There’s A New Amiga On The Way…And It’s A Monster

When I was in college as a CS major I spent a great deal of time in the Sun lab. It was filled with, unsurprisingly, various Sun workstations (and even a few Tatung Sun clones). But over in the corner was something special: a MasPar fronted by a Vax. The MasPar is a massively parallel SIMD computer featuring a large number of CPU cores. The unit at Christopher Newport University, where I graduated, contained 1024 cross-linked cores in a toroid configuration (though the cabinet would accomodate 2^14 cores — 16,384). Who would’ve thought that in 2010 you could put a massively parallel system on your desk…in the form of an Amiga?

A-EON started teasing the Amiga community not long ago with hints at a forthcoming new workstation capable of running AmigaOS 4.1. Recently the company ended the torment and announced the AmigaOne X1000, named in tribute to the Amiga 1000, the first Amiga, which debuted 25 years ago in 1985.

While a number of post-Commodore machines capable of running AmigaOS have come and gone from the market — AmigaOne, Pegasos, SAMiga — A-EON’s forthcoming workstation is not just another moderately-powered PowerPC-based motherboard capable of running AmigaOS. It brings much more to the table.

What really set the original Amiga 1000 apart from the comparatively weak computers of the day, aside from its light-weight, multitasking operating system, was the set of custom chips that allowed the machine to deliver stunning graphics, full-screen animation, and high-quality, sampled, stereo audio — firsts, on all fronts. Today, every PC has “custom chips” driving their graphics and audio. Any modern Amiga utilizes such technologies as a matter of course. What sets the AmigaOne X1000 apart from the rest is its use of customizable co-processors.

A-EON’s forthcoming machine features a dual-core PowerPC on a custom motherboard known as “Nemo” (AmigaOS 4 is PowerPC-based) in a custom case featuring the classic Boing! ball, but that’s not so very interesting. Of far more note is the unit’s co-processor. The engineers at A-EON decided to utilize an XMOS Xcore processor, which they have dubbed “Xena,” in the design of this latest Amiga. As Wikipedia describes the device,

It is a 32-bit quad-core processor, where each core runs up to 8 concurrent threads. It was available as of Autumn 2008 running at 400 MHz. Each thread can run at up to 100 MHz; four threads follow each other through the pipeline, resulting in a top speed of 1.6 GIPS for four cores if 16 threads are running. The XS1-G4 is a distributed memory multi core processor, requiring the end user and compiler to deal with data distribution. When more than 4 threads execute, the 400 MIPS of each core is equally distributed over all active threads. This allows the use of extra threads in order to hide latency.

A single unit sounds rather interesting from an architectural standpoint, but given the parallel nature of this architecture, additional cores can be chained together to deliver phenomenal computing power — reference boards have chained together 256 cores, delivering a theoretical 102,400 MIPS. Chaining together more of these cores can be done by way of the AmigaOne X1000′s Xorro slot, a PCIe x8 form factor that provides access to Xena’s 64 programmable I/O lines.

The dual-core PowerPC (reference systems are being run at 1.6GHz, but the specific chip has net yet been revealed) already puts the AmigaOne X1000 far beyond any other Amiga — such as the SAM440ep-Flex that I picked up recently — in terms of performance, but it’s really the potential of Xena that makes this system exciting as well as notably more powerful, in theory, than today’s high-end Macs and PCs.

Specs of the AmigaOne X1000 as listed by A-EON:

  • ATX Formfactor
  • Dual-core PowerISA™ v2.04+ CPU
  • “Xena” XMOS XS1-L1 128 SDS
  • 7.1 channel HD audio
  • 4x DDR2 RAM slots
  • 10x USB 2.0
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2x PCIe x16 slots (1×16 or 2×8)
  • 2x PCIe x1 slots
  • 1x Xorro slot
  • 2x PCI legacy slots
  • 2x RS232
  • 4x SATA 2 connectors
  • 1x IDE connector
  • JTAG connector
  • 1x Compact Flash

The AmigaOne X1000 is set to arrive sometime before summer at a cost less than that of the original Amiga 1000 which, in ’80s dollars, retailed for $1295. (Developer units will be available prior to that at a higher price-point.) Will I be buying one? I might let the dev units pass me by but, given the fun I’ve had with my SAMiga running AmigaOS 4.1 even with the rather limited free time in my life, I can say: definitely. (After I get the Minimig core installed on my C-One, that will make the AmigaOne X1000 the sixth Amiga in my collection.)

What can I say? Only Amiga makes it possible! I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

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15 Responses to There’s A New Amiga On The Way…And It’s A Monster

  1. Anonymous says:

    256 Xcores (“Xena”)

    cost around 1300 Euro

    1 i7

    cost around 250 Euro

    and has same speed

  2. Well, I just checked a benchmark listing and the top end Core i7 shows 18,322 MIPS on a video encode. Theoretical throughput of a 256-core Xcore setup – properly programmed – is 102,400 MIPS, over 5x the power.

    No one is suggesting that the AmigaOne X1000 would serve as a general purpose computer in today’s world running at 5x the speed of a top-end PC. It’s a niche machine that most interested will simply use “for fun.”

    But it does seems like it could be a good bit of fun.

  3. This is very exciting. I loved my Amiga right up until it died in 2002.

    A new Amiga? It’s already on my birthday list! I would certainly use it for fun.

    Interesting article.

  4. mangar says:

    Xcore is not the processor.. So comparing it to the I7 is pointless..

  5. Mangar: Well, perhaps it would be more fair to compare the Core i7 + Direct Compute (or whatever the MS equiv of OpenCL is) to the X1000. The custom co-processor of the X1000 is the interesting bit, and it is somewhat analogous to GPU compute. Fair point.

  6. Pikemann Urge says:

    The pattern, ever since Commodore went under, seems to be: promises, delay, prototype, out-of-date hardware. I hope this isn’t the case now.

    Nobody expects Amiga to be a mainstream platform (and it isn’t likely to be again, sadly). These days, new platforms are either software based or integrated mobile devices, e.g. iPhone.

  7. jsuttunus says:

    Turns out this whole X1000 thing was a hoax.

  8. Angelheart says:

    The Amiga X1000 is certainly not a Hoax.

    The AmigaOS 4.x OS + drivers for the AmigaOne X1000 are heavily under devlopment.

    Read an interview with one of the people involved in Amiga Future Issue 83 (March/April 2010) from http://www.Amigakit.com

    Also Hyperion Entertainment (Amiga OS 4.x owners and developers) and Eon Technology (AmigaOne X1000 developers) announced a partnership.

    http://www.hyperion-entertainment.biz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=136:hyperion-entertainment-cvba-and-a-eon-technology-cvba-announce-strategic-partnership&catid=36:amigaos-4x&Itemid=18

  9. jsuttonus says:

    @Angelheart,

    So you’ve got the hoaxers themselves saying its not a hoax. Sorry but that doesn’t bring any credibility to the table.

    Just go look at their website. Unchanged for over two months now. Now they are rehashing the same information on a “FAQ” on AmigaWorld under the pretense that they are answering questions.

    Troika was a more convincing hoax, at least they actually showed up with a board.

  10. Hans says:

    @jsuttonus

    Have a look at their website again. It has changed, and it is NOT a hoax.

    Angelheart linked to a press release on Hyperion’s website that confirmed their partnership. Considering that Hyperion are the Amiga OS 4.x owners and developers, and that people are using Amiga OS 4.1 right now, calling them “hoaxers” is rather silly.

    If you still don’t believe it, wait and see.

  11. jsuttonus says:

    They updated their website with a photo of a case with the image of a supposed X1000 motherboard photoshopped in! And these guys aren’t hoaxers? Riiiight! Just wait, next thing they’ll be taking money for preorders.

  12. tom says:

    I love using the Amiga, even now I still 2 A1200 use for various thing. I definitely buy the new X1000 as

    I fed up using all other OS flatform.

  13. jsuttonus says:

    And here it is 2011, the A-eon website still reads “Available late 2010″ and still no X1000. The betatesters who deposited upwards of $700 still haven’t even heard anything. Nevermind hoax, this is turning out to be a full on scam!

  14. Jsuttonus:

    The AmigaOne X1000 is not a hoax! Can’t believe you would say such a thing. Many people are using an AmigaOne X1000 at the present moment.

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