The Amiga Buyer's Guide
A comprehensive guide to buying your first second hand Amiga
A question that regularly pops up on various online (and real life) forums dedicated to retro computers is "What Amiga should I buy?"
Unfortunately, the correct answer to this question is the less than helpful "it depends": It depends on what you want to do with your Amiga and how much you're going to use it, it depends on your technical proficiency and it depends on what Amiga models you've had experience with in the past.
Own one today!
In this guide I'll try to give a few solid pointers mostly geared at those with little or no previous Amiga experience, but I hope it'll also be useful for former Amiga owners looking to rekindle their old love for the machine and relive some great moments from their youth.
- Amiga Peculiarities
- Picking a model
- What's WHDLoad?
- Old age caveats
- Hooking things up
- Hard drives
- Memory expansions and accelerators
- Useful Links - retailers, manufacturers, video converters, software, other resources.
Most of the popular 8-bit retro computing platforms are simple when it comes to buying. All Commodore 64:s, for example, basically have the same kind of hardware. This means that all available software works on all available machines, as will all peripherals. Buy any C64 and you'll be good to go.
The Amiga is a much more complex beast, in part because you may want to make use of modern comforts like hard drives, and in part because there are a plethora of various models to choose from.
What used to be a very low maintenance machine in its heyday (when peripherals and spares were prevalent) can now be rather finicky to get to work. Floppy disks degrade, floppy drives decay, components start to break down and I/O interfaces evolve. If you're not prepared to open the machine up and muck about with the hardware (or pay someone to do it for you), you're perhaps better off with an emulator.
The many various Amiga models and their slight incompatibility with each other also makes it hard to recommend a single type of machine for everyone. There are software solutions to mitigate most of these incompatibilities, but they won't fix all the problems all the time.
Some explanation regarding the nature and evolution of Amiga computers might be needed to understand why the platform is such a confusing sprawl of incompatibilities.
Most classic games were written with the Amiga 500 in mind. This means that developers assumed a lot of things about the machine that aren't true for any other models, including the sneakily named Amiga 500 Plus.
The gold standard in the case of classic games is an Amiga 500 with a 7 MHz 68000 CPU, OCS (Original ChipSet), Kickstart 1.3, 512 KiB chip memory and an expansion fitted with 512 KiB so called "slowfast" memory.
Chipmem, fastmem, slowfast
Chip memory is so called because it's shared between the CPU and the graphics and sound hardware - the custom chips.
Fast memory is so called because it's only accessible by the CPU which at least in theory means the CPU can work slightly faster.
Slowfast or Slowmem is so called because it uses a particular limbo addressing mode in the A500 that in reality gives the benefit of neither memory type. It shows up as fast memory, but it's not faster than chipmem, and you have to solder in your computer to turn it into real chipmem. Nevertheless, this was (and is) what most Amiga 500:s were (and are) expanded with.
Even though the Amiga 500 was sold by Commodore with just the half meg of chipmem, pretty much everyone upgraded to the extra half meg of slowfast. This expansion was so indispensable that many Amiga retailers offered package deals in which a RAM expansion was included. Thus, the world filled with 512+512 KiB machines.
All the consumer machines released after the Amiga 500 came with at least 1 megabyte of chipmem as standard - and no fastmem. This, in combination with upgraded graphics chips and new OS versions, meant huge incompatibilities. Some of this can be mitigated, but the half'n'half combo was so common that many programmers simply didn't bother to check if there was in fact slowfast in the machine before allocating it.
This meant that games requiring one megabyte of memory often didn't work on the one meg Amiga 500 Plus, because its megabyte consisted solely of chipmem. The A500+ also featured slightly updated graphics chips, called ECS for "Enhanced ChipSet".
Of course, the programmers learned from their mistakes and by the time the Amiga 600 - also with ECS and a megabyte of chipmem - was released, most games didn't make such assumptions.
That's when Commodore released the Amiga 1200, which featured two megabytes of chipmem as standard. That wasn't much of a problem - but the machine also sported completely different graphics chips called AGA (Advanced Graphics Architecture) and, to top it all off, it had a new CPU model.
The A1200 came with a 14 MHz 68EC020 which not only had twice the clock speed of the earlier models but also a 256 byte instruction cache. This caused all kinds of havoc with programs that weren't properly timed or did clever things with the 68000 instruction set.
Picking a model
With all of the above in mind, it's time to consider what you want to do with your machine and, given that, which model to buy.
If you've owned an Amiga before, you might already know what model to get. In that case, feel free to jump straight ahead to Old age caveats.
Amiga 500 - Great for classic gamers
Amiga 500. Photo © Bill Bertram 2006, CC-BY-2.5
Typical hardware specifications
- Kickstart/Workbench 1.2 or 1.3
- OCS (Original ChipSet)
- 512 KiB chip memory and 512 KiB "slowmem" fitted in the trapdoor.
- Gotek floppy emulator.
- 512 KiB "slowmem" unless already fitted.
Compatibility: Classic games and demos (1985-1993)
Compatibility: Modern games and demos (1994-)
Poor compatibility. The AGA chipset cannot be fitted in an Amiga 500 and upgrading the CPU beyond 68030 is impractical, although not impossible.
Compatibility is of course very good with newer games and demos produced with the A500 as the target platform.
Productivity and creativity
Medium. No internal hard drive interface and lack of compatibility with many modern expansions.
If you're just going to give the old classic arcade games a spin every now and then or maybe watch a few of the demos (both old and new), an Amiga 500 with a 512 KiB memory expansion and Gotek floppy emulator is a great choice. Low maintenance, easy to get started with. Just put some disk images on a USB stick, plug it into the Gotek and off you go.
If you'd like to try your hand at programming, music or graphics creation, you'll want to invest in a modern expansion card. There are several on the market, such as the ACA500 card from Individual Computers. The ACA500 is an all in one solution offering Compact Flash slots for use as hard drives and for file transfers, easy CPU upgrades and more. There are other cards offering similar capabilities, such as the TerribleFire and Whicher.
Amiga 500+ and outliers
The Amiga 500+ is a somewhat upgraded Amiga 500 that comes with 1 megabyte of chipmem and OS 2.0, as detailed in "Hardware architecture" above. This makes it fairly incompatible with many classic games and demos. It's unlikely to come across one of these, because it was an intermediary model. When sold, they're usually advertised clearly as a Plus model and may be significantly more expensive than the normal A500 - something of a collector's item.
However, this model proved a bit cumbersome for the standard A500 line as well. Commodore was in many ways a thrifty company and used whatever parts they had kicking about. Some late A500:s were in fact variations on the A500 Plus without the label, which means that some A500s really have an ECS chipset and might suffer from slight incompatibilities with certain software. C'est la vie, as they say.
Amiga 1200 - For the power user
Beauty, enhanced: An A1200 caught in the evening sun.
Typical hardware specifications
- Kickstart/Workbench 3.0 or 3.1
- AGA (Advanced Graphics Architecture)
- 2 megs of chip memory
- Internal IDE hard drive
- A 4 megabyte fast memory expansion or a 68030 accelerator with at least 4 megabytes of fast memory.
- A Compact Flash or DOM (Disk On Module) hard drive.
- A PCMCIA-to-Compact Flash adapter for file transfers.
Compatibility: Classic games and demos (1985-1993)
Fair compatibility. Some work out of the box but many require tweaking. Good compatibility if WHDLoad is used and a WHDLoad installer for the particular game or demo exists.
Compatibility: Modern games and demos (1994-)
Very good, provided a suitably fast accelerator is fitted.
Very good with current AGA demos provided a 68060 accelerator is fitted.
Good with current demos and games geared at Amiga 500 (a lot of programmers still either can't or won't ensure their code works on all Amiga models).
Productivity and creativity
Excellent. Plenty of software available. The increased speed of the machine makes working natively not only endurable but even enjoyable. Great and cheap solutions for hard drives and file transfers thanks to the PCMCIA port and internal IDE interface. Networking is possible by using a PCMCIA NIC (if you can find one).
If you want to get productive with your Amiga or if you want to play complex multi-disk adventure games, an Amiga 1200 with a hard drive, a fastmem expansion and a PCMCIA-to-Compact Flash adapter for file transfers is a good choice.
Amiga 600 - a curious hybrid
The A600 lacks a numerical keyboard and looks like a chopped off A1200.
Typical hardware specifications
- ECS (Enhanced ChipSet)
- Kickstart/Workbench 2.05
- 1 meg of chip memory
Recommended hardware expansions
- A Gotek floppy drive emulator
- A 1 megabyte fast chip memory expansion.
- A Compact Flash or DOM (Disk On Module) hard drive.
- A PCMCIA-to-Compact Flash adapter for file transfers.
The Amiga 600 is, to be honest, a bit of a mess. Unless you're a somewhat seasoned Amiga user and already own an A500 or A1200, I wouldn't recommend buying an A600.
It makes for a poor A500 substitute. A Gotek drive can be fitted, just as with the Amiga 500, and it comes with 1 megabyte of RAM, but...
- It comes with a Kickstart version that is not compatible with a lot of classic games and demos.
- It comes with a graphics chipset called ECS, which is incompatible with some classic games and demos.
- The memory architecture is troublesome. Even if a more compatible kickstart (I.E version 1.3) is fitted through a "ROM sharer" or "Kickstart switch", most classic games expect 512 KiB of chip memory and 512 KiB of slowfast. The Amiga 600 has 1 meg of chipmem and although it has a trapdoor expansion slot, this is not compatible with the A500 and it will only further expand the chipmem.
- Fastmem can be fitted in the PCMCIA slot. Such memory is hard to find and still might not solve all compatibility issues. This will of course also block the use of the PCMCIA port for file transfers, requiring you to power off the system and switch PCMCIA cards.
It makes for a poor A1200 substitute. The A600 does have an internal IDE interface and a PCMCIA port, just as the A1200. It can be expanded to 2 megs of chipmem, just as the A1200. But...
- The machine is woefully underpowered for actually utilizing any of these in a satisfactory way - especially if you're planning to use WHDLoad. You will want to get at least some fast memory for this.
- The machine lacks the AGA chipset.
- You can't fit fastmem in the PCMCIA port without blocking the usage of file transfer using a PCMCIA-to-Compact Flash adapter.
- You can fit an accelerator - except they're few and far between and rarely work as reliably as those for the A1200.
- OCS Games released during and after 1992 should present no trouble at all. A lot of classic games will work and compatibility can be raised further by installing Kickstart 3.1, which will allow you to "emulate" OCS (that is, the graphics chipset used in A500).
- With an accelerator and updated ROM chip fitted, the same advice applies to the A600 as to the A1200: it is a capable WHDLoad machine.
Big Box Amigas (A2000/3000/4000) - For the already initiated
Big box Amigas are fairly rare and hence rather expensive. They also often seem to be in an alarming state of decay when sold, unless refurbished by the previous owner. They were mostly used as TV and video industry workhorses and have often suffered rough handling and bad storage conditions after being decommissioned. They also have more moving mechanical parts: CPU and PSU fans, external keyboards that tend to go missing and so on. If you plan to fork out the dosh for an Amiga 2000, 3000 or 4000, I will simply assume you already know what you're doing. Carry on, brave soldier!
Amiga 1000 - For collectors only
The first Amiga model produced, with all that entails. It's not only rare and expensive, it's also rather cumbersome to get into any kind of workable state with regards to retrogaming. It loads kickstart from a floppy disk, it comes with 256 KiB of RAM as standard and it doesn't support EHB (Extra Half-Brite), a graphics mode used by some of the most beautiful games ever made for the Amiga. Expansion peripherals are also rare and usually costly. Unless you're a die hard fanatic, the A1000 is not a recommended model.
Most games on the Amiga were track loaded - that is, they used a custom floppy disk access system and don't support hard drive installation.
Installing such games to your hard drive will require a piece of software called WHDLoad - but WHDLoad alone is not enough. There must either be a WHDLoad Installer that will install the game to your hard drive using the original floppies, or a prepared and complete WHDLoad Install of the game, with all of the game binaries and data included. The legality of such prepared installs is debatable at best, and therefore I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of possible download sites.
Installers are available for a great number of games, but not all. Ultimately, this makes the A500 with a Gotek a better choice for classic gaming than the A1200.
Be advised that WHDLoad requires at least a 68010 CPU and a few megabytes of fastmem to work well, depending on the size and complexity of the game being played.
Old age caveats
Most Amigas are by now very old as far as hardware goes, and although impressively hardy, there are some common problems to check for when buying.
Basic checks before power-on
Expansion battery leaks
Check the trapdoor underneath the computer. If any kind of expansion is fitted, remove it an inspect it. Many of these expansions come fitted with a battery for a real time clock module and those batteries are known to leak. If it has leaked, it will probably be easy to spot: Check for sticky gunk, fuzzy-looking "growth" around copper pins and corrosion on the PCB traces - especially on the motherboard. Lighter damage can, if you're lucky, be better assessed or even salvaged with q-tips, rubbing alcohol and a bit of patience.
This is especially important to check on the A500 and A500+. The A500 RAM expansions usually came fitted with drum-style Varta batteries, notorious for leaking. The A500 Plus had a real time clock fitted on the motherboard, with a Varta battery mounted in the factory.
If the computer is an A1200 or A600, check the motherboard thoroughly for leakage from any of the electrolytic capacitors. This leakage is highly corrosive and may have damaged the PCB traces, but can be hard to spot. If it isn't hard to spot, the damage is most likely severe: any number of problems with audio, video or other functions might arise from this. Leaking capacitors can smell fishy (no, really - it's sometimes described as "cat food" or "aquarium fish feed flakes"), especially when the computer has been powered on for a while.
Even if everything looks (and works, and smells) fine, it's recommended standard procedure to have your A600 or A1200 recapped. If you're not completely sure about what you're doing, it's advisable to let someone with the proper competence do it for you. Be aware that recapping isn't some panacea for Amiga hardware faults; it's a safety precaution to prevent possible future damage.
The A500 has capacitors, too, but they're less prone to leaking. It's of course not a bad idea to recap the A500, but battery leakage from memory expansions is a bigger problem with this model.
Power Supply Units
Compared to the notorious Commodore 64 PSU:s of death, Amiga PSU:s are reasonably well-behaved. However, if a PSU hasn't been used for a long time, it's always a good idea to check the output with a voltmeter if possible. You might also want to run it for a while - supervised - without plugging the computer in, to check for any heat issues or other strange goings on. I personally haven't had any problems with any of my old PSU:s (yet).
Various replacement units are available for purchase online and this is a recommended investment.
Things to check after power-on
Audio and video
Check both audio outputs - the Amiga has hard stereo separation so this shouldn't be a problem. Use a pair of headphones or listen on either side of a stereo monitor. Check all the video connections if possible - both the RGB port and the composite jack. The latter is in black and white on the A500 and in color on the A600 and A1200.
If you're not going to use a Gotek floppy emulator, check if the floppy drive works. Replacement units can still be bought online.
Check all the keys on the keyboard (for example in a shell window), the mouse/joystick/diskdrive connectors and expansion ports as thoroughly as possible.
Hooking things up
Getting sound from your Amiga is easy. Various ways to connect the Amiga's RCA jacks to modern stereos and speakers are cheap and plentiful.
Getting usable video output from the Amiga can turn out to be quite cumbersome! The problem lies with the custom chips, which by default produce either a PAL (Europe) or NTSC (USA) compatible signal, meaning a 15 kHz (-ish) horizontal refresh rate. VGA is 31 kHz (-ish), which is what most PC screens, both old and new, are capped at - including most D/A converters sitting between the VGA connector and panel on most modern flatscreen TVs.
Even though there is such a thing as a "Commodore VGA Adapter" that will let you connect an Amiga's RGB output to a VGA monitor, no games or demos will work with it unless the monitor is capable of handling PAL/NTSC frequencies. Actual VGA modes are only available on the ECS and AGA chipsets, but this is of little help: Pretty much all games and demos are hard coded for PAL/NTSC. In fact, a PAL or NTSC display is required in order to configure the OS to use a VGA mode.
Cathode Ray Tubes
Amiga games and demos were made on and for CRT displays. Clever pixel art techniques such as dithering and anti-aliasing really come to life in an amazing way when painted by light on glass, with the slight fuzz and scanlines this produces. Hardware programming trickery using the custom chips will look best on a screen that crops the overscan area at somewhat predictable positions.
The best solution is a CRT monitor designed for the Amiga, such as Commodore's 1084. Those are increasingly rare and expensive, but can still be found online from time to time.
Another CRT option is a good quality television with a good quality SCART input. The best way to find out is of course to test it before buying, if at all possible. I have fond memories of the Telefunken brand, but your mileage may vary. Raiding the attics of older relatives and regularly visiting thrift stores are good offline options for locating old school TV sets.
Some flatscreen monitors will accept PAL or NTSC on the VGA input, but those are rare and unless you're absolutely certain about a given model, it will most likely not work. I have a BENQ BL 912 which is a very good model, if you can find it. Flatscreens usually require tweaking the screens' pixel clock setting. Fore more details, see the links section below.
Flatscreen televisions with a SCART input might or might not work satisfactorily - some are flaky, some are exceptionally good. Buying one is a gamble, but they're at least easy to test, provided you have a SCART cable and can bring your Amiga with you to the seller. Freshly made SCART cables for the Amiga can be purchased online.
The RGB port is, quite simply, what you'll want to be using. It offers the best, crispest display - especially if using a flatscreen.
The composite output on A1200 and A600 is maybe acceptable for a bit of casual gaming. RF output is so abysmal you probably won't believe it without seeing it - even if it is, in fact, what you used way back when. I wouldn't consider RF except for extreme emergencies.
The Amiga 500 doesn't have an RF output or color composite out of the box. For this, you'll need an external RF modulator, typically Commodore's own A520. The picture quality from this device is terrible and I wouldn't spend extra money on one. The on-board black and white composite is surprisingly good, but with an Amiga you really want color graphics.
A Scan Doubler is a piece of hardware (usually fitted inside the Amiga) which will let you connect any standard VGA monitor. Hardcore European gamers beware: these will often upsample the refresh rate to 60 Hz, which might cause tearing or flicker of fast-moving graphics.
There are also various conversion boxes on the market that can convert RGB signals to HDMI and/or VGA.
The RetroTink and OSSC (Open Source Scan Converter) are general purpose devices that people have reportedly had succes with. There are also devices that cater exclusively to the Amiga.
On the DIY side of things, at least one Raspberry Pi-based solution exist: c0pperdragon's Amiga-Digital-Video project. However, it only works with OCS Amigas - that is to say, the original A1000, A500 and A2000 models. Considering that many A500 machines were shipped with ECS chipsets, ensure you've got the correct Denise chip revision (8362) before going this route.
A pre-built solution for all Amiga models (including the A1200 and A600) is a device called D520, which allows connection to HDMI monitors complete with audio throughput. I've got one and I'm pleased with it.
How well devices like this work usually depends on how expensive they are, according to the principle "you get what you pay for". The upside for Europeans here is that many HDMI screens accept 50 Hz input natively.
First of all: Be advised that setting up and managing a hard drive-based Amiga system isn't like installing Windows or Ubuntu on a modern PC.
Many vendors offer Compact Flash cards with Workbench pre-installed. This can be a good option for the newcomer, since fitting the hardware is the easy part.
If you're a DIY kind of person or Compact Flash isn't an option, you'll have to partition, parameterize and format the hard drive yourself. A fair bit of knowledge about Workbench and AmigaDOS may be required to get things up and running smoothly.
Even with a pre-installed CF card, installing and configuring various software packages is a lot smoother if you're comfortable working with archives, disk images and file management from the command line.
Depending on your personal proclivity, this can range from "fun and educational" to "harrowing". If you just want to play the odd classic game with a minimum amount of hassle, a Gotek may be the best solution for you.
Some vendors will supply compact flash hard drives pre-installed with WHDLoad and games. These can be great for the beginner. I often find that they're geared at an Amiga with a powerful accelerator and come with rather curious Workbench configurations, with lots of "helpful" utilities running in the background, taking up precious memory and CPU cycles. Plus, the legality of the software they come with is, of course, debatable at best.
Compact Flash vs. DOM
Hard Drives come in many shapes and sizes. Since both the A600 and A1200 have an internal 2.5" IDE interface, The most common solution is to use a Compact Flash-to-IDE adapter fitted with a modestly-sized Compact Flash card.
Compact Flash cards have a comparably low number of write and delete cycles before they start to deteriorate. It usually happens when you least expect it and Amiga file systems are not among the best suited to handle such events gracefully.
If you're a heavy duty user and plan to work natively with Amiga development, I suggest looking into a Disk On Module (DOM) solution. DOMs can be bought online (on for example EBay) and from certain niche dealers, for example those geared at servicing legacy industrial production line computers. I've been using the same DOM in my A1200 for many years now and it still works great.
With that said, I've also used the same CF card for file transfers for at least as long, and it still works fine. Brand name "industrial" cards from SanDisk and Kingston may serve you well - unless they don't. But hey, they're cheap and plentiful and you should always back your stuff up.
Overcoming the 4 GiB size limit
Hard Drives larger than 4 gigabytes will not work with the Amiga out of the box. They require quite a bit of fiddling to get this to work, roughly comparable to installing a "hardcore" Linux distribution such as Arch on a PC - unless you upgrade to a newer kickstart as described below.
Kickstart 3.1.4 and up from Hyperion and Kickstart 3.X (Note: It is, rather stupidly, really named 3.X. In this case, 3.X does not mean "3.0 or 3.1" - be sure to check carefully when buying!) from Cloanto both have built-in support for hard drives larger than 4 GiB. To fit this support into a 512 KiB ROM chip, other bits have been removed from ROM. This isn't an issue unless you frequently boot productivity software from floppy. If buying one of these ROM upgrades, make sure you also get a matching set of installation media along with the chip.
Memory expansions and accelerators
Plenty of accelerator cards exist for all available Amiga models. For the A500, simpler models offer a 68000 with doubled clock speed. Other expansions, such as the ACA500, allows using A1200 accelerator cards.
The most coveted cards for classic Amiga software are the ones sporting Motorola's last 68k series CPU, the 68060. Such a CPU, along with a staggering 64 megs of fastmem, is a near-requirement for running modern A1200 demos (from, say, 1999 and onwards).
In between these are several various CPU models:
- The 68000 is the base "16/32-bit" model. It has 32 bit instructions and registers but 16 bit buses. In the Amiga, it runs at 7 MHz.
- The 68010 is a slight improvement over the 68000. It offers no particular speedup, but it's pin-compatible and offers some virtualization features needed for WHDLoad to function properly.
- The 68020 is a huge improvement in the series, offering pure 32-bit addressing and a 256 byte instruction cache. It's a substantial speed increase over its predecessors.
- The 68030 is a minor improvement on the 68020 and a common CPU on accelerator cards, especially for the A1200. The full model is basically a 68020 with an on-chip MMU and a 256 byte data cache.
- The 68040 is a major improvement in the series. The full model offers vast speed increases over the 68030 at the same clock rates, sports a built-in FPU and 4k data and instruction caches. The 68040 requires software libraries (68040.library) to function properly. This is included with OS 2.x and up.
- The 68060 is a substantial improvement of the 68040. Notable enhancements is the superscalar architecture and doubled cache sizes. Like the 040, the 060 requires software libraries to function properly. These are not provided by the OS, but are either supplied with the card or downloaded separately. They typically replace 68040.library with one suited for the 68060.
All accelerator cards require fastmem to offer any significant improvement in speed. Beware that some of these expansions have fastmem mounted and some don't, so check before buying!
Many 68030 accelerator cards come with a 68EC030, meaning they lack an MMU. This isn't any particular loss, because AmigaOS has no memory protection and thus doesn't use it. Typically, an MMU is only required for certain developer tools such as Enforcer (which you probably won't have to use unless you already know what it is) or for running other operating systems such as Linux or NetBSD.
Most accelerator cards and many A1200 RAM expansions come with a socket to fit an optional FPU. Unless you're going to do heavy image processing or raytracing with your Amiga, an FPU isn't needed and won't offer any speedup without software that's specifically written to utilize it.
When it comes to 68040 and 68060 cards, there are certain models with low cost (EC or LC) CPUs. Unlike with the 68030, these version are to be avoided. Most software written with the 040 and/or 060 in mind assumes a complete feature set.
Some accelerator cards can be disabled via software to increase compatibility with poorly written software. This is especially useful for cards with 060 and 040 CPUs. Blizzard cards from Phase 5 will for example disable if you press and hold the "2" key on the alphanumeric keyboard when booting the computer. Note that this will also disable any fastmem fitted on the board.
Amiga 500 and 600
Trapdoor memory expansions for the A500 and A600 are easy to find, both new and old, and easy to fit and use. Just install it and you're good to go.
PCMCIA memory expansions for the A600 are fairly rare and will effectively block the usage of the PCMCIA slot for file transfers.
Some accelerators for the A500 plugs into the sidecar expansion slot. They're easy to fit but take up extra desk space.
Some accelerators for the A500 and all accelerators for the A600 are mounted internally. This means you'll typically have to either replace the internal CPU or clamp a PCB down on top of its pins. It can be a bit finicky and, especially in the A600, a tight fit.
Accelerators and memory expansions for the A1200 are fitted in the trapdoor expansion slot on the bottom of the computer.
Many older accelerators and RAM expansions are fitted with a 72-pin SIMM slot, populated at the discretion of the owner. This means you'll need to have such a SIMM unless the card comes with one. They're fairly common online, because they were standard fare in most 486 and Pentium PC:s.
For pure memory expansions I recommend a 4 megabyte SIMM. For accelerators, the theoretical limit is usually the address space of the CPU. Even cheap 68030 cards are known to handle at least 32 megabytes of RAM.
Accelerators made by the US company Great Valley Products (GVP) are good quality cards, but beware that they usually require custom made GVP SIMMs. If buying a GVP card, ensure it comes with memory fitted.
Trapdoor RAM expansions for the A1200 are "zero wait state" and 32 bits wide, meaning the CPU has full priority access. This will roughly double the speed of the A1200. Some are fitted with a 72-pin SIMM socket, some have on-board soldered RAM.
If the card comes with more than 4 megs of RAM, make sure it can be configured to use only 4 megs (typically achieved with a jumper) in order to allow access of the PCMCIA port, which will otherwise be blocked.
Unless you want to play "modern" games (of the DOOM kind) or watch "modern" AGA demos (from roughly 1995 and onwards), a memory expansion is the best and cheapest way to spice up your A1200.
PCMCIA memory expansions for the A1200 will of course block the usage of the PCMCIA slot for file transfers on this model as well, but comes with a further caveat. The PCMCIA interface is 16 bits wide, meaning that in a best case scenario, only a small speedup is achieved and in the worst case scenario, the machine might even slow down. I recommend avoiding these unless you're really sure of what you're doing.
A note on accelerators and "timing fixes"
Depending on the revision of your A1200 motherboard and the particularities of certain accelerator cards, your Amiga might require a so called "timing fix", which means soldering on the motherboard. The "ACA" series of accelerators from Individual Computers have been known to work poorly without timing fixes, but this applies to other models as well. Timing fixes are not required for plain memory expansions.
- AmigaStore.eu - Spain
- AmigaKit - UK
- Vesalia - Germany
- Amedia Computer - France
- GGS Data - Sweden (in Swedish!)
I have at some point during the last 5-10 years bought Amiga and/or C64 peripherals from all of the above stores and consider them to be reputable dealers, although delivery is sometimes a bit slow.
I order most of my Amiga peripherals from AmigaStore.eu. They have a broad selection of hardware and a web site that's easy to navigate.
Amiga hardware manufacturers
- Individual Computers - ACA500, Indivision scan doubler, accelerators.
- D520 Converter - Amiga D520 RGB to HDMI converter (in German).
- Hyperion Entertainment - AmigaOS 3.1.4 and up.
- Aminet - A massive archive of free Amiga software.
- WHDLoad - the official support page for WHDLoad.
- Modern monitors that support 15 kHz video
- The Big Book of Amiga Hardware
- c0pperdragon's Amiga-Digital-Video
- Large Hard Drive Support - Information on setting up hard drives bigger than 4 GB.
- English Amiga Board - A friendly and knowledgeable online forum for Amiga enthusiasts.
I hope this guide cleared some concepts up and straightened a few question marks. Good luck in your Amiga purchasing endeavors!
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of the mentioned vendors, manufacturers or brands.