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Hardware : The A500 Mini

Introduction

Within the retro scene there has been a rise of replications of old retro consoles in mini form, the most popular of these was the Mini Nes by Nintendo, they soon followed this up with the Mini Snes, then the market saw Sega and Sony also release mini versions of their retro consoles. Popularity was so high this also brought about full size replicas as well. It was only a matter of time that the market would shift to other platforms beyond just the retro consoles and bring back retro computers. The Commodore C64 mini arrived which was a successful product and so was shortly followed by a full size C64 replica, now the same company is bring the Amiga platform in mini size.

The A500 Mini

Retro games ltd on 10th August 2021 announced a new mini Computer called the The A500 Mini, designed to feel and look like the Amiga A500 that came out in 1987. Picture of the unit below

25 games will come with the system, 1 game ( Citadel ) will come free with WHDload package you will need to download.

  • Alien Breed 3D
  • Another World
  • ATR: All Terrain Racing
  • Battle Chess
  • Cadaver
  • Kick Off 2
  • Pinball Dreams
  • Simon The Sorcerer (AGA Version)
  • Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
  • The Chaos Engine
  • Worms: The Director’s Cut
  • Paradroid 90
  • Stunt Car Racer
  • Zool: Ninja Of The ”Nth” Dimension (AGA Version)
  • Project X
  • The Sentinel
  • F16 Fighter Pilot
  • California Games
  • Super Cars 2
  • Qwak
  • Dragons Breath
  • The Sentnel
  • Lost Patrol
  • Titus the Fox
  • Arcade Pool
  • *Citadel

Note: Most versions of games are the disk based AGA versions and not the original OCS version that would have been released on the A500. Also disappointedly Simon The Sorcerer is the Non Talkie version, and not the voiced version that was made for the CD32.

back

Specs

  • All Winner H6 ARM processor (Cortex A53)
  • 512mb Ram DDR3
  • 3 x USB 2.0 ports
  • HDMI Port
  • USB-C ( For Power )
  • 256mb Flash Rom (For OS and 25 games)
  • RRP £119.99 / $139.99

In the Box

  • The A500 Mini Computer
  • USB Mouse (Tank Mouse)
  • USB GamePad (CD32 pad)
  • HDMI Cable
  • USB-C Power Cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Due: April 8th 2022 (uk)

The system may look like an A500 but it will support A600 and A1200 games. The keyboard is just for show and will not be functional, the size of the system is 10 x 7 x 3 inches. The system features a HDMI port and outputs at 720p 50/60Hz with multiple scaling options and CRT filters.

It also comes with a 8 button controller similar in style to the CD32 controller and a optical mouse in design like the one that would come with an original A500 Amiga, sometimes referred to as the “Tank Mouse”.

Picture below

The accessories will also be available to buy separately, in the UK the price of the Mouse will be £19.99 and the GamePad £19.99, interestingly the GamePad will be in black CD32 colors, unlike the white colour of the one included.

The system will also support third party controllers (PlayStation / Xbox), joysticks, mouses and usb keyboards.

It's currently on sale from a number of big retailers and web sites, RRP is £119.99 in the UK. ( $139.99 in the USA )

It seems there was a number of exclusive packages put together by companies to promote the A500 mini,

Game in the UK offered a extra t-shirt with your pre-order, Smythstoys offered a 4Gb Flash USB stick in Floppy disk form and likely the best and most exclusive version was made by Koch Media UK & Ireland to promote the launch presented the system in a 80s TV box form that would open up with music from Rick Ashley never going to give you up, 80s sweets, the USB floppy disk and a Casio Watch (twitter unboxing). they also made a trailer ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xECd0avvCJU&ab_channel=KochMediaUK%26Ireland ) This version was only given out in competitions, reviewers and Youtubers.

Two trailers for the machine, https://youtu.be/yKUgEOpr4Qs - Official Launch trailer and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMIcOgQIMCA - Game trailer

A products like this is usually just a ARM based system, this is the same company behind the C64 mini & C64 Maxi, which was powered by a A20 All Winner ARM chip at around 1Ghz with 256mb Ram. The GPU in the C64 mini was Mali400 Mp2 dual core roughly clocked at around 500mhz. Below is a picture of the A500 mini motherboard.

The board features a classic Amiga tradition naming board after B52 Songs this one is "Cosmic Thing"
The board features a classic Amiga tradition naming board after B52 Songs this one is "Cosmic Thing"

The A500 mini, features a All Winner H6 chip which is a CPU ARM Cortex A53, this is the same chip that powers Raspberry Pi 3 and Pi Zero 2. Its unknown the clock speed but its also stated that the system is faster than a Pi 3B+ which was clocked at 1.4ghz. A53 chips can run up to 2Ghz.

The GPU is a ARM Mali-T720 MP2 which Complies with OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenCL 1.1. This should easily emulate all classic Amiga titles. Thanks to druzil28 we now have the SysInfo for the system ( a popular Amiga benchmark tool ), left shows default settings, with JIT off, the right side picture show the effect of JIT on.

Without Just in Time
with Just in time On

For context the Pi3B with JIT on ran Mips at 159.86 and Dhrystone 153148, but take these setting and benchmark with a pitch of salt as different version of Amiberry and emulation settings can easily effect these numbers. (pi3 benchmark)

Storage on the A500 min is 256mb NAND Flash which holds the OS and all the games, but you can expand it with USB sticks.

Teardown video in German of the System, here and of the GamePad & Mouse you can view, here this also has teardown of the orginal CD32 controller and Tank mouse.

This is nothing really new or revolutionary, a Arm based computer with Amiga emulation has already happened, the Armiga was a small all in one device the size of a floppy disk drive that ran a Amiga emulator on a Arm board and allowed original Amiga floppy disk to run off it. ( more here https://amigang.com/hardware-emulated-amigas/ ).

Also the Amiga community has built Raspberry Pi based system in 3D printed mini Amiga replica systems

amiga500 mini(1)

However the A500 mini is clearly a more mainstream, more consumer friendly, a high quality case, fully licensed and most importantly marketed in big retail stores that current efforts haven't quite achieved.

An important part of the Amiga that has been overlooked is Amigas serious side, the Amiga was much more than just a gaming system it was a full home computer. It's the first mini computer / console that could of offered a much more complete and modern Operating System than other computers/consoles that have been made into Minis before (like the C64).

Amiga can do a lot of serious stuff, it can access the internet, access email, write documents, photo editing, produce music, 3d modeling, cgi tv effects, programming etc, it's a shame that the system admit the serious side of Amiga platform, hacks / updates will have to appear to turn this into a complete computer it should of been.

The product has a partnership with Cloanto, so includes all the required Kickstart chips and software necessary to run classic games and software library of the Amiga 68k platform.

Talking of the OS, the system is powered by Linux and Amiberry 3.3. You are taken into a front end (similar to Hyperspin / RetroPie systems offers) to easily select your game. Below are pictures of the OS.

The OS looks to be a simple GUI with the ability to save state of the current game, also it looks like you'll be able to rank games. As well as have a number of scaling and display options. There are a few more obvious settings you can change, like customise controls, what port the joystick and mouse will be in, the mouse speed etc.

Blitter mode options Normal (the default mode), Wait (may be more compatible), Immediate (May improve performance). Copper mode can also be turned on or off, these options all affect the level of compatibility of certain games. So if you have a game that has an issues these are the settings to usually play with first. But most should be fine on the default settings.

Memory Options you will be able to change the system from just 0.5mb to maximum of 10mb Ram (2mb Chip and 8mb Fast) this should be enough for 99% of Amiga games.

CPU JIT can also be turned on and off, this will change the performance of the system, JIT on will mean the system performs much quicker, however some compatible issues can occur.

WHDLoad

An important part of the system is they included / licensed the popular Amiga software, WHDload, which put very simple turns Amiga disk based games into a simple "slave" file that can run more reliable on different Amiga setups and on hard drive based systems.

Basically old games like adventures games could come on as many as 8 disks or more and you would have to change disks during game play, you might of had to have the original manuals to enter passwords protection stuff, it might only reliable ran on OCS A500 original hardware and not run on the later ECS/AGA based Amiga like the A1200 and it might not of ran from the Amiga desktop, or different versions of AmigaOS etc WHDLoad aim is to fix all this and makes it much easy to deal with games like this.

There are plenty of tutorials on how to use WHDLoad on the internet, but Retro Games ltd wanting this to be a simple experiences as possible you will able to simple just download a .lha file (which is basically Amiga version of zip files) of your fav game and drag the lha over to a USB stick and load into the game.

screenshot2

You will need a USB stick that is formated to FAT32 MBR filesystem and then visit this site https://retrogames.biz/support/thea500-mini/whdload/ this has instructions and files you will need to place on the stick. Then simple visit these great website listed below, It should go without saying that you should only download games you own or legally allowed to be shared.

WHDLoad Website

https://www.whdownload.com/ - Loads of Amiga games and goodies ready to go.

http://whdload.de/ -  Offical WHDLoad website

https://mega.nz/folder/gdozjZxL#uI5SheetsAd-NYKMeRjf2A - Retroplays WHDload

https://archive.org/details/Amiga_WHD_Games - Achive.org collection

http://www.whdownload.com/demos.php - WHDLoad Amiga Demoscene

https://archive.org/details/super-skidmarks-v-2.2-cd - WHDload 2Gb A500 mini collection

https://mega.nz/folder/3EllVaiJ#f3W51-QZeLnK2dei41LA1A - Arcade Game Selector 2 (1.3) - A500 Mini Edition 4858 Games, 10Gb file, 32Gb USB stick required (FTP version - http://grandis.nu/turran/FTP/~Uploads/mrv2k/AGS2_Mini/ )

Hacks / Mods for the A500 mini

Now that the system out, it has been reported that a few WHDload packages don't work and a lot of Amiga fans are asking for full AmigaOs support, as well as ADF & HDF support for the system. Its hoped that Retro Games Ltd adds these features in the future.

But lucky we are dealing with Amiga community if these feature are not official supported then already there have been a number of hacks made to expand the system. This thread on English Amiga Board will be the main place where you will be able to find info, tutorials and more to really expand your A500 mini uses.

http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?p=1540612 - English Amiga Board

https://www.retro32.com/the-ultimate-a500-mini-faq-usb-whdload-workbench-adf-guide - Retro32 great FAQ guide

https://www.aminimiga.com/ - AMiNlMiga is likly the first of many Pre-Config Workbench setup designed for the A500mini, by Jimmy Johansson, join the discord group (https://discord.gg/rFv8a2CB) for more details. As long as you have full access to Amiberry however i see no reason why any Pre-Config Workbench config wont work. For different systems / setup visit here.

https://github.com/emuchicken/pandory-a500/releases - Pandory500 is the ultimate mod tool and basically opens up the system so you can run many emulators and consoles from the 80s and 90s.

A500 Mini Reviews

https://amigang.com/a500-mini-review/ - My review and extended thoughts on the system

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaQaa65sYqY - TeamPandory (likely the most through review)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vivn-ek8WY - DanWood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h552-eR0cGA - RetroRecipes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob-8G2c1VGo - MetalJesusRocks Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCGzFd04kQM - JohnHancock

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tNSwO3KKss - BreadBox Commodore Computer Museum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i67q1EJNFb4 - DigitalFoundry

https://metro.co.uk/2022/03/21/the-a500-mini-console-review-all-25-amiga-games-reviewed-16312268/ - metro Uk

https://www.videogameschronicle.com/ - Video game chronicles review

https://www.theguardian.com/games/2022/apr/12/a500-mini-commodore-amiga-review - The Guardian Review

https://www.makeuseof.com/amiga-a500-mini-review/ - Make use of it

https://www.nintendolife.com/review-a500-mini-a-refreshing-alternative-to-the-nes-and-snes-classic-editions - Nintendo Review?

Media

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKUgEOpr4Qs - Offical Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMIcOgQIMCA - Game Offical Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRqFCGPCOOI - Production video (November 2021)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdTOt3DV9Z4 - Production Video (January 2022)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWFUH-m9Cg0 - Good round up video by it's a P/XEL thing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlYYTdOxlow - My view on the system

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlEJDZsM3GY - Interview with Retro Games CTO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvF9SST6i74 - Retro Gamer A500 mini magazine video covered by CrazyBurger

Links

https://retrogames.biz/thea500-mini – Official Home Page

https://www.game.co.uk/en/-2865839 – Game - Uk Retailer Product page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/The-A500-Mini-Electronic-Games/dp/B09BW8N7JZ/ref=sr_1_1? - Amazon Uk

https://www.geeky-gadgets.com/mini-games-console-10-08-2021/ - Press Details

Retro Game Facebook - Loads of posts of info

https://www.facebook.com/groups/571357397366882/ - Facebook A500 mini usergroup

Discuss futher

https://amigaworld.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=43944&forum=8