Graphics Card Comparison 486 DX2 33 ISA VLB DOS

Graphics Card Comparison 486 DX2 33 ISA VLB DOS

What is a decent graphics card for the 486 DX 33?

There are lots of options, ISA or VLB, old and new. So we will benchmark a range of cards with 3DBench, Chris’s 3DBench, PC Player Bench, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake.

We will also look at value, the top graphics card might be hard to get and really expensive. What card offers good value and is a decent ISA card enough for this processor? Some cards use jumpers and dip switches, what is that all about and what can I do when the sockets on the graphics card are empty?

Over the next few weeks I will do videos about the 486, DOS, MIDI and sound cards.

Enjoy this video!

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Jed ITS says:

Also, 44256 chips usually work – Match that with the speed of the RAM on board. You can go faster, but the slower on board RAM will slow it down.

I have a SUPER OLD ATI Mach8 (I think) that uses 4x64k chips – I got them off eBay for I think $10.

Mihai Vasiliu says:

I just bought a SD card to IDE adapter. is it good/fast enough? or do I need a CF to IDE?

Old Guy says:

The WD-based Diamond Speedstar 24X was a truly fast ISA-card. Slightly edging out the ET4000 by my experience back then. Like the other commenter wrote it practically was operating at the limit of the ISA bus.
It’s main advantage in Windows was the 24-bit color mode (60 Hz, I believe, which was slightly flickery back in the CRT days) that was slightly quicker than the ET4000 that supported 24-bit color mode (Diamond also had such a card but I think they tricked the ET4000 into believing that it can support 24 bit color ;-)).
But of course the WD chip wasn’t a full blown Windows accelerator card like the later ones.
Disadvantages: The run-o-the-mill ET4000 were nearly as fast but much cheaper, at least when the SS24X was new. The earlier firmwares also had a few compatibility problems with some games. Diamond supplied a fix for this, though.
A very nice card and I would prefer it in an ISA-bus PC. In fact I still keep mine somewhere deep in the cellar…

As for VLB cards the ET4000W32 and the ET6000 usually were the quickest cards (up to twice as fast as the ISA ET4000 or SS24X) but I had a DX2 66 at the time so what I remember may be a bit different.
Shame that they are expensive right now as there was a time where they were practically worthless.
I also remember that I had a VLB multi-I/O-controller with IDE and parallel & serial ports – it was astonishingly expensive. HD access was fast and didn’t reduce the frame rate but I later switched to a SCSI system which felt nicer (same CPU). That was some crazy expensive sh*t back then. Ha ha! Thank God that, too, went the way of the dodo!

Евгений Ольшанский says:

What about EISA cards?

Solvalou says:

I got a ATi Mach64 VLB card. I feel very lucky.

pjaro77 says:

Trident TVGA9000B ISA was my first graphics card. Very slow in higher resolution f.e. in Windows 3.1.

Rez Zircon says:

Fun fact about Trident ISA cards (and some VLB cards): you can use them in an 8-bit slot. The rest of the connectors are just data bandwidth that it can live without. While the card is too laggy for 486 or faster machines, it does absolute wonders for an XT or 286’s performance; you don’t realise what a bottleneck Herc monochrome is until you replace it with VGA.

The fastest ISA VGA I’ve seen was a very old full-length card with the faster type of VRAM. Ran so hot it warped itself, but lordy could it fly.

Trident’s ISA and PCI cards were so slow compared to the competition, I always wondered why their VLB card was so much better. When I got mine it was top of the market.

192funk says:

I had an OAK(OTI) ISA Card FML xD. I later upgraded to a VL Bus card.

herauthon four says:

Looking at a few i got in storage –
Et4000-isa16,1Mb, Oak, Trident, S3Virge , WD/Paradise88, and a few CGA or older cards
and a stack of VLB video cards..and multi-io .. but.. now find a board with VLB

sinephase says:

seems to me, in this era, supporting a high enough resolution is probably enough for the majority of games. aside from DOOM, I don’t think there was much else besides flight sims.

Dabombinable Mi says:

All of the ISA video cards that I have….and I’ve got no idea if they work as its been over 20 years since any of them saw use.

Hubert Hans says:

One thing to remember is: If you want to overclock the ISA BUS (12MHz is common to increase performance) you should be very careful. Cirrus-Cards and other cheapo vendor cards of this time are very prone to die. And overclocking is sometimes achived by user fault/ accident without the user wanting to overclock. Some BIOS Settings are misleading for beginners. S3 cards on the other hand, like the 801/805 will sometimes be a bit slower, but will gain speed and run absolutely fine with 12MHz ISA. Better S3 cards will outperform its cheaper counterparts by a margin. A 486 33MHz is all, but to slow to show the difference. So this benchmarks are fine as they are.

UncleAwesome says:

was the different graphics cards made for gamers back then?

Ampera says:

I have an S3 Trio32 VLB card if you want me to bench it. I do not have access to a DX-33, rather I have a DX-100 OC’d to 120Mhz, and my board is significantly faster than yours, but if you want me to slow the DX4 down or do something else, I would be happy to contribute.

kanopus06 says:

I remember having 2 486s. The first one was an intel 486DX 33 MHz, with 4MB 30pin RAM, and a Triden 8900CL 1MB VGA ISA card.
Afterwards I upgraded the motherboard to one of those that were called "VIP", that supported VLB, ISA and PCI bus, with an IntelDX4 100 MHz, 8MB of 72pin RAM, and a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5434 1MB PCI card, which I later upgraded to 2MB.
That machine was very capable of playing most MSDOS games except the latest from 1996 or later. It was so much better to play DOOM with the IntelDX4 rather than the 486DX, and besides I could overclock the bus to 50 MHz (so it ran 50×2 instead of 33×3), or to 40 MHz so I had 120MHz. Pretty amazing performance from that chip I must say.

Franklin Reinoza says:

Very nice channel, my new favorite… Are you planning in future bring some 80260 or even older?

Phunker1 says:

Genoa M5 Veloce 8600 VLIO. It won all the tests back then and also came with a VLB controller on the back. With it, Doom was flying on my DX-33.

Smack2k says:

Phil, I’d like to know that as well, how do you clean your motherboards and cards? They are so clean and pristine, what’s your secret?

hinac says:

Hi Phils! I believe that the P9000 needs an existing mode on some motherboards allowing its use to 100%. Nice Benchmarks!

Bandana zX says:

My DX2 66 had a Mach64 2M VRAM VLB. Should have kept that machine.

Adi Serghei says:

486 DX33 seems like an odd choice. I know it keeps the VLB at a "happy" 33MHz, but it is underpowered and a DX4 100MHz would have been a better choice to squeeze more out of those VLB cards.

Back in those days I had a Cirrus Logic 5429 on a 40MHz VLB using a DX4-120MHz and that thing was FAST.

Eduardo Chueri says:

I still have a OAK ISA video card

pjaro77 says:

Trident TVGA 9000B. My first PC in 1994 includes it.

scroeffie says:

i have a s64+ 2mb video card with a pentium s 150mhz is this good for dos gaming ?

Lets Shoot Expired says:

i have a spare 486 dx 33 so i should get it running

Thraka's House says:

One thing that would be nice is to see how a PCI video card compares to these when using a PCI 486

Al says:

How do you clean your PC components? They look brand new.

aopfin says:

I found a Diamond Stealth 64 DRAM VLB from trash yesterday, I wonder if it’s worth anything?

PierreVonStaines says:

Congrats on over 10K subs mate! (I would have congratulated you sooner but I’ve been away) 🙂

Alvaro Acwellan says:

Strange that Tseng ET4000 is often mentioned as a good performer and so is in your test but any ISA Tseng4k I tried fell definitely in the slow group. The WDC card I found was fast (I don’t have it anymore), Cirrus Logic cards are nice too, the Oaks are slow, older Tridents on the slower end too, it was all as in your test. But at least I found one exception of the slow Trident trope: 8900D is a solid fast chip and IIRC it was quite popular in its time. At least a friend had it in his 386 and I remember speeds I could only dream of back then 🙂 Now I have two of these cards just to be sure. They’re also 286 friendly while some newer ISA cards aren’t (for example my S3 805 ISA needs a 386 to POST).

roberto torres says:

Hey Phil you should try the SIS 530 and SIS 620 integrated video chips btw if you do that the stable driver version for the 530 is ver. 1.05

ccanaves says:

How do you benchmark using Wolf 3D?

Gil Verthaim says:

Wow, 2-3 fps in quake… how can someone claim that’s playable.
I need to go find a video of that.

James Lewis says:

Seeing the benchmark results, it makes me think that the old DX2 66 with 8mb ram was doing quite well to run Doom and Quake. In fact we kept using that machine through the Windows 95-98 era although it did struggle with later titles of the era.

pepino169 says:

Good job! …but its a pity, that you didn’t use S3 chip based graphic cards for the test.

Scott Lawrence says:

I still love my Number 9 GXE 64 in my old computers. 😀

Charon Underground says:

Cirrus Logic VLB rulez 🙂

Matthew Day says:

Thinking about reviving an old DOS system – has a CL GD5428 VLB (glad to see they do quite well), also bagged a Diamond Stealth 64 Video VRAM (S3 86C964).
Unsurprising that the Weitek VLB card did poorly, as in DOS it’s using the OAK chipset instead – slow even on VLB, as the Weitek is for Windows acceleration.
The WD90C30 would probably perform equally to the 90C31 in DOS, as the 90C31 primarily adds Windows acceleration (2D draw and bitblt)

Jim Leonard says:

Probably your best video. Excellent work.

Eric Hanchar says:

What about ATI VLB cards?

Eep386 says:

Some surprising top performers that I’ve observed:
1. Oak OTI087 (1MB or more). Actually vastly improved over the OTI077 and earlier chips, its performance is on par with a TC6058-revision ET4000AX, but with overall better VGA compatibility. Its only real downfall, is that most of the boards that feature it are rather cheesy in build quality, and most of the ‘087’s I ran into had poor VGA output quality. Unfortunately it’s rather uncommon these days, and it’s not exactly ‘cheap’ on eBay anymore.
The reason why the OTI087 is so slow on those P9000 boards, is because they’re frequently given only an 8-bit data path to their video memory, which horribly stymies their performance.

2. Trident TGUI9400CXi. A surprisingly scrappy part from a rather notorious manufacturer. The VLB version is quite common and usually not too expensive, making it a viable alternative to the better-regarded chipsets for VLB slot systems. If only it weren’t for the well-known problem of Trident cards occasionally booting up in monochrome, it would make a decent poor-man’s ET4000.

3. Cirrus/Acumos AVGA2 (CL-GD5402). You’d never expect this cheesy little early integrated SVGA chip to amount to much, but it can hold its own well, board design permitting. It can be almost as fast as an ET4000AX depending on how it’s configured. Boards with the full 512KB complement seem to be particularly strong.

theodoros kotsilieris says:

very rare cards!!.i have a ati ega wonder 800 !!

Ricardo Graça says:

So, a couple of notes:

1. The VLB P9000 performed like crap because you were only using the Oak chip, and as we all know Oak graphics cards suck. The Weitek chip is only used in Windows for GUI acceleration, so if you’re only going to use DOS this card is next to useless. That’s a limitation of the Weitek chips, they aren’t compatible with DOS, that’s why cards that use them need a secondary (usually cheap and crappy) chip for DOS.

2. The CL-GD5424 main advantage over the 5422 is support for VLB, so having it in a ISA card probably explains why it performs so badly, i.e. it was probably a late cheap card.

3. Nice to see that the ET4000AX isn’t the only ISA card to perform that well, contrary to popular belief.

bas visser says:

Where did you find the et 4000 drivers?

Michael Hays says:

What about the video quality for DOS? Do some cards look better or are they all about the same?

shan2752 says:

Phil, thanks for all your helpful retor PC hardware guides, they are greatly appreciated! You dont have an S3 805 to or Tseng E4000/W32 card to reference? Thanks

Boom Box says:

Great video. I have several ISA And VESA Local Bus cards in storage that i have not used in years. I had a headache getting some cards to work. I am pretty sure some of the jumper settings were giving me trouble before i gave up on them. The cards without any jumpers worked a treat. This will be an interesting series to watch.

Jed ITS says:

Nice to see the TSENG performs well – I have a VESA one in my 486 and an ISA one in my 386.

I’ve read that the one with the Wietek processor is not good in a PC World article from 1994, so that matches your findings well.

BTW are you a German Australian?

BAAWA Knight says:

I still have my Diamond SpeedStar Pro (VLB) with the 5428. And a VLB controller.

Marco Pontello says:

Something that we forgot now with digital video connections, is the video signal quality! There were night & day differences when using a quality monitor with different video cards, in terms of blurring, ghosting, etc. For example, Cirrus Logic cards of that era had a quite infamous subpar RAMDAC, while the output of a WD90c31/3 was just about perfect.
Similarly, years later, the output from a Diamond Monster 3D was terrible compared to an Orchid Righteous 3D (with its clicky relays).
Could be an idea for a comparision, if you haven’t already done something similar (I discovered your awesome channel quite recently).