TheA500 Mini Review – ComputerBase

With TheA500 Mini, Retro Games releases the third Emu console after TheVIC20 and TheC64, which supports other models besides the Amiga 500. The technical implementation is convincing in many respects, but the almost no joystick support greatly reduces the retro feel.

The Amiga – a story that almost ended differently

The story of Amiga’s origins is no less confusing and intriguing than its “superbrother”, the Commodore C64, dating back to the early 1980s. At the time, a group of enthusiasts gathered around chip designer Jay Miner, who had just left his position at Atari. There, he was significantly involved in the development of the Atari VCS 2600 gaming console in the form of the TIA, which combined up to 150 of the chips that were then installed in arcade machines on a single processor. He also worked on Atari 400 and Atari 800 home computers.

After traveling in 1981 and taking a detour through Zymos, which manufactured chips for pacemakers, he founded the company “Hi-Toro”, which would later be renamed “Amiga”. The goal was to use this to create a powerful yet affordable computer for both home and everyday use in the office, which could be expanded with several external devices. In order to raise the necessary funds for the development, Hi-Toro manufactured accessories in the form of game cartridges and controllers for the VCS 2600. But as the cost of the “Lorraine” project, as the Amiga was called internally, rose steadily, Atari was won as a sponsor. The chip development of the prototype was to be further funded with the $ 500,000 received. However, the agreement had a small but crucial side note: If the borrowed amount could not be repaid before June 30, 1984, the chips and their technology would become Atari’s property – an entirely valuable business for the company. In order for the project to continue, the Amiga was finally sold to Commodore and the amount owed was paid on the due date.

Finally, in 1985, the market launch of the Amiga 1000 took place, which was not very successful due to the rather unclear scope and errors in the marketing. This only changed when Commodore introduced the Amiga 500 and Amiga 2000 models in 1987. The former was intended to succeed the C64 and was therefore designed more for games and light applications, while the latter was aimed at professional users.

If you want to learn more about the history of Commodore Amiga, we recommend the documentation “Die Amiga-Story”, which can be found on YouTube and from time to time in the ZDF media library and provides a much deeper insight into the development than is possible here in the short section.

TheA500 Mini – design, craftsmanship and content

If the new offspring from Retro Games, which is currently being offered at a suggested retail price of 130 euros, is removed from the packaging, many buyers will probably get an “it’s sweet” feeling. At 21 × 14.5 cm (W × D), the model is less than a quarter of the size of its larger model, which is still 47 × 33 cm. Nevertheless, it looks like the original for confusion. Even the pseudo-cooling fins are thought of, although they are arranged a little differently on the underside than on the original. The biggest difference lies in the letters embedded in the case, which still contained the designation “AMIGA” on the Commodore computer and was probably changed to “TheA500” on the mini version for licensing reasons. The logo below and the letters “Commodore A500” have also been omitted and replaced by the Mini logo. The LED lights located below give the new version flair of the original. After turning on, the power LED offers the user in what feels like the same red as in the first edition of the Amiga 500.

A500 Mini in review

As with the mini version of TheC64, the keyboard is a dummy – none of the mini keys have a function. This is similar to the US version with QWERTY layout. In Germany, similar devices were sold with resonance, that is, in a QWERTZ arrangement. However, a keyboard can be connected and used with TheA500.

Fewer connections

The floppy disk drive is listed on the right side of the cabinet, which also has no function due to size alone. Nevertheless, it would have been interesting if the manufacturer had used the apartment and installed a slot for memory cards in SD format instead, to relieve the USB ports. There are three of these, all located on the back of the Mini. External peripherals such as the included gamepad or tank mouse, which are also included in the kit, can be connected to it. The latter is based on “Freundin”, but is also smaller and is no longer equipped with a ball, but with an optical sensor for motion detection.

A card slot would have looked good on the specified floppy disk drive
A card slot would have looked good on the specified floppy disk drive

If you own TheC64 Mini or the larger TheC64 (test) with a working keyboard, you can also connect the replica of the classic Competition Pro or your own controller. Most input devices from other manufacturers should also work, only with Xbox One should there be problems. Due to the lack of a similar pillow, no further information can be given about this.

The series includes a copy of the Tank Mouse and a gamepad
The series includes a copy of the Tank Mouse and a gamepad

The back also houses the power switch and the USB power plug. While the manufacturer still relied on a microform factor connection for TheC64, the new representative uses USB-C. A similar cable is included with the set, but the user must provide the power himself – according to the manufacturer, 5 V and 1 A should be sufficient. Of course, the HDMI interface and cable should not be missing for connection to a monitor or TV. TheA500 Mini does not have a separate audio output, which can sometimes lead to problems. More on that later.

The A500 Mini offers 3 × USB and an HDMI as connections
The A500 Mini offers 3 × USB and an HDMI as connections

Gamepad deviation

The savvy retro fan will have noticed the controller, simply called “TheGamepad” by Retro Games, which at the time was neither included in the Amiga 500 nor the Amiga 600 and Amiga 1200, which was also emulated but belonged in a similar design as the Commodore CD³². This promising console, which had a short lifespan due to Commodore’s demise, which was already evident at the time, and the consequent lack of marketing, was in turn based on the Amiga 1200, which possibly closes the circle. Why the kit comes with such a controller and not a joystick will be explained later.

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