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486DX266: S3 86C801/805 VLB

A motherboard with VLB slots meant a video card that made the most of the hardware available. I had an alert running on eBay and this card came up one evening with a totally affordable buy-it-now price tag. There are many other VLB cards on eBay, but the sellers are valuing them at prices much higher than I'm wishing to pay.


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The card was easy to install and POST'd fine. (Here's the BIOS file if anyone is interested.)


Windows 3.11 had no default drivers, so I scoured the web and found a driver named This zip was extracted into a temporary folder and then installed via the Windows Setup application under the Main program group. SF is Small Fonts, with LF therefore standing for Large Fonts.

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Note the max resolution above is 1280x1024 @ 256 colours. Not bad at all for a card of this vintage? Unfortuantely, selecting anything above 800x600 caused the following.


Ok, great, hard-coded refresh rates? Fortunately, in the driver folder is REFRESH.EXE. Note that when you're in Win3.11 and can't see a thing, just hit Alt-F4, Left Arrow and then press Enter. This will exit Program Manager back to DOS.


Choose the appropriate refresh rates as per your monitor. There's no save button... just hit Exit and it'll apply any changes. If you need to change the resolution in windows, run SETUP.EXE from the Windows folder.


And now, testing the huge resolution...


Resolution is delicious... screen artefacts not so much. From here I could only assume that the 'block' down below was the area where the 1mb 'option' should go. The card was expecting that the user had added the 1mb before using the resolution. Ok... how does one upgrade ram for an old card? Steal it from another!

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Just to re-emphasize: The memory chips are the wrong way around in the middle photo below!


These RAM chips are awful! They have a dot on either corner and that makes it really hard to work out the orientation. Even better, the socket on the Trident board has a triangle chipped of it, but that is the opposite to the 'key' triangle on the S3 board. Of course, I got it wrong the first time, the machine didn't boot and the RAM chips got very hot. As James has mentioned in the comments, the middle photo above shows the chips inserted the wrong way around. Don't do this! I switched it off quickly and resocketed them. And then...


Winner! Ridiculous for Win 3.11 ... but still cool.

But the refresh rate doesn't stick...

Every reboot, the refresh rates need to be re-programmed. REFRESH.EXE gives you the following options.


You'll just need to add REFRESH.EXE 1280 3 or such to your autoexec.bat.

A quick note on MDI applications

The Multiple Document Interface is all about having sub-windows in your application. Cakewalk Audio has an issue where it thinks it's maximised when the application starts. You can't actually drag the the window bigger and it seems stuck.

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Fortunately, the work-around is to Cascade all windows (from the Window menu) and then maximise it once more... it'll then take the whole screen.

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  1. Just found one of these in storage I forgot I had. It’s a Zing Z-S3 805. It looks very similar to yours but not %100. In your picture with the memory installed. Is the memory in the correct orientation? On mine I only see a notch in the bottom left hand corner of the memory sockets if the card edge is pointing down and the VGA connector is pointing right. Looking at your trident the orientation looks like the letters on the chips is right side up if the chip is lined up with the notch in the bottom left. However in your S3 picture with the ram installed. It’s reversed.

    • James,
      You’re totally correct… I’ll make that point clearer in the post above. I did have them backwards and they got warm on boot, but still managed to work fine after I powered-down, re-aligned and restarted!
      I really shouldn’t rush and should review the photos I take… it’s obvious they were backwards!

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