- SCSI controller in a steel box for A500/+
- Max Ram: 4MB
- External PSU
Autoboot, Autoconfig and Zero wait state.
PRODUCT NAME Reference 40 40MB SCSI HARD DRIVE BRIEF DESCRIPTION A SCSI/Autoconfig RAM interface for the Amiga 500/500+ bundled with a 40MB (45MB?) NEC SCSI drive and 0, 2MB, or 4MB of SIMM RAM. There is a similar Reference 100 bundled with a 100MB drive but otherwise identical. COMPANY INFORMATION Name: Evesham Micros Ltd Address: Unit 9 St Richards Road Evesham Worcs WR11 6XJ UK Phone: (+41) 386 765500 FAX: (+41) 386 765354 LIST PRICE All prices are in British Pounds. REFERENCE 40 (0k): #229 (includes VAT) REFERENCE 100 (0k): #329 (includes VAT) Add #60 (includes VAT) per 2MB SIMM installed into device. SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS HARDWARE A500 or A500+ with free side expansion port. SOFTWARE Recommended for use with Kickstart 1.3 or higher, but special arrangements have been made to ensure compatibility with Kickstart 1.2. MACHINE USED FOR TESTING Without board: A500+, printer, monitor. No extra disk drives, extra RAM, accelerators, etc. AmigaDOS 2.04 1MB Chip RAM On Board: 45MB NEC hard drive 2MB in 2x1MB SIMMs - Both factory fitted. I added no extra SCSI peripherals nor SIMMs. Hard disk setup disks, RAM test software, and MRBackup Pro hard disk backup software, all bundled free with drive. I configured the drive as a 3MB "DH0WB:" partition, a 30MB "DH0:" partition, and the rest was left alone "for future expansion". REVIEW SCOPE This device has come out within the last year, and I have not seen a review of it anywhere else. I feel it needs a review as it is comparatively cheap and should be considered by anyone needing to expand their A500(+) in the near future. I bought it as a first hard drive -- I've never had one before (on anything!), and can't compare it in terms of speed, reliability, or ease of use to anything else. I can give technical information and my general impressions of the drive (i.e., "Did I regret it?" etc.). APPEARANCE The Reference 40 is contained in a metal box fitting flush against the side of the Amiga. The case is very roughly the same shape as the rest of the Amiga case except the very front where it has been cut short. There are Power and Access lights at the front, a grill is at the top with two screws, and the back has a game switch, power socket, fan grill, and SCSI-through port. Opposite the Amiga's side of the casing is a small hole with some dip switches inside it. There is no Amiga [bus] through port on the other side of the device, so the drive must terminate any chain of Amiga add-ons. Inside the box, the drive dominates the box. At the back are 4 SIMM sockets for either 1MB or 256K SIMMs, and there are two jumpers for configuring the RAM. A huge power supply plugs into the power socket. It's the same size as the normal A500 power supply and looks like it's probably a replacement for one. FIRST IMPRESSIONS My very, very first impression was, "Argh! It doesn't f***ing work!". After a short conversation with Evesham's technical staff, it became apparent that the controller ROM had blown, so it was sent back and fixed pretty quickly. I discovered in the course of all this that I had been put through to "the person who wrote the manual." Not quite as good as "the person who designed the drive" perhaps, but I'm still happy! The manual itself isn't quite is clear as it could be. A dip switch described as "enabling RAM test" actually just switches any internal RAM off. Also, I'm wary of such advice as asking the user to switch the Amiga on with a Workbench disk inserted (as you are supposed to do on first using the hard drive) especially as when I did it my WB disk (a backup thank goodness) appeared to have developed a disk fault. Whether this was coincidence or was actually corrupted by the disk drive while it was switched on I couldn't say. [MODERATOR'S NOTE: Would someone from Commodore please comment on the above? Is it not recommended to turn on the power with a disk in the drive? My feeling (and this is not official) is that it is OK. - Dan] The power light dims just about every time the computer has to "think" about anything. This includes whenever a key is pressed, and also when the "flying toasters" blanker starts animating any toasters (in which case it flickers like mad). This is a potential source of irritation. The fan is fairly loud. I don't find it irritating when working, but I sleep in the same room as my computer and like to leave my machine on overnight for various reasons -- the fan does become irritating then. SETTING UP THE DRIVE As far as hardware goes, the system is practically set up the moment you get it. All I needed to do was plug it into the Amiga, and plug the power supply into it. Partitioning the drive is done with a program rather strangely written in "CanDo". The program is slow but does the job and has continuous online help. I don't know if anyone will ever design a perfect disk partitioning system, but I really wish I could have typed in something simple like, "Give me a 3 MB partition called "dh0wb", and a 30 MB called "dh0", and leave the rest free for when I suddenly discover I've screwed everything up", and the software could go away and set everything up that way. But in the meantime, the software provided seemed to do a reasonable enough job once I knew more about its quirks. You can type in figures into the "partition size" field, and the program adjusts the "hicyl" value for that partition correspondingly. Stuff like that. It usually does what I want it to do. The program also lists your SCSI devices and lets you choose which to partition, etc. The RAM test software is less useful. Most of it seemed to be geared toward giving you information about RAM. The program basically just tells you how large your autoconfig RAM boards are. Rather than CanDo, this software is written in compiled AMOS Basic! A large proportion of the designers' time seems to have been spent on making the thing work with Kickstart 1.2, which does not support autobooting hard drive controllers. A workaround has basically been added involving a recoverable RAD: drive. You boot from that, the RAD drive hands control over to the hard drive, and you've effectively got a bootable hard disk -- although you still need to boot from a floppy when you first switch on. Once it is installed, it appears to work reasonably transparently. I noticed nothing I wouldn't expect to notice having any hard drive. MRBACKUP PRO I have to admit I have yet to actually back up my hard disk. MR Backup Pro is the backup software bundled with the drive, and from the specs at least looks very good. The program includes the ability to write a compressed backup to any stream based device (such as a SCSI tape drive with suitable handler), including a floppy disk format designed more or less to work in that fashion. I have no idea how it compares to other backup software, as I haven't even used the WB2 stuff. QUIRKS Despite the provision of a games switch, the hard drive also appears to be disabled if you hold down both mouse buttons while booting -- something which under 2.04 is irritating, since holding down the mouse buttons is necessary to display the boot selector screen. It is possible to get the 2.04 boot selector screen, but it involves knowing exactly when to hold down the mouse buttons. The manual for the drive describes the possibility of having lots of filesystems in the RDB of the disk, but doesn't really go into how others are added. The FastFileSystem, of course, is built in. The manual also suggests that the NEC drive is specially treated by the built-in software to make it autoboot quicker. I really can't comment on what this means. MY COMMENTS The drive is fairly quick, fairly easy to use, and flexible. Full support is included for six more SCSI devices -- they've even included the socket (hoho!). There may be questions about the use of SCSI as opposed to IDE drives after recent decisions by C=. My feeling was that supporting SCSI is a boon for the drive -- after all, new Amigas are bound to have third party SCSI interfaces sold for them in the near future, and SCSI is faster and more flexible than IDE. It's just that if I get an A1200, I can't immediately plug my drive into it -- but then, just how many IDE interfaces come with 2.5" drives? The fan and the power light I find irritating. The flickering power light is probably easy to solve: I can always stick a bit of cardboard over the thing, and I'm sure it may even be useful after a while (determining whether the computer has crashed, etc.). However, I would appreciate some way of dealing with the fan. Perhaps a future version of the drive could include some way of turning it off when it isn't needed. A more serious limitation is the 4MB RAM expansion system. I can understand the A590 having a 2MB limit (after all, the aim is to create a usable minimum system), and the 8MB limit everywhere else, but a 4MB expansion just means the drive is postponing the inevitable -- the day when the owner goes out and buys a 8MB RAM board. It's not as if RAM boards with a 4MB limit are widely available. Having said all that, I'm glad it has RAM expansion at all. I'm also worried about Minix compatibility. No information is provided in the manual regarding the way the interface works, and I have no idea whether it's available from Evesham themselves. I suppose few people actually use Minix, but it is a direction I could head into sometime in the future. In all I'm very glad I bought the drive. It has much better specifications than the A590, is fairly easy to use, is fast, and does the job of turning what is essentially a games-console with pretensions into a powerful mini-workstation. I'm not sure it's a competitor to devices like the GVP HD8. These have definite advantages, such as improved expansion capabilities. But if the aim is to turn an Amiga into something very useful the R40 does it very cheaply and very well indeed. COPYRIGHT NOTICE This review is in the Public Domain. Paul Harrison firstname.lastname@example.org *** (Disclaimer) My opinions may differ from those of UEA ***
Thanks to Ryan Callaghan