VOGONS


First post, by dickkickem

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The more demanding games I want to play are games like Deus Ex, System Shock 2, F-22, Thief II, and Quake III: Arena, in 640x480 at a decent framerate.

I've been looking at Pentium MMX IBM ThinkPads (the 650 and the 770 series ThinkPads especially, along with T20, T21, and T22 Thinkpads), however I'm not sure how good they are with games, as I don't have a clue what the Trident Cyber 9397 (which is common in 770 series and the 760XD ThinkPads) benchmarks at.

Can someone here suggest me some pretty good DOS/Win9x gaming laptops?

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AST Ascentia M 5260X - Working w/ WinME
IBM ThinkPad 770 - Working w/ Win2K

Reply 1 of 58, by leileilol

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Good luck. The late Win9x era either gets you an okay VGA chip for DOS or a bad 3d chip with poor VGA and linear writes, and then there's the possibly bad passive matrix blurtastic screen they'll be associated with. They'll all run Q3 terribly. Geforce2Go and Mobility Radeon 9000 are the first that run Q3 well and properly.

Trident Cyber 9397 doesn't accelerate 3D and doesn't even expose low resolution modes to DirectDraw (640x480 minimum) so even that has bad old game compatibility.

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Reply 3 of 58, by dickkickem

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leileilol wrote:

Good luck. The late Win9x era either gets you an okay VGA chip for DOS or a bad 3d chip with poor VGA and linear writes, and then there's the possibly bad passive matrix blurtastic screen they'll be associated with. They'll all run Q3 terribly. Geforce2Go and Mobility Radeon 9000 are the first that run Q3 well and properly.

Trident Cyber 9397 doesn't accelerate 3D and doesn't even expose low resolution modes to DirectDraw (640x480 minimum) so even that has bad old game compatibility.

I can settle without Quake III. Would you happen to know what'd be a good laptop for the rest of the games?

DOS game collection
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My vintage rigs:
Fujitsu Lifebook E330 - Working w/ Win95
Fujitsu Lifebook C352 - Nonworking 🙁
HP Pavilion A520N - Working w/ WinXP
AST Ascentia M 5260X - Working w/ WinME
IBM ThinkPad 770 - Working w/ Win2K

Reply 4 of 58, by xjas

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You'd be better off looking at hardware a few years newer than those games. I have a Dell Inspiron 600m (aka Latitude D600) on my desk with a 1.6GHz Pentium M, a nice 1400x1050 4:3 screen and a dedicated Radeon 9000 with 32MB. Seems like something along those lines would meet your needs. There's no official Win98 support on this particular model but it can be made to work if you download all the drivers individually. No idea if the Intel audio drivers provide DOS sound compatibility under Win98 though.

For a pure DOS / no 3D acceleration machine, the Pentium MMX / P2 era Thinkpads are usually pretty good. Look for an ESS sound chip.

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Reply 5 of 58, by greasemonkey90s

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Right now im playing with 2 a amstech roadster with a k6-2 333 and ess sound. And a toshiba 1555cds ill post up how it goes. One has a trident 9685 and the other s3 virge mx. At most they feel more like portable dos gaming laptops 3d would suck for sure.

Then i have a gateway 600l that supposedly has a radeon 7500mobile should play quake 3

Last edited by greasemonkey90s on 2018-04-06, 07:35. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 6 of 58, by KCompRoom2000

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I haven't really played with enough DOS laptops to give my verdict on that subject, but for Windows 9x games, one of the most common (and my personal favorite) suggestions is an early-2000s Dell laptop, let's see:

If you want something at a somewhat compact size: My vote goes towards the Dell Latitude C610/C640/D600 or their Inspiron counterparts (4100/4150/600m) - They all have 14.1" screens designed for either XGA (1024x768) or SXGA+ (1400x1050) resolutions, all models are equipped with ATI Radeon graphics (7000 on the C610/4100, 7500 on the C640/4150, and 9000 on the D600/600m) so they should be alright for early-2000s games. I have a Latitude C640 with a 2 GHz Pentium 4M, an XGA (1024x768) screen, and a 32MB Radeon 7500, and it feels like a pretty nice candidate to me. I'm not sure if the Latitude C600/Inspiron 4000 would suit your needs since that has an ATI Rage Mobility M4 chip, which might not be enough to cover some of the 9x games you'd like to play.

If you don't mind going big and bulky: The Dell Latitude C800/C810/C840 (or Inspiron 8000/8100/8200) get my vote, they can be equipped with either 14.1" or 15.2" screen sizes at either SXGA+ (1400x1050) or UXGA (1600x1200) resolutions, and they have interchangeable graphics cards so you have a level of flexibility when it comes to graphics (refer to here and here if you don't believe me). I have all three of the Inspiron models in this category, and they're pretty good champs for 9x gaming with the way I configured them.

The Latitude C610/C800/C810 / Inspiron 4100/8000/8100 all have ESS Maestro 3i sound chipsets, which are supposedly DOS compatible, but in my experience they can only go so far in that category due to the lack of FM synthesis emulation (for DOS), they're perfectly fine for Windows (there's a reason why I implied that I'm recommending these Dells for Windows 9x games).

The Latitude C-series laptops and their Inspiron counterparts use Dell PA-9 (not PA-9E) AC adapters, and the Latitude D600 / Inspiron 600m takes just about any regular Dell 19V AC adapter with a barrel jack (avoid counterfeit "replacement" adapters because this model can identify the AC adapter type).

Just my $0.02.

Reply 7 of 58, by Errius

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I know that the Inspiron 8000 can run the GeForce2 GO. (I think this comes as standard with the 8100).

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Reply 8 of 58, by nforce4max

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For Dos one has to be picky but for 9x there is a pretty decent selection and even more so if you don't care for being period accurate. I won't tell what may very well be the top of the heap in terms of performance and quality.

On a far away planet reading your posts in the year 10,191.

Reply 9 of 58, by .legaCy

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Oh well, i have one Compaq LTE 5300, i wouldn't say perfect pecause of the resolution of the screen(it doesn't scale well the 320x200 resolution leaving me with black bars), but it is a pretty nice machine for dos, for windows it is pretty weak.
for win9x gaming i really don't have any laptop for recommend.

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Reply 10 of 58, by bjwil1991

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I've used my IBM ThinkPad R40 for some gaming in Windows 98SE, but it really depends on the hardware (GPU, CPU, Sound, etc) to have a system that's compatible with MS-DOS and Windows 9x gaming (and some sound cards are a hit and miss, like the AC'97 cards). Pentium II/III are good candidates, but that really depends on the hardware specifications.

Also, I'd avoid laptops that have the Intel GPU or others, such as Trident since they don't do very well with 3D applications or games. My ThinkPad has ATI Radeon Mobile 7500 integrated (16MB RAM), and some games did play great, but the rest were at single digit or double digit (15FPS) since there's a big difference between the desktop and laptop version of the GPU, or not at all (Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius is an example).

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Reply 11 of 58, by cyclone3d

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The best bet if you want both DOS and Win9x is to get something that has good Win9x 3d acceleration and then get a PCMCIA sound card that has full DOS support.

The best built in laptop DOS supported sound I have found is on some of the old Sony Vaio laptops that have the Yamaha XG chipset (any that have specs that say "hardware wavetable" will have it). But the video cards are not going to be anything to write home about as far as 3D acceleration goes.

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Reply 12 of 58, by Kamerat

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I got a laptop of the Toshiba Sattelite Pro 4200 series. It got a S3 Savage IX for graphics and Yamaha YMF754 for sound so it should work fine for pre 2000 gaming. The CPU of mine is an Intel Celeron 500 Coppermine with 100MHz FSB.

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Reply 13 of 58, by dickkickem

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greasemonkey90s wrote:

Right now im playing with 2 a amstech roadster with a k6-2 333 and ess sound. And a toshiba 1555cds ill post up how it goes. One has a trident 9685 and the other s3 virge mx. At most they feel more like portable dos gaming laptops 3d would suck for sure.

Then i have a gateway 600l that supposedly has a radeon 7500mobile should play quake 3

Are the CDS Satellite laptops any good? I heard they aren't good to use because they have CSTN displays equipped.

DOS game collection
YouTube
Instagram

My vintage rigs:
Fujitsu Lifebook E330 - Working w/ Win95
Fujitsu Lifebook C352 - Nonworking 🙁
HP Pavilion A520N - Working w/ WinXP
AST Ascentia M 5260X - Working w/ WinME
IBM ThinkPad 770 - Working w/ Win2K

Reply 14 of 58, by KCompRoom2000

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dickkickem wrote:

Are the CDS Satellite laptops any good? I heard they aren't good to use because they have CSTN displays equipped.

That answers your question. Unfortunately, CS/CDS means it has a DSTN screen while CT/CDT means TFT. STN laptops are generally not suited for gaming because of the motion blur, the worst part is Toshiba used different screen connectors on some of the laptops with both a CDS and a CDT counterpart so you can't simply swap screens without modification (if this wasn't the case, I'd have installed a TFT screen into my 315CDS to skip the STN problems). When it comes to Toshiba laptops, look for one whose model ends with CDT if you need a TFT screen.

Errius wrote:

I know that the Inspiron 8000 can run the GeForce2 GO. (I think this comes as standard with the 8100).

That's right. I have a 32MB Geforce2 Go in my Inspiron 8000, it was originally from my Inspiron 8200 which got upgraded to a 64MB Mobility Radeon 9000.

Reply 15 of 58, by K1n9_Duk3

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You also might want to watch this video by the 8-Bit Guy.

If you intend to use the laptop as a desktop replacement and connect an external monitor, then you shouldn't have to worry about the built-in display.

I have laptops with these awful passive matrix displays and they're just terrible for any game with moving graphics. Even stuff like Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure (which runs at 9 fps) is pretty much unplayable on these displays. If you thought the early TFTs were blurry, these are beyond blurry. And the image quality seems to get worse over time, just look at this:

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BioMenace on a bad passive matrix display.
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BioMenace in DOSBox.
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See those vertical bars? This seems to be a common problem with old passive matrix displays.

If you're going to buy a laptop with a passive matrix display, try it before you buy it. Let it display something with high contrast for a while and see if the image gets worse after a couple of minutes. Run a game on it and see if you can/want to live with the blur.

If you're able to test it, you should also prepare a floppy/CD with a few programs to test for compatibility. For DOS games, that should include:

  • something to test if PC Speaker, AdLib sound/music and SoundBlaster sound effects work correctly (Wolf 3D or Duke Nukem 2)
  • something to test if EGA/VGA panning and split-screen features work correctly (Crystal Caves, for example)
  • VESA SVGA tests (Quake, Duke 3D)

Don't take anything for granted. I have a late 90's laptop that plays absolutely no sound in DOS mode, not even PC Speaker beeps (Sony Vaio PCG-F305). Both my Sony Vaio's (PCG-F305 and PCG-9451) can't do panning (which is used for smooth sideways scrolling graphics) in combination with the display's hardware scaling, but connecting an external monitor and using only the external monitor for display avoids that (the BIOS doesn't have a setting to disable the scaling). And I also have a laptop that doesn't support the split-screen feature (Fujitsu Lifebook C325), which means games like Crystal Caves, Secret Agent, Hovertank, Catacomb 3D and Vinyl Goddess of Phobos are missing the status display at the bottom of the screen and are unplayable (connecting an external monitor doesn't fix this). Some earlier laptops also come with very little video memory, so you can't use any hi-res SVGA graphics modes on them (chances are they're too slow for SVGA graphics anyway).

So yeah... using a retro laptop for retro gaming might be more convenient than using a desktop/tower PC, but actually getting all your games to run can be a nightmare due to incompatibilities. I don't think it's possible to find a laptop that will be able to run DOS games and 3D-accelerated games like Q3 and UT. Any PC fast enough for Q3 will probably be too fast for some early 90's DOS games, which means you'll see many "divide by 0" or "runtime error 200" messages.

Reply 17 of 58, by dickkickem

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Baoran wrote:

How about something like thinkpad T21?
It has felt like pretty good for retro gaming for me so far.

That one is actually one of my main choices.

DOS game collection
YouTube
Instagram

My vintage rigs:
Fujitsu Lifebook E330 - Working w/ Win95
Fujitsu Lifebook C352 - Nonworking 🙁
HP Pavilion A520N - Working w/ WinXP
AST Ascentia M 5260X - Working w/ WinME
IBM ThinkPad 770 - Working w/ Win2K

Reply 18 of 58, by ElementalChaos

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I'm partial to the Toshiba Satellite Pro 4xxxCDT series, having owned several over the years, a 425CDT and a 490XCDT. The 4xxxCDT line I speak of in particular spans from 400CDT-490CDT/490XCDT and then 4000CDT-4025CDT. After that point there was a significant redesign and they lost most of what made them good for DOS.

  • * All have TFT active matrix displays actually usable for gaming. (Hence, CDT; the CDS and CDX models had those awful DSTN displays).
    * CD drives (hence the D in CDT) make data transfers much easier.
    * All have great SBPro2.0 support utilizing real OPL3, with a ESS Audiodrive ES688 + YMF262 from 400-430CDT, and Yamaha OPL3-SA3 with YMF288 core from 440CDT onwards.
    * Video chipsets wise, most of these use C&T 6555x and only the 490/490XCDT uses S3 Virge MX for some reason. Both of these have great DOS VGA compatibility.
    * Drivers, specifications, and service manuals for these models are still available on Toshiba's website or a small amount of Googling.
    * Pretty nice keyboards with a TrackPoint-clone nub.
    * The earlier end of the series (up until 440CDT) all have internal power supplies which take standard two-prong figure 8 cables so you don't have to hunt for an adapter.
    * eBay prices vary wildly, but are generally cheaper than their Compaq or IBM counterparts.

I can't confirm this for certain, but based on research all these models appear to use the same black rectangular battery. It could just be my luck, but in my experience these batteries have a shocking ability to retain their capacity after all these years and run a machine for at least 1 or even 2 or more hours. Hence, you can use these things unplugged more or less as a laptop is intended to be. Some distraction-free notetaking potential here?

There was also the Toshiba Satellite 3xxCDT series, introduced concurrently in 1996 or so, that confusingly despite being one model number down, incorporate many if not all of the features of Satellite Pro 440-480CDTs. There was also the Tecra 5xxCDT and 7xxCDT, Tecras were Toshiba's highest-end business-made laptops and were usually quite bulkier than their Satellite counterparts. I don't know quite as much about those, and they appear to be a little less common. There is a ton of materials from specifications and brochures to service manuals on most of Toshiba's 90s laptops here.

Pluto, the maxed out Dell Dimension 4100: Pentium III 1400S | 256MB | GeForce4 Ti4200 + Voodoo4 4500 | SB Live! 5.1
Charon, the DOS and early Windows time machine: K6-III+ 600 | 256MB | TNT2 Ultra + Voodoo3 2000 | Audician 32 Plus

Reply 19 of 58, by henryVK

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I own a couple of retro laptops with TFT displays (Toshiba, Compaq, Siemens), and the Satellite 400CDT is definitely the best of the lot when it comes to brightness, colour, contrast and sharpness. Interestingly, it is also fares a lot better than the much younger Toshiba Libretto 100CT, which is comparatively dark and gloomy. The keyboard is comendable, and while the built-in power unit makes it quite heavy, it's nice to skip the usual power bricks.

The only thing that bothers me a little, is that the "insides" are a bit all over the place. Not exactly convenient to get to certain bits. Changing the RTC battery for instance involves removing the graphics board, iirc. At least the HDD is easily accessible underneath the battery (mine still lasts about 30 min.).

Haven't had graphics- or sound-compatibility issues so far, although it is fair to say that SVGA games look better, because the screen doesn't scale 320*200 properly.