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The quest for the perfect retro laptop: a saga

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Reply 860 of 878, by ac220v

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internal HDD & SSD is not necessary, you can boot from pcmcia card(a pcmcia CF adapter+4GB CF card). this method has been tested in my 560E.

ragefury32 wrote on 2020-02-17, 05:56:
Alright, so, I bought a machine (or 2) for playing the old DOS games. Not planning to go too detailed on it here (I am doing a […]
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Alright, so, I bought a machine (or 2) for playing the old DOS games. Not planning to go too detailed on it here (I am doing a dedicated article about it later), but here's my pair of Thinkpad 560Es - Ono-Sendai and Hosaka. Ono-Sendai came from Canada and Hosaka was an import from Japan with a regional keyboard.

Hosaka+and+Ono-Sendai.png

They are both Pentium 166MMX with at least 32MB of RAM, a 2MB Trident Providia 9682, ESS1688 sound (it's register compatible with OPL3 and sounds fairly decent) , one is using a 4GB CF-IDE and the other is on 4GB SDHC-IDE. Carry weight is about 4 lbs - it was the Thinkpad X1 Carbon of its day and assigned to executives/sales folks, so they tend to have fairly tough lives. As shipped, Ono-Sendai lacks a power switch, a top case bezel and a small piece of the LCD bottom case, while Hosaka is mostly complete...except for the LCD latch. The parts have been swapped multiple times.

How does the machines perform? Just fine in Novalogic's Comanche...
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Since it's a 2D performer Maxis' SimCity 2000 had no issues with it...
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The Darth Vader's lunchbox aestetic goes well with Lucasart's TIE Fighter...
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EA/Jane's ATF (US Navy Fighters but with that buggy-non-effective memory manager replaced) works just fine on it...
Janes+ATF.jpg

Unfortunately, Rowan's Airpower does not seem to play nice with the Trident Providia, despite the fact that there are 3 drivers for it...
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Weirdly enough, Navy Strike (Rowan's later iteration of the same game engine) works just fine on it via the generic VESA driver...
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Anyways, I need to hunt down a battery rebuilder as all 3 battery units have dead cells - something I expected out of a 24 year old machine.

Reply 861 of 878, by Joakim

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vorob wrote on 2023-08-02, 18:21:

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I’ve got pretty ordinary story for you. Sometime ago I bought Compaq N600c with some case issues. Later I bought another sample, mentioned as broken. Bought it for parts. But it turned out to be fully functional. The issue was in its hdd. With dead drive laptop won’t show anything at all. Moreover this second unit was in better shape then first one so I sold original sample.

Now I bought third. Also dead. I needed to get battery cause my unit didn’t have one. I was also expecting to receive a working machine with dead HDD. But, to my surprise, it was really dead. To be clear, its lcd backlit is dead.

I think I have one of them, my screen is a pee-stained yellowish tone. I think the panel was bad to begin with as my much older laptops have aged better.

Reply 862 of 878, by Dodobird

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vorob wrote on 2023-08-01, 17:24:
Toshiba Libretto 70 is in my hands! Perfect condition of laptop itself, never opened, original charger and case broken dock stat […]
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Toshiba Libretto 70 is in my hands! Perfect condition of laptop itself, never opened, original charger and case broken dock station.

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Proper videocard for VEXP, can do scaling.

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I managed to get one not long ago, check my mini review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsO7mdsl3jk

Reply 863 of 878, by bjwil1991

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Both FMA7600 laptops are operational. The one actually has a P120 in it (overclocked to 133 due to the system playing tricks with the PCMCIA cards and I've yet to see if the issue is fixed once and for all) and the other has the P90 gold top (no bugs).

Both have the same amount of RAM, DIP switches control the CPU speed and I think the display type, and I might fabricate a GamePort card with a CF card reader so the one can have a drive to boot from since they both support booting from PCMCIA, which is nice.

They have their flaws from keyboard issues to display hinge issues (the one I fixed needs some nuts to keep it nice and tight), but all in all, they're not bad. Except the major flaw is the display being stuck in stretch mode and no way to get around it.

Also found out the hard way that the turbo/slow mode is CTRL-ALT-UP for hare and CTRL-ALT-DOWN for tortoise, which is what I used on the one system to diagnose the hanging issues on bootup with PCMCIA cards inserted. Never seen that keyboard shortcut for going from hare to tortoise before. Even Wikipedia is missing that information and I might get that changed sometime.

Discord: https://discord.gg/U5dJw7x
Systems from the Compaq Portable 1 to Ryzen 9 5950X
Twitch: https://twitch.tv/retropcuser

Reply 864 of 878, by vorob

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I disassembled my Toshiba Libretto 70 to take out RTC battery. Can’t say everything went smooth 🙁

I was following ifixed guide and looks like I misunderstood the part about this clip.

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I thought that holding mechanism is on number one, but it was a number two. So I broke it 🙁

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When assembled back I broke one click on rear part of laptop. IR window was cracked before me, btw.

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The saddest part here is that my laptop was in absolutely mint condition, like I just unpacked it. And now it’s like this.

Need your sympathy 🙃

Reply 865 of 878, by pentiumspeed

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ifixit guides is full of mistakes. And no very technical details to disassemble and assemble correctly. Good example:

When they tore down a PS5 just right after was announced back then they tore the ribbon cables out without pressing down the metal latch. Used on optical drive and the front USB ribbon (wide one).
They did same thing with some of PS4 too.

Cheers,

Great Northern aka Canada.

Reply 866 of 878, by Thermalwrong

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vorob wrote on 2023-09-30, 18:05:
I disassembled my Toshiba Libretto 70 to take out RTC battery. Can’t say everything went smooth :( […]
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I disassembled my Toshiba Libretto 70 to take out RTC battery. Can’t say everything went smooth 🙁

I was following ifixed guide and looks like I misunderstood the part about this clip.
IMG_3403.jpeg
I thought that holding mechanism is on number one, but it was a number two. So I broke it 🙁
IMG_3401.jpeg
When assembled back I broke one click on rear part of laptop. IR window was cracked before me, btw.
IMG_3406.jpegIMG_3407.jpeg
The saddest part here is that my laptop was in absolutely mint condition, like I just unpacked it. And now it’s like this.

Need your sympathy 🙃

Yeah I've been there and it's a real shame to see 🙁 - the librettos are a prime example of Toshiba's brittle plastic from the era - combined with a plastic top and an unforgiving magnesium alloy lower half. They're not quite crumbling to pieces yet unless they were stored really badly, but they're definitely fragile in the whole palmrest area - my Libretto 70CT's palmrest was broken in half and has been fixed up with copious amounts of superglue and hot-plastic-ironing.

Can't remember if it was in the maintenance manual or one of the Toshiba Libretto fan pages that has since gone offline, but I did the same to my also mint Libretto 50CT.
Gotta carefully pop the clips around the battery area and hinge up the top half, from the back specifically so that those clips at the back don't break off.

Reply 867 of 878, by lti

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Since this seems to be a thread about everyone's old laptops, what I have here are both disappointing as "retro gaming" systems.

The oldest is a Gateway Solo 2500. It has the NeoMagic video that everyone hates (MagicGraph 128XD - some places falsely claim that it uses the newer MagicMedia 256AV), but I haven't had a problem with it. It's slow, but compatibility is fine for what I'm running on it. The problem is the NeoMagic audio (NM3298A chip). It appears to be a Yamaha OPL3-SAx variant on ISA, but most DOS software will only give me OPL3 sound. Choosing Sound Blaster sound effects results in an immediate hang when it tries to initialize sound. There are no DOS drivers, and Unisound doesn't work with it because resources are assigned in the BIOS (defaulting to IRQ 11, which is a little odd - it can be changed to IRQ 5, but that really doesn't matter if it only works in Windows).

The BIOS is also a little annoying because you have to enter setup and auto-detect drives on every boot after the CMOS battery dies, and all of the power-saving settings have to be turned off because they don't work properly (maybe a BIOS update will fix it, but I don't know what BIOS version is currently installed). I did actually replace the CMOS battery while I was buying stuff off Digikey (it's a VL1220 soldered to the motherboard), which required a full disassembly, including peeling up the floppy/optical drive cable (an FPC that is taped to the chassis) to let the motherboard come out.

The worst thing about the Gateway (for me) is the brittle plastic. The 13.3" version that I have is worse because there isn't much support for the hinges inside the lid. Mine has been glued multiple times, and I didn't get the lid pieces perfectly aligned, which means that there is an ugly gap along the edges. I used ABS pipe cement (which is really just black ABS in MEK) the last time, so it's permanently misaligned (and incredibly ugly with a blob of black plastic on top of the original dark gray) now.

The second laptop is an HP Pavilion ze1210, which is an ultra-low-end laptop from 2002. It's running an Athlon XP-M 1400+ (100MHz bus/200MHz FSB) on a VIA KN133 chipset with S3 integrated graphics and a VT8231 southbridge, so it should have good compatibility with late DOS and early Windows stuff. I haven't been able to get legacy Sound Blaster compatibility working, but since I already have an old computer with good DOS sound, I haven't messed with it too much. Also, all of the Windows audio drivers I've found have distorted audio (some worse than others), but sound is clear (and less noisy) in Linux. 3D compatibility isn't very good, but that's probably expected for s3 graphics. It's missing some kind of alpha blending feature, and I've had it lock up randomly when running 3D stuff under Windows 98. Unfortunately, this is the only computer I have that can run 98 or XP and has hardware 3D acceleration. Despite the graphics and sound problems, I would like to get a fresh 98/XP dual-boot on this thing at some point (or at least get XP reinstalled - it's currently running a broken copy that was cloned off a failing hard drive), but I haven't been able to get it to detect a known-good optical drive. It will only detect the original drive that won't read any discs anymore. That was actually the subject of the first thread I ever started on this forum. It doesn't like booting off USB using Plop, either. It starts to boot and then locks up after a few seconds.

If anyone finds one of those HPs, the BIOS version they shipped with had a bug where Windows would blue-screen or claim that files were missing on a cold boot, but if you left it on for a few minutes before turning it off and back on (a warm reboot wouldn't work, and restarting immediately wouldn't work either), it would boot Windows and run fine. Even with the latest BIOS, RAM compatibility is a problem, and that also magically fixes itself once the computer is warm. It will run with any RAM as long as you're willing to go through the same warm-up cycle that made Windows successfully boot with the original BIOS.

The HP's CMOS battery is an ML1220 in a holder, which is hard to find. All I've found from reputable sellers have solder tabs. The rest are dangerous eBay and Amazon listings that charge ridiculous amounts of money and then send you a non-rechargeable battery while telling you that it's compatible.

Reply 868 of 878, by awgamer

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Not the same target era but going by hwbot results, I noticed a Pentium Gold 7505 is nearly 1:1 performance with x56xx xeons(xeon versions of the first i7s 965/975 2008-2009) overclocked @4.5GHz, laptops with 7505s go for $85-120 on ebay.

Reply 869 of 878, by 3lectr1c

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Thermalwrong wrote on 2023-10-01, 01:06:

Yeah I've been there and it's a real shame to see 🙁 - the librettos are a prime example of Toshiba's brittle plastic from the era - combined with a plastic top and an unforgiving magnesium alloy lower half. They're not quite crumbling to pieces yet unless they were stored really badly, but they're definitely fragile in the whole palmrest area - my Libretto 70CT's palmrest was broken in half and has been fixed up with copious amounts of superglue and hot-plastic-ironing.

I feel you... my Tecra 500CDT is falling to bits 🙁

I probably have too many old laptops.

Reply 870 of 878, by bjwil1991

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Got both FMA7600 laptops working once again. Just need to get another charger, a 3Com Ethernet/Modem PCMCIA card, and a GamePort PCMCIA card for the other laptop and find a way to wire a 2nd COM port since the trackballs are having issues, well, except the one works alright after I took it apart to clean it.

Discord: https://discord.gg/U5dJw7x
Systems from the Compaq Portable 1 to Ryzen 9 5950X
Twitch: https://twitch.tv/retropcuser

Reply 871 of 878, by Dodobird

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Check out this Dell XPi CD!

It has wavetable chip that works in pure DOS.
The hardware scales Mode 13h fullscreen, and the Pentium MMX cpu responds very well to SETMUL, enabling it to scale performance gradually for speed sensitive games.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGMdhc9x2ww&t=21s

Reply 872 of 878, by pentiumspeed

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awgamer wrote on 2023-10-01, 18:50:

Not the same target era but going by hwbot results, I noticed a Pentium Gold 7505 is nearly 1:1 performance with x56xx xeons(xeon versions of the first i7s 965/975 2008-2009) overclocked @4.5GHz, laptops with 7505s go for $85-120 on ebay.

What is the generation of this processor belongs to? Wanted to look at other processors, I'm not interested about celeron, pentium and i3.

Remember like celeron, pentium has number of features that helps with performance, not just cache are cut. To compare i7 or Xeon, you have to compare them to later i7 and later xeons.

Cheers,

Great Northern aka Canada.

Reply 873 of 878, by kleung21

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I started down this rabbit hole of retro collecting and now I have 9 laptops... Time to thin the herd and I will be selling off some of these.

Sharp PC-3000 - Dos palmtop; rare 8088 palmtop..... LCD screen but 1mb ram/ramdisk support... Builtin Dos 3.
Acer Anywhere 1100lx - 386sx20.... luggable laptop; my first in collection requiring a bunch of repairs, will keep for nostalgia purposes.
Compaq LTE Elite - 4/40cx, 4/50cx, 4/75cxl - have 3 of these of various screen sizes/processors. Will probably get rid of the 2 excess ones
ATT GLobalyst 200s - 486dx100 - comes with port replicator and has built-in sound support. This might be a keeper.... Would appreciate it if anyone has manuals for service / disassembly of this model
Toshiba Libretto 60 - Pentium 100 - super compact and cute device but limited usability as size makes it limited. May try using an external keyboard to see if this setup is more usable.
Toshiba Satellite pro 460cdt, 490 xcdt - These are Pentium 166 MMX and P2-266 respectively. I believe having both of these is redundant and am leaning towards keeping the P166mmx.

I want to support gaming from DOS Gaming and some windows 98 productivity / apps. The 2 ultralight/subnotebook laptops are unique but don't really serve a function in my stable I believe. Looking for thoughts on what you would keep in this mix (try to limit to 3 or 4 devices).

Many thanks for the opinions.

Last edited by kleung21 on 2024-02-10, 07:34. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 874 of 878, by keenmaster486

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You're not going to cover Win9x era with any of those as none of them will get good framerates in 3D accelerated games.

I'd suggest limiting your scope to DOS gaming with that lineup, and see where that takes you.

World's foremost 486 enjoyer.

Reply 875 of 878, by kleung21

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keenmaster486 wrote on 2024-02-10, 07:25:

You're not going to cover Win9x era with any of those as none of them will get good framerates in 3D accelerated games.

I'd suggest limiting your scope to DOS gaming with that lineup, and see where that takes you.

Oops. You are correct. I would mainly use the retro systems for DOS gaming and maybe running some older windows apps.

I won't be using these systems for any significant 3d gaming. Thanks

Reply 876 of 878, by BitWrangler

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Had a PII-266 in a laptop some years ago here, it did some early D3D stuff okay on software renderer, but forget Dx7 for sure. So maybe anything that Win95 likes will be "runnable" some even "era playable" i.e. 15-30fps.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 877 of 878, by 3lectr1c

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A few updates on my WinBook adventures:

1. Still haven't found a WinBook XP. I did get a small lot of XP5 (pentium version of the same laptop) parts though, including a rare proprietary RAM upgrade, which will be nice if I ever do get an XP5. The XP and XP5 both use proprietary RAM but both use different proprietary RAM, so my XP5 RAM wouldn't work in an XP.

2. I received the WinBook XL I mentioned a while back, never updated this thread on it. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but overall one of my best DOS laptops. It has C&T video and an OPL3-SAx. Great in theory, but I've had an absolute nightmare of a time getting the OPL3-SAx to work properly in DOS. Once I do get it to work, it works great, but I swear the driver for DOS and for Windows conflict, I have freezing issues, sound not working sometimes, huge pain. I suspect I may actually have an unrelated hardware issue that causes it to freeze in Windows, and only Windows. Anyways, if I can get the darn drivers to ever work reliably, then it will be my best DOS laptop, probably.
Beyond that, the XL is a well-specced laptop. It has a socket 7 Pentium MMX-233, nice TFT 800x600 screen, good keyboard, it's a 3-spindle system which is always nice, and it's got TWO USB ports. More than one port is rather uncommon for a laptop introduced in late 1997. Main things to watch out for when buying one are the hinges, which fail rampantly on these, and also, most you'll see for sale will have a passive matrix/DSTN display. The hinge failures are probably unavoidable, but I've at least slowed them down by pooling plastic epoxy inside the lid of mine. There's a LOT of empty space in there, if only they'd made the plastic thicker...

3. I also bought a WinBook FX recently, and I can now safely take it out of the running for the best DOS gaming laptop. Well, it's far from bad, but it's definitely not the best. The good is that it has a really nice 800x600 screen from NEC, excellent quality, it has a 150MHz Pentium, although other options were available, and Cirrus Logic video which I believe is pretty decent. Hinge failures on these are also rare, and if you don't have to take one apart, the build quality isn't bad. Problem is that I did have to take mine apart, all the way, twice. And a lot of plastic broke. The worst is the display housing - I had to take it apart on mine as the display cable managed to come loose, and every single clip broke. It's barely held together now, there are only two screws and they're at the bottom, so the top wants to come apart.
They DO have a varta battery, but it's away from the board and probably won't completely kill one unless it leaks really bad. It will kill one of the two speakers though, it's under the palmrest next to one. Get it out and you should be fine.
Build quality isn't the reason I'm criticizing it though, it's the sound. It's a creative vibra 16 chip, but not the one variant with a real OPL3 on board (like the AST Ascentia 950N has for instance). It does have the background hum issue that some of the Vibras have. It isn't bad enough that it bothers me, but it is there. The speakers on the other hand are quite decent.
It's overall a completely adequate system, just not the best out there. It has its pros, and it has its cons.
Also worth noting, the WinBook FX was made by Quanta and is the same base laptop as the AST Ascentia P Series and the IPC/Austin Edge (the latter of which appears to be very uncommon).

I probably have too many old laptops.

Reply 878 of 878, by MAZter

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I will share my experience in servicing hinges on the Samsung Sens 800 and similar models.

By the way, I try to store all my laptops in an open, working position, so that if the hinges jam, the laptop can continue to be used. It is known that the highest load on the plastic surrounding the hinges occurs when the lid is opened.

The Samsung manufacturer thought about the users back then and made the hinges as convenient as possible for adjustment and lubrication. Firstly, you do not need to open the base of the laptop to do this; just remove the front panel of the screen (laptop cover). There are no screws, everything is on plastic latches, I recommend starting prying from the bottom part, usually hidden from view, in addition, the bottom part of the panel is not recessed into the cover body. The plastic of this laptop is quite durable; after 15 minutes of disassembling and reassembling, I didn’t seem to be able to break anything, the main thing is to do everything slowly and in a good mood. After opening we see this:

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If you don’t want to lubricate the hinges, then having the appropriate tool you can simply loosen or tighten them:

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But by unscrewing the 4 screws securing the cover, you can simply pull the hinges and pull them out of the connector, yes, imagine quick-release hinges here!
Don't forget to disconnect the central cable if you don't want to damage it.

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After lubricating the hinges with WD-40, we put the cover and cable in place, insert and screw the hinges, and adjust according to how you feel.

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I recommend assembling the front panel in reverse order from top to bottom, but be sure to make sure that the brightness slider matches, otherwise you will have to open it again.

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Doom is what you want (c) MAZter