The Amiga 4000 Tower: What's Unique

Things Specific to the A4000T

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

Probably every new Amiga model brings something new to the line. The A2000 had expansion slots, the A3000(T) had a display enhancer, the A600 brought PCMCIA, and so on. The A4000T, too, has its share of unique features not found in most other Amigas, and in some cases any.

After Commodore made a rather foolish decision by designing the original A4000 with only a 16-bit IDE interface as standard (something that can probably be traced to management nixing the A3000+ in favor of the cheaper, and in many ways inferior, A4000), Amiga Technologies wisely equipped the A4000T with a 32-bit SCSI-II interface, as in the A3000(T). It is significantly faster and more versatile than IDE, but as an added advantage, the A4000T does include an IDE interface, suitable if you wish to put some aging PC hard disks to use. There's plenty of room for them, anyway. I should qualify this note: Software Hut told me the IDE interface is non-functional, but the documentation indicates otherwise. I haven't been able to test yet to see which source is correct.

One particularly nice addition to the A4000T, also present in the A4000 if my information is correct, is a connector for audio from internal CD-ROM drives or DSP's. This allows other audio sources to be mixed with the Amiga's sound output. I have not been able to test this yet either, but I don't think it reduces the sound quality. In other words, as far as I know, the sound doesn't actually go through the Amiga's hardware and get reduced to 8-bit in the process, contrary to a concern I've seen raised occasionally. Such a feature has been present on PC sound cards for some time, and it gives the A4000T another touch of "modernness" and convenience.

As you might expect from a large tower, the A4000T has plenty of expansion slots. Like the A2000 and A3000T, it has five Amiga slots. As in the A3000(T) and A4000, the slots are Zorro-III, meaning they are 32-bit, and support a transfer rate of something in the range of 33 megabytes per second. In addition to the Zorro slots, like all box Amigas after the A1000, the A4000T has PC-compatible ISA slots, and like the A2000 and A3000T, features four of them. Unfortunately, they aren't very useful unless you have a Bridgeboard or a special card that allows PC boards to be used, but if nothing else, you've got the perfect storage space for all those old PC ISA cards of yours! Well... Anyway, in addition to the Zorro-III and ISA slots, the A4000T features two, not one, video slots. Of course, it also includes the processor slot, which is always in use, since the A4000T has no processor on the motherboard, just like the original A4000.

I'm not sure if this applies to the A3000T as well, but all of the A4000T's drive bays can accommodate either 3.5- or 5.25-inch devices. This allows greater freedom in arrangement of drives within the tower, and doesn't restrict the user to a certain arbitrary number of drives of either size.

Naturally, not everything different about the A4000T is good. As far as I know, this is the first Amiga not to feature an external floppy port. It might be argued that floppy drives are less important these days, but with an Amiga, it's often convenient to have more than one floppy drive. Either way, a lot of current Amiga users who might upgrade to an A4000T probably have several potentially useful external floppy drives hanging around, but would have no way to use them with the new machine.

I'd like to end this on a positive note, however, so I've saved discussion of memory for now. Like the A4000, the A4000T includes four SIMM sockets capable of accommodating up to 16 MB of fast RAM. The A4000T affords added versatility in the memory configuration that I'm not sure the original A4000 allowed, however. SIMM's can be mixed sizes, and can range up to even 8 MB in capacity, although this does not increase socket capacity beyond 16 MB, since only two 8-MB SIMM's can be used.