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I recently picked up a few computers from a Craigslist ad, one being an unknown 486, and the other a “Compaq Pentium 1 120mhz” machine. My main focus was on the 486, with the Compaq P1 being just an afterthought. I was assuming it would just be another Compaq Deskpro 5120, a machine I’ve covered previously. To my surprise, when I arrived to get the machines, the case styling was completely different, and indeed this was a completely different Compaq machine based around the same 120mhz Pentium as the earlier mentioned Deskpro 5120.

The machine I found was the Compaq Prolina 5120e. This model I think may have been released slightly earlier than the Deskpro 5120. It seems to be either a more budget minded model, or perhaps oriented at the business market as opposed to home use.


One immediate comparison to the Deskpro 5120 is that the expansion bays are a little more limited. The Deskpro 5120 has two 5 1/4″ bays, and a spot for a 3 1/2″ floppy drive (or a ZIP drive if you wanted to go that way). There are only two 5 1/4″ bays on this machine. You may notice the CD drive is from a Dell Dimension that I reviewed earlier, and you may also notice it’s not seated properly in the bay. When I picked up this machine, there was nothing in the bottom bay, just a gaping hole, not even a bezel plate. The top 3 1/2″ 1.44 MB floppy drive was present, and I believe it is original to this model. As you can probably tell, it is not what one would expect. The drive is of a form factor more common to some laptops. It’s long as to fit in a 5 1/4″ bay, but it’s not the full height of the bay, so a plastic half bezel is installed directly under it so there is no gap. I don’t think this machine came standard with either a 5 1/4″ 1.2 MB floppy drive or a CD-ROM drive, as most of the images I found on the net have a dummy bezel on the bottom with no drives installed.

So that leads back to something I mentioned earlier. Why is the CD drive not seated correctly? That’s because this machine uses rails to hold drives in place. Usually, these end up being more convenient and allow for quick drive replacement. Unfortunately, if the machine does not come with the rails, as mine did, you have no real way of properly installing extra drives. Rails aren’t standard across different models either so it’s not a matter of just buying some on eBay. Sometimes you can rig something up to hold a drive in place or use one rail from an already installed drive and just hope one rail can support things on both drives. For this machine, I didn’t care enough to try anything. The drive is only held in place by the IDE and power cables, and it still doesn’t sit right. I just felt it looked slightly better than having a gaping hole to the innards of the PC. Also, I needed a CD drive installed for some testing at the time the images were taken. A plastic dummy bezel would look much better, though without a CD drive your severely limiting the functionality of this PC.


The rear of the machine is fairly spartan with four card expansion slots in a horizontal fashion so you know right away it’s a PC using a riser card. Under the slots, we have a parallel printer port, and then all the way to the bottom right, we have two PS/2 ports for keyboard/mouse, a serial port, and a VGA port for the built-in video. In comparison to the Deskpro 5120, this machine has fewer card expansion slots, as well as a less organized standard for the rear port placement. On the Deskpro 5120, the ports were color-coded as well as labeled, making setup on this machine a bit less user-friendly to the computer illiterates of the time.


This is an image of the bottom of this PC. I’m showing it here because when I purchased it, the four rubber feet on this machine were melted globs. That’s what happens when you store things like this for long periods of time in hot climates like Arizona. I had to scrape off the melted goo and then clean it with Goo-Gone.



Upon opening the case, you notice the riser card is all the way on the edge of the motherboard, as opposed to in the center. Also, there is a nice guide on the frame detailing jumper settings. These are always a welcome sight. The installed hard drive is a 605MB Quantum Fireball, which I assume is the original drive. Looking closer at the motherboard we see….


1) CPU – This model, as the name suggests, came with a 120mhz Pentium 1 with a heatsink. As I’ve said before, the Pentium 120mhz is a capable CPU, and seemed to be pretty popular for its time, as I’ve come across many computers of the era sporting it.

2) RAM – The Prolinea 5120e supports 136 MB of 72 pin RAM. I’m using FPM, but the documentation I’ve read claims it supports EDO as well.

3) RAM – Here we have 8MB of RAM built into the board, so the board will operate with no RAM installed in the slots. This can be nice if you don’t have any spare 72 pin sticks around.

4) L2 cache – this is the CoaST module for an L2 cache stick. Mine did not come with a stick installed, and all the spare sticks I had on hand failed to work. I tried a 256kb stick from HP, as well as the module from the Deskpro 5120, and with either installed, the machine would not even power up. I’m unsure if my slot is defective, or if this board is super picky about what module it will accept. I read some documentation that the Prolinea 5120e accepts 1 or 2 MB sticks, and this may be the issue, but I’ve also read that it accepts 256kb, which would be what was common of the time.

5) Video – Here is the built-in video chip. The chip used is a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5434 with 1MB of memory upgradable to 2MB. The video is adequate, but hardly exciting.


6) Connection for serial port

7) CMOS battery

8) Beeper speaker

You may notice the connectors for the IDE and floppy drives seem to be absent, as well as the power connector. Interestingly, all of these connections are found on the riser board, as opposed to the motherboard proper.


As you can see, the riser card features four ISA slots and one shared PCI slot. You would most likely want to use the sole PCI slot for video. The IDE and floppy drive connectors are to the right of the expansion slots, on the riser with the primary and secondary IDE connections above, and the floppy connector at the bottom.

On the opposite side of the riser, we have a proprietary AT style power connector.


So, do I have an opinion of the Prolinea 5120e? Well, it’s nothing special for the time. It’s not a terrible PC, and can run DOS and Windows 3.1/95 competently for games, but I would prefer the Deskpro 5120 if I had a choice between the two. The motherboard also struck me as a little weird because there is a lot of space on it with nothing there. There’s a lot of spaces where it looks like chips and caps are supposed to go, but all that’s there is solder points. This doesn’t hurt the board, but I just find it aesthetically displeasing for some reason… not that it matters because it’s all under a case. BTW, the case is tool-less, which is a point in its favor.

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Benchmarks (Pentium 120mhz, No L2 Cache, 24MB FPM RAM, Built in Cirrus Logic CL-GD5434)

3DBENCH – 61.7


DOOM -31.36

Quake – 19.0

This machine is a little newer then the machines I usually write about but its actually garnered somewhat of a reputation as being a very easy to work with and reliable PC for both work and gaming. I’m talking about the Pentium III based Compaq Deskpro EN. This machine came in a few forms such as tower, desktop and the small form factor as well as sported a few factory CPU and video option configurations. The one I’m going over here is the small form factor since in my opinion its the most interesting and also happens to be the one I own. As I mentioned this little machine has built somewhat of a reputation as a small space saving and reliable machine being easy to access as well as having few problems running over extended periods. In many ways I think this model barrows a lot of things from the Apple Macintosh designs of the late 90’s but in a PC they really work well. So lets take a look at the one I have here and see what can be done with it.


The unit as you can see it quite small. Its primarily situated to act as a desktop form factor machine but there’s really no reason it cannot be turned on its side and act as a mini tower. I find the aesthetic to be pretty nice. On the left where we have the Compaq marking we also have a little vent area for air to circulate/escape. A nice large power button with power and HDD LED’s, one on each side. Also on the front we have an easily accessible headphone and microphone jack which is really nice if your using the onboard sound. I’ll get into more about the sound in a minute. This machine was built late 90’s early 2000’s period so as the sticker states it was designed for the Windows 2000 and Win 98 OS’s but you can easily run Windows 95 if you wanted. DOS isn’t really recommended since in my opinion it is a bit to fast. Also the lack of any ISA card support really hurts for DOS sound compatibility. XP will also run pretty happily on this machine. Being a small case there isn’t much room for drives but for a basic reliable Win 98 or XP rig a CD/DVD drive and a 1.44 floppy drive as came in the original configuration should more then suffice. The CD drive I’m using was added later as the original CD drive had died.


Here I have 2 images of the rear of the machine. The one on top is the stock look and below that is after I added a separate video and sound card but I’ll go over the cards after I talk more about the machine.  There’s quite a few useful ports built into this little machine. From left to right we have a serial port followed by a 1/8 audio out and an audio in port for the onboard sound. Next to that is a printer parallel port, a Ethernet port and then another serial port. Two USB 1.1 ports, a VGA port for the onboard video and finally two PS/2 ports for a keyboard and mouse. There’s a good variety of legacy ports and its nice there’s so much built into this machine. I like that they actually fit two serial ports in there even though realistically they probably will not see much use. It actually makes a nice light (weighs about 20lbs) sort of mobile LAN party PC if you just want a moderately powerful PC to take over to a friends and do some late 90’s early 2000’s FPS death matches or something. The big thing the machine lacks built in is a gameport for an older style gamepad though this is easily remedied by adding most any PCI sound card (which I recommend doing anyways) or just using a USB gamepad.

Now I’m going to touch on a few things that make this machine a little “Mac-like”. First off If you haven’t noticed this machine is very compact and most all the essentials are built in. Beyond that you may notice the lack of any screws on the front or back to gain access to the inside of the PC. This is because like a lot of 90’s Macs this machine is tool-less and uses plastic tabs on the sides. Your required to press in and then pull the cover forward and up to remove. Unlike 90’s macs these tabs actually feel very solid and well built. I don’t know if its just build quality or that this machine has a few less years on it but the plastic tab system doesn’t feel nearly as brittle or flimsy as most of the older Macs I’ve worked with and I don’t have the sensation that some tab or piece is going to snap off every time I open this machine. Possibly this is due to the fact the design still uses a good deal of metal which does add weight but creates MUCH better durability. I should also point out that in operation this PC is deathly quiet.


Here you can see the tab, one of which is on both sides of the case. The right side also sports a built in speaker, another “Mac-like” quality. If your using the onboard sound these are really nice to have as it eliminates the need for extra external PC speakers. Granted its a single speaker and the sound is not amazing it is adequate and both the PC speaker beeps and boops as well as the any audio output from the onboard sound is output this way unless your using one of the various audio out ports with an external speaker.

On opening the case getting to the motherboard itself is amazingly simple as most of the major components in the way either swing out on a hing or easily can be pulled out and detached once more borrowing from the 90’s Macintosh design.


Here we have the initial view from the top with the CD ROM drive and IDE hard drive visible.


And as you can see everything easily lifts out and moves out of the way to give full assess to the motherboard. And speaking of the motherboard.


Here is the exposed motherboard itself. The board is labeled Compaq and is dated 1999-2000 and has a cool bicycle logo printed on.

1) The CPU – These machines came with a variety of socket 370 Pentium III and Celeron processors. usually there is a code on the case that can help designate what CPU you have inside without actually turning the machine on. Mine is P833 designating an 833mhz Pentium III processor. I know the small form factor Deskpro EN’s came in 933mhz versions and possibly higher and as slow as 667mhz Celerons. In my own opinion I think this is a little to fast for running DOS stuff and without software to slow things down your going to have speed issues but its its acceptable for most Win 9x games and its actually really nice for later DOS FPS games run through Windows that can use that extra CPU power.

2) RAM – I think these came standard with 128MB of SDRAM but you can upgrade to a full 512MB of SDRAM as I have done via the three RAM slots. I suggest upgrading the RAM to the max 512mb as it is easy and cheap to do.

3) PCI expansion slot – This is where your PCI riser card goes. This riser card allows for three PCI expansion cards to be used in the small form factor machine.


4) onboard graphics (optional) – This spot with the unused solder points is where on some models the onboard graphics chip and RAM is. Some models came with the Nvidia TNT2 Pro graphics chips onboard along with 16mb of video memory. The TNT2 Pro was a great video chip for the time and really would make this machine a good gaming platform. Unfortunately not all models were manufactured with the chip and mine apparently was a bit more of a budget model and lacks the TNT2 chipset. Instead I have to rely on the video from the Intel 815E chipset which is adequate for normal use but somewhat lacking for serious late Windows gaming. Thankfully the video issues can be resolved by adding a PCI video card if desired. You can also add a Voodoo II card as I checked and the space in the case allows it though with the reduced airflow a voodoo III may be a better bet. I read in some spec sheets some models have built in Matrox G200 and G400/G450 chips but I’ve never actually seen any that have.

5) CMOS battery, mine needed replacing when I received this machine

6) standard floppy connector

7) IDE connectors – there are two ATA 100 IDE connectors here so I suppose you could connect four devices but the case only allows for two which is most commonly a hard drive and a CD/DVD ROM drive. In the case of just two drives I would suggest placing your hard drive on the primary IDE and CD/DVD drive on the secondary. You could possibly use a mico drive hard drive or a compact flash drive and adapter on one connector and just kinda let it dangle or tape it down since there so small and do not generate much heat. The hard drive that came with mine was a 14GB IDE drive and I think it may be original.

8) PSU connector – this machine being so small uses a proprietary 120 watts PSU so if it ever dies good luck finding a replacement. I don’t think one would have much luck shoving a standard PSU in there since its so cramped and the shape and form factor is so odd. The PSU also functions as a sort of internal case fan here.

9) just a connector for the one serial port that’s located all the way to the left on the rear of the case.

well that’s the basic configuration of my machine. I did find the video and audio on this machine lacking So I wanted to correct this via the PCI slots. I primarily wanted to make this a Win 9x gaming machine with as much DOS comparability as I could. The onboard sound works fine for windows but as far as I could tell it didn’t do to well with older games and on testing a game like Wolfenstein 3D I got the sound effects via the built in speaker but no music whatsoever. No manner of adjusting corrected this. Next I installed a Monster mx300 based on the Aureal Vortex2  sound chip but unfortunately Windows would not work with it giving me an error message telling me it needed to be placed in a primary PCI slot. I tried all the slots on the riser with the same error. I assume this had to do with an issues caused by being run through a riser card. After that I tried an old ESS PCI audio card. These things are cheap and common as dirt and supposedly give good windows and DOS support for a PCI card. Unfortunately the sound in games like Wolf3d worked but the FM synth sounded unbearably bad in my opinion. It also kept cutting out in Simcity 3000. There are some people that really like these cards but I never had much luck with them. Lastly I moved on and installed this card.


A Sound Blaster live! from the late 90’s. The problem with these cards are the drivers for them are terrible and most times look for a specific model Live! that they are meant for and the card has many versions (avoid the DELL OEM versions like the plague, part number SB0200/0203). Its usually best to buy a card with its driver CD but finding these cards with there original CD usually does not happen. After finding a drivers package that worked the card works great. Its a really nice clear sounding card for Windows gaming. It also adds a gameport which the original EN is lacking. DOS compatibility is also pretty good and Wolf3D actually sounds half decent now. I also played some Duke3d and the General Midi emulation sounds decent. My card is a CT4780 which is a 5.1 Value version but that really doesn’t make to much difference for just basic gaming and its light years ahead of the onboard audio.

After sound I moved on to the video. As I mentioned before my PC came without the optional TNT2 Pro chip which is a shame since that’s a pretty good graphical chipset for the time. Lucky for me I found a PCI Nvidia Geforce2MX 200 card at a flea market for $2.


Its a low end entry level card for the time sporting 32MB of video RAM but its still far better then even if my model did come with the two generations prior TNT2 chipset. The specs of the MX 200 are pretty similar to the TNT2 pro but benchmarks have the newer generation MX200 beating the TNT2 Pro in just about everything. So I guess in this way I’ve added a nice power boost while still keeping in the era or spirit of the original. I really don’t think this machine is meant for a high end super card. Especially with the limitation of PCI, the anemic PSU and the small form factor of the machine.

The small form factor EN is a nice little machine. It has most things you need built in and with some minor PCI card upgrades it makes a nice semi-mobile Win9x game rig for a retro LAN party or for home use. Its reliable, quiet and easy to work on but if your going for a power build look elsewhere.

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.

It seems that for a time during the early and mid 1990’s PC manufacturers felt they needed to do a lot of experimenting with PC case design. These days when you buy a PC you generally know what the inside will look like. Sure there is some variation here and there but in general it’s fairly standardized, not so much in the early and mid 90’s. Some PC’s case designs were downright odd and some were like figuring out a Chinese puzzle box to open up. One mild example that I covered earlier was the Packard Bell S605 and its somewhat unorthodox case. The Compaq Presario 9546 much like the PB S605 is also a Pentium 1 based PC and coming from the same era it also is an interesting experiment in internal case design.

from the outside it looks pretty standard and yes it could use a good scrubbing. We have the standard 1.44MB floppy drive and that is the CD-ROM drive that was installed when I purchased it and I assume its not the factory drive. I do kind of like the blue rectangle power button on the right. it also sports some legs that spout out at the bottom presumably to help prevent your tower from randomly toppling over. I suppose that’s a little handy and they don’t really interfere with the operation of the computer

and from the back its pretty standard looking. as you can see if you look at the expansion slots I have installed a video and sound card due to the fact I could not get either of the onboard video or sound working after I reformatted the hard drive and installed a different OS but I’ll get to that in a moment. The ports are all labeled nicely and one thing I do really like are the large tabs on each side that easily unscrew and allow access to the left and right sides of the PC. I kinda hate always breaking out a screwdriver and unscrewing a ton of screws to open a PC and the easy tabs are kind of nice. I should also note the top comes off as a separate piece to give access to the upper drives as well as the PSU. The PSU also seems to be a propitiatory design.

and here is where you may notice the non standard internal design. See, rather than the motherboard laying flat against one side of the case there is a metal divider that goes through the center with the motherboard on one side and the expansion slots on the other and to be honest it’s not really a bad design in some respects and at least on this side it feels like you have plenty of room to get to things. The 9546 uses the AT power connector which was standard for the time as well as a 100mhtz Pentium 1 CPU which is an excellent performer for a fast DOS based PC  or for windows 3.1 and 95. Mine came with 57MB of RAM installed but the 9546 can take up to 136MB according to the spec sheet I found online and this should be more than enough to run anything from the period. The expansion card in the lower right corner is a standard modem I believe of the 14.4kb variety. The onboard video is the ubiquitous S3 Trio64V2, the DOS era video standard which has 1MB of video ram expandable to 2MB. The onboard sound is powered by the Ensoniq chip, same as in the Ensoniq AudioPCI card which is a PCI card that actually offers pretty good DOS sound capability and commendable Windows sound. This computer originally came with Windows 95 pre-installed on its 1GB hard drive and also sported a special Compaq BIOS. Throwing caution to the wind I decided to format the hard drive and install DOS 6.22. which has had some odd affects first of which is this on boot up.

After hitting F1 and booting into DOS everything works fine except I cant get the on-board sound or video running. I’m completely aware this is possibly a driver and hardware conflict but it’s not really a huge problem and there is probably a way around this issue if I played with the BIOS but again, not really a priority since it works fine with the other cards I have installed under DOS.

This would be the opposite side of the case where we have our expansion slots (2 PCI, 4 ISA 16 bit) as well as the IDE connections for the various drives.  despite the seeming openness and space on this side it’s actually a lot more restrictive than a regular PC case as far as securing the expansion cards. The problem is that a standard screwdriver is to tall and will not fit to screw in the screws that secure the cards to the case so you have to use a smaller screwdriver like I have in the picture laying next to a regular sized screwdriver.

This is the Video card I had lying around to replace the Trio64V2. It is a 4MB PCI Trident Providia 9685. I don’t really like Trident cards, they tend to be low end and well…low end. This card is kind of so/so and seems a little better than most Trident video card offerings. Other than VGA it also has a composite as well as S-video connection allowing use of  TV in the case you don’t have a VGA monitor around which is actually pretty useful if you don’t mind taking a substantial video quality hit. Also according to the writing on the top center section of this card it is “stuffed for EDO RAM”, nice.

For sound I’m using a Creative Sound Blaster 16? the model is CT4520 which would make it a AWE64 value but DOS detects it as a sound blaster 16 though I would assume it would see it as a AWE32 or even as it is, an AWE64. Not really the optimal card to stick in this machine but again all I want for it is basic sound and this is what I have lying around, I’ll save the good sound cards for machines I’ll be using.

Conclusion: The Compaq Presario isn’t a bad machine. The Pentium 1 100mhz is a solid CPU and the RAM amount is enough for the time. The case design is actually pretty convenient except for the screwdriver length issue. My biggest problem is the Compaq BIOS that gave me issues when I tried to reformat and install pure DOS. As a windows 95 PC it’s quite passable but there are better more powerful choices.

the compaq presario 2200 with max 80mb ram and optional subwoofer installed. i replaced the origional faulty CD drive with a black DVD drive. its running windows 95. supposedly only about 300 of these were sold in the US (according to wikipedia). i do like the built in speakers and form factor but its no wonder these things didn’t sell well since there are virtually no upgrade paths to take with it. even updating from windows 95 to 98 causes the system to go crazy and display gibberish.



Pretty standard ports on the rear. modem jack(s), headphone and microphone jack. joystick/midi port, VGA port. two PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard. printer and serial port. The spot between the VGA port and the PS/2 ports was supposedly going to be for a USB port but that never materialized.


1) speaker/subwoofer

2) 56k modem

3) cryix 6×86 180mhz media cpu (not upgradeable)

4) dvd drive and under it is the HDD

5) 3.5 floppy disk drive

6) power supply

7) 80MB ram (80mb max)

basicly the only thing upgradable on this PC is the modem which can be upgraded to a 56K modem. no ethernet though and no ability to add any sound or video cards.

to replace the cd drive or hard drive you need to unscrew a screw to the left and right of the where the hard drive is located and disconnect the speakers, floppy and the hdd and cd drive then the entire computer splits apart into 2 pieces

here’s an example of what happens if you simply attempt to upgrade the OS to windows 98, oh did i mention it beeps like crazy the entire time. the most common way around this issue is to open the PC and remove the hard drive. install the hard drive into another NON presario 2200 pc and then install windows 98. remove the hard drive and then reinstall it into the 2200 and voila! but really, should that kind of thing be necessary. Now I believe you can upgrade to other later OS’s such as XP or ME but I suppose if you had this computer at the time that didn’t help. I’m guessing those later OS’s would also run painfully slow on this computer.

also apparently some clever (or lucky) people discovered that if you press some strange random keys as the gibberish is displayed you can get to a menu. choose the second from the bottom option and installation should start…i suppose that makes it somewhat better. if you manage to get windows 98se on this computer congratulations!

bottom line: should you have this computer, NO. unless you collect computers and you can snag it for free or a very low price your money can be spent on better more useful things. despite its rarity it’s not a prized piece to have. On a practical level it’s even worse and doesn’t even make a half decent windows 9x machine. For early windows OS’s you MUCH better off with almost any other machine. Even though the built in speakers are kinda nice just don’t bother.


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