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Apparently I haven’t learned my lesson because I came across another Pentium 1 machine that I couldn’t pass up. The Compaq Deskpro 5120 which actually is pretty much the Compaq version of last months article on the Gateway 2000 P5-120. So much so I’m going to directly compare them at the end of this article. Despite them being very similar machines built around the same CPU from the same time frame the Compaq machine has some interesting and uncommon features that make it stand out and in my opinion is superior to the very well built Gateway machine.


And here we see the front of the machine in question. Now compared to the Gateway it a lot plainer looking. Its also a bit smaller and only sports two 5 1/4 expansion bays.  My machine seemed pretty stock and did not come with a CD drive. There’s three things I don’t care for on this system from that start.

1) I don’t like when the floppy drive uses that molded into the faceplate thing. So you have to find drives that are missing the faceplate and have to usually attach a button extender thing. it just annoys me.

2) both the power and hard drive activity LED’s on this model are green. usually the HDD activity light is red or orange but no, all the LED’s are the same green including the floppy drive light. Its a super minor thing and I guess one can change this themselves but still, annoys me.

3) no reset button. If its there its REALLY well camouflaged cause I couldn’t find one. sure you can just use the keyboard command but really? no reset button?

When removing the face plates though to add anything like a CD drive they do have a nice little latch.


It seems a little fancier then the standard prongs that hold them in place.


The back is pretty simple. You can tell right off from the expansion brackets this machine uses a riser card. You have a serial port, two color coded PS/2 ports for keyboard/mouse a parallel port and a built in VGA port. A nice touch is the two tool-less screws on the left and right used to remove the case top.


Here’s the machine after removing the case cover. Looks to be mostly stock and original from what I can tell. Of special interest is if you look over on the left in the 5 1/4 bays we see the uncommon “Bigfoot” style hard drive. These were large cheap and fairly slow hard drives that were semi popular with companies like Compaq. This drive is screwed to the base and is not actually taking up one of the two 5 1/4 bays. At the time these drives weren’t really a good investment because although cheaper then a standard 3 1/2 inch hard drive they were fairly slow in comparison and sometimes they weren’t even that much cheaper. This is the first one I’ve seen in some time.


here’s a public domain image I swiped to save me the effort of removing my own drive for comparison purposes. my Bigfoot drive is a 1.2GB model. I think they produced them up to about 10GB.

Next is the riser card


Image is of both sides of the riser card and as you can see it sports both ISA and PCI ports as standard with several slots being “shared”


Here’s the motherboard with most obstructions out of the way. This motherboard uses the Intel 82430hx Triton II chipset which is a improvement over the old Triton I chipset my Gateway has supporting more features. it also has a nice switch with instructions printed on the board to set your CPU type making upgrading or downgrading the CPU fairly easy. Like the Gateway this is a socket 5 motherboard.

1) The CPU is again the Pentium 120mhz just like the Gateway model I looked at previously. I do like the massively long heatsink for this CPU that extends well over the space of the CPU. Maybe it was intended to act as cooling for adjacent chips as well? The motherboard is socket 5 so the Pentium 120 is the end of the line unless you use a Pentium overdrive or Pentium overdrive MMX for a boost of up to 180mhz maybe 200mhz

2) Slot for the riser card

3) The CMOS battery, uses an older style flimsy battery holder so replacing the battery may require soldering

4) For video this machine uses the Cirrus Logic CL-GD5434 chip with 1MB of RAM soldered onto the board. I don’t know a whole lot about it but it seems to be a very middle of the road chip. CL was found in a lot of systems at this time and its not a not horrible chip with good compatability. There’s a VESA feature connector next to the chip which is for some sort of add-on I’m not sure about. The ram for the video can be increased from 1MB to 2 MB with a probably fairly uncommon expansion card. You can see the two connectors for it as it installs right above the 1mb of soldered chips. Like most PC’s of this time adding a ISA or PCI video card via the expansion slots automatically disabled the on-board video.

5) Ram sockets. This machine takes 72 pin RAM. Like the Gateway machine it accepts FPM or EDO RAM. My machine already had 8MB of EDO RAM installed so I added 8 more for a total of 16MB of EDO RAM. This board is capable of supporting 192MB of RAM

6) A neat feature of this board and also this Compaqs big advantage over the Gateway is the COASt (Cache On A Stick) slot. The Gateway PC I had has no L2 cache on the motherboard or a way to add it besides a major soldering job and even then I’m not sure it was supported in BIOS. COASt slots let you install L2 cache sticks much like you would with traditional RAM. This was very common in 90’s Macintosh machines but an uncommon feature on early Pentiums. This stick is a 256kb stick which is the max for this model.

7) two standard IDE connectors for your IDE devices. Interestingly the primary connector has a plastic guide around it and the secondary does not.

8) Floppy drive connector

On booting this machine up it did not boot to Windows 95 as I had expected but instead into DOS and then a Compaq version of Windows 3.1


Its really just an OEM version of win 3.1. Exactly the same but with some extra Compaq utilities like a diagnostic tool and what not. Kinda handy.

Comparison with my 120mhz Gateway p5-120


Since their so similar and I’m writing about them back to back I decided to make a quick comparison with a few speed utilities. Keep in mind I only did this once, so its a quick maybe not 100% comparison. Optimally you want to run the test several times after restarts and take an average but I think it gives an overall idea of the two. I used speedsys which is a well know DOS utility for checking specs and also PCPBench which looks more at video FPS (frames per second). I used the same video card for both machines, my 2mb Matrox Mystique.


Here’s the Compaq with my Matrox card and the sound blaster32 transferred over. Also there is a RAM difference. the Gateway is running 64MB of slower FPM RAM while my Compaq is running 16MB of faster EDO RAM.

Speedsys results

Gateway 2000 P5-120


Compaq Deskpro 5120


On CPU the Compaq scores slightly lower, 89.33 as opposed to 89.40. the difference is negligible and could be due to many things. you can see the memory speed is a little better on the Compaq due to the EDO RAM. In the hard drive performance though you can really see how that slow Bigfoot drive in the Compaq is really dragging down overall system performance. of course this is easily fixable by replacing the drive with a faster 3 1/4 hard drive.

lastly lets see how the L2 cache helps the Compaq score in a battery of tests.

I recently became aware of a neat little collection of benchmarking tools for DOS conveniently put together by Mau1wurf1977, a member over at the Vogons forum, so I wanted to do another comparison of these two machines. Before I was able to do so though half of my EDO RAM on the Compaq stopped being detected no matter how many times I reseated it. In the end I just decided to add a total of 32MB of FPM ram. Slower then the EDO that was in it but twice as much. Still half as much as the 64MB in the Gateway. So here is the results. I also used an older program Land Mark 2.0 because its weird and uses an outdated “AT rating” but it was interesting and later it may help in comparisons to really old 286 and 8088 machines.

Gateway 2000 P5-120

3DBENCH – 104.2FPS


DOOM – 51.55 FPS

Quake – 22.9 FPS

Land Mark 2.0 – equivalent to a 691mhz AT system and a 202mhz 287 coprocessor

Compaq Deskpro 5120

3DBENCH – 110.5 FPS


DOOM – 57.41 FPS

Quake – 27.6 FPS

Land Mark 2.0 – equivalent to a 691mhz AT system and a 202mhz 287 coprocessor

So, as expected, despite the same CPU and video card the Compaq scores a little higher on every test due to the L2 cache and possibly the slightly newer chipset.

Overall I like the Compaq model. Its a little generic looking and maybe not as easily expandable but its a bit more compact (no pun intended) and inside I think its a slightly superior machine due to the addition of L2 cache and slightly newer chipset. A P5-120 with l2 cache may be a different story although that cache would be soldered on the board so if it failed replacing it may be difficult.

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