LGR – Amiga 500 Computer System Review

LGR – Amiga 500 Computer System Review


[theme music] The year is 1985. Marty McFly has
returned from the future, Ronald Reagan is sworn
in for a second term, and Commodore is about to
release a new 16-bit computer right after Atari has done the same. And how it got to this point
is rather impressive. In the early 1980s, Commodore and
Atari were at each other’s throats. Both had spectacular 8-bit computers and
things were getting hairy at both companies. Through a series of rather spectacular events
that are best suited to a video of their own, Atari and Commodore developed 16-bit
successors to their earlier machines. While Atari released the ST, Commodore’s
entry to the war was the Amiga, a very capable system with
color graphics and great sound. But at about 1,600 US dollars, it was a bit expensive
for the average user, so a low-cost machine codenamed
“Rock Lobster” was in the works. Then at CES in January of 1987, the so-called home version
of the Amiga was announced, the Commodore Amiga 500, with the earlier machine retroactively
being labeled the Amiga 1000. At almost half the price, and
also being sold in retail stores, instead of just computer shops, the A500 quickly became one of the
iconic home computers of the time period. Let’s take a step back, though. The Amiga 1000 was the first machine and was a slim-line desktop computer
with a cool keyboard garage underneath. Like the recently released Macintosh,
it had a graphical user interface but it was in color with great
graphics and sound capabilities, as well as several coprocessors
which really made it quite efficient. It was way ahead of its time, and is considered by many as the first
multimedia, multitasking home computer. However, it was still somewhat high-priced and the very capable budget
Amigas were what ruled the day and are what this review will focus on. Namely, the Amiga 500 from 1987. This was the best-selling model
and is very similar to the 1000, except that it has a built-in
keyboard and Kickstart in ROM. There is also the short-lived 500 Plus, which included the enhanced chipset
and a new operating system, as well as the 600 and 1200 from 1992, with the former being basically a
cut-down 500 Plus with a PCMCIA port, and the latter being an advanced 32-bit home
machine with high backwards compatibility. There were tons more Amiga machines,
but they’re not in the scope of this review. I got my Amiga 500 for the cost of shipping, as it was generously
donated by Borin81. Thank you again.
I seriously appreciate it. This is actually my second Amiga,
but my first one I sold a couple years back since it was an American NTSC machine. The vast majority of the games
that I want come from Europe and are made to work
with PAL machines. This one’s from Sweden,
so it fits the bill nicely, and it even has those nifty Swedish
characters on the keyboard that the kids are so into these
days and are completely metal. The Amiga 500 originally came with 512K of RAM,
but this one’s been upgraded to 1MB, which is a really common upgrade
and is really a necessity, in my opinion. You can expect to pay between
$50-80 for a complete system, depending on what it comes
with and where you buy it. Most of the specs are the
same as the original 1000, a 16-bit Motorola 68K CPU
running at 7.09MHz, an 880KB floppy drive, and the original chipset, or OCS, with an 8-bit four-channel
stereo sound chip and six bits per pixel graphics, at up to
640 x 512 resolution without overscan. For 1985, and even 1987,
those specs are freaking crazy, especially in comparison to
the crappy PCs of the time. And at the lower price point,
it really made the system a no-brainer, even in competition with some
of the other machines from the day. Aesthetically, I find the
system very attractive. Although, mine really needs some
Retro Bright, especially on the keys, because in its original luster, it’s amazing. The keyboard itself isn’t too bad. It’s pretty typical of the time for home computers,
with just enough tactile support to be acceptable. I like that it has arrow keys,
but you’ll probably never use them, since most games use the
joystick ports in the back. There are your standard DB9
ports which will take anything from Atari-style
joysticks to Amiga mice. The mouse itself is pretty much “meh.” I’m not a big fan of the buttons,
but the shape is kind of comfortable and the precision is just fine. On the back, you also have
left and right RCA audio output, ports for a disk drive,
serial and parallel devices, a proprietary power supply port, RGB video output and monochrome
composite video output. There’s also a built-in floppy drive on the side which uses Amiga-formatted 3.5″ floppies only. You can attach and daisy chain
more drives if you want, even just one more helps
tons with disk swapping, but you can attach up to
three, if you’re crazy. On the left side, you have an expansion which can
be used for CPU, fast RAM and hard drive upgrades, and underneath is the trap door expansion, which is where the extra 512K
of slow RAM is installed and sometimes these come with a
battery-powered clock installed as well. There is no built-in PSU, so you
will need an external power brick similar to what the C64 uses. Since this one’s Swedish, it does
have a Euro plug and runs at 220 volts. I use a step-up power
converter for UK devices and one of these nifty universal
plug adapters. It works just fine. The power switch is actually on the brick
itself, which I find a bit inconvenient. Now, although there is a composite
output port on the rear, it only displays in monochrome. So if you want color, and you do, you’ll need an RGB monitor
like the Commodore 1084. But I don’t have one, or even
have access to a SCART display, so instead I use the A520 modulator,
which outputs to RF and color composite video. It works well but it’s honestly
a hassle to use. It’s just awkward. It looks like somebody stuck
a stick up the Amiga’s butt. And I also have a Sony KV-1311CR monitor,
which has a proprietary port for the Amiga, but I don’t have the cable for it.
It’s pretty hard to find. Once again, this machine
is a PAL computer, so if you’re in America, you’ll either need an NTSC
machine, which doesn’t run as many of the games, or you’ll need some kind of
setup for running PAL machines. The Amiga uses and operating
environment called Workbench, and in my case,
it uses version 1.3. Unlike the 1000, the 500
has Kickstart in ROM, so you just need the
Workbench disk to start the OS. Now you can call me weird,
but I really like AmigaOS and the blue, white and
orange color scheme is pleasing. It’s simple to use and has multitasking, with
calculator, notepad, printer options, the works. I mean, what more could you ask for in 1987? And the text-to-speech tool is always fun. [computer voice]
“Moogity boo doo.” For the most part, games themselves don’t require
booting of a Workbench disk before starting, so you’ll just need to pop in the game,
boot the machine and let it do its thing. There are hundreds, if not thousands,
of games for the Amiga computers, and the vast majority
will work on an A500, even games made well into the ’90s. While the machine did have
some success in America, it was nowhere near the amount that it enjoyed
in the UK, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. As such, most games will come from overseas, and be tucked away in these neat little non-conformist
boxes that were so commonly used there. I won’t even pretend to be able to cover the
massive breadth of games for the machines, so here are just a few of my favorites. Regarding the PAL A500 in America, the biggest downside is the fact that most
games were and are popular in Europe. This makes acquiring them a pain, and even then, there’s no guarantee
that it will work on an NTSC machine. This is exactly why I waited
for a PAL machine, and it’s great, but shipping everything is
always a pain in the friggin’ butt. You can always download the games,
and they’re super easy to find, but you’ll need a null
modem serial cable, blank Amiga floppies, a PC
and the software to use it, like Amiga Explorer. And although it works very well,
it’s very slow, and takes about three to four
minutes to write each disk. There are also plenty of other options for using
compact flash cards and other such devices, but mostly these are easier to use
in the later machines like the A1200, as the 500 doesn’t have
a built-in PCMCIA port. So with the 500, you are
rather limited in your options. And of course, there are lots of great
emulation packages for the Amiga, like the amazing WinUAE. I love it. It does a great job and using it
made me decide that I needed an Amiga. So, is the Amiga worth buying or not in today’s retro gaming market? Well, I have to say
it’s a resounding “yes,” at least if you get a PAL Amiga. Now, I have to reiterate one last time the bad experience that I had
with an NTSC Amiga 500. I had it for a few months. I tried about 20 or 30
games for the thing and maybe half of those worked. And of course, almost all
of them are from Europe because it just wasn’t as popular
here in America, or North America. I don’t know why. I guess it really did have to do
with the dominance of the PC, which is unfortunate
because the Amiga for its time is an amazing computer, and it’s still something that’s
completely awesome to use today. It’s just a lot of fun. There’s tons of games for it. It’s got great graphics,
it’s got great sound. You can use pretty much all of
your regular peripherals with it. And it’s easy to hack
if you want to. So… I– I really don’t see many downsides. Now, how is it in comparison to
something like the Atari ST? Well that’s… that’s a theological argument
that I’m not gonna get into. But the Amiga 500 or one
of its compatible variants? Yes. Get one.

100 thoughts to “LGR – Amiga 500 Computer System Review”

  1. I had an amiga 1200 in 1996 when I was a kid. My uncle was a computer nerd and gave it to me for my birthday along with a box of about 50 games and programs on floppy. My favorite game was golf and stunt car racer. If I had only known what this device was capable of way back then. I was 8 and just loved to play the games. At this time my family did not have internet access….well my father had a "webtv" but all he did was check his email. Us kids were not allowed to tough it….so I only had the programs and what I discovered on my own…..always wondered what the expansion slot on the bottom was for…….and don't get me started on the separate daughter card for video out to a tv……I feel ya LGR…..I could not agree more about how annoying it was to have such a large and heavy daughter card connected to the back. it was so awkward just having the card dangling in its port was stressful. that is what eventually ended up killing the computer. It even survived my sister dumping a large glass of kool-aid into the keyboard. Thanks for another great video. I love watching yours, techmoan and the 8-bit guys videos. Such a great nostalgia trip.

  2. I still have mine. It comes with a switch that a friend put in that does in fact switch from pal to ntsc… all games worked, but can't seem to find my add-on hard drive.

  3. Nice review. I'm stunned how videos made only 8 years ago look so freakishly retro now, after watching your new videos this looks more like a VHS capture! Technology is taking such big leaps forward now, just like when these computers arrived, and early 2000's feels like stone age. Still, playing with my Amiga 500 and the others feels like it's only 10 years ago and with a floppy drive emulator I don't have to worry about corrupted disks anymore.

  4. There is a secret word in the intro! After each word, it spells the secret word. The secret word is YES.

  5. when set up on a desk the power switch on the power brick was nice as you did not need to get up fiddle around at the back or side to turn it on or off..

  6. Hey Clint, I know im 7 years too late, but to help make this video a little more up to date, one can convert over pal/ntsc machines, by a simple trick of modifying the 8372a AGNUS CHIP, by connecting pin 41, to the board this enables NTSC, cutting it or disconnecting it from the board makes it a PAL machine. then connect a switch between the leg of the chip and the board and you have a pal/ntsc selector switch!! so buy any American machine, modify pin 41 and bingo you have a European AMIGA. OR if you have a kickstart you can do the same thing by using the early boot menu (2.0+) and choosing PAL/NTSC from there. you don't need to buy a pal machine.

  7. on the newer LGR its always PC and Commander keen or duke nukem, did retro pc have no other games ? amiga had hundreds!! the only reason it isn't around today is down to a lot of mismanagement, shame really

  8. As kids we used the text to speech feature to have it say really mean insults about our sadistic music class teacher. How much joy that machine could bring!!

  9. I must be too young to remember these computers…although I'm 37. The first computer I remember using was the Apple IIe

  10. This was the first computer my family had back when I was in my early teens around 1992. Very cool machine that was ahead of its time

  11. Watching these old videos of viewers has me thinking. Am I the only one in thinking this way, that it's futile to leave comments on these old videos because you probably get hundreds of comments every week which is literally impossible for one guy to manage reading every single one that comes through. I guess so many of us try regardless in the hopes that you might possibly see our message, whether it's important or not is subjective I suppose.
    I also wonder if you ever get the urge to go back these old videos and update some of them. Maybe certain things you said are not true anymore? I wonder how many facts get changed over the course of 10 years. You likely have different viewpoints on things compared to your previous self.
    The psychology of how we change over time is fascinating. Anyway, this is probably my longest comment ever and I've ranted quite enough. If you took the time to read all this then thank you kindly, I feel special. I'm done now, take care and have a lovely day/evening! ^_^

  12. I used to own an Amiga 500 pal version as a kid, it was a hand me down from my parents, this was around 90-91 and came with a lot of games for it, many of the games were quite advanced and for a kid of that age operation stealth and the colonel's bequest were a challenge, they become some of my favorites.

  13. I was 5 in 1987 and i can still remember getting one of these, seeing that O/S again gave me flashbacks, LOL. I can still remember playing "Stunt Car" every day after school. I thought it was the best game ever.

  14. I had a Commodore 64 back in the 80's, and thanks to the ego of my arrogant asshole of a stepfather at the time, there was no way I could have gotten my hands on an Amiga.

    Don't get me wrong: the C-64 was glorious, and I was happy with it. But the A500 just seemed so much more "grown up". It was on par with 386s and Macs that wouldn't even come out for at least five years yet. I'd get an Amiga 500 today if I had any place to put it 😀

  15. I'm sure someone has mentioned this, but newer Amiga 500s and later models let you switch between PAL and NTSC in software. With newer Kickstart ROMs, you can hold down both mouse buttons at boot time to get to a handy boot menu that includes a PAL/NTSC switch option. Otherwise, there's a freeware app called Degrader that lets you reboot into PAL (or NTSC) mode, and additionally to disable cache memory and other features of the newer models that caused compatibility problems with poorly-written games, so you can boot to Workbench (or a command prompt) to run Degrader and then reboot into the game.

    There are also patch tools like WHDLoad and JST which let you copy original games from floppy to hard drive, and run them from the Workbench with whatever slowdown or PAL options may be needed. I'll stop here because I could do my own YouTube video about all of this stuff (and probably will). Very interesting to see a PC gamer's take on my favorite machine from that era. I think you got the strengths and weaknesses absolutely right.

  16. This was my first computer, my dad got it used form someone and it had 300 FLOPPY DISCS SO AROUND 150 GAMES INCLUDED. Needless to say I was in heaven. I was 10 years old.

  17. Still have my A500 with an internal hard drive I had installed where the floppy was. Still have my C128D as well (mostly used in C64 mode) and it all works. Fun times indeed.

  18. Great review!!! Aquired an old A500 recently. My first Amiga was the A1000 – that was the actual name; it was not retroactively named the Amiga 1000 as stated here after the Amiga 500 came out.

  19. 8:00 Lemmings = absolute classic game. I wonder if the Amiga was more popular in Europe because games consoles were not that popular here before the Playstation. How many kids told their parents they needed a computer to help with their homework 🙂 Try that argument with a Megadrive

  20. I enjoy these older videos, Clint. It's awesome to see how far you've come and the video quality. On a side note, I never ever seen a reason to subscribe to a channel on YouTube until I discovered LGR a few years ago. My son and I make an effort to start our Sunday mornings watching your channel. Keep up the great work and look forward to seeing more LGR. P.s. the Nick camera thing you just released is pretty awesome hahaha

  21. Heck yeah. 👍😎
    I'm 41 this year and the Amiga 500 was my jam from 1990-96. This video was awesome, thanks!

  22. I know this is really late, but I just saw this video. There is a VERY easy way to switch an Amiga 500 from NTSC to PAL. There is a jumper next to the Agnes chip that either needs to be connected for one mode and open for the other. I can't remember the exact spot (it's been 25+ years since I did the conversion), but it should be easy to find. You can add a switch to the case attached to that jumper and all you have to do is switch that and restart to switch modes.

  23. While ECS is most common chipset of amigas and it has the most games support, I prefer the most grpahics and capability-rich AGA-chipset. Games for it looks and sounds so freaking cool even today. Amiga CD32 was even better but it have a compatibility issues with some games that not specially made for CD32.

  24. Honestly, I think it's a pretty extreme exaggeration when some say that an NTSC A500 will only play 50% of the games or whatever. The majority of games I've played on my NTSC A500 have worked perfectly fine.

  25. The specs seem comparable to that of a Genesis. It's a shame game space is so limited on floppys. Had CD's of been possible to implement it might have been able to compete with Saturn/PSX games.

  26. At the time, Commodore AND Atari were making cheaper and more powerful computers than Apple or Wintel makers.

  27. The Wii emulates this machine perfectly, complete with floppy sounds on UAEWii. I'm impressed. Been playing battletech, runs much better and looks far nicer than it did on DOS.

  28. Amiga had the "video toaster" which digitized video and could edit photos .it was super awesome for its time

  29. "expect to pay 50-80 dollars for a complete example" -2010
    Cut to 2019
    "Expect to pay anywhere from 200-700 dollars for an Amiga 500 or for that matter any old computer nowadays"

  30. Your swedish model says made in germany, my german model says made in china… hmmmm
    edit: sure yours isnt a german model?

  31. Oh man good times. games. demo disks. hacking Agnes. massive BBS arguments about amiga vs PC. I was briefly an Amiga Tech for a shop and still have my very hacked up 2000 with video toaster and 1084S monitor hidden away in my storage

  32. i have no idea what model it is… but theres an amiga buried in a friends landlords shed thats got my name on it. better drag it out soon.

    gotta love the manual! like a damn phone book! hyuuuuuge!

  33. Oh from Sweden, I'm created there too but lets not go into that stuff. I wish I didn't sell my Amiga 500 but I will def bring it back some day I mean, I still have my Commodore 64 intact since 1982 and still works, have a special place in my retro room 🙂

  34. Amiga 500 (or any Amiga for that matter) was never a 16-bit system: the MC68000 processor is a 32-bit processor. All registers, from a0 to d7 are 32-bit. The address bus was 24-bit, which was done for cost reduction reasons. The Wikipedia article says that Motorola referred to it as a 16/32-bit processor because of the arithmetic and logic units which were 16-bit, but in reality I could add, subtract, multiply and divide 32-bit quantities just fine as I was programming it in assembler. Same goes for the Atari ST family: those systems were also never 16-bit and are full-blown 32-bit systems because they sport the Motorola MC68000 (MC68000, MC68030) family of processors. Sun Microsystems sun3-series were also full 32-bit machines because they sported MC68040 processors. Anything with a Motorola central processing unit from the MC68000 family is natively 32-bit.

  35. The special effects graphics in Robocop (1987) was done on an Amiga system. It looked good then and has held up to today's standards.

  36. I still have my 500 that I got in high school. @90-91 ish I pull it out every few years and play with it a bit before it goes back in to its original box.

  37. The Atari ST and Amiga excelled at different things. The Atari ruled in music software because of the built-in MIDI, and was popular in publishing because the monochrome display was cheap and incredibly sharp. The Amiga had much better games and built-in sound, and ruled for graphic work and video development. Amigas were used on TV and film effects well into the 1990's, replacing Silicon Graphics workstations that cost ten times as much. But for home users, they cost a bit more than the ST.
    If you're a gamer, I'd go for the Amiga, and PCs and Macs are better now for Music work. But both are interesting systems and were much better value for money than contemporary Macs. And even more competent in some respects.

  38. 1a Computer mit AGA Chipsatz, der kein Strobbingeffekt hatte, im Gegensatz zum PC und den hat er noch heute.

    Übrigens ist das Symbol hier das Symbol von Commodore und nicht von Amiga.

    Übrigens war der C 64 der erste Internet fähige Computer und man beachte, dass es den schon vor den Zeiten des Internet für alle gab.

    Ich habe selbst an diesem Systemen programmiert und sie auch von innen auseinander und neu zusammen gebaut, inklusive dem Löten auf der Platine und dem Wechseln ist ergänzen von Bausteinen.

    Der Amiga wurde damals auch viel für Grafik, Musik und Film eingesetzt. Babylon 5 wurde mit dem Amiga 4000 im Verbund und einem PC als Steuerrechner gerendert.

    Wäre schön wenn ein zeitgemäßer Amiga zum guten Preis das Licht der Welt wieder sehen würde.

  39. @9:53 Well with the introduction of the Vampire 500 card options for the A500 just got a whole a lot bigger (IDE,SD card, RTG GFX,128 MB RAM, [email protected] and the possibility to network it trough SD net)

  40. DELUX PAINT.. 📺..+..COMPUTER…🎮..
    🎧…💾..AMIGA 500..SUPER..1990..👍👍..CREATION …GRAPHISMES..👏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *