As a regular contributor to various Amiga forums and Facebook groups, it has been rather interesting to gauge the reaction from within the Amiga community now that people have been able to get their hands on the X5000 from a number of different dealers world-wide.
Judging by the number of new X5000 users that announce themselves on forums like Amigaworld.net Amiga.org or the Hyperion support forums combined with the statistics for this very blog you are reading, it would appear a large number of new X5000 machines are going to users based in the United States. This has been helped no doubt by a two main factors of a very enthusiastic re-seller in Amiga on The Lake, who appears to be bending over backwards to help others in terms of post sales support, combined with a favourable £/$ exchange rate for our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.
However despite the X5000 being released at a price of £1750.00 in the UK at Amigakit, which was less than the X1000 (£2125 in 2012) one of the biggest gripes I have seen on message boards thus far is that users would love to own an X5000 but are put off simply on its price alone.
Whilst A-Eon are due to release a lower specification machine in the A1222 (codenamed Tabor) at some point later this year which will be priced at around €400, it is worth remembering that the X5000 in terms of specs and performance is considered the top end machine of the current AmigaOS range and similar to the spot those lovely A4000/040 workstations of the mid 90’s occupied, these too were sold at a price point of around £2,000 as this lovely advert from Silica would happily demonstrate.
In my view the X5000 is actually pretty good value when you consider the other alternatives available for running Amiga OS 4.1 Final Edition which can be done under emulation or by upgrading your classic A1200 hardware.
In fact let us take upgrading your classic A1200 machines to PowerPC level as an example, as this was something I had thought about back in 2012 when after a few years of neglect, I got back into using the Amiga and my A1200 full-time.
My A1200 as great as it still is, is a product of my student days back in the late 1990’s and like most students, cash isn’t something that I was exactly flush with at the time all these wonderful Phase 5 PowerPC accelerator cards were being released. Sure I had an Apollo 68030 accelerator card and CD-ROM drive but the stuff I really wanted I couldn’t afford. After University I kind of drifted off into the PC World and forgot about the Amiga and it wasn’t until my early 30’s that I was able to dedicate the financial resources to my Amiga hobby.
Back in 2012 I looked at upgrading my Amiga to run Amiga OS 4.1 and wondered if I could still get hold of a PowerPC accelerator card. Sadly by this point, whilst there were still Amiga retailers around selling various bits and pieces, trying to find a new PowerPC accelerator card was nigh on impossible.
In fact you only need to look at the insane prices that these cards tend to go for on eBay or Amibay to see that it on the rare occasion they do appear, you will need to cough up something in the region of £600.00 for a 20-year-old piece of kit!
If you are after something a little more up to date, fear ye not, as it would appear Phase 5 who were responsible for the large chunk of PowerPC cards last produced will soon be releasing a new batch, however before you read any more and in the interests of your own health and safety please make sure you are not eating something as you read this as the next bit about the prices will make you choke.
I stumbled across the following article yesterday where Phase 5 announce just how much they are selling their much awaited PowerPC accelerators for:
As you can see from the press release:
Phase 5 official pre-order price list, taxes included, September 2017
– Cyberstorm PPC 2 (604e@400Mhz): 1490,- EUR
– Cyberstorm MK IV (68060@60Mhz): 1149,- EUR
– Blizzard 2060 MK II with SCSI-II (68060@60Mhz): 979,- EUR
– Blizzard PPC 2 603e+ (603e@400Mhz): 1249,- EUR
This means that to buy a new PowerPC accelerator card will cost you EUR1249.00 or GBP1105.00!!
Of course once you have got yourself your PowerPC accelerator what next is on the list? Well the blurb that originally came with my Apollo 68030 accelerator card says it works in a desktop setup with the trapdoor closed, but in reality it tended to lock up quite a bit which was as a result of insufficient ventilation to expel the heat coming off the processor. On the rare occasion I have to run my desktop A1200, I do it on top of a chilled laptop board with the trapdoor open to give enough ventilation.
Given that a PowerPC accelerator carries a more powerful 68060 processor as well as the PowerPC one, it stands to reason that this thing is not really going to work that reliably within the existing A1200 desktop setup and you may want to look at putting your A1200 into a tower.
In reality, and certainly as far as the A1200 is concerned, you should only be looking at a tower set up where you can slot in the A1200 motherboard so you can have easy access to the ports on the rear of the A1200 motherboard. Fortunately Elbox who manufactured these towers for years currently have one new batch on sale at the nice sum of €300 or £270. http://eu-shop.elbox.com/en__GB/c/AMIGA/40
Whilst you are at the Elbox website, you may want to add to your basket a Mediator PCI 1200 busboard priced at EUR319/GBP285.00, which allows you to add all sorts of PCI based graphics and sound cards. Amiga OS4.1 now supports high-end Radeon graphics cards and as nice as AGA is, surely you want to see and use some of those nice Picasso 96 screenmodes that I showed in my last post? Maybe you want to add a SATA controller via one of the spare PCI slots which will allow you to plug-in an SSD drive and will speed up your machine no end. IDE hard drives are so last century aren’t they?
Talking of graphics cards you will probably want to invest in a new one or pick up a second hard graphics card that will be compatible for OS4.1 either way you will be looking at between £20 for a second-hand one along the lines of a Radeon 9200 to £50-90 for a new one depending on the card model.
Maybe you want to add USB ports to your machine. This can be obtained using the Spider II USB 2.0 PCI card which costs EUR83.95/GBP75.00 from the Elbox store.
Next you will need to have some sort of DVI output, after all you seriously don’t want to upgrade all your bits and pieces and have this displayed via the Amiga’s native output or via VGA? In this case an Indivision AGA is essential here, but the cost of this nice bit of kit will set you back £130 which can be picked up from our lovely friends at Amigakit.
You may also need a new CD/DVD drive, after all the A1200 I was had an Archos CDrom which meant it was stuck into the PCMCIA port and as anyone who owns an A1200 will tell you the pins on that PCMCIA port are a little fragile…. So here we will need to add an extra £15.00 for the purchase of a new CD/DVD rom drive from Amigakit.
You could recycle your existing hard drive so that it represents a saving, however I would recommend you get rid of the existing hard drive and go for an SSD drive you will notice the difference straight away. However given that the X5000 at £1750.00 comes with a hard drive instead of an SSD one, we need to do a like for like comparison and we won’t add this to the list.
Most people would recommend that you now get your classic hardware re-capped and of course if you are going to the trouble of spending all this cash, a little extra £30.00 to ensure your hardware lasts that little bit longer is probably a good investment.
Last but not least is the most important thing of all a copy of AmigaOS 4.1 at a cost of £25, although you do have the option to do save a few quid here and do a digital download which you then need to burn to an actual disc or use something like diskimage.device. My advice, go for the physical copy, it looks nice on a shelf and more importantly you get a cool looking AmigaOS sticker with the physical copy.
So let’s add up the total cost of our upgraded A1200 setup:
- Power PC accelerator card £600* (2nd hand)/£1105.00 (new)
- Elbox Tower £270
- Mediator PCI £285
- Spider II USB £75.00
- New graphics card £90
- New sound card £20
- Indivision AGA £130
- New CD/DVD Rom £15
- Network card £9.95
- Amiga OS4.1 Final Edition £25
- Recapping the A1200 £30
Total upgrade outlay £1550.00 * if using a 2nd hand card or £2055.00
* This is a conservative estimate as the actual cost will vary according to how much you end up winning the bid for on eBay/Amibay.
What will I get for my classic money?
You will get a nice A1200 machine thats for sure, I mean it’s the dream A1200 that everybody including myself wanted back in the 1990’s, but lets delve a little deeper into the specs:
Assuming you go for the Blizzard version, you may be stuck with just 256MB of Ram which is great for a classic machine, but compared to the X5000 where you have access to 2GB of Ram, there is a clear difference here and you may find yourself limited somewhat by tasks which require more RAM.
Processor speed too is limited to 400Mhz, which isn’t to say that an A1200 will struggle after all I have seen it emulate a Playstation at lower PowerPC processor speeds, but as someone who had a Sam 460 set up previously as 1.15Mhz and with 2GB of Ram, I can tell you that it occasionally struggled with programs which placed a large demand on the CPU. Certainly I do not expect to be playing Nexuiz or Super Tux Kart in full screen on the A1200.
What would surfing the Internet be like on say Odyssey? Well if emulation is anything to go by when I load up WinUAE on my Microsoft Surface Pro, then I would say it is a little sluggish and speed issues are only ever improved in my experience by an upgrade in the all important specs.
The X5000 in comparison
Regardless of which retailer you get your X5000 machine from, you will end up with a brand new professionally built system which has been tested and carries a guarantee. It will come preconfigured with the latest updated version of Amiga OS4.1 Final Edition and in most cases it will come with a good graphics card in the Radeon R7 250 or Radeon HD7750 which is being supported with Warp 3D and Warp 3D Nova. A lot of retailers are also supplying the Enhancer pack which build upon the foundation of 4.1 Final Edition so if you need this for the A1200, you will need to factor in an extra £24.00-50.00 depending on which option you choose. You will also get a machine that dual boots into Linux and hopefully soon a port of MorphOS. The X5000 is a powerful beast too and very quick to use.
In my humble opinion, when you put it into comparison with the upgrade of existing classic hardware suddenly the £1750.00 being asked is not expensive at all but a bit of a bargain considering this is a custom-made piece of kit, for running Amiga OS at least you are getting the best specs possible and more importantly it is available now so you don’t have to wait or waste any time trying to source the various components.
It is worth remembering that during Commodore and later Escom’s troubles, not that many A4000 machines were actually sold as they were aimed at the professional end of the market due to its specification and cost. Sure, not everyone is going to be able to afford an X5000 but in some markets where wages and the standard of living is higher, the X5000 is a damn sight more affordable piece of kit certainly compared to cost of the A4000 in the past.
Still not sure about things?
Then maybe you might want to save your pennies for the upcoming, lower specification A1222 board which is due to hit the market towards the end of this year. If the X5000 is the modern-day A4000/40 workstation of the 21st Century, then the A1222 should be looked upon as the A1200 of the modern day with specifications to match as the machine is based upon a Freescale QorIQ P1022 chip running at 1.2Ghz which hopefully will mean that the occasional speed issues that plagued by Sam460 board will be a thing of the past.
From the snippets we have seen thus far (Hyperion have been sadly very coy at showing he machine running OS4), it looks like the A1222 is a vast improvement over the Sam460. Judge for yourself at the following link http://blog.hyperion-entertainment.biz/?p=1282. I personally think this looks quite promising despite some of the negatives you hear on various forum boards from people who simply go off the specs and nothing else.
It can be a bit disheartening at times to read negative stories at times about the X5000, that it is overpriced and that it can’t do things like play 1080p video in full screen. For me a lot of it is down to the slow pace of software development on the Amiga scene which will only ever get resolved by having new users come on board and more money thrown at development. I guess people are always quick to focus on the negatives and never highlight the positives of any piece of tech, however its been quite nice to see so many other enthusiastic X5000 users all over the world on the various Amiga forums defending what a nice machine this is to use and hopefully after reading today’s post you will realise that for a piece of custom-made kit, it is not as overpriced as you think!
Until next time have fun with your Amigas!