Falcon 030 Vs Amiga 1200

Amiga afficionados have been crowing over the release of the new Amiga A1200 games machine ahead of the Falcon030, claiming that the capabilities of the new Commodore machine outstrip that of the Falcon.

Well. sorry, but the technical specs of the 1200 don't match up to those of the Falcon - just take a look at the figures in the box in the table on the far right.

The main claim to fame for the Amiga A1200 is its high resolution HAM (HoId And Modify) mode capable of displaying 256,000 colours on-screen from a palette of 16.7 million colours. Unfortunately only static screens can be dis- played in this mode, and HAM has always been susceptible to flickering. The Falcon uses eight bits to store the data for each pixel giving a true 8-bit per pixel graphic mode and can display true colour (65,536 colours on-screen) animations at resolutions of up to 640 x 400 pixels using interlace mode.

The A1200 in HAM mode takes up to three pixels to change from one colour to another while the Falcon can change colour using a single pixel offering a higher effective resolution, and, although the A1200 offers a greater palette, it can only use up to eight bit- planes compared to the 16 bit- planes available on the Falcon. All this means is that the A1200 can display a still image at a greater resolution and with more colours, and that's all.

It has been alleged that the Falcon030 does not use ''proper'' multi-tasking, and that MultiTOS is a ''bodge'' job - that is, when one operation is being performed, other operations cease. MultiTOS is a full pre-emptive multi-tasking operating system with adaptive prioritisation with inter-process communication through MultiTOS. This means that you can run two different programs in separate windows and both can run at the same time; while you work on the program in the top window the program in the bottom window continues to process data. There may be brief halts while both applications try to access the same peripheral at the same time, but the communication between the programs gives one priority over the other preventing any software crashes.

The Falcon is provided with an FPU co-processor slot for a 68881 or 68882 maths co-processor, the A1200 has to have its FPU installed at the factory. The main processor in the A1200 is a Motorola EC68020 running at 14MHz, while the chip has embedded internal 32-bit buses, it only has an external 24-bit address bus and built-in instruction cache. The EC68020 is normally restricted to clock speeds of 16 and 25MHz, so why did Commodore use only 14MHz to run their machine? The Motorola 68030 has full 32-bit internal and external addressing along with both instruction and data caches, thus increasing the processing speed of the chip.

The Falcon runs at 16MHz making it faster than the A1200 and later versions are likely to run even faster - perhaps at 25 or 33MHz. The Motorola 68030 can run at clock speeds of 16, 20, 25, 33, 40 and 50MHz, If you combine these features with the fact that the DSP chip can process information at high speeds (16MIPS at 32KHz), 16- bit stereo sampling, 256 times oversimplify from the CODEC sound processing chip and standard connections to SCSI devices and CD-ROMS, it is plain to see that the Falcon is technically the superior machine. Unfortunately, Atari's marketing skills are another matter entirely, however.

By Clive Parker

Clock Speed 14.32MHz 16MHz
MIPS 2.5 3.84
Multi-tasking Yes Yes
FPU coprocessor socket? No Yes
Instruction cache 256 bytes 256 bytes
Data cache No 256 bytes
MMU? No Yes
Max Internal RAM 6MBytes 14MBytes
Max Video RAM 2MBytes 14MBytes
ROM 512K 512K
Complete boot from ROM? No, disk required Yes
Expansion slot PCMCIA slot DSP, Internal Bus Expansion
16-bit true colour No Yes
True 8-bit per pixel graphics mode No Yes
Graphics Blitter Yes Yes
Independent pixel- defining in maximum colour modes? No Yes
Custom graphics chips Yes No
Max resolution 1280 x 400 640 x 480
Palette 256,000 from 16.7m 32,768 from 262,144
Optional hard drive Yes Yes
Internal floppy drive 880K 1.44MByte
Stereo audio 8-bit 16-bit
Playback channels 48 + PSO (3 additional)
Record channels No16-bit stereo
Digital Signal Processor No Motorola 56k series
SCSI2 port No Yes
DSP/DMA audio port No Yes
MIDI ports No Yes
Local Area Network (LAN) No Yes


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