PowerPC Comes to the Amiga

A significant boost in processing power for the Amiga lies right around the corner

By Michael Webb, Editor-in-Chief, MikeWebb@CompuServe.COM

The much-anticipated Phase 5 PowerPC accelerator boards may soon be available.

In actuality, this goes back further than Phase 5's involvement; years ago, when Commodore went bankrupt, people truly began discussing the benefits of Motorola's RISC CPU platform. After a lot of waiting and uncertainty, PowerPC has almost finally come to the Amiga.

Rather than paraphrasing the information, I will include here the in-depth description first published online several weeks ago:

Phase 5 Press Release

Oberursel, February 25, 1997: phase 5 digital products is proud to announce the upcoming CYBERSTORM PPC PowerPC-based accelerators for Amiga 3000(T) and 4000(T) as well as systems with compatible CPU-slot. With these innovative and powerful new accelerators a new dimension of performance is brought to the Amiga, with performance increases of 10 times and more compared to the fastest 68k based accelerators available today, resulting in a breath-taking performance.

Primarily being designed as an upgrade board for existing Amiga systems, the CYBERSTORM PPC incorporates phase 5's innovative dual-processor technologie, where a fast PowerPC RISC processor is combined with a 68k processor, in case of the CYBERSTORM PPC either a 68040 or a 68060 CPU. Both CPUs dynamically share the memory and system busses, what is necessary for a true multiprocessor behaviour. While the original AmigaOS 3.x continues to run on the 68k CPU - as well as all existing applications do, what provides 100% compatibility - the PowerPC CPU is supported by a comprehensive PPC Library developed by phase 5, which provides all functionality to integrate the PowerPC into the Amiga multitasking environment. Software developers can easily optimze their programs step by step by porting single tasks to PowerPC code, which then can run parallel with 68k tasks. Many important Amiga software vendors are preparing ported versions of their software packages already, so it is expected that a large quantity of software products supporting the PowerPC will be available soon.

The CYBERSTORM PPC will initially be availabe with the fast PowerPC 604e processor in clock speeds of 150, 180 and 200 MHz; the socket for the 68k companion processor accepts either a 68040 or a 68060 CPU. It provides a 64-bit wide, extremely fast memory expansion option (which can be upgraded by using pairs of standard PS/2 type SIMMs) which is dynamically shared by the two CPUs. Additionally, the CYBERSTORM PPC comes along with a DMA-driven Wide ULTRA SCSI controller on-board, which allows transfer rates of up to 40MB/s and is ready for the most demanding and professional applications. A 32-bit high-speed expansion connector with DMA access to the main memory is also provided for later upgradability. The 200MHz version of the CYBERSTORM PPC provides - only on the PPC side - a raw performance of more than 350 MIPS or approximately 8.1 SPECint95 and 7.1 SPECfp95 (estimations based on Motorola/IBM manufacturer specifications) - a blistering performance that goes far beyond most PC systems available today.

The CYBERSTORM PPC will be delivered with a comprehensive software package, which includes the PPC library as well as tools for creative users, among them a Public Domain GNU C compiler for PowerPC (including sourcecode) and many demo programs and utilities with sourcecode; in addition to this software free developer support is available via the phase 5 FTP site. Last not least a PowerPC-optimized version of CyberGraphX V3 with RISC-optimized CyberGL/3D and MPEG functions and libraries is included - of course with comprehensive documentation.

The CYBERSTORM PPC will be selling for a very attractive price, offering a superior price/performance relation. The suggested retail prices are as follows:

Note: All prices are recommended retail prices. English and german price include local VAT, the recommended US price does not include local taxes. The prices are without the 68k CPU which is necessary to operate the CYBERSTORM PPC. 68k processors from existing processor boards can be used on the CYBERSTORM PPC by pluging these into the provided socket. If you don't own a 68k CPU already, ask you local dealer for an attractive bundle offer.

Registered owners of a phase 5 68040- or 68060 board will - within the PowerUp upgrade program - receive special, attractive upgrade offers by mail during March 97. The handling of these upgrades will be done via local appointed representatives.

In the second half of the year, an innovative graphic board will become available for the CYBERSTORM PPC expansion slot which will provide a functionality subset of the innovative CAIPIRINHA custom chip. By providing a stand-alone version of the DLRP (Display List Risc Processor) this board will offer superior display funtionality, highest WRAM-based resolution, pixel depth and speed as well as the possibility to start developing software that will support the functionality of our upcoming A\BOX computer system (please refer also to the project information about the A\BOX project in our news section).

So what does this mean for the Amiga? Is it the beginning of a new road, a renewed vigor for the platform? Time will tell. I, for one, find the possibilities to be fascinating. We can be fairly certain that these new accelerators will offer uncompromising performance; we can only imagine where it may go from here.