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The Dhel

A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by The Dhel Thu Dec 07, 2017 1:52 pm

Over the last couple of years, many small companies have released new products for classic AMIGA’s, such as accelerator cards, CF-Card hard drive replacements and even full re-implementations via FPGA chips.

However some other companies decided to go a step further and actually release full PC systems under the AMIGA brand name. One such company is A-EON.

A-EON, headquartered in Cardiff, United Kingdom, have been bringing systems to the market such as the AmigaONE X1000 and X5000 as alternatives to the standard Intel and AMD-based systems these days.

While I absolutely have to give them credit for being bold, independent and doing something totally different (much like Commodore in its glory days), time has simply passed them by and their systems are completely outdated and, most importantly, incredibly overpriced.

Let’s take a look at their newest model, the AmigaONE X5000.

First off, the specs.

The X5000 system, much like the X1000, uses a PowerPC chip as its CPU, clocked at 2GHz and utilizing two cores. Furthermore it’s using 4GB DDR3 RAM at 1600MHz by Kingston, features on-board LAN, a 240 GB SSD, DVD Writer, SoundBlaster Live sound card and, hold on to your seats, a RadeonHD R7 250 with 1 GB of DDR5 memory!

Now apart from from maybe the SSD (240 GB is not too shabby!) and the 4GB memory, this machine is having the lowest specs I’ve seen so far in 2017. Yeah I get it, its mainboard is also custom-made by A-EON, still, it’s the specs that count, and those are lower than low.

Especially when you consider that this thing costs; again hold on to your seats: $1,499.50.

Yes. $1,500 for an incredibly outdated computer. And that price is just for the board, no case included. If you want it in a tower case (made by Fractal Design), you gotta pay $1,740.00

For that price, you can get a high-end gaming PC featuring the latest i7/i9 or Ryzen processors, a sh*t-ton of memory and probably even an Nvidia 1070 for 4K resolutions.

This, A-EON, is NOT how to revive the AMIGA brand. This how you make a fool of yourself. And while I understand you want to be different and do your own thing, at that price only a very small percentage of computer buyers will be interested in your machines. But it seems there are those who do have way too much money to throw away… Good for you!

While there are many others who try to bring the brand back with ridiculously priced hardware (I’m looking at you, Individual Computers), I think the AmigaONE takes the cake.

Anyhow, those are just my thoughts on this. Feel free to leave a comment with your take on the whole thing!

Weblinks:
A-EON Technology Ltd
AmigaOne X5000 "First Encounters" (Motherboard *Bundle) with New Sound Card
AmigaOne X5000 System “First Encounters Bundle

First posted on my Blog
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by intric8 Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:01 pm

I'm torn on this.

On the one hand, I am so in awe of Trevor and his efforts to keep the Amiga brand viable and modern. On the other, I tend to agree with the sentiment around some of the hardware choices.

I realize that a small shop like A-EON is not producing mass quantities. As such their prices are going to be much higher in general compared to a large Co (e.g. Dell, HP, etc.). But we as consumers are spoiled and expect very high standards for relatively low cost. Hell I see people elsewhere complain about new cases - brand freaking new - for $100 and complain about cost. Really? It makes me think some folks have never cracked open an economics textbook. Otherwise we want the "BMW" of computers, where we pay much more but expect to receive that in return (I'm looking at Apple here). High prices for computers aren't a common expectation these days unless you're after the entire package: world-class design, high-end products that can last for many years, and software that is continuously updated, relevant and stable.

Oh, and that software? You can pretty much run anything and everything on it with the snap of your fingers.

Unfortunately, the A-EON machine is something I wish I could support financially - the more who do ensure better products in the future. But it's not where it should be, as painful as it is for me to say that publicly. I truly admire what Trevor has been able to do with such a small team and relatively few resources, though. When you think about it like that it's freaking amazing. I mean it pretty much has to be a self-funded fantasy where hopefully he breaks even at some stage. Making an actual profit? Man... hard to do with almost no store fronts, no marketing budget, no customer support or anything really except forums and social media (where most people just complain).

It would take a gargantuan effort to truly bring Amiga back.

To that end, I think the Atari brand has a better shot (gasp!) simply due to its pervasive brand recognition worldwide - but really only from a gaming perspective. And even then it seems like an insane long-shot. You're almost better off losing the baggage and starting clean. How about a Delorean computer!? ;)

And unfortunately with the current legal state of the C= and Amiga brand, and the fractured sense in the community of what Amiga even means anymore, I sincerely believe it's a pipe dream outside of hobbyists and tinkerers. (I think of it in retro terms, but many want to push it into modernity - yet it just doesn't work and no one can agree on anything.)

IMG_2751.jpg
My personal home office setup: (2015) 2.5Ghz i7 Macbook Pro, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD HDD, cinema display (10 years old - is it retro yet?), etc.) - photo taken with iPhone 8. Everything cost a little bit more, but it all works. Flawlessly. Lasts nearly forever. And looks gorgeous IMO. Do you spy my really old Harmon Kardon sound sticks, which I've been using since I had a G4?

There are several ways to make Amiga "live forever":
  1. In our hearts. Retro FTW! Woo! ;) (joking aside, this is where I'm at)
  2. Via little Raspberry Pi devices and emulation.
  3. PCs running even more emulation.
  4. The A-EON route, where things are attempted to be taken to contemporary times yet the hardware feels like it is more akin to 2007 than 2017 and the software is buggy.
  5. Focusing purely on the OS (e.g. MorphOS... can we get something like this out of legal mumbo jumbo?).
  6. Focusing on ways to make the old hardware behave like newer hardware (e.g. Vampire, etc.) as add-ons or stand-alones. But (just my opinion) I think you'd be way better off on 2 or 3 above, but I get the cravings some fall into once they go this route. I don't know what they're doing with those 060 machines ... I mean, besides running a clunky internet browser, what is really the point here? But I digress...
Or some hybrid of everything above mashed together. Since there's no central owner or voice to the brand anymore, no matter what anyone does half of the fans out here will complain or cheer no matter what is being proposed.

To me the bottom line is this: find what makes you happy and just do it. And if that means building or using the A-EON machines, great! Don't let anyone else tell you you're wrong. Enjoy it and have fun. Just don't expect it to replace that Microsoft Surface you've got on the table next to you, because it never will. It simply can't. And frankly, if we're all being honest with ourselves, it never should.

It should be however you connect with the hardware and software personally. And for heaven's sake, I hope you're actually using it in a way that brings you joy. Otherwise, what are we doing?
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The Dhel

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by The Dhel Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:14 am

On the one hand, I am so in awe of Trevor and his efforts to keep the Amiga brand viable and modern. On the other, I tend to agree with the sentiment around some of the hardware choices.


Yeah i mentioned this, too. It's great their team says "f it, we'll do this!".

Unfortunately, the A-EON machine is something I wish I could support financially


To be quite honest, you got a $2000-$3000 workspace there..including the iPhone. Soooo, yeah, just saying.

Via little Raspberry Pi devices and emulation.


Emulation all the way imo. That and upgrading the original Amiga models. But those will be sold-out completely one day (not even eBay will have any), and what then? Certainly not A-EON's machines.

Emulation is the way to go. FPGA, RPI3, software like WinUAE and packages like Amiga Forever make it as easy as its ever been!

It would take a gargantuan effort to truly bring Amiga back.


You cannot bring it back into the mainstream by making new-old hardware and running buggy software. The Amiga is out of the mainstream. And that's okay! It had its day in the 80s and 90s and has been surpassed by new, more powerful hardware.

I always advice those who want to relive these days or those who never had any Amiga hardware, to check out Amiga Forever as it allows you to easily get into the matter!
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by intric8 Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:57 am

To be quite honest, you got a $2000-$3000 workspace there..including the iPhone. Soooo, yeah, just saying


Right. It's was no small investment. Absolutely. Yet to invest $1,500 on an A-EON machine that - realistically - doesn't come close to what my 1.5 year-old workstation can do is not something I can easily justify. I can justify paying for old rare pieces of history, but not semi-interesting footnotes.

However... and bear with me for a second. If Trevor were to have released something revolutionary - let's pretend for a moment. Like, it has a custom graphics card akin to one of the new NVidia boards (which cost $3,000 alone) and were able to perform Machine Language calculations... all of a sudden you might be looking at a machine that would take notice by IT pros, scientists, hackers and more. A powerful workstation, possibly running in the $5,000-$6,000 range where the cost was theoretically justified. And it would need sexy product design. And, of course, the OS would need to not be tripping over itself to simply function. It would have to be solid from the ground up: hardware and software working in harmony.

If you look at a bare-bones Amiga in 1986 costing $1,285 back then, that equates to about 2,900 in today's dollars. That's a LOT of money already. Then you attached 256KB RAM, maybe a second floppy drive and some software. You were probably looking at $4,000. Think about that for a moment.

It was bold, it was scary - but it was revolutionary. And that tech from 1986 was basically leveraged for nearly a decade.

What I'm trying to say is Trevor did what he could do with the resources at hand. If he had been given a blank check and gone all-in, a herculean task that in today's world might not be possible, it might have gone down differently. I mean, imagine if people all over the world were chattering about this amazing new computing workstation that could essentially run a bitcoin exchange? I think that's where it would have to go to be successful, and if it truly was amazing people would buy it.

History says so. But to get from point A to B is fantasy, I know.

I think for future generations - emulation is indeed the future. You don't get the same experience of course, but it is very affordable and pretty easy to do. I also have Amiga Forever and it's super handy and very well put together.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by intric8 Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:04 am

Interesting discussion, by the way. I've enjoyed thinking about this.
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ptyerman
Worksop/ UK

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by ptyerman Sun Dec 10, 2017 5:51 am

Emulation is the cheapest option, and WinUAE/E-UAE/FS-UAE is quite adequate for most folk who just want to play retro games.
Also for people like me that have several Amiga models, some form of emulation is the only way to do the high-end stuff that requires a 040 or 060 CPU, the price of those accelerators is ludicrous!
I have a stock A500+ that may get a Vampire or similar one day, although I'm thinking of selling that at the moment, two A1200's that both have Blizzard 030's in them that are my main retro machines, and a A2000 that is currently unused since I sold the 040 accelerator board that was in it, I may stick a Vampire in that eventually.
For high-end stuff however I use WinUAE on my main PC under Windows, and E-UAE under Linux, (or sometimes WinUAE under Wine).
Mainly for stuff like that though I have several old PC's that I built for Amithlon, X-Amiga and Kxlight, each cost about the same as a pizza to build and are extremely fast Amiga systems. Probably close to the speed of a X5000 with OS4 for the cost of peanuts!
It really is a shame that Amithlon and X-Amiga were abandoned, they was the future in my eyes, a rocket fast Amiga system that runs on standard hardware.
X-Amiga was/is open source though so maybe someone will revive and modernise it in future, that would be great.
It certainly beats having to shell out a couple thousand for a PPC machine that is underpowered and outdated.
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The Dhel

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by The Dhel Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:02 am

ptyerman wrote:Mainly for stuff like that though I have several old PC's that I built for Amithlon, X-Amiga and Kxlight, each cost about the same as a pizza to build and are extremely fast Amiga systems. Probably close to the speed of a X5000 with OS4 for the cost of peanuts!


I can see maybe a new Amiga-type machine but with a raspberry pi as its basis. No idea if OS4 is ARM-compatible, but you could also of course use an Intel-based mini computer. Just..don't make the same mistakes as Commodore USA (that name makes me shudder) and use some Linux as its base and sell that as an Amiga
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TenLeftFingers

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by TenLeftFingers Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:29 am

Atari also has had it's operating system open sourced, I'm told. Which gives it a very bright future compared to Amiga's OS which is still proprietary.
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ptyerman
Worksop/ UK

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by ptyerman Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:11 am

I can see maybe a new Amiga-type machine but with a raspberry pi as its basis. No idea if OS4 is ARM-compatible, but you could also of course use an Intel-based mini computer. Just..don't make the same mistakes as Commodore USA (that name makes me shudder) and use some Linux as its base and sell that as an Amiga


OS4 doesn't support ARM, no.
There is already several projects running on Raspberry Pi. Your post makes no sense though because it's ALL emulation running on top of Linux. The point is though, it boots direct to a Workbench and looks and acts like a Amiga. What does it matter what the underlying OS is when you're running an emulator? That's the only Amiga you're going to see on the Raspberry Pi.
If you're so adverse to Linux, install Windows on a x86 PC and replace explorer.exe with WinUAE, that does the job just as well.
Also why are you limiting things to single board and mini computers? The ones mentioned can be installed on any, including Intel and AMD x86 mini computers if that's your preference.
MorphOS has decided on a architecture shift to x86 in future, maybe that's what you're looking for. It will be a while before that arrives though so don't expect it soon.
As for the here and now, there is AROS that runs on x86 including the Intel mini you mention. Icaros Desktop is quite a decent distro of it and another one I keep around on an old PC.
I like my original Amiga's but emulation is the only way to go if you want a faster system, or get an old Mac and install MorphOS on it, it's also compatible with the G4 Mac Mini which suits your mini computer criteria.
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ptyerman
Worksop/ UK

Re: A-EON: How to NOT revive the AMIGA brand

by ptyerman Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:48 am

It would be great if someone made and sold PS/2 or USB keyboards with a Amiga key layout including the Amiga keys. They would make things more realistic and easier not just under emulation with the aforementioned solutions, but also when using the new FPGA solutions like the MIST and FPGA Replay boards.
I know I would be in for 3 or 4 of them straight away, as long as they was reasonably priced of course. I'm a bit surprised no one has already done it, up to now all there has been is stickers that go on the keycaps. Not ideal.

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