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%% CSAReview: Warp Engine 4040 By: Andre Perusse %%
%% By MacroSystem Development firstname.lastname@example.org %%
Warp Engine 4040
The Warp Engine 4040 is an accelerator, RAM expansion, and SCSI-2
card for the Amiga 4000.
Name: MacroSystem Development
Address: 24282 Lynwood, Suite 201
Novi, MI 48374
Phone: (810) 347-3332
Fax: (810) 347-6643
$1695.00 (US). Street price is about $1450.00.
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
An Amiga 4000 or A4000T.
[MODERATOR'S NOTE: A previous reviewer stated that the
board works on the A3000T as well. - Dan]
AmigaDOS 2.1 or higher.
MACHINE USED FOR TESTING
Amiga 4000 Tower, 2 MB Chip RAM, 16 MB Fast RAM (60ns).
Quantum 1800S 1.8GB SCSI-2 Hard Drive.
NEC 3xi Internal Triple-Speed CD-ROM (with ASIM CDFS v2)
Emplant Deluxe with version 4.7 of the emulation software.
Multiface III I/O card.
[MODERATOR'S NOTE: If you are not comfortable opening up your
Amiga, then you should have the work done by an authorized Amiga
service center. Opening your Amiga yourself may void your warranty,
and careless work may even damage the machine. - Dan]
Installation of the Warp Engine involves removing the Commodore
supplied 68040 processor card and replacing it with the Warp Engine. Note
that the Warp Engine does not occupy a Zorro slot. The 4040 model comes
with its own CPU, so you can sell your old processor card to an Amiga 3000
owner. A heat sink and fan (one unit) is provided with the 4040 though
there is no mention of it in the documentation. You must peel off the
sticker and stick it on top of the 68040. Placing the Warp Engine in the
CPU slot of the 4000 can be tricky. The plastic standoffs are rigid and I
had a tough time getting them to snap into the holes on the Warp Engine
board. The documentation states that it might be easier if you place the
standoffs on the 4000's motherboard first and then put the Warp Engine in.
I found, however, that it was easier the other way around.
If you want to connect your internal hard drive to the Warp Engine,
a cable is provided. There is no SCSI activity LED connector on the Warp
Engine card, however. You must connect your computer's hard drive activity
LED directly to the hard drive. There is also no way to connect external
SCSI devices to the Warp Engine. The manual states that an external
connector is available from MacroSystems, should you want one.
Next, there is a series of jumpers that must be configured for your
system. You must tell the Warp Engine whether or not to AutoBoot off of the
integrated SCSI-2 controller. The behaviour of the controller must also be
set (you can make it slower or faster depending on your hard drive),
including whether or not to support LUNs. You must also tell the Warp
Engine what kind of memory you have installed on it. You must set jumpers
for the size of the biggest SIMM module, and whether or not you have any
double-sided SIMMs installed. Double-sided 16MB SIMMs take a lot of power
and are not recommended by MacroSystems.
A disk comes with the Warp Engine that contains various utilities.
There is no Installer script. Just drag the drawer labeled "Warp Software"
onto your hard drive.
I can sum up this entire review with one word: AWESOME!! The 4000
Tower used for this review virtually hovers off the floor! I am indeed
greatly impressed with this unit.
The Warp Engine comes in an unassuming, white box with the same kind
of cover as the advertisement in AmigaWorld Magazine. The box contains the
Warp Engine, a heat sink & fan, plastic standoffs, a thin, spiral-bound book,
and a disk.
If you have any Fast RAM on the motherboard of your 4000, you can
move it onto the Warp Engine for increased performance. The Warp Engine
has 4 SIMM slots (which accept industry standard 72-pin SIMMs) that can hold
4, 8, 16, or 32 MB SIMMs in any configuration. Very flexible. 60ns SIMMs
are recommended to achieve the best performance.
For all of you who think benchmarks are important, here they are
(courtesy of AIBB v6.1 - compared to stock Amiga 4000/040):
EmuTest 1.88 Writepixel 1.47 Sieve 2.87 Dhrystone 1.61
Sort 1.76 EllipseTest 1.12 Matrix 2.25 IMath 1.61
MemTest 4.61 TGTest 1.15 LineTest 1.02 Savage 1.63
FMath 1.61 FMatrix 2.80 Beachball 1.71 InstTest 2.41
Flops 1.60 TranTest 2.22 FTrace 1.69 CplxTest 1.71
Sysinfo (version 3.23) reports 29.89 MIPS and 7.58 MFlops.
Most startling in the above benchmarks is the memory speed of the
Warp Engine. With the 60ns 16MB SIMM module, the Warp Engine's RAM speed is
over 4.5 times faster than a stock 4000!! Ssssssssmmmmokin'!!
With a Quantum 1800S 1.8GB SCSI-2 hard drive, SysInfo reports a read
speed of over 3 MB per second. DiskSpeed 3.1 reports a slightly more
conservative speed of 2.5 MB per second. While the Quantum 1800S is no
Seagate Barracuda, this is still very fast.
Real world performance is the only benchmark in my book, however. I
am running a 16 colour Workbench that feels like a 4 colour Workbench.
Icons and windows just fly onto the screen. Response from the Amiga is
instantaneous. Click on the close gadget of a window, and it's gone before
you can blink. Screens open faster and programs load much quicker. Boot-up
time was reduced by almost 10 seconds over a stock 4000 with an IDE hard
drive. I can run the Emplant Macintosh emulator in 256 colours with
absolutely no slowdown. PageStream 2.2 screen updates are so much faster
with the Warp Engine 4040, it's a dream to use.
The included software consists of SCSI hard drive partitioning and
formatting software, a modified HDToolBox icon to work with the Warp Engine,
a device driver, a SCSI handler (if do not set the Warp Engine SCSI
controller to autoboot), and a CLI command to map Kickstart into Fast RAM.
The lack of an Installer script is disappointing, but then there's not much
to install. In fact, the Warp Engine will work fine without any of its
supplied software installed. The included SCSI drive partitioning software
is not as good as HDToolBox, in my opinion. It does not tell you how big
your drive is in megabytes, only in blocks.
The small manual is clear and concise. It contains detailed
technical information on how the Warp Engine works, which is great for all
you techno-nuts out there. The installation instructions are well laid out
in a step-by-step fashion. The only thing missing was an explanation of the
heat sink. Although I knew how to install the heat sink and fan unit, I
think MacroSystems should have at least mentioned it.
This board is fast! MacroSystems did not cut corners at all on this
card. It has a fast SCSI-2 controller and easy memory expansion. Its
performance with Emplant is most impressive. The integration of
accelerator, SCSI-2 controller, and RAM expansion on one card is a definite
plus. And no precious Zorro slot is taken.
The Warp Engine is rather expensive. Certainly not in everyone's
budget, at $1500 (US) it's a bit steep. Installation of the 4040 in a 4000
Tower presents a problem, as well. With the fan on the CPU and/or SIMMs
installed on the board, the drive bracket can no longer be installed. You
must use a hack-saw to cut out areas for the fan and SIMMs to poke through.
Luckily, it's not that difficult.
Lastly, the lack of a SCSI activity LED connector on the Warp Engine
is a bit of a let-down. If you have more that one hard drive, you can only
connect your computer's LED to one of them. On a board that it so well
designed, this oversight is inexcusable. The lack of an external SCSI
connector is also a mark against the Warp Engine.
COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS
The only other product that compares to the Warp Engine is GVP's
G-Force 040. I have never used the G-Force, so I don't know how its speed
compares. However, the G-Force uses GVP's custom SIMM modules, which are
much more expensive than the industry standard SIMMs the Warp Engine uses.
And the G-Force does not come standard with a SCSI-2 controller - it's an
I've had no reason to call MacroSystems, so I have no idea how well
they support their products. I did call their support BBS, however, and the
technicians appear to answer all questions.
Because the unit is not mine (I am a dealer configuring this for a
client), I was interested in the warranty of the Warp Engine. So I started
to read the legalese on the first page. About 3/4 of the way through the
disclaimer, there is a sentence that says, "If you have read all of this,
your brain, herein, will be turned into mush." I heartily agree with that
sentence as I can never figure out what exactly the warranty covers. As it
turns out, the last page of the manual states that the Warp Engine is
warranted against manufacturing defects for 2 years.
If you can afford it, buy this card. If you can't afford it, sell
your grandmother. You will not regret it.