MSX-UNI announced: new MSX2+ board from Brazil

by mjgsantos on 17-02-2007, 20:47
Topic: Hardware
Languages:

Ademir Carchano from MSX Projetos Brazil is widely known for his hardware development such the ACVS MSX2 upgrade kit, MegaRAM, ADVRAM and others. Currently he is developing a new MSX "motherboard" which goes by the title of 'MSX-UNI'. MSX-UNI can be installed on older Brazilian MSX computers (HotBit/Expert) or in a PC desktop.

The MSX-UNI board aims to be an universal board that can be attached to a host-machine like the HotBit, Expert, and so on. The MSX-UNI is a very tiny board, but has all peripherals such as IDE, drive interface, MegaRAM, Memory Mapper, FM and a free space for an SCC chip. All this on a single board. The kit includes a new power supply which can support a floppy drive, hard disk and video out.

The main components of the MSX-UNI board are:

  • MSX2+ with Turbo (up to 21MHz)
  • FM-Stereo
  • Mapper with 4MB
  • Megaram with 2MB
  • Free space for SCC
  • IDE
  • Floppy interface
  • ATA-IDE
  • All the other circuits that are necessary for a complete MSX.

The MSX-UNI is not to be mistaken for the CIEL3++. MSX-UNI is a 100% MSX implementation, with all auxiliary circuits printed on FPGA programmable logic and some basic components, such Z80, VDP, FM, clock and memory installed aside.

The MSX-UNI is expected to be released in May 2007 and will cost around €170,- ($200,-).

Relevant link: Grupo MSX Projetos

Comments (50)

By djh1697

Paragon (1222)

djh1697's picture

17-02-2007, 22:44

does the machine fit in a standard PC case? does it have free MSX cartridge ports ?

By iamweasel2

Champion (460)

iamweasel2's picture

17-02-2007, 23:30

It fits in a standard PC case and has 2 slots for cartridges. The best part is that the 21 mhz z80 is not slowed down when comunicating with IDE and memory (mapper or megaram), only when he's talking with vdp and fm. Smile

By konamiman

Paladin (915)

konamiman's picture

17-02-2007, 23:33

"Microsoft JET Database Engine error '80004005'
System resource exceeded."

Maybe this guy is a master of MSX, but concerning web site development... well... using Access for the database is like using paper to build a parachute Tongue

A little more seriously, I want to have more information about this toy. Having such thing in the PC at job would be veeeery nice LOL!

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

18-02-2007, 03:08

It fits in a standard PC case and has 2 slots for cartridges. The best part is that the 21 mhz z80 is not slowed down when comunicating with IDE and memory (mapper or megaram), only when he's talking with vdp and fm.
This is both good and bad. Its good if its optional but not so good if its always that way because then it would be games that don't run properly. Hopefully there is an option to run the z80 as a standard MSX2+ z80 with the same timing.
In either case it sounds like a very cool board. Can the board be bought with VDP and other periphereals, i.e. as a complete MSX?

By dioniso

Champion (457)

dioniso's picture

18-02-2007, 03:54

Well, when he says "up to 21mhz" is clear to me that, at least, you have two options 3,5 and 21; and maybe more ...

By rflopes2000

Supporter (8)

rflopes2000's picture

18-02-2007, 05:27

Information of the www.msxprojetos.com.br : "clock of work being able to have intermediate values for programming (3.57MHz, 7MHz, 14MHz and 21MHz)". :D

By ro

Guardian (3899)

ro's picture

18-02-2007, 08:09

so, euh it's like the OCM or not?

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

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18-02-2007, 09:49

This sounds more like a real MSX. It has a real VDP, real OPL, ... or did I misunderstand what parts was FPGA and not?

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

18-02-2007, 09:57

If it actually uses real old chips of VDP, Z80, OPL I think this board sounds hundred thousand times more interesting than OCM (for me). The timing and other characteristics would be like an old MSX but you still have all new cool features, all on a small board with nice form factor.

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

18-02-2007, 10:08

Two more questions:

1. Is outs to the VDP timed as the T-9769B MSX engine or as an the MSX engines in an MSX2? I.e. does outs to the VDP take one z80 cycle longer than on an MSX2 machine?

2. Would it be possible to put an TMS9918 VDP on the board in order to make it like an MSX 1 machine?

The reason why I'm asking the first question is that I'm not particulary found of the change Panasonic (or who ever designed the T-9769B engine) did in the out timing on the MSX2+ machines. This breaks timing compability with MSX1 and MSX2 machines. The T-9769C used in TR machines also has this extra z80 cycle on outs to the VDP. Very annoying.

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9572)

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18-02-2007, 11:03

This machine is not an OCM.

By AuroraMSX

Paragon (1899)

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18-02-2007, 12:29

Running babelfish over the page gives:In the main plate all the circuits auxiliary are recorded in FPGA (plan position indicator, IDE, Interface of Drive, Logic of control, etc) and the main components are only in its normal form (CPU, VDP, PSG, FM, Clock, Memories, etc)So, this is definitely not comparable to the OCM. Very nice project, I wonder what it would cost to ship such a board from Brasil to Europe... Smile

By iamweasel2

Champion (460)

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18-02-2007, 14:03

Dvik: Yes, it is different from OCM. The only MSX components you have in FPGA are those that most of the time you want them to work as fast as possible: IDE, Floppy Disk... FM, VDP, Z80, clock are not in FPGA, so you will get the original behaviour, its not an emulation. With the 21 mhz z80, you will be able to set its frequency to multiples of 3.5, 7, 14, 21 mhz. Of course that you won't be able to access the vdp or the fm at 21 mhz (both can't handle a CPU with that frequency, so there will be waits when z80 is dealing with these two and is running at 21 mhz) but you will be able to talk with memory, IDE, Floppy disk at the maximum speed. We are trying to convince Ademir to add ADVRAM to this nice piece of work. In that case, you will also be able to write in VRAM using LDIR, at the maximum speed, which would be great. If he does, that would be optional (and of course it would increase the cost to those that want this feature, but I can't imagine a user who doesn't ) Smile

PS: The VRAM has 192 kb, not the regular 128 kb.

By Bastiaan

Champion (328)

Bastiaan's picture

18-02-2007, 14:31

Soooooo cooool!!!

A new MSX2+ with a lot of advanced goodies inside!
About that free SCC socket: maybe Manuel Pazos can help Ademir finding some new SCC-chips, so that all boards can be shipped with a brand new SCC.....

Are there any pictures of the board/ or maybe of a prototype?
Does the (ATA-)IDE have support for Compact-flash too?

By msd

Paragon (1302)

msd's picture

18-02-2007, 15:34

Amazing nobody complained about the 4MB yet.. Lets keep it that way!

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9572)

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18-02-2007, 15:40

what about the cas port? Hannibal

By poke-1,170

Paragon (1742)

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18-02-2007, 16:49

also, on their site they have an fm cartridge... would this be an fm-pac ?

By msd

Paragon (1302)

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18-02-2007, 18:49

Fm-pac is only made by panasonic.. could be a msx-music cart Tongue

By realpeterjack

Champion (417)

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19-02-2007, 07:04

I made a translation for the specifications page:

http://eggerland.googlepages.com/msx-uni

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

19-02-2007, 07:54

It sounds very interesting. I hope worldwide shipping will be available or perhaps someone in Brazil that can act as an agent.

By realpeterjack

Champion (417)

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19-02-2007, 09:33

And it will be much more affordable to buy than the OCM here in Brazil. The price for it (whatever it is) doubles for importing it here. MSX-UNI is being announced for R$530, without shipment (some US$275).

By poke-1,170

Paragon (1742)

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19-02-2007, 15:55

that's quite a bit of shipment costs....

By Ivan

Ascended (8985)

Ivan's picture

20-02-2007, 00:01

Nice machine but I still prefer the OCM: it has similar specs but comes with case, user manuals, boxed and it is a small and handy device. I don't want just a board to insert it into a PC case...

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

20-02-2007, 00:36

I also like the OCM is cased. Its indeed a very convenient device. It would be cool to see this one sold in a similar case too.
But the UNI has something the OCM will never have, accurate MSX execution. Whatever people say, the OCM will never be as accurate as the real components, I'm very sorry to say so but believe me I'm quite good at emulation and know its strengths and limitations. I think the MSX-UNI is a perfect balance of what's real components and what is made in FPGA. Sounds a bit pricey though but I think its absolutely worth it.

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

20-02-2007, 00:42

Its very cool to see two new devices with similar specification but with very different design approach. One from the big all mighty and one from the scene.

Btw, what about naming. Is it legal to call the MSX-UNI an MSX?

By iamweasel2

Champion (460)

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20-02-2007, 02:37

Ivan: since the motherboard of MSX-UNI is small, you can remove the board of the OCM and put MSX-UNI inside the OCM's case. By doing that, you will fix all the compatibility problems of OCM and will still keep the beautiful blue case. Tongue

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

20-02-2007, 03:03

I made a little mini comparison of the OCM and the UNI and here are the results:

 
                    OCM        UNI
MSX accuracy:        0          5
Casing:              5          0
Coolness factor:     5          5
--------------------------------------
Total:              10         10

So its a dead heat. Both scored 10 points. Congrats to both the OCM and the UNI, you are both winners!!!

By SLotman

Paragon (1189)

SLotman's picture

20-02-2007, 06:56

Heh, Ademir was just on IRC today making some tests with a prototype... let me just say that this thing at 18Mhz (just for a test at this speed) leaves a turbo-R in the dust!

We timed both file copying, and program execution (using basic progs with lot's of sin/cos/multiplications) and in every test was like this:

turbo-R (with r800 on) - 20 secs
MSX-Uni proto - 7 secs

Yes, every test took less then HALF the turbo-r time on UNI, and this without *any* processor specific code to take advantage of the tested Z180 CPU (while in the turbo-r the basic uses the MUL thing from r800) - note: the Z180 CPU is not a sure thing, he was just testing the possibility of using it...

And actually, R$530 = (+-) USD 255, not USD 275... or 193 euros... much cheaper than the OCM - and I believe Ademir said the price could drop, if he sold more than 120 units Smile

A shame I don't have the money to get one for me Sad

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

20-02-2007, 07:09

Very intersting data SLotman.

I'm still very interested in knowing more details about timing, e.g.

1. Does the chosen z80 the same timing characteristics as a Z80A
2. Is the extra M cycle added to instructions (and more if its DD, ED, ... instructions)
3. Does VDP outs have an extra 1-cycle delay as many MSX2+ machines

These questions are quite important to me.

By NYYRIKKI

Enlighted (4652)

NYYRIKKI's picture

20-02-2007, 09:36

(while in the turbo-r the basic uses the MUL thing from r800)
This is bullshit... Unless you download "tR speed up tools" from my site (msx.fi/nyyrikki) ... Even after that they do not help in SIN / COS or floating point calculations.

Anyway back to the point... This board sounds extremely great! It seems, that I'm gonna have to spend quite a lot of money on my MSX hobby this year. :P

By konamiman

Paladin (915)

konamiman's picture

20-02-2007, 09:49

I have questions too:

1) What type of keyboard can be used? PS2, USB, any?
2) Why is Z180 being considered instead of, say, Z380?
3) How can I convince my wife to let me buy one? Smile2

By msd

Paragon (1302)

msd's picture

20-02-2007, 17:35

z380 is not available anymore iirc

By poke-1,170

Paragon (1742)

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20-02-2007, 18:02

easy konamiman... you will pick up salsadancing with her, like she's been whining about for ages...

compromise Wink

By konamiman

Paladin (915)

konamiman's picture

20-02-2007, 18:47

What she wants is the Doraemon magic door so that she can go to Japan whenever she wants, for free and instantly... maybe Ademir can build one? Tongue

By poke-1,170

Paragon (1742)

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20-02-2007, 19:01

haha whenever that door is finished, let me know... I know some people who I'd love to kick through that door to the other side of the world lol Tongue

By Bart

Paragon (1423)

Bart's picture

20-02-2007, 20:48

When editing the submitted newspost I edited the part where it becomes more obvious that MSX-UNI is a sort of master/slave set-up. You buy the MSX-UNI motherboard (master) which comes with a power supply and one (or more, depending on your 'slave') second board(s) called the "base board". The base board(s) has to be installed in a computer you already own (the slave, from which you have to remove existing boards, etc. I guess). The base board(s) has to be adapted to this computer. The website talks of different Brazilian MSX models and possibly PC casings which can be used to built-in the whole MSX-UNI computer. I didn't make this clear enough in the newpost I think. A full translation of the specifications page was made by Realpeterjack and can be found here: http://eggerland.googlepages.com/msx-uni

By realpeterjack

Champion (417)

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21-02-2007, 03:58

Very intersting data SLotman.

I'm still very interested in knowing more details about timing, e.g.

1. Does the chosen z80 the same timing characteristics as a Z80A
2. Is the extra M cycle added to instructions (and more if its DD, ED, ... instructions)
3. Does VDP outs have an extra 1-cycle delay as many MSX2+ machines

These questions are quite important to me.
In a quick internet search, I found the following information at Zilog's website:

(...)The Z180 family adds higher performance, which is obtained by virtue of higher clock speeds, reduced instruction execution times, an enhanced instruction set, and an on-chip memory management unit (MMU) with the capability of addressing up to 1MB of memory.(...)
The bold was added by me. The address for the reference is http://www.zilog.com/products/family.asp?fam=219

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

21-02-2007, 07:10

Hmm, this is quite bad news to be honest. If the chosen Z80 doesn't have the same number of cycles per instruction as the old Z80 used in MSX, I think this device is quite useless. Sorry to be so blunt but if this is the case I don't see the MSX-UNI as a very useful device. I sure hope the final UNI design include a Z80A cycle compatible processor.

By ARTRAG

Enlighted (5828)

ARTRAG's picture

21-02-2007, 09:20

download here:
http://www.zilog.com/download/default.asp?type=doc&name=UM0050&prevpage=/products/partdetails.asp?id=Z80180&qs=1173
and go at page 252 (in the pdf),
you'll see the cycles/states of the instruction set in the z180
BTW
at first glance not all instructions have reduced cycle number

By SLotman

Paragon (1189)

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21-02-2007, 16:42

Guys, the Z180 *WAS A TEST* not the final processor chosen... chill out... Ademir is considering everything, from normal Z80, to eZ80 or Z382, or maybe something else he hasn't told us about Wink

Also, regarding the keyboard, when used on Hotbit/Expert cases, UNI will support keyboard from those, for PC cases, it will have a PC-adapter (probably PS2)

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

21-02-2007, 17:53

Guys, the Z180 *WAS A TEST* not the final processor chosen... chill out... Ademir is considering everything, from normal Z80, to eZ80 or Z382, or maybe something else he hasn't told us about
Great to hear SLotman Smile I got a bit concerned for a short while Wink

By snout

Ambassador (15167)

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21-02-2007, 17:56

Perhaps it's a good thing not to think black&white when it comes to MSX. There's many shades of grey, you know Wink

By dvik

Prophet (2176)

dvik's picture

21-02-2007, 18:57

Perhaps it's a good thing not to think black&white when it comes to MSX. There's many shades of grey, you know
Aboslutely. I think for 95% of all MSXers the OCM and MSX-UNI would be just great. They both (more so maybe the OCM) provide a very easy way of playing MSX games and demos on a real hw device and thats great. The thing I want (which may be asking too much) is to get a device with the same ease of use that I can use for MSX development. I guess I'm a bit jealous of the users that don't need cycle accuracy.

I think many users active on MRC like to develop MSX apps so the criticism or concerns you see here is most likely not representative as an average MSXer. I know this for sure by looking at the users of blueMSX. There are tens of thousands of downloads of each release and I highly doubt all of them develop new MSX games Wink

But when you post news of this significance (yes I think this and the OCM is among the coolest things that happened in a long while on the MSX scene) you need to be prepared for some skepticism because the people here are more than just an average MSXer. Take that as a good thing Smile

By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (109)

anonymous's picture

22-02-2007, 10:17

Very nice to hear about new hardware developments. I think from commercial point of view it will be more interesting to put a faster CPU in this board like z180 or ez80 (these CPUs are a good compromise between costs and performance).
The reason is that it will be compared with the best MSX machine available (Turbo R) and if it's, for example, twice as fast then that's a additional reason to buy it for a lot of people.

About the CPU cycle issue, if 90% of the MSX software works(like Turbo R) then if would be good enough for most people.

Especially for dvik Wink What about 2 cpus like (again) Turbo R for compatibility reasons, lets say eZ80 (as main CPU) and a Z80? or at least a optional z80 CPU board for people who want 99% compatibility?

Faster MSX computers could boost MSX software development.
1. More complex software is possible.
2. Developers who are not gifted with assembly knowledge(like myself Sad ) have the possibility to create software that has the same
complexity as current assembly code on MSX.
3. Developing software takes les time (tweaking is not always necessary) so more software is the result.

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9572)

wolf_'s picture

22-02-2007, 11:06

eek, wh0 are you? Tongue

3. Developing software takes les time (tweaking is not always necessary) so more software is the result.

Murphey's law will dictate that with increased specs, ppl will try more ambitious products, and thus in the end it will all take the same amount of time, if not more.. Hannibal

By ivke2006

Resident (53)

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22-02-2007, 12:26

Wolf_: I'm Hanz Kazan, do you want to see an other trick? Big smile

Very strange than my name was not posted with the message...mhhh...

About your comment about point 3: Your propably right but at least it's a choice that can be made. Smile

By Nautilus

Expert (74)

Nautilus's picture

22-02-2007, 14:21

Really cool release! But I think OneChip MSX is a better option for me.

By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (109)

anonymous's picture

22-02-2007, 20:23

IMHO the more specs you have -> less fun to code...

It's funnier to think how to code new routines for the original MSXs, with their limitations TongueTongue

Nice to see a new MSX board Big smile

By SLotman

Paragon (1189)

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23-02-2007, 14:08

I dont think that's true... I have as much fun doing 3D games on PC, than I have doing 2D games on my MSX Hannibal

Ok, MSX is cooler to program for, but because the way it can be programmed and it's resources, not because it's hardware has more/less limitations than others Tongue

By msd

Paragon (1302)

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25-02-2007, 13:19

I would like to see some pictures of the pcb

My MSX profile