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View Full Version : Which CPU for retro gaming ???



phinix
March 16th, 2016, 05:03 AM
Hi guys, I'm sure you can help me out - I would like to have a old PC for retro gaming, but not sure which should I pick.
I would prefer to have just one PC, but it looks liek 2 might be needed.
These are like gaming eras I'm trying to fit in:)

Early DOS
Late DOS
Windows 95/98

Can I just use Pentium MMX 166 for example and play all those games?
Or would I need like 486 for early DOS games?
Also, would Pentium MMX 166 be enough for Windows 95 games?

Stone
March 16th, 2016, 05:15 AM
Have you tried DOSBox?

phinix
March 16th, 2016, 05:22 AM
Have you tried DOSBox?

Do you mean use dosbox on Pentium MMX on Windows 95 to play oldest dos games?

commodorejohn
March 16th, 2016, 05:29 AM
No, he means just using DOSBox instead of vintage hardware (I shudder to think how it would run on a pre-PIII system.)

As for the initial question, a Pentium or PII should do just fine for most vintage gaming purposes; the only time you'll have issues with it is certain really old DOS games that do their timing based off the CPU speed, which will run ridiculously fast. However, there's several utilities out there that can slow things down so that these are playable; the one I recall was MoSlo.

Stone
March 16th, 2016, 05:37 AM
Yes, with DOSBox you should be able to run all types of games on one machine. It's very configurable.

hargle
March 16th, 2016, 05:38 AM
The easiest solution is to install dosbox on any modern computer and you will have the ability to get your retro on as needed. dosbox supports PC booters from 1981 that support CGA only, to DOS's heyday of the mid 90s, to new games released this century too.

If you want a true retro experience with all the headaches of freeing up base memory and tweaking config.sys drivers, I would suggest something in the pentium 2 range, like a P2 @ 800MHz.
This gives you enough speed to play more modern (win95) games, and you can run a nifty little program call throttle:
http://www.oldskool.org/pc/throttle
In DOS to slow your machine down enough to still be able to play old games that don't support automatic speed adjustments.

Real hardware has other limits though, like not being able to play PCjr games (unless you also get a PCjr!) or not being able to play games that only support CGA, unless you also get a CGA video card and monitor setup.

phinix
March 16th, 2016, 06:47 AM
I don't want o use dosbox.
I would like to build an old PC and play those games on it:)

Yes, I'm very much familiar with techniques of releasing more base memeory, playing with configsys and autoexec etc, I've done it for years in 80s/90s:)

So without going back too far, like CGA games, Pentium MMX should be enough for 90% of DOS games? And Windows 95 games?

per
March 16th, 2016, 06:58 AM
It really depends what games you want to play.

If you're after very early PC games, then go for an 8088/286 early DOS machine. If you want to play games from the late 80's/early 90's, then look into a 386/486 late DOS machine. If you want to play things from the mid-90's, then you'll want to look into the Pentiums.

hargle
March 16th, 2016, 07:22 AM
Ok, if dosbox is out, then the point I was getting at is that it is easier to take a fast computer and make it go slower to play older games, than it is to take an older computer (386/486) and make it go faster to play more modern games. :)

So yes, get a pentium MMX machine and we will find ways to make it play as many games as possible.

I also can't discuss DOS games without recommending you find out about the Total DOS Collection.

bjt
March 16th, 2016, 08:03 AM
K6-2+ and 3+ are probably the most flexible speed wise. It has software multiplier and cache control so you can scale between 386 and Pentium II speed very easily. MoSlo and the like don't work reliably with all games.

vwestlife
March 16th, 2016, 09:20 AM
Unless you have a strong preference to a specific era in DOS gaming, just look for whatever vintage PC is the most convenient and affordable for you to acquire -- especially whatever you can find locally, to save shipping costs -- and then have fun with the games that run the best on it. Otherwise, if you start picking and choosing specific hardware, then this hobby can become very expensive very quickly!

billdeg
March 17th, 2016, 03:17 AM
I think the original poster should find a 486 with a good sound card and a good video card for the time. Use memmaker (comes with dos 6.22) to optimize RAM as many games of the error will require it. Part of the fun is building something from the era, without aid of modern hardware.

Games thar reply on cpu timing of the orig ibm pc will not work well, I'd also build a nice 8086 system for those. I used to use SLOW, a TSR program for old games on faster systems, but isn't that just emulation, too?

Again, to me it's more important to find a system with 5 1/4 and 3.5 drives, a CD rom if possible and good sound/video. If you only have a slower 486 or fast 386 but the system has good A/V I'd rather have that than a Pentium box with the internal speaker and minimum video card.

I get this opinion having recently built a dos gaming system. The 1990-1995 DOS games are a eparare class of gaming. Sound and video cards are a big factor. I almost forgot joystick drivers. There are many choices of joysticks from the 1st half of 1990's.

I have changed my mind about this subject. I used to worry about and lunp together ALL DOS gaming, but I separate them now, I don't worry about old DOS gaming compatibility on 486 era gaming boxes.

B

hargle
March 17th, 2016, 05:52 AM
Games thar reply on cpu timing of the orig ibm pc will not work well, I'd also build a nice 8086 system for those. I used to use SLOW, a TSR program for old games on faster systems, but isn't that just emulation, too?


Slow/mo;slow, etc are not emulating anything- they latch onto the real time clock interrupt and put the CPU into a spin loop to drop performance. This solution works for most purposes. The faster the CPU is, the more CPU spinning is required to slow it down, which can sometimes produce "chunky" feeling performance.

This is why I was promoting the use of throttle.exe above. (yes, I wrote it too) :)
Throttle works on machines that support ACPI, which would be about the pentium II timeframe. What it does is play with specific registers in the chipset, which make the hardware pulse the STOPCLK# signal going into the CPU at specified rates. It's primarily used for dropping the power consumption on notebooks for longer battery life, but the side effect for us is that the CPU performance drops, which nicely simulates an older processor. It's a remarkably smooth and effective slowdown method.
Since throttle.exe pokes the hardware only, it can be used with TSR based slowdown programs without a conflict. Use throttle to drop the performance down most of the way, and then fine tune it more with a TSR. Best of both worlds!

billdeg
March 17th, 2016, 06:00 AM
Slow/mo;slow, etc are not emulating anything- they latch onto the real time clock interrupt and put the CPU into a spin loop to drop performance. This solution works for most purposes. The faster the CPU is, the more CPU spinning is required to slow it down, which can sometimes produce "chunky" feeling performance.

This is why I was promoting the use of throttle.exe above. (yes, I wrote it too) :)
Throttle works on machines that support ACPI, which would be about the pentium II timeframe. What it does is play with specific registers in the chipset, which make the hardware pulse the STOPCLK# signal going into the CPU at specified rates. It's primarily used for dropping the power consumption on notebooks for longer battery life, but the side effect for us is that the CPU performance drops, which nicely simulates an older processor. It's a remarkably smooth and effective slowdown method.
Since throttle.exe pokes the hardware only, it can be used with TSR based slowdown programs without a conflict. Use throttle to drop the performance down most of the way, and then fine tune it more with a TSR. Best of both worlds!

Wow throttle.exe sounds great will it work on an i486? Did anyone try using this on an i486 or would the program need to be re-written?
b

Eudimorphodon
March 17th, 2016, 08:25 AM
Wow throttle.exe sounds great will it work on an i486? Did anyone try using this on an i486 or would the program need to be re-written?
b

He said it works on machines that support ACPI (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Configuration_and_Power_Interface). No i486 falls into that category. The initial ACPI specification was released in December 1996 but genuinely working implementations didn't show up until a couple years later so, yeah, Pentium II/III era.

billdeg
March 17th, 2016, 08:36 AM
He said it works on machines that support ACPI (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Configuration_and_Power_Interface). No i486 falls into that category. The initial ACPI specification was released in December 1996 but genuinely working implementations didn't show up until a couple years later so, yeah, Pentium II/III era.

So, with throttle eliminated from possibility with a 486, my original comment about emulating" or whatever you want to call slowing down a 486 processor is a clunky solution for old games that reply on the CPU. That's why I suggest the 486 DOS gaming system stand alone as what it is good for and use an XT machine to play old games. They're different beasts.

Eudimorphodon
March 17th, 2016, 02:55 PM
I totally agree that, yeah, if you want to get a "perfect" experience for various vintages of PC games you need more than one system. I remember being pretty dissatisfied with every "Speedbrake"-style TSR I ever tried, honestly.

johnniewalk
July 5th, 2016, 01:34 AM
I think instead of going for windows 95/98 you can go for windows xp.