Recommended accelerator options for ST

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Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Sun May 20, 2018 11:14 pm

Hi All,

I have a 1040STFM, and 4MB Mega ST and a 4MB STE - all stock speeds and with no special upgrades

I’d like to play some old games at faster frames rates. What accelerators or hardware upgrades might you recommend?

Since I want to play games, compatibility is a must - ruling the Firebee out. I’m considering FPGA options like the MiST or MiSTer, but would like to stick with an upgraded original ST if I can

Looking forward to your advice! Thanks in advance!

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jury » Mon May 21, 2018 3:17 am

jamesfmackenzie wrote:I’d like to play some old games at faster frames rates. What accelerators or hardware upgrades might you recommend?


Well, I could get a ban for this replay, but to be honest if you want to play smoother, faster ST games ( sprite ones, not the vector ones ), the best option ( and much more cheaper than buying an accelerator ) would be to buy an Amiga 500 :) The games will be 50 fps, with smooth animation and srcoll. I'm pretty sure that even speeding up the ST wont make the games comparable to what they are on Amiga without any accelerator. Its the way they were coded and I guess without re-coding it no hardware can magically help them.
And what games in particular are you talking about?

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Atari030 » Mon May 21, 2018 4:32 am

Exxos makes accelerators for the machines you have.

https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/atari/last/storenew/

Next step would be to to use ppera's hard drive adapted games, this will sort compatibility out.

http://atari.8bitchip.info/fromhd2.php

Running stock/original games may be an issue as not all are written to cope with more than 8mhz. Scrolling may be better, it may not. Depends on the game and what floats your boat. I run PPera's ST games on my Falcons, TT and MegaSTE, there are some vast improvements with clock to be had, if you want to play around.

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Mon May 21, 2018 6:52 am

jury wrote:
jamesfmackenzie wrote:I’d like to play some old games at faster frames rates. What accelerators or hardware upgrades might you recommend?


Well, I could get a ban for this replay, but to be honest if you want to play smoother, faster ST games ( sprite ones, not the vector ones ), the best option ( and much more cheaper than buying an accelerator ) would be to buy an Amiga 500 :) The games will be 50 fps, with smooth animation and srcoll. I'm pretty sure that even speeding up the ST wont make the games comparable to what they are on Amiga without any accelerator. Its the way they were coded and I guess without re-coding it no hardware can magically help them.
And what games in particular are you talking about?


Mostly some of the early 3D stuff - Frontier, F1GP and Stunt Car Racer are good examples

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Mon May 21, 2018 7:05 am

Atari030 wrote:Exxos makes accelerators for the machines you have.

https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/atari/last/storenew/

Next step would be to to use ppera's hard drive adapted games, this will sort compatibility out.

http://atari.8bitchip.info/fromhd2.php

Running stock/original games may be an issue as not all are written to cope with more than 8mhz. Scrolling may be better, it may not. Depends on the game and what floats your boat. I run PPera's ST games on my Falcons, TT and MegaSTE, there are some vast improvements with clock to be had, if you want to play around.


Thanks! I already use PPera’s games from my UltraSatan - I’m a big fan.

Looks like STE has the better speed boost available (32MHz vs 16MHz for the STFM and Mega ST) - do you know the reason for that? I’m also guessing that these are just faster clocked 68000s rather than a CPU upgrade like the 68030? With this being the case, is something like https://retro.7-bit.pl/?lang=en&go=aktualnosci&view=91 (the Wicher - a 50MHz 68000 with Fast RAM) available for the ST? Or are the Exxoss boosters the fastest we can go?

Sorry for the barrage of questions!

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Atari030 » Mon May 21, 2018 7:34 am

There are 020 accelerators that kick around, but they aren't that common. 030's accelerators are rarer than rocking horse doo doo. I'm not sure why Exxos managed to get more out of the STe, there are a few threads on the subject and he has a forum on his website that explains it. I think he is working on faster accelerators. Frank Lucas' 020 accelerator gets a mention there too. Might be worth a look for you.

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby frank.lukas » Mon May 21, 2018 8:19 am

Most Games will not work with a 020 or 030 CPU booster ...

You need a 68000 to run Games and no TOS 2.06. Better is 1.04 (ST) or 1.62 (STE).
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Mon May 21, 2018 10:34 am

frank.lukas wrote:Most Games will not work with a 020 or 030 CPU booster ...

You need a 68000 to run Games and no TOS 2.06. Better is 1.04 (ST) or 1.62 (STE).


Thanks - so it looks like Exxos' 32MHz STE booster is the best bet. I'll contact him for more details - as a software guy, my soldering skills are likely not good enough!

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Greenious » Mon May 21, 2018 1:54 pm

Well, the best accelerators for ST/STE are the old classic ones, with cache. Like ICD's AdSpeed and the Mega STE.

Without cache, memory access is not improved at all, which basically is like replacing your car engine with a faster one, while locking your gearbox down to three gears.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Greenious » Mon May 21, 2018 2:07 pm

Atari030 wrote:There are 020 accelerators that kick around, but they aren't that common. 030's accelerators are rarer than rocking horse doo doo. I'm not sure why Exxos managed to get more out of the STe, there are a few threads on the subject and he has a forum on his website that explains it. I think he is working on faster accelerators. Frank Lucas' 020 accelerator gets a mention there too. Might be worth a look for you.


He's using faster rom-chips and get full use of the cpu speed against TOS. Which is a huge benefit for gem-applications.

it does not help much with games/demos and software that doesn't utilize TOS/GEM though. And if you use any TOS-mods that move part of TOS into STram, the boost is largely lost aswell.

Edit: Imho 020/030 accelerators are not that interesting, you lose too much compatibility and basically end up with a TT/Falcon light.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Greenious » Mon May 21, 2018 2:16 pm

jamesfmackenzie wrote: Looks like STE has the better speed boost available (32MHz vs 16MHz for the STFM and Mega ST) - do you know the reason for that? I’m also guessing that these are just faster clocked 68000s rather than a CPU upgrade like the 68030? With this being the case, is something like https://retro.7-bit.pl/?lang=en&go=aktualnosci&view=91 (the Wicher - a 50MHz 68000 with Fast RAM) available for the ST? Or are the Exxoss boosters the fastest we can go?

Sorry for the barrage of questions!


The HBS640 T36 is the fastest option if you can locate one.

An ST version of the wicher is certainly possible, I suspect that's where Exxos want to go, with fastram a lot of the drawbacks of lacking cache is mitigated, but no, the amiga version wont work with atari.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby DarkLord » Wed May 23, 2018 10:20 pm

jury wrote:
jamesfmackenzie wrote:I’d like to play some old games at faster frames rates. What accelerators or hardware upgrades might you recommend?


Well, I could get a ban for this replay, but to be honest if you want to play smoother, faster ST games ( sprite ones, not the vector ones ), the best option ( and much more cheaper than buying an accelerator ) would be to buy an Amiga 500 :) The games will be 50 fps, with smooth animation and srcoll. I'm pretty sure that even speeding up the ST wont make the games comparable to what they are on Amiga without any accelerator. Its the way they were coded and I guess without re-coding it no hardware can magically help them.
And what games in particular are you talking about?


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Wrong answer. :) :) :)
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby DarkLord » Wed May 23, 2018 10:23 pm

frank.lukas wrote:Most Games will not work with a 020 or 030 CPU booster ...

You need a 68000 to run Games and no TOS 2.06. Better is 1.04 (ST) or 1.62 (STE).


I'd not totally disagree with that statement but I'd have to qualify it - using the adapted games
from PPera or Dbug, you can run many of them on accelerators. Quite a few run fine on my
40mhz 68030 Pak/3 board with TOS v3.06 on my STacy.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby DarkLord » Wed May 23, 2018 10:25 pm

Greenious wrote:
The HBS640 T36 is the fastest option if you can locate one.

An ST version of the wicher is certainly possible, I suspect that's where Exxos want to go, with fastram a lot of the drawbacks of lacking cache is mitigated, but no, the amiga version wont work with atari.


I'm assuming you mean fastest of the over-clocked 68000 accelerators because
the '030 boards can and do go faster (up to 50mhz in the case of the Pak/3
board).
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Wed May 23, 2018 10:31 pm

DarkLord wrote:
frank.lukas wrote:Most Games will not work with a 020 or 030 CPU booster ...

You need a 68000 to run Games and no TOS 2.06. Better is 1.04 (ST) or 1.62 (STE).


I'd not totally disagree with that statement but I'd have to qualify it - using the adapted games
from PPera or Dbug, you can run many of them on accelerators. Quite a few run fine on my
40mhz 68030 Pak/3 board with TOS v3.06 on my STacy.


I’m open to using adapted games - it’s pretty much a necessity anyway as I’m running from hard disk. Are you award of anywhere that sells Pak/2 or Pak/3 kits nowadays?

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby DarkLord » Thu May 24, 2018 12:22 am

jamesfmackenzie wrote:
I’m open to using adapted games - it’s pretty much a necessity anyway as I’m running from hard disk. Are you award of anywhere that sells Pak/2 or Pak/3 kits nowadays?


I'd contact Frank Lucas about the Pak/2 kits.

The Pak/3 stuff is pretty much luck - if you can find someone selling any. :(
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Arne » Thu May 24, 2018 5:58 am

Greenious wrote:Well, the best accelerators for ST/STE are the old classic ones, with cache. Like ICD's AdSpeed and the Mega STE.

Well, isn't AdSpeed affected with compatibility problems with IDE?

Greenious wrote:Without cache, memory access is not improved at all, which basically is like replacing your car engine with a faster one, while locking your gearbox down to three gears.

Exactly! I prefer Stefan Nitschke's booster. Gives 100% boost on CPU and RAM.

Greenious wrote:The HBS640 T36 is the fastest option if you can locate one.

I've got a T28 and I am pretty happy with it in conjunction with a Multiboard and an ET4000.

But how about copy-protection mechanisms and CPU boosts?
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Greenious » Thu May 24, 2018 7:27 am

DarkLord wrote:
Greenious wrote:
The HBS640 T36 is the fastest option if you can locate one.

An ST version of the wicher is certainly possible, I suspect that's where Exxos want to go, with fastram a lot of the drawbacks of lacking cache is mitigated, but no, the amiga version wont work with atari.


I'm assuming you mean fastest of the over-clocked 68000 accelerators because
the '030 boards can and do go faster (up to 50mhz in the case of the Pak/3
board).


Obviously it is my personal opinion, but yes, I refer to the 68000 based accelerators only. I know patched software exists, but there is still plenty of compatibility issues as soon as you go for the later generation CPU's. Besides, I've got both TT & Falcon, I have no need to turn my ST/STE into a TT or Falcon "light".
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Greenious » Thu May 24, 2018 8:08 am

Arne wrote:Well, isn't AdSpeed affected with compatibility problems with IDE?

Theoretically it is. I've got to see the combination in action before I can tell if it is a problem, or just an annoying effect of IDE access constantly changing the AdSpeed's speed setting.

Arne wrote:Exactly! I prefer Stefan Nitschke's booster. Gives 100% boost on CPU and RAM.


Yes, I've seen the threads and it is interesting.

Arne wrote:I've got a T28 and I am pretty happy with it in conjunction with a Multiboard and an ET4000.

But how about copy-protection mechanisms and CPU boosts?


In my experience there are not many copy protections that experience problems with boosters, often you can just switch off the booster during booting if it is a problem and turn it on again later.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby joska » Thu May 24, 2018 9:28 am

Greenious wrote:Without cache, memory access is not improved at all, which basically is like replacing your car engine with a faster one, while locking your gearbox down to three gears.


Exactly. Speed increase with CPU overclocking only is minor. However, cache does not solve everything for this particular use (games). On the contrary, most games just don't work with CPU caches enabled. Overclocking both CPU and ST-RAM is the best solution for games, but also the hardest one to install since it's basically a 100% DIY job that involves replacing several components on the motherboard.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Thu May 24, 2018 9:42 am

joska wrote:
Greenious wrote:Without cache, memory access is not improved at all, which basically is like replacing your car engine with a faster one, while locking your gearbox down to three gears.


Exactly. Speed increase with CPU overclocking only is minor. However, cache does not solve everything for this particular use (games). On the contrary, most games just don't work with CPU caches enabled. Overclocking both CPU and ST-RAM is the best solution for games, but also the hardest one to install since it's basically a 100% DIY job that involves replacing several components on the motherboard.


Thanks Joska. So if I want to accelerate games, the standalone FPGA solutions like MiST and (maybe in the future) MiSTer are the best hardware options?

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby joska » Thu May 24, 2018 9:55 am

They are certainly the easiest options. The downside with these is the non-existing compatibility with anything that runs cycle-exact code (most demos, some games that split palettes and/or opens lower border).
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby jamesfmackenzie » Thu May 24, 2018 10:17 am

joska wrote:They are certainly the easiest options. The downside with these is the non-existing compatibility with anything that runs cycle-exact code (most demos, some games that split palettes and/or opens lower border).


Thanks! Off topic question, but related. If FPGA clones exactly replicate the original hardware, what is the source of incompatibility? The only thing that comes to mind is that they are functional hardware replicas (rather than mirroring the exact logic gate topology in original hardware). Do you know?

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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby Greenious » Thu May 24, 2018 10:49 am

While the FPGA clones certainly got the potential to have the ST/STE replicated 100% hardwarewise, they are not there yet.

There is still work to be done on the custom IC's. A while back someone discovered old schematics of some of the IC's, and I'm sure these findings eventually will find it's way into the FPGA code.

Also, I know that 8-bit clone guys ditched dram in favour of sram in their FPGA clones since these timing issues were made even harder when they also had to take dram refresh into consideration.
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Re: Recommended accelerator options for ST

Postby joska » Thu May 24, 2018 11:07 am

jamesfmackenzie wrote:Thanks! Off topic question, but related. If FPGA clones exactly replicate the original hardware, what is the source of incompatibility? The only thing that comes to mind is that they are functional hardware replicas (rather than mirroring the exact logic gate topology in original hardware). Do you know?


You are right. Cycle exact code is used to exploit the shifter to remove borders and/or scroll the display, or to display more colours by changing palette at very exact points. This does not work on the FPGA clones for two reasons:

1. The 68000 implementation is not cycle exact, which means that "synclock" code gets out of sync compared to a real 68000.
2. Even with a cycle exact 68000 it would not work, because border removal and sync scolling techniques depends on implementation details of the shifter which is not present in the FPGA implementation.
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