Analogue Super NT

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Frederir
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Analogue Super NT

Postby Frederir » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:05 am

Curious about the hardware architecture of the Analogue Super NT FPGA device, I looked around to find picture of the PCB and I found :
Image

Cyclone 5 FPGA as known, a PIC32MX for SDCARD and random boiler plate functions. The main surprise is the two SDRAM :
- 16Mx8 IS42S81600F ISSI
- 8Mx16 AS4C8M16SA Alliance

So we have two differents memory bus, all this for a SNES ?


It is not clear if the card connector is connected to the FPGA or the PIC32. One not populated HE10 connector is certainly the JTAG for the FPGA.


What are your thougths ?

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Newsdee » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:44 pm

I suspect there is an intention to do more than a SNES core. It might not be released publicly but if they open up an API to develop for it, that would be interesting for open source cores.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:46 pm

Frederir wrote:So we have two differents memory bus ... ?

Obviously one is for HDMI scaler.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:47 pm

Newsdee wrote:I suspect there is an intention to do more than a SNES core. It might not be released publicly but if they open up an API to develop for it, that would be interesting for open source cores.

there is so-called jailbrake for Super Nt with more cores. Everything is closed source if i remember correct.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Foxie » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:02 pm

I would expect the cartridge could be connected either to the PIC or the FPGA. If the latter, then it would work just as a normal ROM. But if the former, I would expect them to load the cartridge contents into RAM at startup. This might be why it needs so much RAM. The advantage with the latter could be support for ROM images on an SD card.

Now the real question is, can you reflash the config data to turn it into an ST? You could make a ribbon cable adaptor that goes in the cartridge slot to accept ST dongles.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:13 pm

Foxie wrote:I would expect the cartridge could be connected either to the PIC or the FPGA.

of course it's connected to FPGA.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:04 pm

Just a flight of fancy: I know that we are just staring at a picture, but is it conceivable to suppose a methodology in order to jailbreak and port MiSTer to this platform? Is there anything in this picture that automatically excludes this hypothesis?
Kevtris jailbreaked the NT Mini in the past, but noting is sure about this new platform; anyway Kevtris jaylbreak would be closed source. Imagine instead a Super NT booting MiSTer and with a special core that loads standard firmware.
Would be anyone (I know, I know, nowadays anyone=Sorgelig) interested exploring this scenario, if necessary with a fundraised Super NT?

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Newsdee » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:48 pm

Sorgelig wrote:there is so-called jailbrake for Super Nt with more cores. Everything is closed source if i remember correct.

There is a JB firmware released but I don't think.it has cores this time. And yes it's all closed source, unfortunately.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:56 pm

Locutus73 wrote:Just a flight of fancy: I know that we are just staring at a picture, but is it conceivable to suppose a methodology in order to jailbreak and port MiSTer to this platform? Is there anything in this picture that automatically excludes this hypothesis?
Kevtris jailbreaked the NT Mini in the past, but noting is sure about this new platform; anyway Kevtris jaylbreak would be closed source. Imagine instead a Super NT booting MiSTer and with a special core that loads standard firmware.
Would be anyone (I know, I know, nowadays anyone=Sorgelig) interested exploring this scenario, if necessary with a fundraised Super NT?

Locutus73

Porting the MiST probably possible, but not MiSTer. MiSTer already depends on HPS, so it will be hard to put the ARM code back to MCU preserving the current features. The size of FPGA is also close to MiST size. Since you have to use HDMI Scaler IPs, the usable size of FPGA for cores will be pretty close to MiST size.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Newsdee » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:00 pm

I don't think it makes a lot of sense to port cores to it, at least right now. There are more MISTs in the wild and MiSTer is completely open running on easily available boards with much more resources (the Super NT has about 40KLE)

Plus there is no way to plug a keyboard, so only console amd arcade cores would be a good fit. Personally I'd rather see improvements to those open cores than ports to new hardware :)

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:04 pm

Locutus73 wrote:Kevtris jailbreaked the NT Mini in the past

I've thought it was Super-Anal(hehe) Nt.
According to what i found, Mini Nt uses original old-school chips, not FPGA.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:54 pm

Newsdee wrote:I don't think it makes a lot of sense to port cores to it, at least right now. There are more MISTs in the wild and MiSTer is completely open running on easily available boards with much more resources (the Super NT has about 40KLE)

Isn’t Super NT based on Altera Cyclone V as MiSTer’s Terasic DE10-nano?
Is Super NT RAM somehow comparable?

Newsdee wrote:Plus there is no way to plug a keyboard, so only console amd arcade cores would be a good fit.

This was my first thought, but maybe the charging USB port can work as USB OTG too with an adapter like this https://www.amazon.it/gp/product/B01MXRFWXX just like in Nintendo Classic Mini with usb storage mod. Or maybe an USB port can be hacked somewhere.

Newsdee wrote:Personally I'd rather see improvements to those open cores than ports to new hardware :)

Both are good options. I believe that porting MiSTer to new hardware would make it gain the status of platform, transcending a single board, and could make the project gain traction. In addition Super NT is gaining visibility and an open source jailbraek would share this visibility.



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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:59 pm

Sorgelig wrote:I've thought it was Super-Anal(hehe) Nt.

You mean Anal(ogue) Super NT :wink:

Sorgelig wrote:According to what i found, Mini Nt uses original old-school chips, not FPGA

According to this https://www.analogue.co/pages/nt-mini/ it’s Cyclone V based.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:29 pm

Sorgelig wrote:Porting the MiST probably possible, but not MiSTer. MiSTer already depends on HPS,

Ok, I know this, I’ll help with multi Linux boot.

Sorgelig wrote:so it will be hard to put the ARM code back to MCU preserving the current features.

I’m lost here. Can you help me to understand?

Sorgelig wrote:The size of FPGA is also close to MiST size. Since you have to use HDMI Scaler IPs, the usable size of FPGA for cores will be pretty close to MiST size.

So DE10-nano has a discrete scaler?

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:33 pm

Locutus73 wrote:Isn’t Super NT based on Altera Cyclone V as MiSTer’s Terasic DE10-nano?

Cyclone V FPGAs have 2 major groups with 3 sub-groups in each. And each sub-group has up to 5 FPGA sizes.
Cyclone V is too generic name to judge the compatibility.

Super Nt uses Cyclone V E with 18.5K ALM FPGA-only
DE10-nano uses Cyclone V SE with 41.5K ALM FPGA with HPS.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:42 pm

Locutus73 wrote:I’m lost here. Can you help me to understand?

not sure what i need to explain. HPS part of FPGA chip is high performance ARM Cortex A9 dual core CPU which is capable to run a fullfeatured Linux. While external MCU used on Super Nt is low-powered CPU with limited RAM/ROM space - it's even weaker than ARM MCU used on MiST. So, it's big question if even MiST firmware will fit.

Locutus73 wrote:So DE10-nano has a discrete scaler?

Of course no. I just count the space of FPGA used for scaler IPs. It's may be quite large depending on required features. DE10-nano has pretty big FPGA, so usually any retro core fits without problems.
MiST doesn't use scaler, so whole FPGA can be used for retro core.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:46 pm

Sorgelig wrote:Cyclone V FPGAs have 2 major groups with 3 sub-groups in each. And each sub-group has up to 5 FPGA sizes.
Cyclone V is too generic name to judge the compatibility.

Super Nt uses Cyclone V E with 18.5K ALM FPGA-only
DE10-nano uses Cyclone V SE with 41.5K ALM FPGA with HPS.


Oh, I didn’ know. Now I see that Super NT’s Cyclone V lacks the ARM logo.
Now the “maybe MiST, not MiSTer” make sense to me. At least Super NT lower specs Cyclone shows how many headroom DE10-nano has for SNES implementation.

DE10-nano seems to be a real bargain.

Thanks.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:52 pm

Sorgelig wrote:not sure what i need to explain.[...]so whole FPGA can be used for retro core.

I wasn’t aware of the various Cyclone V versions. Now it all makes sense to me.

Thank you.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Newsdee » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:31 am

Sorgelig wrote:According to what i found, Mini Nt uses original old-school chips, not FPGA.

Actually:
  • Analogue NT = uses Famicom chips
  • Analogue NT Mini = FPGA and smaller form factor
  • Super NT = FPGA and much cheaper case

I have used an original NT, it's a very sleek piece of hardware with lots of options, but if it breaks (i.e. on chip doesn't work) you are out of luck to repair it. At most you can try to get new Famicom chips and swap them.

That said, one thing I found very interesting was the the HDMI video has the same kind of shimmering/slightly wider pixels that plagues the MiST. The scaler options are great though, and you can adjust the effect by changing the width of the output. For the Super NT they added a mode where the scaler can interpolate frames which solves it... but at the cost of some (minute) processor lag.
Last edited by Newsdee on Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Frederir » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:34 am

Sorgelig wrote:
Frederir wrote:So we have two differents memory bus ... ?

Obviously one is for HDMI scaler.

Well, once said it is obvious :-)

What about https://github.com/marqs85/ossc ? Would it be possible to use it to replace VIP IP from Altera ?

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:59 am

Frederir wrote:What about https://github.com/marqs85/ossc ? Would it be possible to use it to replace VIP IP from Altera ?

nope.. it's most useless device i ever bought ;) It's not even scaler. It's simple line doubler/tripler. It has no frame buffer, so it cannot convert the frame rate. Many retro systems didn't follow official standards and had slightly out of standard deviations, but many modern HDMI TVs don't tolerate these deviations.
Scandoubler inside almost every MiST core does the same and doesn't occupy noticeable resources.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Frederir » Fri Feb 16, 2018 4:59 am

Sorgelig wrote: Many retro systems didn't follow official standards and had slightly out of standard deviations, but many modern HDMI TVs don't tolerate these deviations.


Ok I see the need of a buffer to have a constant 60/50Hz framerate whatever is the input frame rate. But it means there is a lag of at least 1 frame, right ?

The SNES video frame rate is 60.0988Hz, it would then be reduced to 60Hz ?

I see the VIP IP is a bit more than a scandoubler and the polyphase scaler is nice !


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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Locutus73 » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:58 pm

Sorgelig wrote:
Frederir wrote:What about https://github.com/marqs85/ossc ? Would it be possible to use it to replace VIP IP from Altera ?

nope.. it's most useless device i ever bought ;) It's not even scaler. It's simple line doubler/tripler. It has no frame buffer, so it cannot convert the frame rate. Many retro systems didn't follow official standards and had slightly out of standard deviations, but many modern HDMI TVs don't tolerate these deviations.
Scandoubler inside almost every MiST core does the same and doesn't occupy noticeable resources.

It is my understanding that being a simple line doubler and not being a scaler is an intended “feature”. I think that OSSC is a vertical product engineered in order to have the specific task to reduce the lag at the minimum possible achievable level, so any framebuffer is an unwanted feature. I think XRGB has a framebuffer/scaler, but some enthusiasts don’t want the consequent lag, so OSSC is designed to cover this very specific need.
OK, I know, any framebuffer/scaler could be an optional switchable feature, making it a superior and more flexible product and I agree… but we have to consider that these products cover superfluous needs of enthusiast hobbyists in search of subjective perfection, so cost may not be an issue; one could associate OSSC to an external scaler/video-processor, like a DVDO mini.

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Newsdee » Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:14 pm

The XRGB Framemeister is hands down the best upscaler I've used. It's pricey but it has taken absolutely everything that I threw at it. Yes, it has one to two frames of lag but they are negligible compared to emulators. The Super NT has a few upscaling modes to allow the user to choose - either use framebuffers (taking some minor lag) or a raw direct mode without any upscaling.

Now, the problem with line doublers is that they don't do anything to adjust the video frequency, which is usually the Achilles' heel of many displays. The XRGB will output a stead 60hz video no matter what you give it. So the OSSC woudl be pretty useless for a MiST for instance. I suppose it is still as linedoubler for original systems though, and is better than other options (such as GBS 8220).

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Re: Analogue Super NT

Postby Sorgelig » Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:45 pm

Locutus73 wrote:It is my understanding that being a simple line doubler and not being a scaler is an intended “feature”. I think that OSSC is a vertical product engineered in order to have the specific task to reduce the lag at the minimum possible achievable level, so any framebuffer is an unwanted feature. I think XRGB has a framebuffer/scaler, but some enthusiasts don’t want the consequent lag, so OSSC is designed to cover this very specific need.
OK, I know, any framebuffer/scaler could be an optional switchable feature, making it a superior and more flexible product and I agree… but we have to consider that these products cover superfluous needs of enthusiast hobbyists in search of subjective perfection, so cost may not be an issue; one could associate OSSC to an external scaler/video-processor, like a DVDO mini.

You are missing one important point: it's HDMI output. In VGA you still can find very tolerant displays able to show 50Hz and even 48Hz(ZX, BK0011M, Vector06C, etc). In HDMI world i even not sure if such tolerant displays exist.
It doesn't matter what is your primary concern, if you want a lag free scan doubler or not. If you cannot use such non-standard HDMI output with your TV/Display, then it's completely useless. And chances to get a non-working solution with OSSC is very high if you intend to use it with retro core with non-strictly standard TV output.
As i've told above, a simple scandoubler inside the core can do the same lag-free up-scaling. Someone can try to make it with HDMI output. It's not my style.
The whole point of HDMI output on MiSTer is to make a plug-n-play system, not another quest of finding a compatible monitors.

P.S.: VIP scaler can do framebuffer-less scaling which means it can be used for lag-free upscaling. Some systems can have a special version of scaler if system provides guaranteed standard 50/60 fps. This option need to be explored and suitable for cores with dedicated developers as it require more tight integration and special tweaks.


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