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"Better" 486 Video / Graphics Cards

Smack2k

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What are some of the "better" 486 VESA cards to get the best possible graphics out of your 486 machine?

Curious what's out there outside the various Tridents, including my 2MB Trident.
 

High_Treason

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Depends what you want to do with them, but overall I have never seen much difference.

Some Tseng ET4000 cards offer simple 2D Acceleration in Windows with the correct drivers. Otherwise you've generally got S3 and Cirrus Logics of various models, both of which I would reccomend over the Trident as the Trident cards have a knack of not properly detecting the monitor and switching to monochrome mode in my experience... There is a program to override this that I used to use with one of mine, no idea where you'd find it now.
 

Unknown_K

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Depends on what you need to do with the video card. The better cards have 2-4MB of RAM so that you can do high resolution, decent refresh rates, and 32 bit color depth (if you need to do image editing for instance). The ET4000 was decent in accelerating Windows while still providing good DOS speeds.
 

High_Treason

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Don't know about Creative's cards, forgot they were even in that market so I can't comment there.

That program, I had forgotten, but I did some digging and it turns out it was called SMONITOR. If you download this driver (Even if you are not using this card) and open the TVGAUTIL.ZIP file up, go to the UTILITY folder and you will find it along with some other programs. Interestingly, the program appears to work with other adapters and even DOSBox (In S3_SVGA mode).
 

Chuck(G)

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I'm going to assume that you have VLB. The Diamond Viper P9100 was a pretty hot card. I think I still have the PCI version kicking around.
 

njroadfan

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I'm going to assume that you have VLB. The Diamond Viper P9100 was a pretty hot card. I think I still have the PCI version kicking around.

These cards were pretty awful performance wise in DOS. Remember, they are really two video cards in one, basically a VGA card with a dedicated graphics accelerator chip (The P9000 or P9100). They used a crappy Oak or Weitek 5186 chip for bog standard VGA support and VESA BIOS Extension support required a DOS TSR in order to work right. The Weitek P9000/P9100 with proper Windows drivers was very advanced for its time however.

http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~torsten/viper/index.html
 

orion24

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Personally I have the S3 Trio 64 in VLB that should be pretty close to the best VLB. I wanted the S3 968 version that comes with VRAM, but the last auction for one of these went beyond what I was willing to pay
 

badmofo

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I've tried a range or cards lately and, for a system that's simply aimed at DOS games (non SVGA) I settled on a humble cirrus logic with 1mb. I tried Trident, S3, ATi, Tseng, etc and none had the image quality + compatibility of the cirrus logic. Speed isn't really a factor for 2D vga.
 

Chuck(G)

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These cards were pretty awful performance wise in DOS. Remember, they are really two video cards in one, basically a VGA card with a dedicated graphics accelerator chip (The P9000 or P9100). They used a crappy Oak or Weitek 5186 chip for bog standard VGA support and VESA BIOS Extension support required a DOS TSR in order to work right. The Weitek P9000/P9100 with proper Windows drivers was very advanced for its time however.

http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~torsten/viper/index.html

I'd assumed that it was going to be under Windows, but maybe that's not warranted. I've got a Tsenglabs something-or-the-other in my 486 box in VLB. Seems to be okay. Wish I could remember the chipset, though. 4MB RAM.

Really, any card is going to suck in 16-bit DOS mode. Things start to fly when you can use a 32-bit instruction set.
 

Unknown_K

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I think the Tseng ET4000 chipset could only use up to 2MB of RAM on VLB (and 2MB was much faster then 1MB because of interleaving). Cards did make a difference in DOS gaming, some early 3S chips were so slow, same with generic Trident cards. Back when there used to be local computer shows at the metroplex they used to have 486 VLB systems up and running DOOM 2 in a loop and most of those used cheap but decent late edition Cirrus Logic chips. Early ATI cards were screamers in Windows but slow as hell in DOS. The Weitek cards were fast in 256 color mode in Windows but other cards were faster when using more color at the same resolution.
 

njroadfan

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I'd assumed that it was going to be under Windows, but maybe that's not warranted. I've got a Tsenglabs something-or-the-other in my 486 box in VLB. Seems to be okay. Wish I could remember the chipset, though. 4MB RAM.

Really, any card is going to suck in 16-bit DOS mode. Things start to fly when you can use a 32-bit instruction set.

Its likely a Tseng ET4000/W32p, one of the fastest cards under DOS. The Diamond Viper uses a slow VGA chip hooked up to the ISA bus, so plain VGA stuff was slow. It was sluggish even in 32-bit protected mode DOS games. UniVBE was a godsend with that board, mostly because of Diamond's lousy VBE1.2 implementation.
 

Hatta

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Personally I have the S3 Trio 64 in VLB that should be pretty close to the best VLB. I wanted the S3 968 version that comes with VRAM, but the last auction for one of these went beyond what I was willing to pay

This is what I was going to suggest. Mine is branded a Diamond Stealth 64 DRAM T. The Tseng cards might be marginally faster, but the S3's compatibility can't be beat. I have a Cirrus Logic card, 5426 based IIRC, and it cut about 5% off of my framrates in DOOM. The S3's picture quality is flawless, and it works perfectly in demanding DOS side scrollers like Jazz Jackrabbit, and Dangerous Dave 3.
 

Anonymous Coward

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I haven't found Trio64 to be near the level of ET4000W32P or ARK1000 under DOS (though supposedly very compatible). It's probably a better card than either of those under Windows though.
 

Smack2k

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I will be playing games in DOS on the 486...

What is a good price to find either a ET4000 or Cirrus Logic card?

I have an ET4000 PCI card, but that of course wont go in the 486 ISA board.
 

Anonymous Coward

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There are pretty substantial differences between the ET4000, ET4000W32 and ET4000W32i/p. The performance of the latter is quite a bit better than the two former. For a VLB version of the card I wouldn't pay more than $20. You can still get them for that price if you're patient (like willing to wait a year perhaps). If you want it immediately, you're probably looking at $50.
 

Shadow Lord

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DOS video cards were pretty close on the same BUS. To see real improvement you had to upgrade your bus. I remember when VLB came about and it just blew ISA video cards out of the water. Then PCI came about and DOS performance was just maxed out.

Based on the BUS I'd recommend the following (which seems inline with what others are saying):

ISA: Tseng ET4000 - it is fast and compatible. Plus cheap. You can hang out and wait for an ET4000W32, they exist but in 5 years I have not seen one for sale. But then again I have not looked very hard.
EISA: Not much here. Even though there was potential most of it was used for NICs and SCSI cards. EISA was mostly in the server space so graphics were neglected. Your two best choices are either the Elsa Winner 2000 or miro 32S card. Both have 4MB of VRAM and are based on S3 chips. I have not found much difference between the two (although I have done no formal testing) except in windows where the miro card supports much higher resolutions. I would love to see an EISA ET4000/W32 based card but I don't think one was ever produced.
VLB: Tseng ET4000W32i.
PCI: Any early NVidia or the 3dfx banshee card. By then just about everything for DOS was accelerated in these chip sets. I'd personally go banshee to get DOS 3D compatibility due to 3dfx's early domination of the market.
AGP: see PCI - although I don't know if there were any 486 or even low end Pentium AGP systems...

You can still apparently buy NEW ISA/VLB Tseng cards from these guys for an expensive price. But you get support.... :/
 
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Agent Orange

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Diamond Speedstar VLB Pro is my choice for one of 486 machines. It comes with 1 MB on-board and the Cirrus GD5428 chipset. It will run any DOS game that you can throw at it and gets great results while achieving 1024x768 @ 256 colors. If you're running WIN95/WIN98, drivers are no problem and are natively supported. Check out this link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/DIAMOND-Spe...706?pt=PCC_Video_TV_Cards&hash=item3cd043c3ba
 

Anonymous Coward

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It's true that any VL card can blow any ISA vga card out of the water regarding speed. But...it's simply not true that all VLB cards give about the same level of DOS performance. If you're just running Sierra games you don't need much more than an ISA card and 256kb RAM. But if you are running 3D games or high-res stuff from the 94-96 period, you find some cards run much better than others.

If you want an ET4000W32P card for VLB, I can get you one for about $17 plus shipping. Probably about $30 in all. Card is untested though.
 
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