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Keatah

The sweet spot for PC retrogaming?

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What's the current most desirable vintage PC (real hardware) for retrogaming nowadays?

 

For a while it used to be the 486. But I think that's fallen out of favor and folks are moving on up. Ican't see the Pentium 60/66 or even 90 being desirable. The PentiumPro, while has some interest, didn't really catch on for gaming. Most likely due to low 16-bit performance and marketing it as a server chip more or less.

 

Then there is the Pentium II/III. I can see the early P2 SECCs being nostalgic. And the latter PIII Tualatin seem pretty desirable. P3T is pretty efficient and outperformed many of the 1st P4 chips.

 

I don't think we're up to the Pentium 4 as a nostalgic machine. Shit, that was rotten architecture all the way around. And being saddled with RAMBUS stifled any innovation on the platform. And furthermore the MHz race was in full gear. Crap! My i7's and i9's clock in slower than the Northwood or Prescott.

 

So.. What do you think is the chip to have for retrogaming on x86 PC?

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There is no one-size-fits-all answer. If you like old hardware most likely things above 486 are not retro. If you (like me) just want to play old games via hardware, without emulation - then you proably need to have 2-3 separate ones for really smooth sailing.

 

I have P4 as a catch-all solution, but for older games it's way too fast. I'm using the latest slowdown utility but even so it's a lot of hassle to get the right speed for some games. It'd be similar with PI-PII (even 486) but perhaps a bit easier to match speed.

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Personally I was thinking if I ever dove into it with a laptop I'd want no less than the old Pentium 100 (I had a PC desktop tower of this) and it worked great for old games, except the rare badly coded stuff that didn't speed throttle and I'd just use moslo and get around it fine.  I wouldn't want to go too over that because it'll hit a point that tool isn't going to help.

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I'd probably say pentium 90 or 100 for MSDOS/Win3. Maybe even a little later/faster mmx one would be nice for some extra zazz, (but I have no idea if that helps in DOS.) ...I never had a pentium1, because I really couldn't afford one, and had the world's crashiest computer-show-special cyrix instead for that generation. I do not recommend the cyrix...

 

486 DX2/66 makes a good argument from the compatibility side, but I think quake and screamer running smoother probably make better counterarguments.

 

My pIII 500mhz 'mostly' works well, but sometimes exhibits weird behavior that I think is due to the high clock or something else not being quite retro enough. At least in MSDOS gaming, which is what I use it for. I'm sure p3's are fine for win95/98/ME, but XP machines can do most of that OS family very nicely, and XP allows for a lot more hardware goodies.

 

 

Edited by Reaperman

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3 hours ago, Reaperman said:

I'd probably say pentium 90 or 100 for MSDOS/Win3. Maybe even a little later/faster mmx one would be nice for some extra zazz, (but I have no idea if that helps in DOS.)

Sure it would. Any MHz increase does. Even increments of 33MHz were noticeable. As for MMX, that simply depends on whether the program calls the extra instructions. It's independent from DOS or Windows. Usually games that used MMX sported some sort of logo or made mention of "MMX Technology" on box or in dox.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMX_(instruction_set)

 

Quote

...I never had a pentium1, because I really couldn't afford one, and had the world's crashiest computer-show-special cyrix instead for that generation. I do not recommend the cyrix...

Cyrix really sucked all around. It's always rumored that Quake was final nail in the coffin. What I hated was when clone-CPUs cut corners and changed their architecture enough so that optimizations for Intel processors didn't work. Or worked much slower. Things like pipelining, FPU, cache, and other buffers seemed to be at issue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrix

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium

 

8 hours ago, youxia said:

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. If you like old hardware most likely things above 486 are not retro. If you (like me) just want to play old games via hardware, without emulation - then you proably need to have 2-3 separate ones for really smooth sailing.

Currently I'm getting by with a 486 DX2/50, a Tualatin 1400, and of course DosBox-X on modern hardware.

 

Additionally I can swap in an Am5x86 for 100MHz operation on the 486. And downgrade the Tualatin 1400 to a PII-233 or slower by swapping it out. Turning off the cache via bios really whacks these processors. Doing so far more consistently than stuff like mo'slo.

https://web.archive.org/web/19990224235532/https://trinityworks.com/products/5x86data_body.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium_III#Tualatin

 

In any case, it's fun and light evening reading reading about these older processors and their feature sets.

Edited by Keatah
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I went from a 386sx16 to a 486dx33 then a P100 and P200mmx   ...in the end aside from lack of ram or being too slow, between those 4 I could run anything I wanted on PC when I cared about it most for the longest time.  The 386 cut it for a couple years, same with the 486 and so on but the 200mmx lasted a bit longer yet I could still (as I said with moslo) even run twitchy non-regulated stuff fine like Wing Commander.  The mouths ran too fast in the scenes between stages, but the pacing of those scenes and all active play were right.

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I am happy with my Pentium MMX 200 with VX chipset.  Has a decent VGA card, and an authentic soundblaster 16.  Does everything I need it to, and is not too fast.

 

Very generous and spacious adapter rom region layout. Supported by UMBPCI. Very robust for most uses.

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On 11/19/2021 at 4:02 PM, zzip said:

if it isn't a 4.77mhz 8088 with 64KB RAM and CGA then it isn't real PC retrogaming!   BAH  😝

Or 640KB since all pcs can upgrade to 640k at this time.

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I would say nothing higher than a Pentium 200 MMX. You want something that will run 6.22/Win 3.11 and then Windows 98 via dual boot. 3DFX Video card, Soundblaster 16. That for me was the sweet spot of gaming up to the year 2000.

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I would be more picky with the chipset-- There were several offerings from the era, and some are more conducive to DOS retrogaming than others.

 

It may seem a bit paranoid, but I am a BIG fan of chipsets that stay the F*CK out of the adapter rom region, and which are fully and properly supported by UMBPCI, as these will give you the easiest experience in tweaking your low memory use for those games that command lots of conventional memory being free, without running into strange issues from floppy drive DMA transfers resulting in corruption, etc...  (For reasons that are too complicated to list here, UMBPCI's provided shadowram backed UMBs can have issues with DMA transfers, as certain chipsets make use of the adapter rom region for floppy diskette DMA transfers as a transfer buffer. If there is mapped memory there, this cannot happen, resulting in corrupt floppy transfers. This is chipset specific, and some chipsets do this, and some do not. The VX chipset I use does not.)  More "recent" (TX, and newer, for instance, several VIA chipsets, et al) have issues with this, where the older VX chipset does not.  I consider it a sweetspot.  Other issues with more recent chipsets is that they jam a bunch of unwanted CRAP in there, (like PXE boot loaders for network cards, DOS handlers for USB ports, etc...) which limit how much adapter rom area you can use for creating UMBs, and thus how well you can manage low dos memory.

 

I have around 630k low dos memory free, WITH memory managers supplying EMS, CDRom drivers, etc loaded. (There is a very large block of unused adapter rom that UMBPCI can reliably turn into UMBs, keeping DOS in realmode, and letting me load basically everything high.)

 

I really feel that an MMX200 on a VX chipset board is the sweetspot.

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17 hours ago, wierd_w said:

I really feel that an MMX200 on a VX chipset board is the sweetspot.

Yes, but a 233MMX on a TXPro introduces an element of danger. :D

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