VOGONS


First post, by feipoa

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As I have now finally completed setting up my 3 ultimate PCI-based 486 systems, I will be moving on. It took many years to fully optimise these systems. My next task is daunting - a fully optimised 386 with Ti486SXL. I have 5 or 6 different 386 boards to commence this journey with, various hi-end ISA graphic cards, boards needing a custom PS/2 mouse implementation, etc...

But before moving onto 386 optimisation, I thought I would undertake a system a bit more straight forward and in direct line with my obsessive interests - a Cyrix 5x86 running at 266 MHz. I will be using one of the better socket7gxm boards, an ECS P5GX-M. It has 2 PCI and 2 ISA slots. I've already confirmed that the onboard video and sound are fairly junky, so I will not be using them. Phil's site has a nice photo of the board here, http://www.philscomputerlab.com/cyrix-mediagx-cx5530.html

The Cyrix Media GXM-266 is from approx. mid-1999, a time when PII's and early PIII's were fairly mainstream. While the GXM-266 has an equivalent FPU of a P133 and ALU of a P166, I would like to see how far I can stretch its capabilities with the help of GPU 3D acceleration. I am looking for opinions and first hand experiences with PCI graphic cards on the MediaGX platform.

As has been noted with running more modern graphic cards on a 486, even with graphics cards which are severely CPU limited, the right graphic card/driver combination can turn an unplayable game into a playable one. A noteable example was running GLQuake with a MatroxG200 at only 15 fps compared to 28 fps with a GeForce2 MX400.

The target is demanding DOS 3D games as well as Windows 3D games, spanning a time-frame of 1995-1999. These are the PCI cards I have to consider which are not in a case:

ATI Rage 128 VR
ATI Rage 128 Pro
NVIDIA RIVA TNT (Creative)
NVIDIA RIVA TNT (Diamond V550)
NVIDIA TNT2 M64
NVIDIA GeForce 6200
Matrox Millennium G200
Matrox Millennium G450
Matrox Parhelia 256 PCI
3DLabs Permedia2
3DLabs Oxygen VX1
3dfx Voodoo Banshee
S3 Trio3D 4 MB

As for the 2nd PCI slot, I will either use an ATA controller, or use an NIC. I did find working UDMA drivers for this board, but I need to benchmark it still. I plan to make this a tri-boot system, with Win98SE, NT4, and W2K. 256 MB SDRAM.

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Last edited by feipoa on 2015-02-07, 07:50. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 2 of 25, by elianda

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Well if the performance is as you wrote, then the Banshee would be a good choice too. Reasons are the same as leileilol already stated.

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Reply 4 of 25, by elianda

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Hmm where is a PCI based Nvidia card more compatible than a 3dfx card with the late 2D core (Banshee+) ?
From my practical experience I can not find much difference.

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Reply 6 of 25, by feipoa

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I am using an LCD.

It seems 3dfx cards are favoured. Are there not many D3D and OpenGL games from the '95-'99 era which would take advantage of the ATI Rage 128, TNT2, GeForce 6200, or Matrox G450 compared to the Banshee. Aren't all these cards faster than a Banshee?

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Reply 7 of 25, by elianda

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According to 3D acceleration, D3D and full OpenGL draws more CPU power than Glide.

What advantage do you have in mind?
TnL? Games that use TnL probably need as requirement a much stronger CPU. You may try Quake3 as reference low end TnL game, but it will most likely crawl with the MediaGX.
Rage128? Maybe games with direct support have an advantage, but doesn't those games support glide too?
TNT2 with 32 bit rendering? Looks probably nicer than Glide but D3D will eat your CPU power.
G450 the same.

In case of doubt, try it.

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Reply 8 of 25, by idspispopd

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Sure those card are faster than a Banshee, but in your case the CPU will be the bottleneck anyway, except with very high resolutions.
3dfx cards have lower CPU driver overhead than most other cards, especially with games that can use MiniGL or Glide. Also, 3dfx are only slightly slower in PCI vs. AGP, whereas TNT(+) and Rage 128(+) suffer a bigger hit.
I would definitely stay away from newer cards like Geforce 6200 and Parhelia, those will have a much higher driver overhead, especially on such an old/slow CPU. Permedia2 is also reported to have a high driver overhead (and much slower than Banshee anyway, roughly Voodoo1 level). Matrox cards have high overhead at least in OpenGL.
Trio3D: I'm not sure if you're joking - you do know how slow that chip is, right?
Can't say anything about Oxygen VX1, but it's drivers surely won't be optimized for games, and since it's not mainstream games probably won't have good compatibility with it.

@elianda:
glQuake and Quake2 should already profit from TnL. That feature was usable from OpenGL before DirectX 7 came out. Just see the results for glQuake on a 486 with a GF2MX on top (which would be a good choice here, too).
Rage 128: What direct support? ATI CIF is only supported on Rage I/II/Pro. But I agree that most games that support ATI CIF will also support Glide (although they might not be compatible with Banshee). Vetz lists only two exclusives here: 3D Accelerated Games List (Proprietary APIs - No 3DFX/Direct3D)

Reply 9 of 25, by feipoa

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idspispopd wrote:

Sure those card are faster than a Banshee, but in your case the CPU will be the bottleneck anyway

I have noticed that even with bottlenecked CPU configurations, increasing the graphic card technology did increase game performance, e.g. Banshee vs. Voodoo3.

idspispopd wrote:

3dfx cards have lower CPU driver overhead than most other cards, especially with games that can use MiniGL or Glide.

I did notice that the GeForce2 MX400, when playing GLQuake on a 486, outperformed the Voodoo3 3000, which suggests that the CPU draw of glide vs. OpenGL does have a graphic card dependency. There is also a very strong performance dependency on driver revision, especially when using motherboard/CPU combinations of this vintage. It would be interesting to find another steller GPU performer on Cyrix 5x86-class hardware, such as the MediaGX, that can surpass the results of the Voodoo3 (besides the GeForce2, that is).

idspispopd wrote:

glQuake and Quake2 should already profit from TnL. That feature was usable from OpenGL before DirectX 7 came out

I am using DirectX6. Will upgrading to DirectX7 show any improvement? What about incompatibilities or slow downs with older DX3-6 titles?

elianda wrote:

What advantage do you have in mind?

Faster frame rates with whatever technology a different graphic card or driver revision brings to the table.

elianda wrote:

In case of doubt, try it.

You know I will. When using more modern graphic cards on such old CPU technology, you are very often at the mercy of some older driver revision. While one graphic card may be theoretically faster than another card for whatever reason, if the driver doesn't support the target hardware, it doesn't matter. I am most likely going to try the Banshee first, then the G450, GeForce6200, then the TNT2 (if it doesn't work, the Diamond TNT1), then the Rage 128 Pro (if it doesn't work, the 128 VR).

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Reply 10 of 25, by idspispopd

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feipoa wrote:
I did notice that the GeForce2 MX400, when playing GLQuake on a 486, outperformed the Voodoo3 3000, which suggests that the CPU […]
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idspispopd wrote:

3dfx cards have lower CPU driver overhead than most other cards, especially with games that can use MiniGL or Glide.

I did notice that the GeForce2 MX400, when playing GLQuake on a 486, outperformed the Voodoo3 3000, which suggests that the CPU draw of glide vs. OpenGL does have a graphic card dependency. There is also a very strong performance dependency on driver revision, especially when using motherboard/CPU combinations of this vintage. It would be interesting to find another steller GPU performer on Cyrix 5x86-class hardware, such as the MediaGX, that can surpass the results of the Voodoo3 (besides the GeForce2, that is).

idspispopd wrote:

glQuake and Quake2 should already profit from TnL. That feature was usable from OpenGL before DirectX 7 came out

I am using DirectX6. Will upgrading to DirectX7 show any improvement? What about incompatibilities or slow downs with older DX3-6 titles?

OK, these points go together. Upgrading to DirectX7 is not enough, the game needs to *use* the DirectX7 API. A game written for DirectX6 doesn't magically use TnL when you install DirectX7.
With OpenGL it's different. Since the chip vendor's driver implements the whole OpenGL pipeline (as opposed to Direct3D) the driver can use hardware TnL functionality. That is why GF2MX is faster than V3 on a 486 (and probably on your MediaGX, too). I don't know if you tested Radeon 7200 or 7500 but I suppose ATI's driver at the time had a higher overhead.
As for Banshee being slower than a V3: As I said that'll depend on the resolution.
Taking http://www.thedodgegarage.com/3dfx/bench.htm as a reference a Banshee card can (with a fast CPU) run glQuake in 640x480 at 80fps and in 800x600 at 54fps, which won't be doable with the MediaGX. In 1024x768 it only runs at 35fps even overclocked, that speed might be reachable with the MediaGX so if you are targeting 1024x768 or higher a V3 will have an advantage.

Reply 11 of 25, by feipoa

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Are there any pre-2000 games which take advantage of DX7 that I could test on slower P166-speed hardware?

Unfortunately, I do not have a Radeon 7200 or 7500. At one point I was looking to purchase one, but after noticing that none of the Rage 128 drivers would work with a Cyrix 5x86 in NT4, I lost interest. [Note that Rage 128 drivers work in W9x only with a Cyrix 5x86, however function fine with an Am5x86 in Win9x AND WinNT4).

Even at 640x480 using GLQuake as the reference, the Banshee was slower than the Voodoo3 at 640x480. If I recall correctly, the difference was 26.x fps vs. 23.x fps.

You have indirectly raised an important question I had been meaning to ask about on the forum. When I run GLQuake on a Voodoo3 (Cyrix 5x86-133/4x) at resolutions of 1024x768 or higher, I get an error when loading GLQuake. It is the standard error saying it cannot initialise GL-something and to ensure that I am running it in 65536 colours and to try -window. It works fine with 800x600 and 640x480. Any idea what might be wrong? The Matrox G200 (w/D3D wrapper) and MX400 work fine at 1280x1024.

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Reply 12 of 25, by idspispopd

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pre-2000 games with DX7: You realize that DX7 was only released in 9/1999? You could try to browse though http://www.mobygames.com/browse/games/windows … 62/ti,125/1999/ of course (filtered for DX7 and 1999, of course the data on Mobygames is not always correct).

Radeon: That was only an example, I don't think those will fare better than GF2(MX)

Banshee/V3 at 640x480: OK, I can't say anything about this. They have the same amount of RAM so no difference in texture upload, and the video card really shouldn't be the bottleneck. I can only imagine that with some frames the CPU has to do less work so the video does become the bottleneck for these frames which will bring the average fps down. To verify this you'd need to record the minimum fps, but I don't know how you could do this.

No idea on the last problem. Does this also happen with other CPUs and the same driver?

Reply 13 of 25, by leileilol

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feipoa wrote:

When I run GLQuake on a Voodoo3 (Cyrix 5x86-133/4x) at resolutions of 1024x768 or higher, I get an error when loading GLQuake. It is the standard error saying it cannot initialise GL-something and to ensure that I am running it in 65536 colours and to try -window. It works fine with 800x600 and 640x480. Any idea what might be wrong?

Don't use the 3dfx MiniGL shipped with GLQuake.

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Reply 14 of 25, by feipoa

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Is it sufficient to delete the opengl32 file from the Quake folder and the voodoo3 will use its own 3D acceleration drivers from the Windows folder?

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Reply 15 of 25, by swaaye

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feipoa wrote:

Are there any pre-2000 games which take advantage of DX7 that I could test on slower P166-speed hardware?

Unreal Tournament came out near the end of 1999 and uses DirectX 7 but it doesn't utilize T&L.

I don't think there are any 1999 games that use D3D7 T&L.

Reply 16 of 25, by idspispopd

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feipoa wrote:

Is it sufficient to delete the opengl32 file from the Quake folder and the voodoo3 will use its own 3D acceleration drivers from the Windows folder?

Yes. You can also try to find a different (newer) 3dfx MiniGL in case it runs the game faster than the ICD with a slow CPU.

Reply 17 of 25, by feipoa

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idspispopd wrote:

Yes. You can also try to find a different (newer) 3dfx MiniGL in case it runs the game faster than the ICD with a slow CPU.

Any specific recommendations?

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Reply 18 of 25, by idspispopd

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I'd just try the different versions from http://www.falconfly.de/minigl.htm
Quote: "The 3dfx MiniGL Drivers are suitable only for old Games, that have support for those. There, it can offer maximum performance and is still the primary choice."

3dNow! seems to be irrelevant for MediaGX, but since it is really easy to try different versions (just switch the file) I'd try the later versions too.

Reply 19 of 25, by AlphaWing

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Demolition Racer a console PC port and non mainstream game, but its one of the oldest games I've played with HwTNL support.
The difference between SWTNL and HWTNL is very noticeable, especially on a weak cpu.
Heres a wiki link.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demolition_Racer
The wiki claims its from 1999, the CD release I have, by the file dates put it Jan 2000.

Link to demo
http://www.fileplanet.com/34831/30000/fileinf … emolition-Racer
No idea if the demo works 🤣 .
Have Only played full version.