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A short review of the Pegasos II G4

This is my #800 comment here on, and I am celebrating this by giving a short review of the Pegasos II G4, based on my first experiences.

I received my Pegasos 2 almost exactly one year after I got my first Pegasos 1! Only one year has passed but I must say that the Pegasos/MorphOS platform has come a long way since then, especially on the OS front. Many people are kind of impatient (myself included) and has perhaps unrealistic expectations on development speeds. But after following the platform during this one year I must say that things are really moving fast. Perhaps it will move even faster now, when a lack of Pegasos motherboards isn't going to slow things down?

Anyway, I ordered my board from the Swedish Amiga dealer GGS Data (a dealer which I can whole heartedly recommend to everyone) and its deliverance was somewhat delayed because of the holidays. I received it well packed in one of those white boxes you have seen on pictures. The package contained:

Whats in the box

1 Pegasos II Motherboard. The version number on the PCB says it is "Pegasos Dual PPC, Public Release, Rev 2B1". It looks very similar to the Pegasos 1 motherboard, with one obvious difference; it has another North Bridge (remember that the whole purpose with the Pegasos II was to get rid of the Articia S North Bridge). Related to the new NB, a few other changes can be spotted too, like the DDR memory slots, the 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, etc. Just like its predecessor it's very neat and compact when compared to any full size ATX motherboard.

1 Backplate for the computer case. It has the holes in the right places, but it lacks any describing symbols or text of what the connectors are. Perhaps not a big thing, but I myself tend to mix up the keyboard/mouse connectors, as well as the audio in/out etc.

1 Pegasos G4 CPU card. The version number on the PCB says it is "Pegasos CPU, Single 744x, Rev 1.1". As far as my eyes can tell (I haven't measured it thought), it has the same height as the Pegasos 1 G3 CPU cards (which might be interesting to case modders). The CPU has a small heat sink mounted on it, and on top of that, a fan.

2 User manuals, 1 of a more brief kind in English, French and German, and one more extensive manual in German only. The "brief" one describes the connectors on the motherboard and it guides you through assembling a system (fitting CPU card, RAM, connecting things, etc). It also deals with partitioning the hard drive and installing MorphOS on it (similar, but not as detailed, as the "Pegasos Quickstart Guide" over at The more extensive manual also contains (a very interesting) section about Open Firmware commands and usage, and things like pin layout on the Pegasos II connectors and slots.

1 CD-ROM with MorphOS 1.4. It's a CD-R with nice printed Genesi/Pegasos/MorphOS logos on top. It comes in one of these paper "envelopes" that CD's with drivers etc usually comes in. What's on it? Well, MorphOS 1.4! There is a new version of the boot.img, obviously adjusted for Pegasos II. The old boot.img is still there but has been renamed to "bootpeg1.img". As far as I have heard, it also contains an updated radeon driver. In other words, nothing really new, not even a driver for the 1 Gigabit Ethernet.

Besides that I also ordered a 512MB DDR module, a SuperBundle (yes, I now have the box with "Captain Pegasos" on it) and the latest copy of Total Amiga Magazine (to try it out), but GGS Data was out of copies so I got issue #0 of the Amiga Org magazine instead.

Mounting it together

Since I already had a Pegasos 1 system going I thought I was going to use that setup, with OS and all, and just switch motherboards. Mounting the motherboard was as easy as ever (if you know how), and everything was fitted fast and with ease. No problemo!

Then it was this exciting moment when you are about to switch the power on for the very first time, I double checked all the cables one more time, and then let the juice on. It started without any problems!

As opposed to the G3 CPU cards, the G4 has a small fan in addition to the heat sink. The noise from the fan is not too disturbing; it's actually kind of quiet despite its small size. I don't know, but a *totally unqualified* guess is that it's around 15dB, perhaps a little more. But still, the gap between the G3 0dB and this G4 is kind of big. My Peg1 system was actually totally mute (when not using the CD-ROM). The PSU is of an ultra quiet kind, as is the Seagate Barracuda HDD. You would actually have to put your ear to the case to even hear anything at all, and this when the HDD is at heavy work. This is not the case anymore. You can hear the humming from the fan now. Perhaps it's not too disturbing, but it's there.

Starting it up

OK, so the power is on, and the Open Firmware greetings come up. The OF in the Pegasos 1 was very sensitive to mouse movements in this phase, but this is not the case anymore. Here comes my first problem. I tried to boot the system from the CD to be able to copy the Peg2 boot.img to the hard drive, but it didn't work. I then tested to see what would happen with "boot /pci/ide/disk@0,0:0 boot.img", but as before, it only reported that the device was not available. I tried to list the IDE devices with "ls /pci/ide" and indeed it seemed like there were no units connected to the computer. After checking my cables I thought about master/slave conflicts and such, so I tried every thinkable combination of jumpering and moving units around on both IDE channels in various configurations. Nada! I then got help from the net, and it seems like there is a (known) bug in the firmware that fails to initialize the IDE units when cold booting. So when you switch your computer on you have to push the reset button the first thing you do and then the IDE units will be available. It has been said that this will be fixed in the next OF update.

As a small side note I can mention that the user manual say that you should type "boot cd" to boot MorphOS from a CD-ROM, but for the boards that was delivered in this first batch, you will only get an error message saying: "no such file bsd". And indeed, when typing the command "printenv" you see that the default boot image file is called "bsd", probably something remaining from the "Guardian" production run (which uses OpenBSD if I remember correctly). This "bsd" entry can easily be replaced with "boot.img" through the setenv command *if* you have updated your firmware.

Anyway, I booted from the MorphOS 1.4 CD, and the familiar Ambient screen became visible. At the "About" requester I could read that it is indeed MorphOS 1.4, that the processor is a 7447 running at 1GHz, has 32kB L1 cache and 256kB L2 cache. The bus clock is running at 133 MHz.

I replaced the old peg1 boot.img file on the HDD with the new one from the CD, and then I rebooted. The Pegsos II booted nicely from my Peg1 setup. IMO, this shows that it's quite easy to move MorphOS to a new system. The boot.img file was all I changed and everything worked just as before, but everything felt a little faster. To be honest, I thought that the speed from the 600MHz G3 was already fast (IMO fast enough for general usage), but in certain moments you will notice the increased performance, like when scrolling a very complex web page in Voyager - that was kind of smooth before but it's *really* smooth now. Also, there is no sound corruption when moving windows any more (and I am still using the same old drivers here as I used on the Peg1. I have read somewhere that the updated Radeon driver now reduces this problem on Peg 1 a great deal too, but not completely).

And now running

I will not give you a lot of performance benchmarks, but I did try QuakeMOS on both the Peg1 G3 and Peg2 G4. Speaking of performance, I read somewhere that the current configuration (in bios/drivers?) is kind of "conservative" and that there will be room for overall speed improvements in future SW updates. I guess they made this "safe" setting for a start, and that they will make various optimizations later (or perhaps I interpreted that wrong). Anyway, as I said, I ran the timedemo on quakeMOS. The default settings were used and no hardware 3D accelerator at all was used. All rendering was done in software at 8bit colour depth. The graphic card was exactly the same, a Radeon 7000, and so was everything else.

At 320x240 the Peg1 scored 73.9 fps, the Peg2 125.7 fps.
At 640x480 the Peg1 scored 27.7 fps, the Peg2 51.1 fps.
At 800x600 the Peg1 scored 19.2 fps, the Peg2 36.6 fps.

Perhaps this isn't the best program for testing purposes, perhaps it's old, perhaps it isn't optimized in any way, I don't know. Perhaps this "test" is kind of worthless, but it's still the same program used in on both systems with exactly the same OS setup (except the boot.img). Also, it might be too early to make serious benchmarks; improved settings might be available later on.

Flashing the firmware

Well, now it was time to flash the firmware with the update available from b-plans website. I simply downloaded it to my boot partition, restarted my computer, and typed "boot /pci/ide/disk@0,0:0 update" at the OF prompt. A few seconds later it was finished! I have flashed many bios's on x86 motherboards, and the process can be a bit more complicated than this. You may have to download several files (at least a flash program and the ROM image), you may have to produce a special clean DOS boot disk with no mem handlers, you may have to switch off the CPU caches in BIOS etc. That might scare people away from trying. On the Pegasos II, anyone who can download a program and run it can do it, because it's really that easy. So b-plan, don't be shy to make new firmware updates available as soon as you have them ready (perhaps with different levels of tweaking and optimizations) because we can handle it!

Perhaps there were some small updates on the new MorphOS CD that I hadn't heard about? Just to be sure, I updated the OS on my system with the one from the supplied CD. That was as simple as ever. Then it struck me that the system clock (the real time clock) behaved strangely. I set the time and saved it correctly, but when I rebooted, it showed a different time. I have tried this several times, but it's still the same. I really hope that this is a SW problem, or that it could be fixed through SW updates (firmware or OS code).

I have also noticed a problem to boot MorphOS. Sometimes, on what seems to be totally random occasions, it simply stops booting after displaying the "Quark/OpenFirmware" text. It just freezes. Perhaps this occurs on my system only, otherwise I suspect it to be an OS related thing, and I expect a bug fix for this ASAP (or in the next OS release, which I also expect ASAP).

Summary and Conclusion

I (and many others) have waited for this machine to arrive for quite some time now, and I am very happy I got it up and running now. And I like it a lot (and Open Firmware grows on me all the time).

Do I like the speed increase? Sure, but as I said before, the G3 was kind of enough for me. Anyone who tried MorphOS can testify on its great speed and responsiveness. And the G3 has a lower price and is totally silent. Programmers and renderers of different kinds can't get enough of CPU power, and they will probably appreciate the increased performance more than me. The main difference between the G3 and the G4 is the Altivitec unit, but AFAIK, this is only used in a RC5 client on MorphOS so far. Perhaps the demo coders will make better use of it? I like the performance, but I like silence even more. To me, silence is a major point of the Pegasos, I get both performance and noise from my PC. But I wish there would be a way to make a G4 card with a passive heat sink only. However, the increased weight of that might require the use of the stays seen on this Peg1 picture. The Peg2 is prepared for that but it's not included as standard.

Was this first release somewhat premature? Well, that depends on the target audience I would say. It has a usable but buggy firmware. Some other SW related bugs in the Pegasos/MorphOS is annoying, but does not make the computer unusable. The manuals were not entirely synced to the boards in this release, and I miss an English version of the extensive user manual (they both should merge IMO, and should be available in several languages, I have volunteered to translate the manual to Swedish, and I will do that as soon as I get the original files). On the OS front, only MorphOS is available (Linux will follow shortly), but that version is half a year old, and while it works on the Pegasos II (with the new boot.img file); it doesn't support one of the key features of the Pegasos II - the 1Gigabit Ethernet. There also seems to be some overall optimizations and tweaking left to get maximum performance out of the board (but I might be wrong on that). So for a general "Joe User" outside this community, it might be too premature, but for us geeks inside the community the tolerance level is somewhat higher. I myself am very glad that I got my Pegasos II right here, right now, in the state it's in. I expect that any problems will be fixed ASAP through SW upgrades.

The Articia is finally gone. Any plans can move on forward now. My impressions from the Pegasos II is that it's a great computer and I like it a lot. This is indeed a great step forward for the Pegasos platform, that is - the right foot has taken a great step (the Pegasos II HW), but the left foot (drivers, fixes, optimizations, OS's, etc) now has to catch up. And it will, I have no doubt in Genesi here, they have a fine track record in this regard.

It's not a Pegasos 1, it's an otter motherboard, a motterboard!

Added:  Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Reviewer:  takemehomegrandma
Related web link:  This review at
hits: 10267

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