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EISA Graphics / Video Cards

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First post, by 386_junkie

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There does not seem to be alot of information out there regarding graphics / video cards on the EISA bus platform. My understanding in the reasons for this is that EISA bus was a very shortlived extention to ISA as the industry had not yet at the time found it's way forward with the implementation of PCI bus.

Most of the EISA cards are for networking as the technology was adopted most in servers, however, there were a few manufacturers that did manage to develop a card or two for the graphics market.

If you own any yourself, I would be interested to hear about your card(s), possibly with pictures.

Below are the two EISA cards part of my own collection. The Compaq Qvision and ELSA's ISA/EISA convertable with the S3 928 chipset.

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Reply 1 of 105, by xjas

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That 'convertible' is kind of awesome ... never seen that before!
Can you plug a monitor into both VGA ports while it's running? Might be a cool way to make a drive-bay / front panel mini display if that works. 😁
Or is only one port active depending on which way you turn the card around?

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Reply 2 of 105, by Anonymous Coward

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The bottom card is the Elsa Winner 1000. If you think that's cool, you should see the Winner 2000. It's the same thing but twice as long (with twice the memory and a better RAMDAC).

I have that exact Compaq Qvision card as well. Haven't gotten around to testing it out. I'm sure it won't be great, but I believe it's VRAM which makes it kind of suck in DOS...and only 1MB, so high/true colour mode in Windows wouldn't be all that great.

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Reply 3 of 105, by FGB

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386_junkie wrote:

[...]My understanding in the reasons for this is that EISA bus was a very shortlived extention to ISA as the industry had not yet at the time found it's way forward with the implementation of PCI bus.

EISA wasn't a shortlived extension. The opposite is the case. It has been introduced by Compaq and others to somehow compete against the MCA "standard" by IBM. That was in the last 80's and even slow 386 machines came with EISA slots. The technology remained in the professional market even in P54C (dual) workstations. That should have been around 1995. So the lifespan was around 7-8 years which is really long. VLB in comparison was shortlived because it was tied to closely to the 486.

I think the most insteresting EISA graphics cards are the Mach32 / Mach64 based ones. They came with 1-2MB of VRAM and have brilliant picture quality and are good performers.

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Reply 4 of 105, by 386_junkie

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xjas wrote:

That 'convertible' is kind of awesome ... never seen that before!
Can you plug a monitor into both VGA ports while it's running? Might be a cool way to make a drive-bay / front panel mini display if that works. 😁
Or is only one port active depending on which way you turn the card around?

I honestly couldn't say... on first thought I wouldn't think so due to the required level of current to drive two outputs. The power taken directly from either bus is enough to drive one output... but two I do not know. Something to try maybe, will let you know.

Anonymous Coward wrote:

The bottom card is the Elsa Winner 1000. If you think that's cool, you should see the Winner 2000. It's the same thing but twice as long (with twice the memory and a better RAMDAC).

I have that exact Compaq Qvision card as well. Haven't gotten around to testing it out. I'm sure it won't be great, but I believe it's VRAM which makes it kind of suck in DOS...and only 1MB, so high/true colour mode in Windows wouldn't be all that great.

Yea, the Qvision card is limited... but the ELSA series seems to be the best that i've come across. The guy that I put you onto who sold you the Powerleap had the big version... if only I knew then that I could use the card now! Hindsight.

Looking forward to implement the ELSA in my (2 x 386) Systempro, the (386) Deskpro will just have to settle for the Qvision (for now).

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 5 of 105, by 386_junkie

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FGB wrote:
386_junkie wrote:

[...]My understanding in the reasons for this is that EISA bus was a very shortlived extention to ISA as the industry had not yet at the time found it's way forward with the implementation of PCI bus.

EISA wasn't a shortlived extension. The opposite is the case. It has been introduced by Compaq and others to somehow compete against the MCA "standard" by IBM. That was in the last 80's and even slow 386 machines came with EISA slots. The technology remained in the professional market even in P54C (dual) workstations. That should have been around 1995. So the lifespan was around 7-8 years which is really long. VLB in comparison was shortlived because it was tied to closely to the 486.

I think the most insteresting EISA graphics cards are the Mach32 / Mach64 based ones. They came with 1-2MB of VRAM and have brilliant picture quality and are good performers.

Thanks for a more detailed explanation. Yea I remember reading about IBM trying to monopolize and capitalize on MCA, with Compaq leading the Gang of 9 to produce a lower cost 32-bit bus which was not too inferior to MCA... less than 2MHz between them! Until of course PCI came about. I did not realise EISA was used for as long though.

The ATI Mach EISA card would be phenomenal... never have I seen one for sale, definitely on the wishlist.

Thanks

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 6 of 105, by Anonymous Coward

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The Mach32 should be pretty much an equal match for your S3 928 card. Also, I am pretty sure Mach32 EISA doesn't sit well with Adaptec SCSI controllers.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium

Reply 7 of 105, by 386_junkie

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Anonymous Coward wrote:

The Mach32 should be pretty much an equal match for your S3 928 card. Also, I am pretty sure Mach32 EISA doesn't sit well with Adaptec SCSI controllers.

Really! Ok, performance wise that''s good to know. I had a look online and I can not even find a picture anywhere of an EISA bus Mach 64, only this Mach 32. You have quite an extensive ATI collection... I don't think I know anyone that has more ATI graphics products than yourself.

I've been finding over this last year Adaptec controllers can be real picky about who and what they work with... I've had systems that boot with either the GFX card or controller, but not both!

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Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 8 of 105, by ynari

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You've answered your own question - for the most part EISA was used in servers, due to a lack of ISA bandwidth and the high cost of implementing MCA. Servers don't need decent graphics cards. For the same reason, PCI-X graphics cards are rare.

Reply 9 of 105, by 386_junkie

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ynari wrote:

You've answered your own question - for the most part EISA was used in servers, due to a lack of ISA bandwidth and the high cost of implementing MCA. Servers don't need decent graphics cards. For the same reason, PCI-X graphics cards are rare.

Hi, thanks for your input. Yes, for the most part EISA was used in servers... but has also been implemented in few end user / home personal computing systems... like Compaq's Deskpro, among others.

386_junkie wrote:

If you own any yourself, I would be interested to hear about your card(s), possibly with pictures.

Below are the two EISA cards part of my own collection. The Compaq Qvision and ELSA's ISA/EISA convertable with the S3 928 chipset.

The purpose of creating this thread however was not really to discuss the origin of EISA or question it's limits (though a bit of background information doesn't hurt)... but more to discuss and engage with others who happen to own or have utilized EISA graphics peripherals that have survived until today from that era.

There already is very little information out there on the subject... and even fewer graphics cards in circulation, this thread I thought may be of benefit and useful to those interested.

Thanks again

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 10 of 105, by Anonymous Coward

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You don't need to keep looking for the EISA version of the Mach64, because it doesn't exist. Mach32 was ATi's only EISA product.

The Winner 2000 I had on the EISA bus was an okay performer in Windows, but rather shite in DOS in part due to it being a VRAM card. I didn't flip the card over to the ISA bus to see how performance compared, but it would have been a pretty interesting experiment.

As far as I know all VGA cards for EISA use VRAM. The "EISA" Tseng ET4000AX cards are likely all OPTi local bus. I think if you've tried S3 928, Mach32 and Qvision you've tried pretty much everything available on the EISA bus. There may be an IIT based card (VRAM) as well.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium

Reply 11 of 105, by FGB

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So the mach32 seems to be the best card, performance wise.

Is is board / chipset dependent if it runs well with the Adaptec SCSI card? What about other SCSI cards?

I remember a combination of mach32 + mylex scsi that worked just fine in a Compaq Deskpro.

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Reply 12 of 105, by 386_junkie

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Anonymous Coward wrote:

You don't need to keep looking for the EISA version of the Mach64, because it doesn't exist. Mach32 was ATi's only EISA product.

The Winner 2000 I had on the EISA bus was an okay performer in Windows, but rather shite in DOS in part due to it being a VRAM card. I didn't flip the card over to the ISA bus to see how performance compared, but it would have been a pretty interesting experiment.

As far as I know all VGA cards for EISA use VRAM. The "EISA" Tseng ET4000AX cards are likely all OPTi local bus. I think if you've tried S3 928, Mach32 and Qvision you've tried pretty much everything available on the EISA bus. There may be an IIT based card (VRAM) as well.

That seems to be the best of them... though there are others. I am just curious how many manufacturers got round to making them and if anyone has tested them, what their performance is like.

I almost bought a Matrox Magic, but the chipset is inferior to ELSA's... the Matrox card using S3's 805 chipset. It is actually a hybrid card tbh... a capture card that can also be used as a typical graphics adapter: -

http://www.vgamuseum.info/index.php/cards/ite … atrox-magic-rgb

It has a memory module module attached.

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 13 of 105, by 386_junkie

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FGB wrote:

So the mach32 seems to be the best card, performance wise.

Is is board / chipset dependent if it runs well with the Adaptec SCSI card? What about other SCSI cards?

I remember a combination of mach32 + mylex scsi that worked just fine in a Compaq Deskpro.

That's good to know should I have any further problems with Adaptec SCSI controllers. Seen a few Mylex's about that are cached... 30 pin simms.

Regards to where the conflict lies... could be a number oi things, chipset yes... though I remember Anonymous Coward was having problems with some of his 386 motherboards, not co-operating with SCSI controller and the CPU (TI's SXL-40) I believe.

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 14 of 105, by NJRoadfan

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Weird that EISA would have problems with bus mastering SCSI cards. Than again with bone headed "Mini EISA" implementations, I'm not surprised.

As for video cards, they really didn't seem to gain traction (niche bus mostly on servers where video performance isn't priority). By the time Windows GUI accelerators came out en masse, VLB appeared. I have been getting around the lack of a decent EISA video card problem by running a VLB card since the EISA boards I have got the slots. Plus many OEMs built in video on their EISA machines, sometimes it was even local-bus.

Reply 15 of 105, by Anonymous Coward

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I would read up on the Mach32/Adaptec problem. Since I've never owned the EISA version of the Mach32 I've never been able to test it myself. I really don't see why there is consensus that the ATi is the best card of the lot. As far as I can recall the 928 is actually marginally faster than the Mach32, and should have better DOS compatibility. I would choose a card according to which SCSI controller you run (if you want one), the RAMDAC and the output quality.

That S3 805 card with the frame grabber is pretty cool. Are there EISA CFG files for it? S3 805 is actually a pretty decent chipset. I don't think it's all that much slower at accellerated graphics than the 928 (and considerably faster at DOS VGA). What is really comes down to is how much memory the card has (2MB would be preferable if running windodws) and the RAMDAC. The S3 805 was normally used on budget cards and they were feature stripped, however there are a few examples of premium 805 cards out there...I beleive ELSA makes a pretty nice one.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium

Reply 17 of 105, by 386_junkie

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They are still live:

ftp://ftp.matrox.com/pub/imaging/retired_products/magic/

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 18 of 105, by 386_junkie

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Anonymous Coward wrote:

S3 805 is actually a pretty decent chipset. I don't think it's all that much slower at accellerated graphics than the 928 (and considerably faster at DOS VGA). What is really comes down to is how much memory the card has (2MB would be preferable if running windodws) and the RAMDAC. The S3 805 was normally used on budget cards and they were feature stripped, however there are a few examples of premium 805 cards out there...I beleive ELSA makes a pretty nice one.

I've seen a few VLB cards around that do memory interleaving (not all!) with this chipset... but I've never had the urge to get one as I didn't think they would come close to the performance of Tseng 32's (i or p) that also interleave.

Good to know they are not all that bad.

Compaq Systempro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ Compaq Junkiepro; EISA Dual 386 ¦ ALR Powerpro; EISA Dual 386

EISA Graphic Cards ¦ EISA Graphic Card Benchmarks

Reply 19 of 105, by Anonymous Coward

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Apparently the interleaving only works when running accelerated video modes (like in Windows) and has no effect on DOS performance.On an 805 that's okay though, because as I understand it 805 DOS performance is already top notch. I'm really not sure how S3 DRAM controllers stack up against Tseng in terms of speed. Benchmarks say one thing, but real world results seem to indicate they should be about the same.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium