The Commodore Amiga is one of many iconic computers to dot our rich computing past, especially for children of the 80’s. Fans of the iconic Amiga have been excited of late with talk of a new accelerator that is turning dusty old Amiga hardware into blisteringly fast internet connected retro gaming machines.
The fastest running Amiga hardware on the planet at the moment is a Vampire II equipped Amiga 500 or 600. The Vampire A600 V2 and the A500 V2+ accelerator kits are transforming the slowest of all the Amiga’s into retro gaming legends, one card at a time.
When it comes to reliving those Amiga memories there are 3 main ways to emulate the classic system; pure software emulation on Mac or PC, Power PC Amiga (no comment) and real Amiga hardware with upgrades. Running software like UAE to play a few Amiga games is the most common and easiest way to crank up a classic but the most rewarding and die-hard is getting actual hardware working.
The Vampire cards take the die-hard approach and gives it a modern twist. The cards snap over the top of the CPU in an
A500 or A600 (two different models) and the FPGA chip takes over the show providing over 200 times the processing power of an A600. The original Amiga hardware is still in operation and all of the original software works unaltered (mostly) but everything else is just much faster.
The Vampire has two main features once installed. At its very core it is a CPU replacement providing massive acceleration but also on the daughterboard is a HDMI port that can send out the Amiga’s video signal in 720p high definition. This doesn’t completely replace the Amiga’s traditional composite output as some display modes aren’t yet supported by the HDMI port. Generally anything Picassa96 compatible will output in HD. Also included on the Vampire daughterboard is a fast SD Card slot (non-booting) and 128MB of system RAM.
The Apollo team (Amiga legends) have provided the Amiga 68080 code (the Apollo Core) that runs on the Vampire FPGA. Being an FPGA as the team improve code and add features all users can just update their boards to get the latest, flash and go. In the future the team could expand the Apollo core to include more of the AGA chipsets features and expand the audio and video capabilities of the HDMI port.
Many classic applications and games are in testing on Vampie 2 hardware. It looks like Mac emulation runs spectacularly while Windows 95 emulation stutters but runs. MAME and SCUMMVM emulation runs at full speed and looks great while the games we used to love run faster than ever before.
Currently the boards are in short supply and availability is tight. The A600 V2 is €250 euros and the A500 V2+ is €300 euros. A version is in the works for the A1200 that will include a faster FPGA and DDR3 RAM but no release date is available. Looks like a retro gaming bonanza for a lucky few this Christmas.