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Looking for a DOS Gaming Laptop

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 10:20 am
by indysmith
Hello DOS Gaming Forum!

Basically I'm looking to buy/build a laptop solely for DOS Gaming.
This is what it needs;

Must run MSDOS (obviously)
Must run all my DOS games on highest detail + sound levels
Must have 10+ hour battery life (is this a big ask? a lot of mobile phones have more processing power than old DOS machines nowadays, and they can last for weeks)
Must look old-school
Must have a floppy drive; CD drive, USB and ethernet would be nice but not essential.
Must have a 10"-12" screen for ultra-protability.

Anyone have any ideas on any laptop models that would fit the bill?
I've been looking at the IBM ThinkPad 3** series.

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:55 pm
by Dogbreath
For running MS-DOS, have you looked over Microsofts virtual PC? It emulates all the hardware of a physical system, and would allow you to install whatever version of DOS you want. It'll give you a pretty authentic feel (better than dosbox does), but allow you to use modern hardware in your build, and also be somewhat flexible in your emulation. (There's a pretty wide disparity as far as what hardware different games run best with, VPC can allow you to do several virtual builds with their own emulated hardware/drivers, and switch them when needed)

Floppy drive: never had one on a laptop, but then I just got my first (and only) laptop in 2007... if you're doing the build yourself, there are plenty of laptop floppy drives out there. I did a search for my own laptop (a dell inspiron... yes I know, shame shame shame) and found this. If you're getting it assembled (from a giant Dell-like company, or preferably from a local computer shop), you could probably ask them to put it in for you.

I did a quick search on 10 hour batteries on google, just do the same and pick one that you like. I saw results from $50 to $600.

Looking old school: again, just do a search for old school casing. I'm sure you'll figure something out, or someone will drop by with a specific link.

Now there are a couple of hardware buffs on this forum, and I'm sure they'll have lots of great advice for you. I've never done much building so sorry for being so general with my replies.

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:18 pm
by dosraider
A laptop for dosgaming?
Simply buy an older cheapass P2/400 or such, and be sure it has a full SB compatible soundcard.
That will run the latest dosgames at full speed.
But be aware that it will be too fast for some older games.

BTW, an advise, take or leave it, a laptop for dosgames is a pretty bad idea.
It will be:
Or too fast,
Or too slow,
Or not enough memory,
Or too much memory,
Or you will have vidcard comp problems,
Or whatevers and whatnots, fill in all kinds of problems, you will have them.
And the shit regarding a laptop is that you don't switch a vidcard or adapt your memory in one minute ..... Keep in mind that 'dosgames' covers the era from a 8086 to a fast P2.
You have dosgames that need max 640KB mem and a slow CPU, others that need a fast Pentium class CPU, 64MB mem and a full 3D vidcard.
There doesn't exist a 'dosgames' PC.
In other words, set up your mind what you want, a laptop for the latest 3D games or one for the older dosgames.

Good news is: there is dosbox, setting that one up is matter of seconds.
And it runs 99% of the dosgames, older ones or newer ones.

Since dosbox 0.72 it's rare I fire up my dos PCs, extremely rare.
My two cents.....
If you don't want dosbox but you want the 'original' dosfeeling, you will be better served with VPC2004 than with a cranky laptop.
And laptops sux anyway for gaming.

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:18 pm
by Dogbreath
dosraider wrote: If you don't want dosbox but you want the 'original' dosfeeling, you will be better served with VPC2004 than with a cranky laptop.
^My suggestion above. VPC generally plays dos games better than the machines of the time ever could, because it's so much easier (financially and time spent) to emulate specific outdated hardware than to try and physically collect and install it.
And laptops sux anyway for gaming.
They're not too shabby. I do a lot of gaming on my laptop (because it's by far my newest computer, and I don't have the income to afford a new laptop and desktop), hook up a USB mouse and keyboard, and I'm set. It's not as powerful as a desktop, but for example I can play Half-Life 2 at 1280x800 resolution with no skipping, and haven't run into any real difficulties so far. The CD-ROM drive well and truly sucks ass, but I just rip the ISOs and run a virtual CD drive off my hard drive - works perfectly.

That being said, if I were a random middle aged poster with enough spare cash to build a dedicated gaming machine, I'd <strike>pay Dogbreath's university tuition</strike> certainly do it on a desktop. (unless there's a special reason he wants a laptop, like he takes 10 hour train rides every tuesday or something)

Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:57 am
by jonesybunny
I would recommend the older Toshiba Tecra laptops if you can find them in good shape. The 400 to 700 series.

The 8100 Tecra is also a good idea, it is quite the tough laptop too.

Though even if you do find one of these in good shape, I doubt they'll run for 10+ hours without a new or custom batter, or an alternate power source.

Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:27 am
by 486 player
Modern computers doesn't a have the real PC Speaker. The best result is to get one from Ebay. (486 with a turbo button)

Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:10 pm
by Gamer_V
Let me tell you young whippersnappers, back in my days, a turbo button made every pc about four times faster than normal! Then time passed, and it turned out it just made the processor slower. What a grand delusion that was.

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:39 am
by Larry Laffer
Always found "Turbo" buttons funny. I mean, for the most part, they're "Slowdown" buttons wired backwards. :P

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:26 am
by 486 player
Gamer_V wrote:It just made the processor slower.
Exactly that's why. Try Star Goose as example.

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:25 pm
by Dogbreath
Wonder where the OP went off to.

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:21 pm
by dosraider
The OP? Posted once, and joined the huge group of those we never hear from again.
They are legio.

That, or he saw Santhosh CHRiS Laughing something topic and ran away .....

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:37 pm
by swaaye
old notebooks have terrible LCDs, btw. they don't get better with age, either. :)

Best to get something recent with a powerful CPU and use dosbox.

Posted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:04 pm
by Quarex
I am not the original poster, but considering I came to this exact same place to ask the exact same question, we can just pick up where he left off, with the addition of all the knowledge you imparted.

It is hard to blame you for not promoting that he actually buy a laptop; there are definite problems you would have with this goal, from compatibility to the sheer logistics of finding this and doing it.

THAT SAID--I personally still want one. My only experience with using DOSBox was playing Arena for about five hours until everything I do results in the game crashing, and while I admittedly have never heard of Virtual PC, I really want a separate machine. I currently have a 1994-era Packard Bell M400 desktop given to me in 1998 to turn into a DOS machine, which has been amazingly beautiful and perfect in every way for my DOS gaming needs over the years, and is still holding up marvelously. It is just far more mentally enjoyable to know that you are using the "real article" as it were, to me anyway, and I like having a separate system to kind of mentally bracket off--and it would also admittedly be nice to have all of my "active" computers fit on, say, a single bookshelf.

There have to be a wide variety of potentially perfect laptops out there from the mid-90s that could be exactly what I want them to be, plus or minus some MoSlo and agonizing hours of modifying config.sys. I have made notes of the Toshiba Tecra 400/700 and the original ThinkPad 3** suggestions; any other obvious choices of that-period laptops, particularly if they were manufactured in sufficient numbers to actually still be available? Or other alternate suggestions?

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:47 pm
by swaaye
Hey I'm with you on preferring to use old hardware. I wouldn't mind having an old laptop, as I have had those machines in the past. But let me elaborate on why I will not be heading down that road. :D

One problem is, as I said, that their LCDs were terrible. Really, really bad. They update very slowly, especially if they are passive matrix or dual scan (you can not enjoyably play action games on these.) The pixels just are very slow to change state, so they blur out like crazy. It was not a big deal with DOS apps or Windows GUI, but with action games oh dear. Modern LCDs are of the "active matrix" variety. These were new back then and very expensive until the late '90s (and not that great for a long while). Also, LCD backlights were fluorescent-based almost exclusively back then and they will have certainly dimmed dramatically in the past years and the output color will be a bit off now as well.

Also, one VERY important thing to know about old notebooks is that they do not do quality pixel image scaling. If you have a game that doesn't run at the native 800x600 or 1024x768 of a mid'90s notebook LCD, your choices are usually either letterboxing into a little tiny image or a pixel stretch. A pixel stretch is just what it sounds like, the LCD stretches the image but it has no fancy scaling algorithm. The result is jagged, aliased output that is quite ugly. Text gets messed up, and of course the graphics aren't much better off.

Another issue (:)) is that the sound chips in notebooks are frequently problematic with DOS games. Some of the ESS ISA chips are ok. But there are some out there that may not work at all with most games. The same can be said for the video chip options. You really want a Tseng, Cirrus Logic or S3 chip for DOS games, but notebooks frequently had different chips not in desktops. Neomagic and Chips & Technologies come to mind. VESA compatibility might be an issue with these.

But those old machines are obviously almost free now so if you really want to experience how notebooks used to be, go nuts.

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:40 pm
by Unknown_K
Get yourself an old IBM Thinkpad 486 or early pentium with 640x480 TFT color screen and stereo sound. They are built like tanks and have very nice screens (I have a dozen or so units of various models).

You will not get 10 hours on use even on a new battery (2.5 is the best you can hope for), run it with the power brick instead.

Posted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 2:37 pm
by Super Smash Bros. Fan
I see no reason why we need an DOS gaming laptop. We already have an DOSBOX that does all that for us.

Posted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:21 pm
by Quarex
As I said a few posts back, I understand his need (and am trying to accomplish it myself). For one thing, DOSBox is a great emulator, but still hardly a perfect representation of the original--not only does it feel different to be playing these games on a sleek laptop than on a grungy old pile of crap, but no matter what I try I still cannot get some games to run flawlessly (Elder Scrolls: Arena has been crashing every time I try to enter a new city, for example).

Now, admittedly, part of the reason I probably prefer the idea of finding a laptop for this purpose instead of just using DOSBox is that I have been running a Packard Bell Pentium 133 with DOS 6.1 for the sole purpose of DOS gaming for about 12 years now, and I both love and virtually never have any problems with it, and would love to recreate that feeling, but in a system I can take everywhere. But there are logistical problems, as seen throughout the thread, like the display and sound compatibilities and things, so I do understand what an uphill battle it is to not just use DOSBox.

Could I possibly type any more words about this subject?

Posted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:44 pm
by Vangar
I have two of these just for funsies and DOS: ... e100CS.JPG

:D They are fun and fine for most DOS games, but they do not have a sound card from what i remember (That model might in the pic) Internal PC speaker is fun sometimes =)

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:38 pm
by Quarex
Thank you, Vangar. I am sorry I did not see this post sooner to give you props when you might have actually seen it. This is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for--though I would indeed want a sound card (unless I wanted to emulate my DOS gaming experiences from 1988 instead of 1992, and really, I do not).

Posted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:35 am
by Vangar
You can get a model like that with a sound card, it must be only a few models higher.