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                   Review: The Blizzard 1260 Accelerator
  John Scotto                                 

The Blizzard 1260 is an accelerator for the Amiga 1200 built by Phase V
Digital Products of Germany.  It is distributed by Softwood in the United
States.This is (to my knowledge) the first Amiga 1200 accelerator utilizing
the Motorola 68060 cpu.  The 68060, for the non-technical among us, is
Motorola's answer to the Pentium.  The 1260 as I received it has a surface
mounted 68060 clocked at 50 MHz.  The board also has a single simm socket
which accepts one 72 pin simm.  Due to the very small size of the board and
the angle at which the simm lies, only single sided simms can be used
according to the manufacturer.  The board has one jumper which is used to
enable/disable remapping the kickstart roms to fast ram.  There is also a
connector for Phase V's scsi connector which was not yet available as I
wrote this review.

My overall impression of the board's construction in favorable.  The 1260,
unlike many A1200 accels, fits fairly easily into the "belly slot" of the
A1200.  The simm socket is an easy to use standard connector and is fully
auto-configuring.  The board does come with disk which has a new 68040
library and a 68060 library.  There is also an installer to put these into
the appropriate directories for the user.  The manual suggests installing
the software and ram before the board is connected and that is what I did.
The trickiest part is still physically connecting the accelerator but as I
alluded to there is enough spare room to allow the user to push the 1260 in
without too much trouble (one only need open the belly slot not the 1200's
case).  Excluding manual reading the total time for installation was about
five minutes at the end of which my system was configured thus:

  A1200 with OS 3.0
  850 meg IDE hard drive(internal)
  High density floppy (internal)
  Blizzard 1260
  18 megs ram (2 chip/16 meg simm on 1260)

And away we go.....

In a nutshell this thing is fast.  I was previously used to a 68030@50 Mhz
which is no slouch but the 1260 made the machine visible faster at booting,
starting programs and executing instruction.  Measuring just how fast is
somewhat of a problem as there is no Amiga benchmark utility which
understands the 68060.  However, for those of you who want benchmarks here
is what Sysinfo 3.23 says:

  38.9   mips
  27.89  mflops
  8.05   times the speed of an A3000/030@25MHz
  2.04   times the speed of an A4000/040@25MHz
  30.62  times the speed of a basic A1200
  *cpu is read as a 68040@392 MHz*

The last line should indicate that Sysinfo results are to be taken with a
grain of salt.  My subjective opinion is that Sysinfo underrates the
68060's performance.  As I was unable to get AIBB 6.5 to run without
crashing the machine, thats all I've got for the bean counters out there. 
Now I'll give the less precise measurements of system performance that have
convinced me that Sysinfo is wrong.

Once installed my boot time went from about 15 seconds with the '030 to
about 5 seconds.  As I call up a number of progs on start, to include Magic
WB, virus checkers, a commercial cd filesystem, mouse utility and etc.,
this was fairly impressive.  Final Writer 4.01 loads in a second or two
even when called via ToolsDaemon (which adds a small delay) and seems fully
compatible with the 1260.  Final Calc results are the same.  I tried three
web browsers (AWeb, IBrowse and AMosaic) and each worked well with AWeb
fairly leaping along with the 1260.  Even a cumbersome program like Thor
operated visibly faster.  Gloom operated very well and was exceptionaly
smooth in full screen, maximum resolution mode.  Aladdin AGA and a pd game
called Parrot Island required the 060 be disabled in order to run (did I
forget to mention that you can fall back to 020 via a key combo at startup?
:^) Finally came the big tests.

I am not a graphic artist and do not "render" anything on my machine.  I
have no LightWave comparisions to give you but I do have both PC-Task 3.1
(reg) and Shape Shifter 3.3 (reg) on my computer.  To my mind the 1260
would be made or broken by how much it helped me effectively use my
emulation packages.  First PC-Task - this PC 80286 emulator was useable but
dreadfully slow on my 030.  Now with the 1260 Windows 3.1 boots as quickly
on my 1200 as on my laptop (DX2/50).  Word 6.0 takes only a few seconds
longer on the 1200 than on the laptop.  Nothing earth shattering but very
respectable for software emulation.  In short PC-Task on the 060 is very
useable and acceptably fast.  Second - ShapeShifter 3.3 - this Mac emulator
ran fairly quickly on 030.  Now it runs even more quickly (surprise).
Operations seemed to occur about as quickly for me as on my friend's
Quadra.  In 16 color mode cpu operations are swift but there is a
noticeable lag caused by screen updates since the Amiga's graphics chips
are not affected by the cpu upgrades a point I will return to later.  I did
have make one change to my Shapeshifter configuration.  I cannot get the
utility PrepareEmul to work properly if called in my startup-sequence - it
endlessly loops.  I now must call it via a shell and thenlaunch SS.  Aside
from this quirk SS seems to work as well as before but considerably
quicker.  In short I am well pleased with my emulation capabilities now
that the 1260 is installed. 

In summary the Blizzard 1260 is well built, easy to install, transparent to
use once the included software is installed, and generally compatible with
my software at least.  The exceptions that I have noted above are both
games.  If you want speed this provides it in spades.  What it does not do
is change the AGA chip set's capabilities.  If your primary need is more
colors on screen this board will not help you.  If you need computing power
the 1260 is for you.  I like this board and consider it money well spent. 
Ahhh...he finally gets to price.  Yes I have avoided this because in the
realm of Amiga speed has always been expensive and there does not seem a
rhyme or reason as to how to gauge relative value here.  Suffice it to say
that you can expect to pay $900.00 (US) + shipping costs.  If all you need
is a little more speed to play Gloom thats pretty expensive.  If you want
to build a powerful rendering farm then its cheaper and faster than an
A4000.  If you are like me - well I've gained a fast Amiga, a faster Mac
and a reasonably fast PC to boot!  You draw your own conclusions.

Now I realize this is not an exhaustive trial such as a professional
reviewer would do.  However, I believe that I am an "average user" or at
least reasonably so and that the subjective view is what most people want
anyway.  Mips, mflops and megahertz do not mean much to most users and I
have tried to give my first impressions to other "average users".  In the
ensuing weeks I will keep testing the 1260 for compatibility with more
software and some hardware too and will send the results to AR (if they'll
have any more from me that is).  I leave you in the hope this has been of
at least peripheral value to you.