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MACROSYSTEM DEVELOPMENT'S WARPENGINE:
New Life for A3000s and Greater Speed for A4000s
Douglas J. Nakakihara email@example.com
NOTICE: This is the originally submitted text for an article that appeared
in the February 6, 1995 issue (#133) of MICROTIMES magazine. (There are
some slight edited differences between the published version and this one.)
This article is freely-distributable as long as it remains unchanged and
this notice and the copyright remain included.
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similar media, including those electronically distributed, without
obtaining prior approval from the author. This provision does *not* apply
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Specific permission has been granted to Amiga Report.
Copyright(C)1995 Douglas J. Nakakihara.
The author can be reached thru Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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MacroSystem Development is shipping accelerator boards in various
configurations for both the Amiga 4000 and 3000, with built-in SCSI-2 Fast
DMA controllers. The high-end versions sport 40MHz `040 CPUs, while the
low-end model for the A4000 allows you to transplant your existing 25MHz
`040 chip and RAM to the WarpEngine for up to a 100- percent speed
increase. (Note: There is no CPU-less version for the A3000.) A4000
WarpEngines can hold up to 128MB of RAM (using 32MB SIMMs) while the A3000
versions top out at 64MB.
Because the SCSI controller is mounted directly on the board, you don't
have to worry about any Buster chip problems or incompatibilities like you
do with Zorro III expansion card alternatives. This is besides the fact
that it doesn't occupy a Zorro slot and is much faster than any
Warping An A4000
The A4000 installation instructions are very good and I had the
accelerator portion of the WarpEngine up and running in about one-half
hour. The hardest part of the installation was removing the plastic
faceplate from the case. Commodore did a nice job with the drive
subassemblies (much better than on the 3000), but the faceplate is held by
several snaps which are difficult to undo without breaking them. (Make
sure you take the appropriate anti-static precautions when working inside
your machine.) A nice thing about the A4000 WarpEngine setup is you can add
RAM and change jumpers after the board is installed.
To test the board I got a 32MB SIMM from H. Co. Computer Products.
(incidentally, Lawrence Burkey at the company was exceptionally helpful and
knowledgeable in finding the chip I needed for the WarpEngine.) The
WarpEngine is optimized for 60ns RAM, although you can use 70, 80ns chips,
or even move existing motherboard RAM, with a decline in performance.
There are four SIMM sockets which can hold a mixture of 4, 8, 16, or 32MB
SIMMs. (Note: Ignore the instruction to rotate the SIMM "towards you." You
do, in fact, have to rotate it away from you.)
The manual has a great suggestion to move the A4000's IDE drive to the
unused space just below the floppy drive. This allowed me to put a
half-height 3.5-inch 1GB drive in it's place. (Normally there is only
enough room to add a low-profile (1-inch high) 3.5-inch drive in that
spot.) This left the 5.25-inch drive bay open for future use.
You should definitely follow the manual's advice to place the four
plastic standoffs in the motherboard first, when installing the WarpEngine.
I also found it helps to pinch the tips of the standoffs with a pair of
pliers to make it easier to snap the board in place.
Aside for the lack of the AGA chipset, I often prefer to use my A3000
over my A4000. I give up a lot of speed, but I like the deinterlaced
display and the on-board SCSI controller. Well, with MacroSystem
Development's 40MHz `040-based WarpEngine for the A3000, I no longer have
to give up speed.
Installing the A3000 version is a little more complex. First off, an
`040 will not run in an Amiga without Kickstart ROMs. My early Amiga 3000
(circa June 1990) shipped with Kickstart stored as a file on the hard disk.
As a result, I first had to install ROMs--I used 3.1 ROMs available from
MacroSystem Development. The procedure is a little tricky because the
existing ROMs are mounted upside down on a small daughtercard (sometimes
called the "ROM Tower") that plugs into the motherboard. You have to
remove this, replace the ROMs with the new ones, and plug it back in. You
might have to cut through some white plastic straps too. It helps to mark
the orientation of the daughtercard and ROMs with a black marker before you
Although the 3000's design requires you to totally dismantle the
machine, it worked perfectly the first time and I was able to update all of
the system files without incident. (If you are upgrading from 2.x
AmigaDOS, delete all of the files in the ENVARC:sys directory. Version
3.1 apparently uses different file formats for the system preferences and
it won't automatically convert them. You'll then have to reboot and
reconfigure all of your system preferences, like fonts, Workbench
Warping An A3000
The WarpEngine installation instructions come in the form of a
three-page addendum. The same SIMM rotation mistake as in the 4000
installation also appears here. The instructions don't say you need to,
but you could anchor the WarpEngine with screws using the metal standoffs
on either side of the CPU connector already on the 3000's motherboard. (At
least mine had them.) Be careful though, I tightened a screw too much and
broke off one metal standoff.
There are a couple jumpers on the A3000 motherboard that need to be
changed and a jumper clip must be placed on a pin on a CIA chip. The
instructions are a little presumptuous in that you will know where pin 21
is, so for those of you that may not know (like I didn't), here's how you
figure it out. The chip will have a round dimple on one end. The pin
immediately to the left is pin one. Continuing counter- clockwise around
the chip, you count up to 21. If you are standing in front of the case
looking in, the pin is in the top-right-hand corner.
The A3000 WarpEngine is basically identical to the A4000; however, as
mentioned before, the maximum amount of RAM for the A3000 version is 64MB.
As such, there are only two SIMM sockets, where there are four on the A4000
No Room To Spare
There is not much room in the A3000, so make sure the WarpEngine is
plugged in all the way and does not get dislodged when you re- install the
drive cage. On my 3000, the floppy drive was in the right drive bay and a
1GB hard drive was in the left. The original 40MB drive was in the rear
bay. I found that the floppy drive mounting bracket would press against
the fan mounted on top of the `040 chip.
My solution was to move the floppy to the left bay (the original factory
location), remove the 40MB drive, and move the 1GB drive to the rear bay.
Obviously, before doing this I had to copy all of the files from the 40MB
and set up a new boot partition. The easiest way to do this is to boot up
with a Workbench floppy disk and then move all of the files.
You may want to drill new holes in the A3000's rear hard disk mounting
plate so the hard drive can be mounted with its connectors facing forward.
(Note: you'll only be able to use two screws.) This makes it easier for the
SCSI ribbon cable to reach everything. Also, the WarpEngine butts right up
against the socket for the A3000's expansion slot daughterboard. As such,
I found it necessary to trim the bottom of the plastic insulation card that
fits behind the daughterboard.
Once put back together, the WarpEngine is totally hidden by the drive
cage. Adding more RAM or changing jumpers requires totally disassembly
again. So make sure the thing works before you piece it all together!
The Art of SCSI
The WarpEngine worked great with my Toshiba and Micropolis hard drives,
Exabyte tape drive, and 44MB Syquest. However, I could not get it to work
with my NEC double-speed CD-ROM, and my Sony DAT drive would only work if
it was turned off when booting up. I believe I could have overcome the
CD-ROM problem, if I had configured it properly; however, I don't have the
documentation for it.
Some compatibility problems can be solved by changing the SCSI jumper
settings on the WarpEngine. For example, I found I needed to use a slower
setting to get my older Toshiba drive to work reliably. I also found it
necessary to place a shunt on jumper JP1, so that SCSI termination was
powered by the bus.
An internal SCSI ribbon cable is provided with the board, but if you
have external devices, you'll have to purchase an external connector. The
external connector is the 50-pin SCSI-2 variety and attaches to the end of
the internal ribbon. On the A4000 you mount the connector using the hole
on the back of the 4000 marked "Expansion." For the 3000, you'll want the
connector mounted on a backplane to fit in the expansion slot area. You
also need a SCSI-2-to-50-pin-Centronics cable to connect to an external
The WarpEngine installation disk comes with a nice utility called
SCSITools and a special WarpEngine HDToolBox icon that runs the AmigaDOS
HDToolBox program so that it will recognize the WarpEngine SCSI device.
These programs are used for initializing and partitioning hard drives.
I used the "Diner-West" scene from Brad Schenck's Diner LightWave
Objects Set (Terra Nova Development) to test the WarpEngine's performance.
The scene includes a lot of reflective elements so it requires a lot of
calculation. Resolution was set to medium with overscan.
A3000 A4000 `040-40 WarpEngine*
No AA 10m24s 4m31s 1m34s
Low AA 35m55s 15m19s 5m22s
Med. AA 54m41s 24m17s 8m39s
No AA 4h30m16s 1h10m33s 35m40s
Low AA 22h03m59s 5h51m39s 2h55m52s
Med. AA not performed 10h05m40s 5h04m37s
AA=Antialiasing, h=hours, m=minutes, s=seconds
A3000 and A4000 WarpEngine performance identical.
The A4000 WarpEngine performed two to three times faster than a stock
A4000, while the A3000 version gives a stock 3000 nearly eight times the
performance! Aside from rendering time benefits, your overall system will
be snappier. Directories will load quicker, icons will pop up faster,
screens will display faster, etc.
The WarpEngine can reportedly handle SCSI transfer rates of up to ten
MB/sec. MacroSystem Development tells me they've been able to get 9MB/sec
burst and 6MB/sec sustained with a Barracuda hard drive. My fastest drive
was not up to that spec, but it was pushing four MB/sec sustained.
According to the company, to maximize hard disk performance you can
optionally set the partition block size to 4096 from the default 512. This
must be done at the time you set up a partition, however. I tried this and
experienced an unexpected substantial reduction in usable storage space.
So if you have a lot of breathing room on your hard drive and want top
speed, this may be the way to go, otherwise, stick with the default.
As far as I could tell, of the few compatibility problems I encountered,
they were all related to upgrading to AmigaDOS 3.1 on my 3000. In
particular, AmigaDOS 3.1 does not like some of the old, but useful, ARP
commands. The WarpEngine worked just fine with all of the software I
tried, as well as my VideoToaster, Retina Z2, VLab, and Perisound boards.
If you've already invested in an accelerator, Zorro III memory, or Zorro
III SCSI board, MacroSystem Development has a very liberal competitive
trade-in policy. The following will get you an `040 WarpEngine: $600 + GVP
G-Force `040, $500 + Progressive `040-28, or $950 + Fastlane, 4091 SCSI,
DKB 3128, RCS X-Calibur, or 3640 (this is the A4000-040 CPU board).
Any of the WarpEngines can be upgraded to a 40MHz `040. The WarpEngine
will also be upgradable to the `060 (when it becomes available), probably
in the form of a plug-in CPU module. Soon to be released is a 50MHz card
for the Amiga 3000, called the ImpulsEngine, that will double the speed of
a 3000 and add up to 64MB of additional RAM. The board is expected to
sell, sans RAM, for under $500.
Breathe new life into your aging Amiga 3000 or put some added spunk into
your Amiga 4000. Better hard disk performance, greater computing power,
straight-forward installation, and solid design--you just can't go wrong
with MacroSystem Development's WarpEngine.
WarpEngine for the A3000: 28MHz $1150, 33MHz $1295, 40MHz $1495
WarpEngine for the A4000: 28MHz $899 (no CPU), 33MHz $1295, 40MHz $1495
SCSI-2 external connector, $49, $79 with cable
MacroSystem Development, Inc.
24282 Lynwood, Suite 201
Novi, MI 48374
H. Co. Computer Products
16812 Hale Avenue
Irvine, CA 92714
(800)RAM-CHPS extension 122