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Old 14 August 2006, 12:01   #1
alewis
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A4K towers & expansion boards - Eagle vs Miconiks. Opinion wanted.

I have two tower kits for my A4000:

1. Micronics tower with A4K expansion board
2. Eagle tower with the RAMIGA-7 expansion board

The Micronics tower looks better, but the board is ZIII/ISA only. The Eagle board has PCI, but the case looks naff.

I understand that the PC slots in each board are inactive - what do I need to add to activate them? I *do* have a Goldengate GG2+ busboard, although I imagine that would limit use to ISA, I also have a couple of Prometheus cards; would one of these enbable the expansion board PCI slots, or only the Prom PCI slots?

I'm thinking of a board swap RAMIGA -> Microniks tower, then selling the other hybrid. Opinions and advice welcomed.
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Old 14 August 2006, 12:34   #2
thomas
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The Micronik bus board is very poor quality, I won't recommend it. Don't know the eagle tower, though.

You need a bridge to enable the PC slots. AFAIK the Prometheus is not a bridge board but comes with its own PCI slots.

If it fits mechanically the Mediator bridge board could be able to enable the PCI slots. But I don't know of anyone who tested it. I also don't know if the Mediator bridge is available seperately (without a Mediator bus board).
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Old 14 August 2006, 17:26   #3
DrBong
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thomas
The Micronik bus board is very poor quality, I won't recommend it.
Might be helpful to tell people here specifically why you think the A4000 one is poor quality. From my own experience, I'd say you're dead wrong.

@alewis
The Micronik A4000 PCI busboard and tower I've got has been far and away the best one I've ever owned. The ISA version is essentially the same except for the absence of inactive PCI slots. While the Micronik busboards for the A1200 I've had have been quite problematic (given different revision motherboards), the same can't be said of the A4000 ones.

I've never had compatibility problems with any card I've thrown into the Micronik tower and I've had a swag of cards in there since 1996 including a Prometheus. The tower is well-crafted, sturdy and has ample space, as you would expect with a full-size metal tower. Additional ventilation (fans, heatsinks etc.) is recommended if you pack the tower to the rafters, but that's probably the norm with any tower. In summary, it's way better than the all the other busboard/tower combos I've had for the A1200 (Micronik Z3 Infiitiv, Ateo) and A4000 (RBM Towerhawk + OnBoard).

Can't say if it's any better than the A4000 Eagle tower + RAMIGA-7 as I've never owned or seen one. It's certainly much better than the RBM Towerhawk + Onboard, though, which has a cheaply made tower and poor internal design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
I understand that the PC slots in each board are inactive - what do I need to add to activate them? I *do* have a Goldengate GG2+ busboard, although I imagine that would limit use to ISA, I also have a couple of Prometheus cards; would one of these enbable the expansion board PCI slots, or only the Prom PCI slots?
The GG2+ busboard should allow you to make use of the ISA slots in the Micronik tower. Alternatively, I knew a couple of people who threw in all-in-one PC motherboards that came on ISA cards back in the 486/Pentium days and had both an Amiga and PC in the one tower. The Prometheus will not activate the PCI slots in any of the towers AFAIK. No real need as it has its own PCI slots. The Mediator may, though, according to BBOAH's info. on the Eagle Z3 busboard:

http://www.amiga-hardware.com/showha...gi?HARDID=1578

Quote:
I'm thinking of a board swap RAMIGA -> Microniks tower, then selling the other hybrid.
Any particular reason why? Don't really know how similar in shape and design the RAmiga busboard is compared to the Micronik ISA one, but make sure that you try fitting it first with the A4000 motherboard in the Micronik tower and some expansion cards, HDs etc. Most of the Amiga towers are custom solutions and aren't usually too conducive to having "foreign" busboards thrown in without having to make modifications.

Anyway, that's my 2c........maybe someone else can give you an informed opinion on these two A4k busboard/tower solutions.
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Old 15 August 2006, 00:53   #4
alewis
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Dr Bong - cheers for the experience and opinion. The Eagle board is actually an Eagle PCI shuttleboard (not RAmiga-7, thats one of the A1200 expansions I have. My bad).

Considering a swap as the Microniks tower is, imho, a nicer looking case. Well, both are beige towers, so not much between them. But, the M case has a nice little LED setup. On the downside, it uses a case door for the external 5.25" drive bays, which will annoy me no end. There again, although the Eagle board looks cleaner (and nicer) than the Microniks, the PCI slots are useless. Looking at the Mediator bridgecard, I dont *think* it would be a solution as the PCI and Zorro slots are not in-line, so would not line up with the BB card.

Earlier today was looking at the Prometheous card, and considering sticking it in the lower slots of [either] expansion board. It comes with drivers for video, might be able to hack up a 10/100mb NIC driver. And oddly enough given you mention of all-in-one cards, went hunting for an SBC as the Eagle card claims (according to the Ami Hardware Database) to work with any SBC. Hmm, can't find a PCI based socket7 solution anywhere, let alone Athlon/PIII solution, which is really the only point in doing so. That said, using an SBC neither side can access the cards/resources of the other bus, so not really worthwhile. Unless I stuck the Siamese System in the same machine!
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Old 15 August 2006, 03:31   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
Earlier today was looking at the Prometheous card, and considering sticking it in the lower slots of [either] expansion board. It comes with drivers for video, might be able to hack up a 10/100mb NIC driver. And oddly enough given you mention of all-in-one cards, went hunting for an SBC as the Eagle card claims (according to the Ami Hardware Database) to work with any SBC. Hmm, can't find a PCI based socket7 solution anywhere, let alone Athlon/PIII solution, which is really the only point in doing so. That said, using an SBC neither side can access the cards/resources of the other bus, so not really worthwhile. Unless I stuck the Siamese System in the same machine!
There are already ethernet drivers for the prometheus, using realtek ethernet cards, along with sound and USB through some combination of OpenPCI, AHI and Poseidon.
As far as the SBC goes, from looking at the picture of the eagle board it appears to take a PICMG form factor one, such as http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/New-AP-370DF-S...QQcmdZViewItem It would go in the bottom slot with the inline PCI and ISA. I don't know if the other ISA slots are connected to the bottom one or not, but it would only be an issue if they were and you intended to use a bridgeboard. For connecting the two sides, probably the cleanest way to do it is to connect both halves to a network and run a VNC server on the PC side, and the client on the Amiga, so you access the PC from the Amiga side. It probably wouldn't work with anything requiring 3D acceleration, but normal windows apps would be OK.
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Old 15 August 2006, 10:37   #6
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Thanks. Decisions decisions. Would be handy for the Eagle shuttleboard. Agh! which one to use, which to get rid!

Hmm, emailed the seller as the listing states it has onboard U2 SCSI, whilst the manual states the DF does *not* include SCSI. And wondering how one installs anything without a monitor connection...
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Old 15 August 2006, 14:35   #7
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Usually, you'd use a PCI card for the graphics, though it may be worth looking for one with LAN or VGA (Or both) onboard to conserve slots. Given that they're aimed at industrial applications, they should, in theory, support booting straight to a serial console, but none of the ones I have seem to do that, or if they do it requires setting some unlabelled jumper.
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Old 15 August 2006, 15:23   #8
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errr just a niave question guys... as far as i am aware the prometheus only has a buss frequency of 33Mhz data transfer, and mediators can go upto 66mhz ?

i could be reading the both the instructions wrong on my z4 mediator, and the specs of the prometheus form BBOAH...
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Old 15 August 2006, 17:00   #9
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According to BBoAH, the mediators only do 66MHz with a Shark PPC, which doesn't exist, and since elbox are now not producing the dragon, as opposed to not producing the shark, I'm guessing you may be waiting a long time for one
I'm not sure how much practical difference it makes, not all PCI cards support 66MHz operation anyway, and the Zorro bus becomes a bottleneck before 33MHz PCI does.
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Old 15 August 2006, 17:08   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrBong
Might be helpful to tell people here specifically why you think the A4000 one is poor quality.
The one I had was bad shielded. Whenever I built it into the tower, the Amiga's sound was totally distorted. One channel was almost ok but on the other one I could hear the display DMA and everything I did with the mouse. Using a Mediator bus board now, there are no problems at all.

Also I read in other forums that people who I perceive as experts don't recommend Micronik bus boards for various reasons, either.
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Old 15 August 2006, 18:19   #11
alewis
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@Thomas - if you have some links, would be appreciated. I only have one A4K motherboard, want to ensure I keep the right one!

That said, it looks like it will be the Eagle - just bought an IAC-F688B SBC to play with. Stick a PIII in there, and have a play

EDIT: Great. The Eagle only has 4 DMA ZIII slots, which means a rethink... I needed a DMA slot for the PIV/C64, X-Surf, a.n.other SCSI card, and the Prometheus... which is going to obscure the remaining DMA slots.
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Old 15 August 2006, 19:31   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thomas
The one I had was bad shielded. Whenever I built it into the tower, the Amiga's sound was totally distorted. One channel was almost ok but on the other one I could hear the display DMA and everything I did with the mouse. Using a Mediator bus board now, there are no problems at all.

Also I read in other forums that people who I perceive as experts don't recommend Micronik bus boards for various reasons, either.
ISA or PCI? Sounds like you had a bad busboard. Can't say I've had these problems and my PCI busboard was one of the first off the production line as I preordered mine from Blittersoft UK. Yes, some links from these "experts" might be useful. I'd be interested to read why they don't recommend the A4000 Micronik busboard and what they think is the best one to buy.

I had a look on Google groups as well last night for my own curiosity re: problems with the A4000 Micronik busboard and tower. Didn't find much except for some vague reports about problems with Video Toasters. Have seen plenty of damning reports on the forums and newsgroups over the years for Micronik's A1200 busboards, but not really for the A4000 one. My experiences have been consistent with this. Besides the Mediator, there haven't been too many busboard/tower solutions for the A4000 that have been released since those made by Micronik, Power Computing, Eagle et al in the mid to late 90s. One would hope that Elbox learnt from the mistakes made by those that went before them and have made the best A4000 busboard/tower solution.

@alewis
If you're going to use the Prometheus you have to have something more than 4 Z-slots on your busboard as at least 1-2 of are likely to be obscured by it. Just bought a Mediator (A4000T version) and am going to yank out the Prometheus to add a cheap sound card and USB, so it will be interesting to see how well it fits and works in the Micronik tower.

@Secret Vampire, alewis
Realistically you can only use gfx cards and ethernet cards with the Prometheus. The OpenPCI drivers for the Prometheus weren't much chop last time I looked, which is a great pity. I think the Prometheus had the greatest potential of all the PCI bridges for the A4000. Still, if you just want to hang gfx and ethernet cards off it, then it's ideal.

Last edited by DrBong; 16 August 2006 at 03:45.
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Old 15 August 2006, 22:39   #13
alewis
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Dang, there goes the soundcard!

Well, going to experiment. I *might* just have to keep the Warp Engine, on the off-chance of getting another A4K motherboard for the second tower is slim. There again, I do have the A1200T system (partially rebuilt) which could, I guess, take the Prometheus. Have two anyway.

Its an odd crossroad. I don't have a specific objective in mind, which would dictate the parts. Rather, when these components came out I lusted after them but could not afford/justify. Then shortly my earnings went through the roof, I became single, so collected the bits but didn't have time (200mile round trip each day tends to eat into free time). Now I have the time, but at the expense of having no job So its a case of build-and-be-dammed.

So, its the Microniks busboard for 7 DMA slots and a definitve Prometheus, or the Eagle shuttleboard for the SBC and *maybe* a prometheus plus a couple of ZIII cards. Dang, where will I hang the VLAB???

Looks like a loaded A1200T/060 may shortly be available!
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Old 15 August 2006, 23:31   #14
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Regarding DMA on the Eagle board, the remaining 3 should still be able to do ZII DMA just fine (otherwise, they'd be pretty useless) so they'll be ok for the x-surf at least, and probably SCSI unless you have a fastlane or 4091. Getting the Prometheus to fit is where you need to get inventive. Looking at some eagle tower pictures, It appears that you could fit the Prometheus into the top slot on the busboard, in which case it wouldn't obscure anything, or there are various PCI adapter cards and cables to mount PCI cards at different angles, or you could even fabricate a zorro adapter with relative ease to mount the Prometheus parallel to the busboard obscuring the lower slots (I guess these are the non-DMA ones).
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