X-530 5.1 speaker system, and surround sound works properly in Win9x games which support it (e.g. in Unreal Tournament, Thief 2 and Deus Ex). Under WinME, I'm using the Audigy2 ZS drivers as per this guide of mine. For WinXP, I simply install DanielK's Audigy support pack. The LiveDrive front panel allows me to easily output SPDIF digital audio (either via RCA or optical) which is great for making pristine recordings. I also like the dedicated headphone jack which has a physical volume knob beside it. Lastly, it's very important to mute any unused inputs on this card (e.g. Microphone, TAD, etc.) in order to minimize noise.
On this machine, I use two separate drives with two operating systems and select which one I want to run from the BIOS boot menu. The two systems are fully independent, so if I need to reinstall WinME for some reason, WinXP will be completely unaffected. Under WinME, I use RLoew's PATCHMEM which allows that OS to properly use more than 512MB RAM. There isn't much benefit in having that much RAM for Win9x gaming, but the patch is still needed because WinME will not boot correctly on this system otherwise.
Windows XP (with SP3) is my other operating system and I mostly use it for maintenance purposes on this rig. However, it's also useful for the few specific games which have problems on newer hardware, such as Splinter Cell. Obviously, there are unofficial fixes for those games which take care of most of the issues. However, I prefer to play my games stock, which is why it's nice to have a system that's capable of it.
While I'm very happy with this build, it was a bit of a hassle to get everything to work together nicely. I think it was worth it though, as you'll see from the benchmarks below. It's a quiet and fast system which covers most of my Win9x gaming needs.