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REVIEW: Commodore Amiga 1200 computer

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From: [email protected] (Jeff Easton)
Subject: REVIEW: Commodore Amiga 1200 computer
Followup-To: comp.sys.amiga.hardware
Date: 3 Jan 1993 04:21:17 GMT
Organization: The Amiga Online Review Column - ed. Daniel Barrett
Lines: 233
Sender: [email protected] ( moderator)
Distribution: world
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Reply-To: [email protected] (Jeff Easton)
Keywords: hardware, system, A1200, commercial


	Commodore Amiga 1200 computer


	Commodore's latest release, the A1200, packs most of the features of
the A4000 into the keyboard.  Sporting a 68EC020 CPU, AGA chipset and 2 MB
of Chip RAM and selling for $599.00, the unit hits the mark for the home
buyer looking for a good product at a reasonable cost.


	Name:		Commodore Business Machines
	Address:	1200 Wilson Drive
			West Chester, PA  19380

			(Non-USA readers should contact the branch of
			Commodore in their country.)

	Telephone:	(215) 431-9100


	$599.00 (US dollars)


	The A1200 is Commodore's newest Amiga personal computer.  It is
based on the new AGA graphics chipset first seen in the A4000 series.  The
system comes packed into a keyboard console similar to the A600.  Imagine a
A600 unit that includes a numeric keypad and cursor keys and you will have a
picture of the A1200.  The CPU used is the 68EC020, and the system comes
standard with 2 MB of chip memory.  All the usual ports are on the back
panel, and there is a trap door expansion slot on the bottom of the unit.
One 880K floppy drive is on the right side of the unit, and a PCMCIA
expansion slot is on the left.


	The A1200 system comes in a white box measuring 23" x 17" x 6"
(inches) with the "Commodore Amiga 1200" logos printed on it.  Additionally,
on the front face of the carton is a checklist area for the configuration
of the computer inside.  Check boxes are available for the following
eight configurations;

	No HDD          60 MB
	200 MB          40 MB
	120 MB          20 MB
	80 MB           __ MB

	Inside, the A1200 console is wrapped in an anti-static bag with foam
endcaps securing it in the front of the carton.  Directly behind the
console, a cardboard inner box contains the external "brick" power supply,
the mouse, a 15' coaxial cable with RCA plugs on both ends, and a TV antenna
switch box.  Underneath the CPU is the manual pack containing the A1200
Users Guide, the Workbench 3.0 Users Guide, an Errata Sheet on the video
adapter, and a disk pack.  The disk pack contains 5 disks from the WB 3.0
set; Workbench, Storage, Extras, Fonts, and Locale.  Packed on top of the
CPU is an envelope containing the warranty registration card, and a seven
page stapled "AGA Graphics Supplement".


	The documentation consists of the A1200 Users Guide and the
Workbench 3.0 Users Guide.  Additionally there are two errata sheets.

	The A1200 Users Guide is a 40-page booklet that describes setting up
and using the hardware.  Chapters are provided on the following subjects;

	Quick Connect
	Getting Started
	Before Expanding Your System
	Using PCMCIA Cards
	Help With System Problems
	Technical Specifications
	Input/Output Connector Pin Assignments
	Using Floppy Disks
	Amiga Character Set

There are no schematics provided.

	The manual does a decent job of telling the user how to set up and
use the system.  It is interesting to note that in several places the manual
alludes to a "Factory Installed FPU" option and that "Chip RAM on 1 MB
machines can be expanded to 2 MB of 32 bit memory with an internal expansion
module.  This expansion module can also contain a battery backed clock
calendar."  More on this later.

	The Workbench 3.0 Users Guide is the standard manual from the 3.0
manual pack.  Note that this is the only manual included.  No Amiga DOS 3.0,
AREXX or Amiga Hard Drive manual was included.  This may be because I bought
the no HDD model though.

	The first errata sheet, printed in 10 different languages, basically
says that your A1200 does not come with the 23-pin-to-15-pin monitor adapter
mentioned in the Users Guide.  It can be ordered from your dealer.  Since I
needed the adapter, I had my dealer include one for an additional $15.00.

	The second errata document is a seven page supplement that tries to
explain the AGA video modes and the monitor types.  Its a good thing they
provided this, as the other manuals often completely ignored parts of this


	The software provided was the standard Workbench 3.0 disk pack, with
the notable exception of not providing an Install disk.  Without this disk,
the user is incapable of adding a hard disk to his system at a later date.
I will assume that the HDD configured models come with this disk.

	Since I was installing my own hard disk, I brought along my copy of
the Workbench 2.1 upgrade disk pack which contains an Install disk.  Thus I
was able to run HD Toolbox and the 2.1 Install script to partition the drive
and install 2.1.  I'm not looking forward to manually installing 3.0.

	In Commodore's defense, the hard disk installation is supposed to be
performed at a dealer.  It would be nice if they provided the Install disk
just for completeness though.


	The 23-watt switching power supply "brick" is rather large for its
capacity, measuring 6" x 4" x 3".  The power switch is on the brick, not the
CPU.  I haven't taken the unit apart yet, but I'm assuming that it's half
empty inside.  The unit is very lightweight for its size.  I'm familiar
with laptop computer PSU's that are half the size and twice the capacity.

	The mouse shipped with the A1200 looks similar to the A600 mouse,
except that it isn't the A600 mouse.  It has a mushy feel to the key
switches, reminiscent of the original mouse shipped with the A1000.  It is
molded in the new "off white" color to match the A1200 case (as well as the
A600 and A4000).

	The main CPU looks like an A600 that has been stretched to include a
full keyboard.

	The keyboard used has an International layout where there are two
extra keycaps: one located next to the Return key (now a reverse P style
instead of the normal (for the US) reverse L), and the other located next to
the left Shift key which has been shortened to accommodate it.  I'm not sure
why Commodore chose to start this trend with the A1200.  The A600 still uses
the US style Return key and I would assume that both keyboards are made by
the same vendor.  The US A1200 keyboard does have the proper symbols on the
keycaps, unlike the A1200 pictured in Amiga World which had the English
pound sign, etc.

	As noted earlier, the 880K floppy drive is on the right side and the
PCMCIA port is on the left.  On the back panel, from left to right, are:
5-pin square power connector, RF modulator RCA jack, Composite video RCA
jack, DB23 pin video connector, L and R audio RCA jacks, Parallel port,
Serial port, Disk drive port, Game port 2 and Mouse port 1.  Also on the
back panel next to the mouse port is a removable panel that can accommodate
up to a DB25 port (SCSI anyone? :-)).  It looks like the card with the
connector is inserted from the back, with a connecting cable snaking under
the disk drive to the interface card plugged in the bottom trap door slot.
A screw hole is provided to secure the board.

	On the bottom of the unit is a pop out panel that reveals the trap
door expansion area.  A 200 pin edge card connector is provided on the
motherboard that the expansion board must plug into.  This expansion
connector contains all the CPU signals plus some, unlike the A500 which only
contained enough address and data lines for the 512k expansion.  It is
feasible that a memory/SCSI/CPU expansion card could live here.  The only
problem is that the board area is limited to roughly 6" x 3".  This severely
limits what you can put on a card.

	To open up the unit, five screws must be removed from the bottom:
three along the front edge and one on each side.  Removing the top of the
case and moving aside the keyboard reveals the main board.  It is covered by
a "cookie sheet" RFI shield, with the exception of an access hole for the
two ROM's and another for the hard disk IDE connector.

	In the center of the board is a small plate that is held down by two
tabs.  Bending these tabs up and removing the plate reveals an access hole
for the Chip memory and real time clock on the main board.  Clearly visible
on the motherboard are the component pads for a real time clock and battery,
but they are not populated.  A micro header is located at one end of the
access hole, presumably where a real time clock upgrade might plug in.  At
the other end, another header location is visible, although this one is
depopulated.  A guess would be that if it was a 1 MB unit, this connector
would bring up additional signals for a combined clock/1 MB module.  Since
my unit had 2 MB of memory soldered to the motherboard, this socket was
useless and thus was not populated.

	The hard disk bracket was included, and it doubles as a keyboard
support.  It was a simple operation to remove the bracket and install a 2.5"
IDE drive on it.  You will need a 1" long ribbon cable with the proper micro
spacing connectors to plug the drive into the connector on the motherboard.
I would strongly advise against anyone trying to build a converting cable to
a 3.5" IDE HDD and running it out to an external drive.  The interface
connector is on the left end of the motherboard and the access panel is on
the right end.  This would require a cable at least 2 feet long and would
severely impact the signal integrity.  A better solution would be to wait
for a future SCSI module to be designed by the likes of GVP.

	I did not see any evidence of a FPU socket or pads for one.  It may
be on another part of the motherboard that was obscured by the RFI shield.


	I'll let others perform some benchmarks.  I'm of the opinion that
any benchmarks I performed would be nearly worthless.  They would test the
speed of my hard drive and would not be representative of whatever hard
drive Commodore shipped.

	I can say that the system feels pretty snappy, but that's probably
due to the AGA chip set and has been noted by others with A4000's.

  ___  ___    Jeff Easton             [email protected]
 (__  (__     Zenith Data Systems     [email protected]
 ___) ___)    Saint Joseph, Mich.     [email protected]
Monte Carlo   Z-LS/20 - Choice of a quiet generation


   Daniel Barrett, Moderator,
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