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%% The SX-1 CD32 expansion from Paravision by Jason Compton %%
%% email@example.com %%
The SX-1 is, as established last week, an expansion box with a lot
of options. One of these is the promise of turning the CD32 back into
what it came from: an Amiga 1200. Let's see just how close it comes.
Well, let's see...that shimmering CD on the screen IS a welcome change
from the old 2.x disk animation, and quite a departure from the 1.x
Kickstart hand. Now, on the CD32, this screen implies that you're supposed
to put a CD in. With the SX-1, we know better...we know we've got a
real live Amiga to work with now. Ok, so now it's time to load Workbench.
Whoops. There's a slight problem here. Neither Commodore nor
Paravision include any sort of Workbench with the CD32 or SX-1,
respectively. You could always use your disks from another machine,
but if my licensing knowledge is up to par, you'd techincally be breaking
You could go out and buy the disks separately, but there's a much
better alternative. Two, in fact.
Lock 'n Load from NorthWest Public Domain and (so I'm told) CDPD III
from Almathera both have bootable Workbench 3.0 on the disc. While
it's not the fastest route in the world, it works and boots the machine...
and from there, you can always copy the files to your SX-1's hard
drive, if applicable.
All right. Problem one down. Next!
Well, life isn't perfect...nobody bothered bundling a mouse with any
of this, either. Get one. (Lock 'n Load has a program to allow minimal
mouse emulation with a joystick or joypad, but for serious use you NEED
a mouse, as the program doesn't support the right mouse button.)
You've got an Amiga 1200 at your fingertips now, with a couple of
1. You can't plug in anything PCMCIA or 1200-local-slot. Most people
would say that the missing PCMCIA is no big loss, but developers are
on the verge of coming out with 16-bit sound and Ethernet PCMCIA
cards. There's also always the fabled Emplant PCMCIA, but it hasn't
materialized. As for the local slot: well, you've got the single SIMM slot
offered by those trapdoor expanders, but you don't have FPU or CPU
upgrade capability. Major downside, but Paravision told me they couldn't
get an 030 to work.
2. You have a built-in CD-ROM filesystem, but unfortunately your
CD32 will reset if you lift the lid...unless you pick up a little gem called
NoReset from the Weird Science CD-ROM (also available on the next
Amiga Report Coverdisk). This will enable you to slap in whatever
CD-ROM you'd like and access it from Workbench without screwing
around with buying a filesystem or getting the PD/shareware offerings
to work correctly.
3. You can theoretically display your work on 4 different screens
without any sort of splitters (providing you have RGB, composite,
RF and S-Video monitors all lying conveniently near the CD32)
4. You have a detached keyboard. (not to mention a detached
floppy drive, if applicable).
Ok, so it's not the most outstandingly elegant design in the world.
But it works, and everything will think you've got a 1200 under
The Fast RAM option is a great one. It speeds up the CD32 by
the same amount a 1200 is accelerated (approx. 2.2 times a stock
1200), as you would expect. This is great for Workbench operation.
However, despite the fact that this is 1994, some games for the CD32
will NOT work with Fast RAM.
Among these are Pirates Gold and Chaos Engine.
Some games will show a significant speed-up. Microcosm, Liberation,
and Gunship 2000 fall here.
Others are virtually, if not totally, unaffected. Pinball Fantasies and
Total Carnage are a couple.
There ARE ways around the Fast RAM...you can re-familiarize yourself
with Degrader and use it. The only other alternative is to alter the memory
jumper inside the CD32 (#3). Mike Pinson tells me that as long as you
don't SOLDER it on, a switch is fine to install without voiding the warranty.
(I've just been changing the jumper as I need to).
Hard Drive and Power
Actually, consider this a review within a review. Micro R+D, until they
get their specially-made CD32 power supplies, are altering 200 watt
internal supplies to work with the CD32.
200 watts is MORE than enough to handle ANYTHING you could
throw at the CD32. At the same time, the power supply has some
brightly colored power connectors hanging off of it: two floppy, two
of the hard drive variety.
This is almost enough to make me say that this power supply is
a more viable solution than the upcoming special 50W one, which
presumably will not have these connectors.
Considering how expensive 2.5 inch drives are (Paravision is asking
$120 for the 40 meg drive they sent me on 30-day terms),
and considering how expensive external hard drive cases are (close
to $100 in most cases), a power supply with a hard drive connector
like this would mean that someone using an external IDE or a SCSI+
needs only to have some sort of box to mount their hard drive in,
and nothing more. Sounds like a project that can be completed
in 2 hours with standard household items (provided you securely
mount the drive, of course) to me. I've mentioned this to the
Micro R+D staff, as the 50W supply will likely not have any drive
connectors at all.
The drive more than sufficiently powers a 2.5 inch HD, which works
fine with the CD32. It's worth noting that it's a big project to get the
drive installed in the SX-1's case, as a LOT of screws need to be
removed and the SX-1 board needs to come out of the housing.
Such is life.
The SX-1 delivers what it said it would deliver back in April. I
remember my initial excitement when I read the flyer that
came with the CD32. It's really, for all practical purposes and
barring a missing couple of slots, a 1200 with a CD-ROM.
This opens a vast world and now I can finally view pictures in
AGA (the Retina Z-III still would have been nice to keep, though.)
Of course, the SX-1 is delivering what it said it would deliver
months later and at increased cost, but there's not much that
can be done.
I strongly recommend this product as a viable, usable, and
practical upgrade for the CD32. With my other hand, though,
I charge developers to challenge the SX-1 with a lower-cost,
FPU/CPU upgradable product.
And I will sit back and enjoy the benefits to the customer.
Paravision, Inc. (SX-1) Phone: 214-644-0043/800-588-0043
500 East Arapho, Suite 104 Fax: 214-644-7913
Richardson, TX 75081
Micro R+D (Power Supplies) Phone: 800-527-8797/308-745-1243
P.O. Box 130
721 'O' St.
Loup City, NE 68853
NorthWest Public Domain (Lock 'n Load) Phone: 206-351-9502
P.O. Box 1617
Auburn, WA 98071-1617
Almathera (CDPD III)
Listed in the AR Dealer Directory.