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The third episode of Bigeye delves into atypical hardware configurations - overclocks, alternate computing paths, and stupid combinations.
#15: Am5x86 and 3D Acceleration
I know what you've been thinking: "But I want to see a Voodoo2 on a 486!!" Well, there's already other videos about that which have been available to watch for years, but I suppose I can elaborate on the whole thing myself a bit more...
To start, the Soyo 4SAW2 is one of the very best 486 motherboards ever manufactured, except for the dumb little NiMH battery it uses (although the removal of a diode can allow you to put a CR2032 socket in its place). With this, you get four PCI slots (three are practical), four SIMM slots, PS/2 mouse support, a VLB slot, and the ability to use 3.45V CPUs. Being a very late 486 motherboard from 1995, it can effectively fit anyone's needs with the blend of older and newer features it offers.
You can really see how the Voodoo2 offloads so much rendering effort from the CPU by putting it in a 486 build. While Quake is highly FPU-intensive, it is overall not too harsh on the entire CPU compared to later 3D games. Before, I would have to shrink the screen in order to make the game tolerable on a 486, but in this scenario I don't feel like I have to.
Also note that the Am5x86 CPU is overclocked to 160MHz here. That alone may significantly help with some programs, but another thing you may want to try messing with if it's available on your motherboard is memory timings. Main system RAM and expansion buses are very slow compared to the CPU, so the CPU often has to wait for something to be ready before it can access it in any way.
This is often not automatic, either, so you have to configure devices to produce "wait states" to ensure all components will be timed correctly and not cause your computer to flip out. Reducing the number of wait states as much as possible will provide the most significant improvements in application performance, but may cause protected mode software or certain devices to irregularly crash.
Normally, it's safer to stick to a 100MHz DX4 or leave the Am5x86 at its usual 133MHz if you want a fast 486. It's always cool to see this platform break through the limits, but if you want a faster system without the stability issues of overtightening memory timings, just get a Socket 5 or 7 motherboard.
#16: 233MHz 1MB Pentium Pro
NOBODY had a CPU like this when it was released in early 1997, I'm sure. Its giant cache compared to the usual 256KB/512KB made it practical only in datacenters and other high-power servers, especially since it still had 6-way SMP available. Still, if you have a 440FX Socket 8 motherboard handy, it'll probably take this without any issue; the most you might have to do is update the BIOS.
The SL259 and SL25A models of the 1MB Pentium Pro can really push your software much faster no matter whether you're using MS-DOS, Windows 95, or Windows NT. Being a Pentium Pro, it's really fascinating to see how hard it can work purely through brute force, and not any of the extra benefits of later P6-based CPUs. Did you really need MMX to make your software run faster? Maybe, but maybe not.
It's often very difficult to find Socket 8 coolers, but an eBay seller from the UK has a large stock of bare heatsinks. They're kind of thin, but if you screw a modest 60mm fan from Delta or Noctua onto one using large-threaded screws, that should suffice along with a line of quality thermal paste. Pentium Pros output a lot of waste heat, but that's nothing compared to what today's CPUs are like.
You can also get away with overclocking the Pentium Pro a little bit, though your mileage will be highly dependent on your specific sample. Even jumping from 200MHz to 233Mhz results in very significant improvements, particularly where software heavily relies on L2 cache.
The Pentium Pro makes for a great matchup with a single Voodoo2. If you want 60 FPS everywhere, you may wish to try getting a Pentium II Overdrive instead, but otherwise, you'll have yourself a very fun little machine to work with.
I also want to comment on the motherboard being used here. The XP6NP5 may be of interest not only because it happens to be a Socket 8 motherboard in the ATX form factor, but also that it's among the earliest examples of this new platform. ATX didn't start becoming widely adopted until 1998, and if you happen to have an early enough revision of a particular Asus Socket 7/8 board, it may happen to take both ATX and AT power supplies.
During the transition from "Baby AT" to ATX, ATX power switches in barebones cases were often designed in a way where they could be very easily replaced with hardwired AT power switches, and the 1" ATX switches could click in similar vigor to the old push toggle switches. Alongside this, you could also mount an AT board inside an ATX case, but you'd have to take note that only 8 expansions slots will be usable compared to 9 in an AT case.
By contrast, many major OEM computers were specifically designed to be ATX only (or their own proprietary form factor), and used much more compact switches before those would shortly become ubiquitous in later ATX cases.
#17: 315MHz Pentium MMX
The Pentium MMX can withstand a lot more overclocking... at least mine can. As L2 cache for Pentium MMX systems is still tied to the front side bus, only FSB overclocks can make the external cache move faster. If you're looking to catch up to a slow Pentium II, something like this is more realistic.
When it comes to overclocking Socket 7 CPUs and earlier, you have to manually raise their voltage above normal rating. This allows them to be more stable under the excessive stress, but they will output more heat and potentially get hit by a total failure of some sort - at best, they may lock up or reboot, but they may also become fried and permanently unusable. In most cases, you'll have to expect to move up to 3.1V or 3.2V if you really want to get anywhere near 315MHz, but I have an unusual sample that can do it at just 2.9V mostly stable.
In order to achieve this dangerous speed, I overclocked the FSB to 105MHz, which is the highest I could take the chipset to. Then, I reduced the CPU's multiplier to 3X, which would make the CPU run at 200MHz on a normal 66MHz FSB. 105MHz FSB x 3 internal clock = 315MHz. Now that I think of it, I could have tried setting the FSB slightly under 100MHz and setting the CPU multiplier to the full 3.5x. I did try to get over 350MHz, but that didn't work out.
The 3dfx Voodoo4 is basically a Voodoo5 with only one VSA-100 chipset. Both the Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 share the same driver, and are represented as "3dfx Voodoo Series" in the device manager. Out goes the extra power, but in comes a few neat benefits: this card doesn't need extra Molex power, and it has a universal AGP connector. It's kind of wasteful how the Voodoo5 5500 only had a 2x AGP connector while this one works in both 2x and 4x slots, considering other vendors were already implementing universal connectors in 1999.
#18: 533MHz Mendocino Celeron
Ignore the GeForce for now, you'll see how that works later on. I want to talk about the Intel Celeron. Celeron is a brand generally associated with the lowest of budget, the trashiest of trash, the POS systems, and the combustible Bestec power supplies. There is an early kind of Celeron that's really something special, though: the Mendocino core!
While this CPU is more often held back by lame OEM builds powered by Intel's 810 chipset, it became wildly popular among hardware enthusiasts for its unexpected capabilities. For one, the higher clocked variants make for a powerful upgrade to most any 440LX motherboard which has a BIOS update to support it, meaning you get to use this thing with an AGP slot. Mendocino Celerons also unofficially support SMP, so anyone looking to build an affordable workstation can use these to render their 3ds MAX projects faster. In fact, the Abit BP6 motherboard was created specifically for such a setup.
A key characteristic of the Mendocino Celeron is the 128KB of full speed cache integrated into the CPU die, something accomplished a full year before the first Pentium III Coppermine CPUs were released. This is much smaller compared to the 512KB of L2 cache found on a Pentium II. Given the latter runs at half speed, however, pitting a Celeron against an equally clocked Pentium II could make for some interesting results. I haven't compared which programs run faster on either CPU, but it would be a matter of what fits nicely into a certain amount of cache. If a program scales very well with a higher clock multiplier on a Pentium 1, it's possible it may benefit more from a fast Celeron than a Pentium II.
The most well-known of the Mendocino Celerons is the Celeron 300A, which is supposedly able to overclock to 450MHz on a 440BX motherboard very easily and retain full stability along the way. Given the drastic price gap between the 300A and the 450MHz Pentium II, many savvy system builders snatched the former in droves. I have not been able to get mine to work for whatever reason, otherwise I most definitely would've demonstrated it here. Still, a 533MHz Celeron is a great upgrade for anything running on a 66MHz FSB, being the last of the Mendocino lineup from January 2000.
Because the later Mendocino CPUs use Socket 370, an adapter is necessary to install one into a Slot 1 motherboard. This adapter is sometimes referred to as a "slocket" or "slotket" adapter. These should be pretty straightforward to use, but you will need to make sure the heatsink you plan to use won't be too large. I'm pretty sure that all Socket 370 adapters will gladly take Mendocino CPUs.
#19: The Fastest AT Computer
So, we've talked about pushing the 440LX chipset much faster, but what about the 440BX chipset? There's several answers for that, one being to use a special kind of Socket 370 adapter which accepts Tualatin CPUs. While the 1.4GHz Celeron certainly isn't going to be quite as fast as its Pentium III-S counterpart, it's the very fastest one can go on a 440BX motherboard without overclocking. It also has a decent 256KB of cache, so you're not gonna be badly gimped with it.
The real kicker, though, is that this CPU is installed into an AT motherboard, one of the last of its kind. The Asus P2B-B will gladly accept this thing if you update the BIOS to the latest version; most likely you'll need a beta release from 2002. If you were to then throw 768MB of RAM in there, you could really take the AT form factor places.
There are other Socket 370 adapters which can take Tualatin CPUs as well, but those depend on the motherboard having Coppermine support already, particularly the Upgradeware Slot-T. The iP3/T takes power from an adapter connecting to a Molex plug and regulates the CPU voltage itself. Most other Socket 370 adapters will only support Mendocino or Coppermine CPUs at most.
Breaking 1GHz means you can run Quake with software rendering at a high resolution like 640x480 and not experience any frame dips. In a way, the chunky graphics look a lot more fitting for something like Quake, given how low-res its textures are. Quake and WinQuake should run on any kind of system without requiring special hardware, so go try it on your brand new computer! If your video driver or operating system doesn't like it, there might be a source port that fulfills your software rendering needs.
#0: Embrace Modernity?
This wasn't initially planned to be a part of the video, but I couldn't help not bring up a little something about even newer technical advancements and community-maintained source ports. The vanilla Quake executables often have trouble running on modern hardware and software, but id Software was smart enough to release the source code of their outdated engines under the GNU GPL so enthusiasts could continue to maintain the games used by them and ensure their usability on newer systems.
Games don't easily go obsolete the same way other kinds of programs do. They may display technical inferiority when you compare raw measures like texture sizes and artificial intelligence sophistication, but many people love to pick up 20+ year old games and play them again, and that's often because such games have something newer releases are missing. But there's one thing I like to emphasize on my channel... even if a non-game program is so outdated, it can still be very useful. Photoshop 3, 3ds MAX 1.2, even Windows 95 or NT 4.0...
...or what about Windows 7, that thing I have running on my main workstation right now? How is this even possible? Microsoft has taken many strides to attempt to stifle anyone from installing anything other than Windows 10 on new systems, but through our combined willpower, we overcome their barriers to keep using the last good version of Windows, and the same goes with many people still running along with Windows XP as their primary operating system. If that's not enough, I was able to install Windows 98 on a Ryzen system, running from a USB flash drive, complete with video and sound drivers!
It's been a couple years since I installed Windows 7 for the Ryzen, and that was when I was on an X470 chipset. If you don't have any PS/2 port handy, you're not going to have a good time trying to do it yourself. I'd strongly recommend having a spare Windows installation handy on another computer to create a modified Windows 7 installation medium with XHCI and NVMe support, as well as another USB stick that can boot into a live Linux environment with NTFS support.
The other thing you'll need to do is gather drivers for onboard devices on your motherboard individually. Getting Windows 7 versions of drivers is preferred, but there might be an offchance you could use Windows 10 versions if all else fails. No official driver for AMD's X570 chipset exists for Windows 7, but I'm using a hacked one and it has been 100% stable on my board. In the past, installing updates on Ryzen systems brought about another hurdle that could be overcome with Wufuc, but now that Windows 7 is out of support, it may be easier to just install an update rollup for everything up to January 2020.
In fact, I would disable Windows Update after ensuring all updates have been installed, because Microsoft has been trying to push out a Chromium-based Edge browser to Windows 7 through the update service. Stay clear of it and stick to Firefox or another browser not based on Chromium.
As of now, I have no plans to move away from Windows 7, and I will never upgrade to Windows 10. I still need to use Adobe CS6 all the time, but Olive Video Editor, which I used to create the entirety of Bigeye, is showing a lot of promise. Here's hoping software developers don't end up ditching Windows 7 too soon.
#20: A Crippled Voodoo5
If you thought having a Voodoo2 in a 486 was crazy, try a Voodoo5 in the slowest Pentium! More than likely you'll have to get the PCI version of the Voodoo5 5500 if you really want to recreate this setup, as many Super Socket 7 motherboards with AGP slots do away with any setting for a 50MHz FSB which a 75MHz Pentium uses.
Despite the severe CPU bottleneck, the Voodoo5 manages to render GLQuake at 800x600 pretty fast. To emphasize, this is a high resolution it's running at, so it could potentially run at least a little faster at something lower! EDO memory timings on the 430HX chipset are pretty tight, too, so if you wanted to go slower, you could opt for a motherboard with a 430FX chipset instead.
I replaced the stock coolers on the Voodoo5 with some copper VGA coolers made by Titan. The stock coolers are known to have pretty bad thermal compound, which doubles as glue for the tiny heatsinks. Removing the heatsinks by force is very difficult and not advisable; I lucked out when I popped mine off with nothing but a flat head screwdriver, for the BGAs appear to be a little bent. You should try using a certain kind of freeze spray or a hot air gun on the heatsinks to soften the compound instead.
Once you do get them off, though, installing an aftermarket cooler is very easy because there are two holes that allow VGA coolers to be mounted. After evenly applying new quality thermal paste across the chipset surface, you just grab the right size mounting bar, align the mounting pegs with the diagonal holes, and press them in evenly.
These coolers I have installed on the Voodoo5 are very noisy. If you have something like this, I highly recommend connecting the fans to the +5V rail, as using +12V makes the fans feel like they're exerting so much force that they may be vibrating their surroundings... very bad for hard drives in the long run.
As of now, I don't use this card much because it's still missing a few capacitors or anything like that. It still works just fine, but I'd rather not use it until I know exactly what I need to replace so I can ensure this thing will receive a stable current in future usage.
#21: Some Pentium 4 machine
Don't even get me started on the Pentium 4... actually, this might be a little better, being a late era machine with PCI Express and no more dumb leaky capacitors, but it may also be much worse, as I'm pretty sure this is a Prescott CPU. I've heard testimonies of them being able to heat up an entire room relatively quickly, and I myself had the misfortune of using several NetBurst-based systems when they were new.
Pentium 4 and Windows XP were the trash era of computing, full stop. Software bloat was skyrocketing, interface designs started looking dumber, computers stopped looking professional, faulty capacitors were everywhere, excessive waste heat was the new norm, and you as a user were assumed to be stupid. This era was outrageously offensive to technical users, and it dragged on for far too long.
Some tech journalists are so snarky, thinking they can get off easy telling everyone "WINDOWS ME AND VISTA ARE WERE THE WORST OPERATIGN SYSTEMS IN OF THE WORLD." No, you're fucking wrong. Windows XP is very easily the third worst operating system ever made, only behind Windows 8 and 10. It broke compatibility with many older Windows programs, its system requirements were too excessive, it had major security flaws, it introduced online DRM, and it pitched a pointless single sign on service that is now almost forced in modern Windows. I have intentionially installed Windows 2000 on this machine instead so as to avoid giving anyone the pleasure of going "eeeeeee windows ex pee pee!!!!!!!"
My experience with PCs in the mid 2000's was that of a nightmare. Overheating was a regular occurrence in both of the Pentium 4 desktops I've used at home. One would frequently sound an alarm and pop open a dialog which I didn't understand at the time, and another would instantly shut off or get a BSOD if I was to play a game while encoding a video in Windows Movie Maker for too long, which made me extremely distrustful of the machine. What a piece of shit NetBurst was... I'm certain with all that heat it generates, it must have had serious throttling issues as well.
Laptops were no better, either, and this applied to both Intel and AMD. It was not uncommon for them to shut off randomly, not to mention one of the chargers died one day. I suppose if I got them with some external coolers, they would've had a better fate, but still... come 2007, I was getting fed up with the poor quality and slowness of the computers I had been using.
I had been paying attention to Apple's then recent "Hello I'm A Mac" campaign, and saw them as the answer to all of my computing problems. I was never enthusiastic about gaming even when it came to consoles, and fell much more in line with the sort of multimedia creation and organization Apple often sold their Macs on. I finally got a black MacBook in June 2007, followed by a 24" iMac in December that same year to replace my Pentium 4 desktop. I absolutely loved those computers, at least for a couple years. I had no more overheating issues, and everything was pretty stable, though my iMac and MacBook Pro I got later in 2008 did have a concerning issue where a video would occasionally play back startling garbled noise.
It would take me two years to reclaim my enthusiasm for normal, non-Apple PCs again, and it sure wasn't through Windows Vista being improved so much in Service Pack 2. I was still convinced it was bad thanks to a stubborn press that refused to acknowledge Vista's improvements over the years. Instead, I was getting enthusiastic about the command line in Linux, FreeBSD, and Mac OS X to an extent, and wanted to reuse my Pentium 4 machine as a dedicated test rig for trying out various operating systems.
I most clearly remember messing with Ubuntu 9.04 and FreeBSD 7.2 on that machine. Soon, I wanted to build my own system, and eventually got all the parts I needed around the end of 2009 so I could build my very own Core 2 Quad system. It is a bit cheap with its Intel chipset graphics, but once I started using it, I realized how much better PCs had gotten since I abandoned them. In fact, they became good all the way back in 2006 when the Core 2 Duo was introduced, and Apple was just riding on the benefits of Intel's new and finally more efficient CPU.
But had I not gotten a Mac in a time where Apple really encouraged multimedia creation for amateurs and professionals alike (and providing a clear path upward from iMovie to Final Cut), my background in video creation would've been very different, perhaps not as strong as it is now.