New MSX FPGA board by 8bits4ever

New MSX FPGA board by 8bits4ever

by PAC on 06-05-2018, 18:42
Topic: Hardware
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At the end of last year we reported about a new Zemmix FPGA MSX by 8bits4ever and today, just 5 months later, they are back with a new MSX computer also based on FPGA technology. Some weeks ago they launched a poll on their website and the community chosen a mini-ITX MSX FPGA board as a winner. The technical specifications are as follows:

  • Same features than Zemmix Neo.
  • KdL firmware compatible.
  • The board will fit into any ATX/ITX PC case, can use any ATX/Pico PSU (20 or 24 pins) and have headers for regular PC connexions like power button/led, USB, audio, etc.
  • The cartridge slots can be extended outside the case with an extension cable/board (pending)
  • The unit can also use a regular DC power supply (2.5mm barrel type).
  • It features connectors for VGA/RGB (with scanlines generator), composite video, joystick, 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card and PS/2 keyboard. External USB/audio/joystick2 are available through pin headers.

They are open to comments and suggestions so please contact them here.

Relevant link:New MSX FPGA board by 8bits4ever

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Comments (34)

By hamlet

Scribe (1693)

hamlet's picture

06-05-2018, 20:56

What a nice surprise!

By Meits

Scribe (5071)

Meits's picture

06-05-2018, 21:59

Curious what this would cost since it's VERY tempting to sign up for one.

By syn

Paragon (1862)

syn's picture

06-05-2018, 22:10

Have you made any changes/improvements in the sound circuitry? I've read some comments about noise in the zemmix neo clone.

By zett

Champion (428)

zett's picture

06-05-2018, 23:24

lovely size. nice and easyer to print a case around this.
How far is Kdl's firmware to be msx2+?
and would there be a top view board layout image with info?

By Meits

Scribe (5071)

Meits's picture

07-05-2018, 00:25

I've never had any MSX2+ issues with KdL's firmware on the OCM so I bet this one is just MSX2+ as well...

I did have sound issues on the OCM and heard that the different Zemmix ones were nothing better. This issue should be addressed. Making the error once (Ese) is a pity, making the error twice (the 1st zemmix) is a bit of a silly pity, making the error for the third time (the second zemmix) is kind of bad. (how many different zemmix were there?). Making the error again would be a reason to either not buy it or rma it.

Good thing to know: Will there be a backplate?

By 8bits4ever

Resident (34)

8bits4ever's picture

07-05-2018, 01:12

Hey guys! Thanks for the feedback.

About your questions:
-The cost should be the same as the Zemmix (130-140€ + shipping) as is basically the same, but ultimately the price will be dictated by the demand; the more units we can produce, the cheaper it gets.
-There is no changes in the audio circuit but if someone wants to get in contact with us about it we can try to make it better. We've improved the power supply section so electric noise should have been hopefully reduced.
-We will make a product page with more pictures and details but bare in mind we are still a bit far from release.
-There will be a 3d printed ATX backplate.
-We are not going to make 3D printed cases as the whole idea is to use PC cases. There are many sizes to choose from: mini-ITX, micro-ATX, ATX, etc.

Cheers!

By KdL

Paragon (1115)

KdL's picture

07-05-2018, 07:37

8bits4ever wrote:

Hey guys! Thanks for the feedback.
-There is no changes in the audio circuit but if someone wants to get in contact with us about it we can try to make it better. We've improved the power supply section so electric noise should have been hopefully reduced.

The audio amplitude will be fine from OCM-PLD v3.6 and later. The issue was inside the VHDL code.

By DarkSchneider

Paladin (716)

DarkSchneider's picture

07-05-2018, 08:03

The worst part is that I already purchased a Zemmix (indeed to 8bits4ever) few time ago. A MSX looking like a PC is tempting but 2 Zemmix in a few months is not possible Crying

By Pencioner

Hero (648)

Pencioner's picture

07-05-2018, 09:15

KdL wrote:

The audio amplitude will be fine from OCM-PLD v3.6 and later. The issue was inside the VHDL code.

Good news! Looking forward to it Smile

By spl

Paragon (1461)

spl's picture

07-05-2018, 10:44

8bits4ever wrote:

Hey guys! Thanks for the feedback.

About your questions:
-The cost should be the same as the Zemmix (130-140€ + shipping) as is basically the same, but ultimately the price will be dictated by the demand; the more units we can produce, the cheaper it gets.
-There is no changes in the audio circuit but if someone wants to get in contact with us about it we can try to make it better. We've improved the power supply section so electric noise should have been hopefully reduced.
-We will make a product page with more pictures and details but bare in mind we are still a bit far from release.
-There will be a 3d printed ATX backplate.
-We are not going to make 3D printed cases as the whole idea is to use PC cases. There are many sizes to choose from: mini-ITX, micro-ATX, ATX, etc.

Cheers!

That's a great idea! Smile

By zett

Champion (428)

zett's picture

07-05-2018, 13:10

yeah my printer could make a nice case for this. Big smile

By 8bits4ever

Resident (34)

8bits4ever's picture

07-05-2018, 18:16

Here are some pictures of possible setups:

By enribar

Paladin (960)

enribar's picture

07-05-2018, 19:49

One question: is that an IDE connector? So could we have IDE support integrated into FPGA?

By NYYRIKKI

Enlighted (5013)

NYYRIKKI's picture

07-05-2018, 20:40

8bits4ever wrote:

-There will be a 3d printed ATX backplate.
-We are not going to make 3D printed cases as the whole idea is to use PC cases.

I think it would be good idea to print also some plastic support around the MSX cartridge connectors to keep the cartridges mounted firmly upright and preventing upside down mounting... This could be selectable option.

By zett

Champion (428)

zett's picture

07-05-2018, 21:40

Big smile nice that first image! but no updated bigger fpga? not one with extra space for future hardware?

By Josevil

Expert (100)

Josevil's picture

07-05-2018, 21:58

enribar wrote:

One question: is that an IDE connector? So could we have IDE support integrated into FPGA?

Pues tiene toda la pinta de scsi ,aunque no se cita en las caracteristicas .

By Haze

Expert (87)

Haze's picture

07-05-2018, 22:04

I can see from the concepts that one of the joystick ports is routed to the back of the case. But I think it might also be interesting if the joystick ports and/or cartridge slots could be routed to something on the front?

Like one of those front panel USB hubs: https://nl.aliexpress.com/item/4-Port-USB-3-0-Front-Panel-HU...

By Meits

Scribe (5071)

Meits's picture

07-05-2018, 22:43

If I happen to buy this very nice board, I'm afraid I have to buy yet another slot expander to go inside the case. Loads of stuff can be put inside.
Leading a slot to the outside of a case, best done in a 5.25" bay, is still quite some hassle, but very much worth it.

By hamlet

Scribe (1693)

hamlet's picture

08-05-2018, 12:05

Josevil wrote:
enribar wrote:

One question: is that an IDE connector? So could we have IDE support integrated into FPGA?

Pues tiene toda la pinta de scsi ,aunque no se cita en las caracteristicas .

No SCSI please. The IDE would be a great improvement.

By 8bits4ever

Resident (34)

8bits4ever's picture

08-05-2018, 12:30

NYYRIKKI wrote:

I think it would be good idea to print also some plastic support around the MSX cartridge connectors to keep the cartridges mounted firmly upright and preventing upside down mounting... This could be selectable option.

Yes, actually we will make a plastic piece that goes also beneth the cart slots so the board doesnt flex when the cartridge is inserted. So its completely possible to make a plastic piece that surrounds the connectors on the upper side too.
This being said, we like to keep 3D printed parts to the minimum. From the experience with the Zemmix, 3D printing is too slow to meet the demand.

enribar wrote:

One question: is that an IDE connector? So could we have IDE support integrated into FPGA?

That is the connector for the external cartridge slot caddy, so no IDE/SCSI. Why would you add IDE if the board already has a SD slot for mass storage?

By enribar

Paladin (960)

enribar's picture

08-05-2018, 19:02

CD-ROMs are cheap and always-ready medias to store and fetch data.
Copy several times different files on SD is frustrating... so the native IDE support is very welcome, to me.

By Meits

Scribe (5071)

Meits's picture

08-05-2018, 19:28

Will the SD connector of a pc case be connectable to this board? That would be very practical.

By 8bits4ever

Resident (34)

8bits4ever's picture

09-05-2018, 12:08

Meits wrote:

Will the SD connector of a pc case be connectable to this board? That would be very practical.

Indeed it would but,

The problem is most of SD slots on a PC case (those 3.5'' multi-readers) are USB devices and would not work with this board (or any OCM clone for that matter). So you cannot use those.

If we want to extend the SD card slot to the front of a PC case, a small board has to be made together with some sort of case to fix it to the PC drive bay, and of course the cable extension. It is possible but again, this will add more production costs to something not everybody will use.

Whats more likely is we add a header for connecting one of those arduino SD modules. Something like this:
https://www.ebay.es/itm/Micro-SD-Storage-Board-TF-Card-Reade...

By Meits

Scribe (5071)

Meits's picture

09-05-2018, 13:22

If you add a header for that board, the value increases as more parts on the case it's designed for will become usable.

This could be a possible solution as well. One just needs to do some manual modding of the pc case. Shouldn't be rocket science.

By SkalTura

Master (179)

SkalTura's picture

10-05-2018, 07:04

So it's sort of a 1Chip MSX, but in a different format ?

By dumfrog

Rookie (31)

dumfrog's picture

10-05-2018, 15:08


...only if you ship to France (?) ;)

By hbarcellos

Hero (556)

hbarcellos's picture

26-05-2018, 21:37

There's quite a lot of debate about FPGA v.s. emulation v.s. the real thing.
My question would be: In a blind test between the three:
1) Real MSX, FPGA like Zemmix and openMSX, which one would get closer to a real MSX?

By Philip

Champion (357)

Philip's picture

27-05-2018, 15:31

This will look good in this case:

(Excuse the crappy Gimp skills :) )

By Parn

Champion (304)

Parn's picture

28-05-2018, 14:50

hbarcellos wrote:

There's quite a lot of debate about FPGA v.s. emulation v.s. the real thing.
My question would be: In a blind test between the three:
1) Real MSX, FPGA like Zemmix and openMSX, which one would get closer to a real MSX?

This kind of debate is a bit nonsensical, IMHO.

Say you have an IC which implements a logic gate. You can put this IC in your circuit. Now say this IC isn't available anymore, for whatever reason. You can put discrete components at its place to perform the same function. Do you call these discrete components a logic gate emulator? I don't think so. Say someone implements the logic gate using programmable logic and you put this implementation in your circuit. This is not an emulator, this is just another implementation of the same circuit.

Of course, when you talk about much more complex pieces of hardware like CPUs, video and sound chips, the implementation complexity grows exponentially. This makes it possible that the implementation itself may be incomplete or imperfect, which doesn't detract from the fact that it really is another implementation, not some kind of emulation. MSX-Engines reimplement a lot of MSX chips functionality with varying levels of fidelity (and even some different, missed or added features) and no one dares to call them emulators.

So this blind test doesn't really say much about what is closer to a "real MSX". You could find, for example, that openMSX is "closer" to a "real MSX" than an actual real MSX, depending on whatever you consider to be the baseline. For example, if you compare an MSX with the Toshiba T6950 VDP with a generic MSX1 on openMSX, you can find the later to be "closer to a real MSX" because its colors may look more like what you remember, since you probably aren't used to its different palette (color 9, for example, is clearly more vivid on a T6950 than on a TMS9918).

Similarly, if you test VDP timings you may find openMSX to be more perfect than Zemmix Neo, while if you test sound Zemmix Neo may sound more authentic since you can hear the processing noise. It's not as clear cut as you may think. And this is to be expected, since the MSX hardware specs support enough variety that this whole discussion is moot. All MSXs are not created equal. Some have different VDPs, some have different PSGs, some have different CPUs and some of these are implemented in FPGA, which doesn't make them "less real".

I hope you can appreciate my point of view. Sorry about the wall of text.

By hbarcellos

Hero (556)

hbarcellos's picture

28-05-2018, 23:37

I think it's a great point of view. Maybe we're all focusing on the wrong question. The point is not about emulation V.S. implementation. The real point is: accuracy. As you say, some MSX engines are also not accurate between them, so, the baseline is also very important.
In the end, for my point of view at least, the easier it is to reverse engineer and re-code (re-implement) something, the more faithful it would be.
So, at least for me a Zemmix or OCM is completely non-sense: You have something that's harder to code, so, probably less accurate to what you remember. Not to mention crappy USB Keyboards and so on.

Anyway, just my point of view.

THank you for the long response. All the best.

By Parn

Champion (304)

Parn's picture

29-05-2018, 01:27

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I believe you're mistaken: we shouldn't care as much for the so-called accuracy since MSX is not this one big, monolytic thing. One of the coolest things about the MSX is that it can be so varied, and it was so ahead of its time that good, well-designed and well-behaved software will work just as well in any MSX.

I also think you underestimate both the ability of hardware developers like KdL, Manuel Pazos, Eugeny Brychkov and others, and the work that was put into emulators like openMSX and BlueMSX to make them accurate enough. Plus there's no direct relation between the difficulty of a problem and the quality of the solution. Maybe a more difficult problem will attract more talented people to solve it. We can't really know.

And of course nothing stops you from using a really good USB keyboard. Why settle for a crappy one? Smile

More to the point, I'm curious about something: have you seen a Zemmix Neo/OCM with KdL's latest updates? They are amazing machines, very complete, very accurate for most applications, work with real MSX cartridges and game controllers, can be plugged on any TV or monitor, have mass storage. Why negatively compare it to openMSX? Both are awesome.

By hamlet

Scribe (1693)

hamlet's picture

06-08-2018, 17:09

A small first batch is avaible now.
Take a look here!

By FiXato

Scribe (1487)

FiXato's picture

07-08-2018, 03:22

Quote:

They are exactly the same as the units we will sell after the official release.

Quote:

Attention: Final board revision does not include 20 pin ATX power supply connector. The board must be powered with a regular "barrel" PSU (9 to 12 volts).

So, just to be clear, this pre-release also doesn't include the 20 pin ATX power connector,right?

By ArcadeVision

Rookie (29)

ArcadeVision's picture

12-08-2018, 10:48

Oups... I have expected to get one for testing the Risky Rick MSX/MSX2 compatibility with it. Question

My MSX profile