Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Review - ACA500 A500 Accelerator

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Review - ACA500 A500 Accelerator

    Hi!


    You can also read this review on my Blog:

    http://www.fitzstevesamigaworld.co.uk/?p=119


    There’s a new kid on the block! Well not exactly new, it’s the Commodore Amiga 500 making a comeback…

    Individual Computers have recently released their highly anticipated ACA500 Accelerator for the Amiga 500 range of computers giving this popular 80′s computer a new lease of life.

    A common Amiga 500 setup with Monitor and external Disk drive

    The Amiga 500 released in 1987 was a truly remarkable Computer for it’s time, sadly I never owned one back then but I used to enjoy using my friends A500 as it was leaps and bounds ahead of my Spectrum 128k!

    With Floppy Disks becoming bit rotten and price of external expansions rising a new expansion for our beloved A500 is truly welcomed.

    Currently the options to expand your Amiga 500 are limited to expensive and unreliable SCSI drives and hard to find/expensive memory. Not to mention the huge external side cars they are housed in! There are also internal options that can be very rare/expensive or tricky to install.

    The ACA500 replaces this with a small PCB including 2 CF Card slots for your storage/transferring files, 2mb Ram and an interface to connect an A1200 Accelerator Card to further expand.

    The ACA500 has 1.3 and 3.1 Rom on board so this will save you spending extra money upgrading the Rom. There is a 68EC000-10 processor on board clocked to 14mhz (twice the speed of the A500′s on board 68000 CPU) and 512k flash Rom for the menu system/firmware/Kickstart Roms.

    Lets take a look at the ACA500:
    ACA500 Top

    ACA500 Bottom

    ACA500 with ACA1220 connected (bottom)

    ACA500 with ACA1220 connected (top)

    Specifications & Features:
    • 68EC000-10 clocked at 14 MHz (i.e. double A500 clock)
    • 2 MB of physical RAM, entirely available for applications (minus 512 KB if MapROM is used)
    • External expansion, no need to open the A500
    • Two Compact Flash card slots (each one of them bootable and able to read/write Amiga or PC formatted cards)
    • Trapdoor memory expansions up to 1.8 MB FastMem still work (including RTC)
    • ChipMem expansions still work
    • Custom expansion port for local hardware (14 MHz 16-bit, double Zorro speed)
    • Clock port for hardware expansions, e.g. Subway USB.
    • Optionally expandable by adding an A1200 Accelerator card such as the ACA1220/1232.
    • Licensed Kickstart ROM images 1.3 and 3.1 included in Flash-ROM
    • FAT95 file system also included in Flash-ROM
    • 64-bit device drivers allow you to use cards with capacities of more than 4GB (file system limitations still apply, so you may need to partition accordingly)
    • Full WHDload compatibility incl. Quit key!


    Installation:


    Installation of the hardware is easy, you do not have to open your Amiga as the ACA500 connects the the side expansion slot and as mentioned before due to licensed Kickstarts being available in the firmware you don’t even need to update the physical Rom, in fact it will even work without any Rom in the socket!

    Once connected to your A500 it will look like this:

    ACA500 installed on A500 expansion slot

    The ACA500 has been criticised for not having a case but I quite like the fact it’s a bare PCB as it’s a very sleek design and nice to look at, you of course have easy access to the CF slots and expansion ports. I would be happy with a simple dust cover from molded plastic or acrylic.

    I imagine we will see a plethora of custom cases and enclosures in the near future.

    Amiga 1200 Accelerators are connect face side up, I will cover compatibility later in my review.

    ACA500 tested:

    When you power you A500 on for the first time with the ACA500 connected you will see the boot menu as below:
    ACA500 Main Menu

    You can configure the settings to your requirements in the ‘Expert Menu’ or boot your A500 with the basic settings with 3.1Rom or 1.3 Rom (F1 or F2)
    ACA500 Advanced Configuration Menu

    It’s recommended the first time you use your ACA500 to make a backup (recovery Disk) to Floppy Disk of the firmware/flash in case at any time you need to restore the flash. New features will be brought to the ACA500 with Flash updates which are easy to apply, you simply put the update file in the root of a FAT formatted CF card and place it in the AUX CF slot and run the flash update from the main menu (F)

    For my first tests I connected my ACA1220 and used the CF card from my A600 booting the standard 3.1Rom configuration, I was pleased to see Workbench booted up with no drama.

    ACA1220/ACA500 connected to A500+

    A500+ with ACA500/ACA1220

    I would recommend preparing your Workbench setup in advance via WinUAE, I normally use the Classic Workbench packs and highly recommend these if you’re dusting your Amiga off for the first time in years as they come pre-installed with many tools and utilities that will make your return to the scene much smoother.

    You can see my tutorial here if you need guidance on setting up your CF HDD.

    For a stand alone ACA500 I would recommend Classic Workbench 68k as this is a very light pack based on Workbench 3.1 for ECS machines. It will save you valuable Ram that you will need for applications and Games. If you have an ACA12xx card attached you can use the heavier packs but remember to disable the copper background as this requires an AGA chipset.

    Screenshots and benchmarks: (Taken with ACA1220/26.7mhz connected)

    Classic Workbench FULL (Custom Icons)

    As I am using an A500+ with 1mb upgrade I already have the full 2mb Chip Ram, the ACA500 has an advanced feature whereby if you have an A500 (Rev6+) you can map your trapdoor 512k upgrade to give you a full 1mb Chip Ram.

    Here are some system information screens and benchmarks:

    WhichAmiga Evaluation

    SysSpeed Info and Mips Benchmark

    SysInfo Benchmark

    SysInfo IDE Speed test


    What can I do now I have an ACA500?

    Usage will entirely depend on your own interests but the ACA500 will open many doors for you! If you just like to play Games you have access to Amiga and FAT storage devices (CF Cards) making transferring Games to your A500 a doddle.

    Even as a stand alone unit there is a new version of WHDLoad that is less memory hungry which includes full quit key support so you can jump right into playing games from the huge WHDLoad library.

    The larger Multi Disk Games will need some more memory so if you’re an avid gamer you should consider adding an A1200 Accelerator Card to boost your Ram.

    If you like to run applications, watch Demos or create/listen to modules then the ease of transferring data will be advantageous as well as 1.3Rom fallback which still has full Amiga/FAT file system support giving you modern flexibility but still compatibility with older software.

    For me I enjoy pushing the boundaries with my Amiga’s, getting the most out of them that is possible for the hardware level. I have taken a short Video running some 3D Games which previously wouldn’t have been possible on such a machine at least not without the expensive and rare GVP530 or ultra rare Viper530.

    This test was made using my ACA1232 which has a 33mhz 68030 processor and 128mb Ram.


    [m]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Noqubhem-8[/m]



    Compatibility:

    As promised I will now talk about compatibility, I have been collating information from various forums on users tests as well as my own with the ACA500.

    The ACA500 is designed for use with the A500 and A500+, there will be a special version for the A1000 which will give your A1000 a full 2mb Chip Ram, this will require some internal installation as it has a connector to the Agnus socket.

    There is also an A2000 version planned which will connect to the internal CPU slot, you can follow news on these at this thread over at the English Amiga Board (EAB.) You will also find discussion on other forums such as Amibay. Jens Schoenfeld also posts news at A1k.org however this is mainly a German speaking forum.


    CF Cards tested.


    I have tested the following CF cards with the ACA500:
    • Sandisk – Working
    • Transcend 133x – Working
    • Kingston(flower) – Working
    • Generic (Chinese unbranded) – Working
    • Verbatim 133x – Not Working

    The Verbatim CF cards stop the A500 from booting at all.
    Other users CF cards tested:
    • Integral – Working


    A1200 Turbo Boards tested.


    I have compiled the following information based on reports from fellow Amiga users, please note there is no official support for Accelerators other then the ACA12xx from Individual Computers but some boards such as the Blizzard 1230MkIV are known to work with the ACA500.
    • ACA1220 – Working but cards bought before Sept 5th 2013 will need a fix (contact Individual Computers at icomp.de)
    • ACA1232 – Working
    • ACA1230 – Working (might need to update your ACA500 Firmware to a beta release, some A500′s might cause issues)
    • Blizzard 1220 – Not Working (Black screen)
    • Blizzard 1230MkIV – Working (Update Firmware to Beta version) *Might not work on some A500′s
    • Blizzard 1240 – Possibly working (need conformation) (Update Firmware to Beta version) *Might not work on some A500′s
    • Blizzard 1260 – Working(with hacked 060 libs) (Update Firmware to Beta version) *Might not work on some A500′s
    • GVP Jaws II 1230 – Not Working (Black screen)
    • DCE Typhoon 1230 MK II – Not Working (Black screen)
    • MTec 1230/28 – Not Working (Black screen)
    • Viper 1230/28 – Not Working (Black screen)
    • Apollo 1240/1260 – Booting but without any Ram
    • 4mb/8mb Trapdoor Upgrades – Not Working (These cannot work with the ACA500 as they do not have their own CPU)

    As stated this information is compiled from other users and my own tests, your own results might be different, I’d be interested to hear of any other tests made. Of course if you connect any unsupported hardware to your ACA500 it is at your own risk!

    Although the manual states the ACA500 should not be connected to an A1000 some users have reported that it works with theirs although others have said it doesn’t, my advice is to wait for the official ACA1000

    Verdict/Conclusions:

    I am really pleased with my ACA500, the build quality seems very good. The CF slots feel a little bit delicate when inserting CF cards so I would advise to be careful but I’ve not had any issues and have inserted and removed my CF cards dozens of times.

    If you are intending to use the ACA500 as a stand alone solution you might find 2mb Ram isn’t enough for your needs, if you use Maprom to load in 1.3/3.1 Rom you will loose 512k of this leaving you just 1.5mb Fast Ram.

    My opinion though is that even with the little Ram the features and benefits it brings to a standard A500 are excellent value for money and I highly recommend one to any A500 user!


    Other options:

    Whilst there are the tradition side car expansions on the market and the rare internal expansions I mentioned before there are a couple of other upgrades for the A500 on the market or coming to the market such as Kipper2k’s combined 8mb and IDE board, this installs internally and offers a slightly cheaper upgrade path if you just want memory and storage.

    A new accelerator (TurboFlyer 530) has also been announced by Elbox which will have an 030 processor, 16mb Ram and a FastATA built in, it is due to hit their Web store in February 2014 although I’m a little skeptical given the previous announced hardware from Elbox which has failed to materialise, we shall see!

    A final consideration is Zeus68k, I have been watching updates on this via EAB which is another internal CPU/IDE solution with some other features. You can read about it over at EAB.

    I am very excited by the new hardware options coming to the Amiga at the moment, there is certainly still a lot of interest in the Amiga community for our beloved machines.

    That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed the article, I will bring you more news and updates as I have them.

    Thanks for reading,
    -Fitzsteve.
    Last edited by fitzsteve; 20 December 2013, 11:46. Reason: typos
    My YouTube Channel:

    CD32 + TF330, A500+ Vampire V2, A1200D + BPPC/BVision/SCSI2SD, A1200T Black Box + Mediator B1260 + Killer K1 PPC

  • #2
    Awesome!
    Thanks for this review... I am seriously thinking to give new life to my A500...
    windows ipsum est virus

    Comment


    • #3
      Excellent, informatiive and very readable review - Thanks Fitz!
      A1000 & A1200, 48K Speccy and IF1 & Microdrives, Speccy 128 Toaster & divIDE plus, +2(Grey), 2A, +3E, Saturn, Dreamcast, Gamecube, N64 Everdrive, Megadrive / MegaCD & Everdrive, SNES & Everdrive, PCE & EverDrive, Atari Jaguar, C64 & Utimate II, MAME Cabinet,. J'Tag Xbox 360, Original Xbox, Xbox One, PS1,2,3 & 4 , Wii, Wii U, Loadsa PCs.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed the read

        I notice I still have a few typo's to iron out and will update the thread when I add more info
        My YouTube Channel:

        CD32 + TF330, A500+ Vampire V2, A1200D + BPPC/BVision/SCSI2SD, A1200T Black Box + Mediator B1260 + Killer K1 PPC

        Comment


        • #5
          A truly fantastic and thorough review my friend, a delight to read!
          Flux Mastah' Zee
          50 L337 1'M W1R3FR4M3

          Comment


          • #6
            Excellent review!!!
            Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2A, 128K on board, internal datacorder, kempston joystick, psu, tv cable, screwdriver, a lot of patience during loading times!!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Zetr0 View Post
              A truly fantastic and thorough review my friend, a delight to read!
              Originally posted by Nick1977 View Post
              Excellent review!!!
              Thanks guys
              My YouTube Channel:

              CD32 + TF330, A500+ Vampire V2, A1200D + BPPC/BVision/SCSI2SD, A1200T Black Box + Mediator B1260 + Killer K1 PPC

              Comment


              • #8
                Nice job Steve

                I do disagree with the statement about the "huge external side cars", I love the look of the GVP side cars but that's a personal opinion

                Very helpful review and I am definitely considering getting one

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DutchinUSA View Post
                  Nice job Steve

                  I do disagree with the statement about the "huge external side cars", I love the look of the GVP side cars but that's a personal opinion

                  Very helpful review and I am definitely considering getting one
                  Glad you found it informative, I'm sure you wont regret it of you get one.

                  Of course the review is only my opinion, I used to own a GVP 530 and it was a terrific bit of kit but for me seemed to consume my whole desk

                  It did look pretty slick though, I give you that

                  http://www.amibay.com/showthread.php?t=36764
                  My YouTube Channel:

                  CD32 + TF330, A500+ Vampire V2, A1200D + BPPC/BVision/SCSI2SD, A1200T Black Box + Mediator B1260 + Killer K1 PPC

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Interesting reading.

                    If I had a 500 with one of these is there any advantage compared with my 1200 with ACA 1230 ? (and whdload)

                    Are there some whdload games that are for 500 only and don't work on 1200 whdload?
                    A1200 3.1 6GB HD OS 3.9, ACA1230 @ 28mhz 64mb RAM, PCMCIA Ethernet Card

                    A1200 3.0 4GB CF OS 3.1, Blizzard 1220 8mb

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Snoozy View Post
                      Interesting reading.

                      If I had a 500 with one of these is there any advantage compared with my 1200 with ACA 1230 ? (and whdload)

                      Are there some whdload games that are for 500 only and don't work on 1200 whdload?
                      I can't imagine there are any advantages to an A500 compared to a 1200, except if you have too much desk space and want to fill it up. You might also just like the looks of the 500 cabinet.

                      Most WHDLoad slaves are made for 020+ with AGA.

                      You don't need to take the 500 apart if you want to replace the boot CF card, although one of Kipper2k's external CF adapters could solve that problem as well in the 1200..
                      A1200 (NOS) : 030 33MHz 128MB fast RAM (ACA1232) : Indivision AGA MkII : 8GB CF : RR USB : Ethernet
                      A600 #1 : 080 V2 : 128MB fast : 2MB chip : Indivision ECS : 32GB CF : RR USB
                      : Ethernet | A600 #2 : 010 : 2MB chip
                      A500 : 68000 42MHz : 1MB chip : 8MB fast : 4GB CF | A500+ : 080 V2+ : 128MB fast : 2MB chip : 32GB CF

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Snoozy View Post
                        Interesting reading.

                        If I had a 500 with one of these is there any advantage compared with my 1200 with ACA 1230 ? (and whdload)
                        None, unless you don't own and A1200 then it saves you buying one.

                        The disadvantage would be no AGA.



                        Originally posted by Snoozy View Post
                        Are there some whdload games that are for 500 only and don't work on 1200 whdload?
                        Not that I know of, the whole idea of WHDLoad is to make the games compatible with newer Amiga's
                        My YouTube Channel:

                        CD32 + TF330, A500+ Vampire V2, A1200D + BPPC/BVision/SCSI2SD, A1200T Black Box + Mediator B1260 + Killer K1 PPC

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Got my ACA500 delivered yesterday but haven't had time to test it yet, will be intersting to see how my A500 coupled to an ACA1231 compares to my A1200.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by coltch View Post
                            Got my ACA500 delivered yesterday but haven't had time to test it yet, will be intersting to see how my A500 coupled to an ACA1231 compares to my A1200.
                            Good luck with your project, it runs very similar of course without the AGA

                            You will find performance slightly faster on the A1200 for this reason especially with higher resolution/colours in Workbench and also because ACATune on the A1200 can give you an extra boost from the enhancements
                            My YouTube Channel:

                            CD32 + TF330, A500+ Vampire V2, A1200D + BPPC/BVision/SCSI2SD, A1200T Black Box + Mediator B1260 + Killer K1 PPC

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That is a great piece of hardware there.
                              My dream was always an 1.3 Amiga with HD and RAM! and now I can get one with 3.1 as well.
                              I have many 1200 with accellerators (030, 040, PPC) but this is the dream machine.
                              I don't care about the size of it nor that lacks of a case. We, the Amiga users are used to Frankenstein machines
                              As for the main CPU it is the best choice like the ACA620, what to do an 030 to run Doom or Gloom? They don't play well even with an 040 so it is a great deal for a 68000.

                              The only problem to this card from my personal opinion is the amount of RAM.
                              I would expect 8MB or at least 4 with the choice of expansion.

                              Do you think they will make one with 8MB in near furture or just I have to shut up and give you them money now

                              Thanks for your time making us happy
                              Last edited by VincentGR; 22 December 2013, 13:54.
                              http://partsfromthepast.blogspot.gr/
                              To blit, or not to blit? A1200T 603,128MB,Mediator,Voodoo3,TVCard,SB128,Lan100.
                              A1200 030IV 50MHz 16MB,3xA1200 8MB+CF(one NOS),2xA500+ 1MB,A500 1,5MB,A600 ACA020 10MB+CF,C64,3xCPC6128,CPC464,ZX48+,Atari 1040STE 4MB,1040STF.

                              Comment

                              Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
                              Working...
                              X