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           Review: CyberStorm Mark II A4000/060 Card from Phase5
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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The original CyberStorm is the grandfather of all 060 cards.  It wasn't
cheap when it came out (in the neighborhood of US$1500!) but it delivered a
lot of power when people were screaming for it, after the release of the
Pentium.

The CyberStorm line has since matured and been redesigned in a lower-cost
manner.  The Mark II no longer incorporates all of the features of the
original card, leaving you with a base high-power 060 card to work with and
a SCSI-II option.

The Cyber Mark II is an 060/50 card with 4 SIMM slots, which replaces your
existing CPU card in an A4000 or A4000T.  Doing this in an A4000T is quite
a project, as it involves removing the central drive bay from your
machine, no less than 6 screws, two cable detachments, and a very difficult
replacement project.  Be sure you put your RAM on the card FIRST (RAM, in
this case, is recommended as 60ns standard SIMMs.  EDO is not supported.)

The 060 is not heat-sink or fan-cooled, as is typical for 060 cards.  It's
not exactly a chilly chip, but manufacturers have enough confidence to
leave it uncooled.

There is a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue with installing the 060, because
the existing 68040.library is insufficient to drive an 060 Amiga.  Instead,
you have to install a new "fragment" 68040 library and a 68060.library
which the 68040.library points to.  Follow the instructions very carefully
on this one or you could be beating your brains out trying to find out why
your Amiga won't boot.

One interesting thing about the CyberStorm Mark II is that the 50mhz clock
crystal is *warranty sealed* with a strip of paper (which, come to think of
it, would be fairly easy to break by accident if you were manhandling the
card).  Some people (and dealers) have been known to overclock processor
cards, with or without their customers' knowledge.  Manufacturers sometimes
cautiously condone this practice, but Phase5 is sending a very clear
message in this case.

Going 060 is a bit of a jump.  While most software is quite compatible,
those older titles which perhaps just barely worked on a heavily degraded
040 may finally give up and break on the 060.  Quite often, disabling
certain caches will help this problem.  What you get in reward for making
the jump is a very fast Amiga.

Once installed, with the support software in place, you're ready to get to
work.  The 68060 has extra cache modes not available on other processors,
and the software preconfigures the 060 for peak performance--as one of the
documentation files warns, the included CPU060 command should only be used
by people who know what they're doing since it will only slow down your
operation.

The 060/50, in and of itself, is a performance boost over even the fastest
040 chip.  But it's the support software that makes the Phase5 card stand
out over other models.  As those of you who know the Phase5 060 line, or
remember my Blizzard 060 review will recall, the magic is in the
CyberPatcher utility.

The simplified basis of CyberPatcher is this: The 68060 incorporates an
FPU, just as the 68040 does.  But the 68040's FPU is not always as
efficient as a regular 68882 FPU, and the 68060's FPU further emulates
certain commands rather than executing them directly.  These levels of
abstraction can slow down serious FPU tasks like rendering.  The
CyberPatcher program intercepts these commands, which would otherwise be
bogged down, and "points" them to faster ways to get the results they're
looking for.  Run CyberPatcher, and certain programs, including ImageFX,
Lightwave, Cinema 4D, and others, will be faster.

Benchmarking an 060 card can be difficult.  Real-world tests are generally
the only way to go.  The Cinema4D render test I'm fond of (320x400 raytrace
of the included Stairway example) gives the following results:

Blizzard 1260-- 1:26 [Running CyberPatcher]
Cyber 4060   -- 2:00 [Running CyberPatcher]
Apollo 1240  -- 2:31
Apollo 4040  -- 3:26
Draco 060/50 -- 5:05
Falcon 040/25-- 5:05
Stock 3640   -- 6:01

As you can see, the Cyberstorm Mark II is fully 3 times faster than a stock
A4000 or A4000T configuration, and runs rings around most other 040
implementations (and the Draco, whose 060 is apparently poorly configured).
It is interesting that the CyberStorm does not outperform the Apollo A1200
040 card by as much as one might expect, and it itself is significantly
outperformed by Phase5's A1200 Blizzard 060 card.

Doing more general benchmarks can be difficult, since most benchmark
programs choke on the 68060.

While few applications are being specifically coded for the 68060, when
they are they are typically written with the CyberStorm in mind, and the
most bug-free 060 operations tend to be with CyberStorms.  For example, the
CyberStorm is the only 060 card I know of which has flawless operation with
Shapeshifter--the rest tend to encounter crashes when you access the serial
port.

The memory handling on the CyberStorm Mark II is one of the best things
about it.  Instead of most cards, which have to map separate blocks for
each SIMM, or at least for non-matched pairs, the CyberStorm's onboard
logic maps any combination of SIMMs into a single contiguous block.  Not
only is this more efficient overall, but it makes emulators like
Shapeshifter and PCx VERY happy, since they can only work in the largest
contiguous block.

In your day to day usage, you may start taking the 060 for granted.
Particularly once paired with a decent graphics card, you get excellent
speed for just about every application.  Window refreshes are very speedy.
Opaque window dragging and resizing can be more than just a chunky
curiosity, it can work the way it's supposed to.  And if you're an emulator
junkie like me, you can boast better-than-full speed C-64 emulation as well
as the world's fastest 680x0 Macintosh, since Apple never built 68060
models.  But don't forget that there's something inside driving it at a
very high rate of speed.

Other 060 cards on the market can lay claim to having superior speed in
certain respects.  Apollo cards are easy to overclock, so you can gain in
that regard.  The QuikPak 060 is actually clocked around 56mhz and supports
EDO RAM, so certain memory-access intensive operations run faster.  But
Phase5's 060 software support is far better than that for the other cards,
with new betas of the 68060.library coming out fairly regularly. 
CyberPatcher puts specific application performance over the top. 

Right now, the CyberStorm Mark II is the most impressive 060 card on the
market, hands down.  It runs about US$850, depending on where you look,
which means it's typically $50 or $100 more than the competition.  (QuikPak
offers a US$750 price with a 3640 trade-in, and the Apollo 060 card
generally sells around that price point as well.) However, the superior
technical support, compatibility, and performance are well worth it.

Phase5 Digital Products
In der Au 27
61440 Oberusel
+49 6171 583787 voice
+49 6171 583788 fax

http://www.phase5.de
mail@phase5.de e-mail