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Filling the DOS gap of the at that time so-called Windows Accelerator SVGA cards

AriesMu

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Hello retro friends! :)

I was wondering...

Remember that in the good old days we were all puzzled by the following to be or not to be situation:

• Either go with older SVGA cards which are great for DOS performance and DOS games (of course the first example that comes up is the Tseng ET4000), but suffer under Windows 3.xx, Windows 3.xx games, and slightly more modern games
• Or go with the at the time brand new novelty "windows accelerator" SVGA cards (S3, Number Nine, and companies, etc.) but suffer slower performances under DOS and DOS games. At this regard I reviewed tons of benchmarks on very old PC magazines and saw that all the beautiful Windows Accelerator cards really sucked under DOS.

I was wondering:
Going a little "over" time and installing in a 486 and a P1 system (MS-DOS 6.22 and Win 3.11 for workgroup) a PCI SVGA that is a little mode modern (less retro), like that for those '90-'93 years would really be like a beast, would brute-force DOS performances in such a way that, even if it is a "windows accelerator" graphic card (Actually even more modern), and even if the whatever old DOS apps and games do not have specific drivers, via brute force it would still give astonishing performances and completely fill the gap, as if there was installed the bestest of the best ever MS-DOS SVGA card and, for each DOS game and app, such card having the specific drivers?
Like, even if the card's not optimized, the drivers are generic, so that DOS game whatever (even 3D) would have to have the SVGA make nutty turns to get from A to B instead of going in a straight line, who cares, the DOS-relative gazillioned clock or computing power of the card would compensate and pass the requrements, more or less...

If so, what would that (or those) card(s) be, without going TOOOOO modern, and with an eye con crash-issues prevention?

Thanks a lot!
 

Xacalite

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If you want to play late DOS games (around 1998), then yes, you need a Pentium, probably even Pentium II, with a PCI SVGA + Voodoo.
Earlier games will also run OK, with the exception for those timing-sensitive ones.
And forget about the earliest PC games, ie. those for 8088@4.77MHz and CGA - most will run too fast, or exhibit problems due to poor CGA compatibility, or both.
 

AriesMu

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Thanks Xacalite!

Oh no, 1998 is way too late stuff.
My focus is on 1991-1995 more or less.

But not necessarily "games", I mean everything.

Back in those days, as "Windows Accelerator" graphic cards and "coprocessor" graphic cards were being released (S3 911, Cirrus Logic GD5426 and GD5428, Number9 128 bit, etc.), people and labs started testing and running benchmarks.
The benchmark results in Windows-like "environments" (and in Windows 3.1 and 3.11 of course) were stunning at almost all resolutions. But the DOS Benchmarks were much SLOWER if compared with the same DOS Benchmarks (same computer, CPU, etc.) using slightly older Frame Buffer SVGAs like the Tseng ET4000/xx and few others.

So, basically, the heart of my question was:

A SVGA card that, although is a "Windows Accelerator" card which is that fast in Windows and Windows-like software, can still achieve those higher benchmark results that the previous DOS-specific best SVGA cards were able to achieve.
 

Xacalite

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1991-1995 would include games such as Witchaven, so go for Pentium.
And don't worry about speed - a Pentium box with an average PCI graphics is definitely fast enough for any game from that period.
Worry about compatibility - some cards (usually those advanced and expensive ones) may exhibit problems with some games - https://gona.mactar.hu/DOS_TESTS/
Don't over-design your gaming machine by installing the best of the best components, as most people back in the era only had average hardware, so games were made for such average gear.
 

Stone

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Oh no, 1998 is way too late stuff.
My focus is on 1991-1995 more or less.
I have a large collection of games from the 1992 - 1994 period:

Terminator 2029
Seven Cities of Gold
A-10 Tank Killer
Mystic Towers
Alone in the Dark
Ambush at Sorinor
The Elder Scrolls: ARENA
Battle Chess 4000
BloodNet
The Blue and The Grey -- Civil War/Military Simulator.
The Bard's Quest I
Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space
Shadow Caster
Civilization Master Edition
Comanche : Maximum Overkill Enhanced
Comanche Missions Disk 2
Corridor 7
Caeser DELUXE
Dark Legions
Darklands
Darksun - The Shattered Lands
Stephen Kings - The Dark Half
Detroit
DOOM v1.1
COMMERCIAL DOOM.WAD v1.0 Extra-Hard
DOOM - Nine New Levels
DOOM - New Sounds taken from "Aliens" You MUST have the Doom Audio Editor.
DOOM - Put in Barney the dinosaur
DOOM - Add-on .wad for "Doom Beast"
DOOM - Beavis and Butthead audio patch
DOOM - Professional AddOn for Level 2
DOOM - Hall of Fame: 17 .LMP files of Battles
DOOM - Use to install the HARD version.
DOOM - Deathmatch scenario: Hellsinki
DOOM - Editing Utilities v2.0 - Map Editor
DDOO - Deathmatch scenario
DOOM - The Best Graphical Editor
DOOM - DATAfix 1.0c - Removes dir C:\DOOMDATA
DOOM - Editor - The Real Thing v2.60b
DOOM - Editor v4.0
DOOM - Editor v2.0
DOOM - Network Menuing System v2.0
DOOM - Episode 4: Yahoos in Hell
DOOM - Episode 5: New Monsters/Scenary,
DOOM - Faq (Fequently Asked Questions) v5.0
DOOM - Faq v5.5.
DOOM - Fixes a bug in Sersetup, allows 14.4k
DOOM - Ghetto Patch - Changes sounds.
DOOM - Gravis Ultrasound Patch.
DOOM - New Warehouse Level.
DOOM - Hockey .WAD file.
DOOM - Many Modem Init strings, even USR.
DOOM - New Add-On .WAD levels (5 new levels)
DOOM - 32 New Sound Effects for v1.2
DOOM - Six New Episodes for v1.2
DOOM - sets up modem like it's a network card
DOOM - 1.2 SERSETUP fix - no more jerky games
DOOM - PacMan Graphics/Sound Patch for v1.2
DOOM - Sound Editor v1.0
DOOM - SerSetup for up to 19200k modem speed.
DOOM - Better Serial Drivers
DOOM - 1.2 SERSETUP replacement to get 14.4k
DOOM - Thing Editor
DOOM - problems with USR sportsters explained
DOOM - Voodoo Sounds to replace the originals
DDOOM - Nine New .WAD adventures
DOOM - Add the troopers from Wolfenstein
DOOMMORF - 160 frame animation of monsters
RunDOOM v2.2á - Front end shell for DOOM 1.2
RunDOOM v4.0 - Front end shell for DOOM 1.2
COMMERCIAL DOOM.WAD v1.0 Extra-Hard
DOOM - Utilities: Inc. Savegame Format
Day of The Tenticle
Might and Magic V : Dark Side of Xeen
Might and Magic V - Crack/Patch
Might and Magic V - Save Game Editor
Might and Magic V - Trainer +???
Dune I
Dungeon Master
Dungeon Hack
Frontier Elite
Empire Deluxe
Entity
Eye of the Beholder I
Eye of the Beholder ][
Eye of the Beholder ]I[
F-14 Fleet Defender
Falcon 3.0
Mig-29 - Falcon 3.0 Data Disk
Fantasy Empires
Final Fight
Front Page Sports Football Pro
Microsoft Flight Simulator v5.0
Microsoft Flight Simulator - AddOn
The Great War!
Hand of Fate 2 - Kyrandia ][
Hand of Fate 2 - Kyrandia ][
Isle of the Dead
King's Quest 6
Betrayal at Krondor
Lemmings ][ - The Tribes
Links Golf 386
Lands of Lore
Mantis Experimental Fighter
Speech Pack/Mantis Experimental Fighter
Mortal Kombat
Monopoly - Deluxe Addition
NCAA
NHL Hockey
Great Naval Battles of North Atlantic
Ultima VIII - PAGAN
Spectre VR
Pools of Darkness
Populous ][
Prince of Persia ][
Privateer
Protostar
Patton Strikes Back
Al-Qadim
Ravenloft - Strahd's Possession
Rome - Pathway to Power
RailRoad Tycoon Deluxe ][
Return to Zork
Sim City 2000
Strike Commander
SSN-21 Seawolf
Serf City - Life is Feudal
Street Fighter ][ - Hyper Edition
SimAnt by Maxis for DOS
SimCity Classic
SimEarth
SimFarm
Sim Health
Microsoft Space Simulator
Spear of Destiny
Spectre
Star Control ][
Stunt Island
Star Trek: Judgement Rites
Stronghold
Stunts!
Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe
Syndicate
Tie Fighter
Reunion
Starlord
The Summoning
Twinion
Ultrabots
Ultima Underworld
Ultima Underworld ][
Forgotten Realms - Unlimited Adventures
Warlords ][
Wing Commander Academy
Wing Commander I
Wizardry 7
Castle Wolfenstein
World War ][
Chuck Yeager's Flight Simulator
 

AriesMu

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1991-1995 would include games such as Witchaven, so go for Pentium.
And don't worry about speed - a Pentium box with an average PCI graphics is definitely fast enough for any game from that period.
Worry about compatibility - some cards (usually those advanced and expensive ones) may exhibit problems with some games - https://gona.mactar.hu/DOS_TESTS/
Don't over-design your gaming machine by installing the best of the best components, as most people back in the era only had average hardware, so games were made for such average gear.

Wow that's a strategic tip! Thanks!!!

However, the thing is that the main purpose here is not mere gaming. Surely it also is. But the main concept is to be able to assemble the best PCs possible for the following platforms:

486 DX2 66
Pentium 60
Pentium 90
Pentium 120 or 100
 

Xacalite

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However, the thing is that the main purpose here is not mere gaming. Surely it also is. But the main concept is to be able to assemble the best PCs possible for the following platforms:

486 DX2 66
Pentium 60
Pentium 90
Pentium 120 or 100
All of them are available with PCI, so you can install even stuff like GeForce2 MX400 with 64 MB RAM.
Which even seems mostly OK for DOS games.
If something runs too slow, it will be due to slow CPU (especially in the case of 486), not video.
 

AriesMu

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Great, thanks.

Yeah don't worry about the 486. It's a ISA-only machine, pros and cons of using branded PCs (Compaq Prolinea 4/66).
With that I just have to answer the million dollar question: Tseng ET4000/W32 which is built-in on the motherboard under a "local bus" (as per manufacturer spec sheet), but not clear enough about the specifics of this "local bus" (32 bit??? 33 MHz? or what?) or if to go with an ISA card... but I'd hate to have to relay on the ISA bus. But this is another story.
 

Xacalite

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Also, it should be noted that all those comparisions like S3 911 (accelerated in Windows, but poor in DOS) vs. Tseng ET4000AX (non-accelerated, but good in DOS) are only important for ISA cards.
See eg. the GRAPHICS BOARD COMPARISON CHART at https://www.microlabs.com/
Most PCI cards easily outrace even the best ISA cards, both in DOS and Windows.
 

Xacalite

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Yeah don't worry about the 486. It's a ISA-only machine, pros and cons of using branded PCs (Compaq Prolinea 4/66).
With that I just have to answer the million dollar question: Tseng ET4000/W32 which is built-in on the motherboard under a "local bus" (as per manufacturer spec sheet), but not clear enough about the specifics of this "local bus" (32 bit??? 33 MHz? or what?) or if to go with an ISA card... but I'd hate to have to relay on the ISA bus. But this is another story.
Local bus means the CPU front side bus, so yes, 32-bit 33MHz.
And ET4000/W32 is a good chip, don't even think about replacing it with some ISA card.
 

AriesMu

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Also, it should be noted that all those comparisions like S3 911 (accelerated in Windows, but poor in DOS) vs. Tseng ET4000AX (non-accelerated, but good in DOS) are only important for ISA cards.
See eg. the GRAPHICS BOARD COMPARISON CHART at https://www.microlabs.com/
Most PCI cards easily outrace even the best ISA cards, both in DOS and Windows.

oh wow I didn't know nor expect that... I'm almost sure I saw plenty of benchmarks those days covering also VLB accelerated cards that ended up being poor in DOS... gotta double-check, now I'm curious!
 

AriesMu

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Local bus means the CPU front side bus, so yes, 32-bit 33MHz.
And ET4000/W32 is a good chip, don't even think about replacing it with some ISA card.

Oh okay that's great to know! Thanks!

Still I'd be very curious to run a thorough series of video benchmarks both 2D and 3D under both DOS and Windows (and also 3D-games-based benchmarks) and then install an ISA ET4000/W32 card and re-run them all and enjoy the differences! :) :drooling:
 

Unknown_K

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DOS gaming runs from 320x240 to VGA to VESA modes using UNIVBE.

Most ISA video cards suck but most work fine for very early DOS games (mid to late 80's). You will find some of those games will crash the installer on fast Pentium systems but most people who play DOS games don't bother with that era anyway.

There are only a handful of Win 3 games so I don't see the need to optimize anything for them. If you like to run Windows 3.11 for apps then you have to figure out what resolution and color depth you need and go from there. Early W3.11 accelerators tended to have a shitty VGA chip and a co processor for the Windows acceleration so they suck for DOS period (Weitek based Diamond cards for example). Early W3.11 acceleration was mostly for line drawing and scrolling in a 256 color environment. Once you start getting into 32k+ colors you needed a different chip to do that and more VRAM. Matrox made some nice 4mb VLB high color Windows accelerators but they sucked in DOS.

Stay away from Trident and OAK cards. Early S3 chipset cards also suck but later ones are decent.

If you are going Pentium or last gasp 486 PCI systems and still want win3 support then you have plenty of choices like Matrox Millenium/Mystique, Nvidia RIVA, ET4000/ET6000 Tseng cards, some ATI rage cards, and some rarer oddball chips. There are plenty of DOS based 3dgames you can use a Voodoo1 with if you have a Pentium.
 

AriesMu

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Thanks for the summary, Unknown_K, very useful.

Yeah, about the avoid Trident and OAK, that I figured already lol
 

Anonymous Coward

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Windows accellerators only really "sucked" at VGA graphics in the 1990-1992 period. After that the situation improved substantially. Pretty much all the S3 VRAM based cards from the 928 onward had pretty decent VGA performance. I also tested the DRAM against VRAM versions of the Mach64, and the results from my DOS benchmarks were identical.

Personally, I feel the best all around card for ISA bus is something based on CL GD5434. It's a 64-bit DRAM based card with pretty acceptable windows accelleration. Other options to consider are:

-Tseng ET4000W32i (this version should be a fair bit faster than the regular W32)
-ATi Mach32/64 when equipped with 2MB (maybe not the best choice compatibility wise)
-S3 805i when equipped with 2MB

In the early 90s I had an ATi card with the Mach8 accelerator chip. These cards only did up to 256 colours in Windows but were pretty fast for their day. They also had discrete VGA cores from the VGAWonder+. I hardly recall any DOS software that didn't work well, except for very old titles with CGA graphics.

As a last resort you could always chain two cards together with the feature connector. Of course, the accellerator card should not have a VGA core, or at least a jumper to disable it. This can be tricky as on some cards the feature connector isn't configured for the input or output you need. Note that in this configuration, your VGA card would also be limited to 256 colours. On my EISA bus system I ran an ET4000W32P paired with a SuperMac Spectrum/24
 

AriesMu

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Windows accellerators only really "sucked" at VGA graphics in the 1990-1992 period. After that the situation improved substantially. Pretty much all the S3 VRAM based cards from the 928 onward had pretty decent VGA performance. I also tested the DRAM against VRAM versions of the Mach64, and the results from my DOS benchmarks were identical.

Personally, I feel the best all around card for ISA bus is something based on CL GD5434. It's a 64-bit DRAM based card with pretty acceptable windows accelleration. Other options to consider are:

-Tseng ET4000W32i (this version should be a fair bit faster than the regular W32)
-ATi Mach32/64 when equipped with 2MB (maybe not the best choice compatibility wise)
-S3 805i when equipped with 2MB

In the early 90s I had an ATi card with the Mach8 accelerator chip. These cards only did up to 256 colours in Windows but were pretty fast for their day. They also had discrete VGA cores from the VGAWonder+. I hardly recall any DOS software that didn't work well, except for very old titles with CGA graphics.

As a last resort you could always chain two cards together with the feature connector. Of course, the accellerator card should not have a VGA core, or at least a jumper to disable it. This can be tricky as on some cards the feature connector isn't configured for the input or output you need. Note that in this configuration, your VGA card would also be limited to 256 colours. On my EISA bus system I ran an ET4000W32P paired with a SuperMac Spectrum/24


↑↑↑ Useful summary! ↑↑↑ Thanks!!!

Then I guess it's either PCI S3928 and higher (maybe Vision 968), or Cirrus GD5434 (What about a PCI GD5446BV I have???).
 

Xacalite

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Cirrus GD5434 is very good by ISA standards, but not interesting by PCI standards.
AFAIR all PCI Cirruses were cheap and boring.
Higher class cards were those with VRAM, so yes, if you want something stylish, then S3 Vision 968 is worth trying.
 

AriesMu

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Cirrus GD5434 is very good by ISA standards, but not interesting by PCI standards.
AFAIR all PCI Cirruses were cheap and boring.
Higher class cards were those with VRAM, so yes, if you want something stylish, then S3 Vision 968 is worth trying.

great, thanks!!
 

Anonymous Coward

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Ah, I thought we were talking about ISA cards.
If you're wanting PCI, it's a totally different game. Just get a Trio64V+ and be done with it.

S3 928 is probably a poor choice for PCI...I don't know if that one supports PCI natively. Either way it's not a mature solution.
 
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