A Good Standard Desktop PC as of 8/98

Estimated cost with no operating system: $1700.


  1. The original P2B BIOS (revision 1002) does not correctly identify the 3Com 3C905B-TX ethernet card. Two solutions: a) try a different card, or b) update the bios using AFLASH.EXE to one of the later versions like the beta 1005.015

  2. The FreeBSD vx driver does not yet support the "B" version of the 3C905. Currently the only solution is to use a different card, such as the 3C590 or DEC chipset cards. Check the FreeBSD site for the latest hardware compatibility news.

  3. The 3C905B-TX is listed here because it's otherwise a good value and very easy to find. 3Com cards generally perform very well. I've tended to use them on desktop PCs despite these occasional compatibility problems. For purpose-built FreeBSD servers, the DEC-chipset based cards have been recommended. Note that I've had a few 3Com cards fail at work lately; none at home though. Maybe it's time to look for another manufacturer.

  4. If you play 3D games, get a 3Dfx Voodoo II or NVIDIA Riva 128 accelerator card. Riva 128 cards, such as the ASUS V3000 or Diamond Viper V330 do high performance 2D and 3D in a single card, and are an outstanding value. The Voodoo II cards such as the Diamond Monster 3D II and Creative Labs 3D Blaster II have about 50% more 3D performance but cost about 100% more (about $200 versus $100). The Voodoo II cards are 3D only meaning you need a separate 2D video card (such as a Matrox or Riva 128), so the cost of using a separate Voodoo II card is really 200% more. Still, this is the preferred hot setup. Note that the Riva supports full OpenGL, whereas the Voodoo II supports Glide. Both support Direct 3D and Quake but in different ways.

  5. The latest Matrox G200 cards supporting OpenGL and the new NVIDIA Riva TNT chips look interesting also. The Intel 740 does not appear to come up to Voodoo2 performance. Not too familiar with these due to newness. For now Voodoo2 probably remains the best bet.
    FLASH: The TNT benchmarks slightly lower than the Voodoo2 on Quake 2 demo1.dm2. Based on this I recommend the TNT as a combined 2d/3d card, but a Voodoo2-based card for hard core gaming. (If you don't mind needing both 2d and 3d cards.) ALSO: It looks like the G200 is significantly slower than Voodoo2 on Quake 2 (less than half the frame rate on demo1.dm2), but is meant to be a good price combination 2d/3d card with better image quality. Again the Voodoo2 is the best choice for gaming, and the Riva TNT for a combo card.
  6. This stuff gets obsolete really fast, but this is a good value system now.

Local SF Bay Area clone stores I've had good luck with:

It usually pays to shop around a bit. A given store may have good prices on some items but not others. On the other hand, getting a system from a single source usually simplifies support.