You know, as I get older, it takes more and more to get me really excited like a kid at Christmas time. That giddy feeling that comes when something is really good or something good happens. Now is one of those times.
Package and Intro
The items came lovingly packed in a sturdy box containing both the sd2iec AND an Epyx fastloader cart. Each item was protected with bubble wrap and anti static bags, so were in pristine condition. Also included in the package was a 4gb SD card, I don’t think this is a normal thing you get with the package, but is very much appreciated. (The sd card has a printed label of a 5″ floppy disk on it, Well played :))
The sd2iec is small and box shaped like an old c64 disk drive with 2 connectors, one connection for hitching to the tape port for power and another for connecting to the c64’s disk port. On the unit itself there is the slot for the sd card and on top of the unit there are 2 buttons which are used for resetting and for multiple disk swapping. The buttons are also led lights which gives the device’s status and disk activity.
The epyx fastload cart allows you to load things a lot faster then using the s2diec on its own as I believe it usually runs at normal 1541 speeds. I have tried running various tools and games with and without it running and the difference is very noticeable. As for the unit, it is basically a cart you plug into the back of the c64 like any other cart game you may have tried. The cart also includes a reset button which you can use as a normal reset switch, also doing this after first switching on the c64 gets you into FASTLOAD mode, which is where the magic happens.
Also in the package was 2 printed instruction sheets about usage of the 2 items. It includes REALLY in depth information if you want to get deep into how to use them, but it also includes “The Easy” option. This is a link to the website where you can download a package and just unpack it to the sd card… and BOOM a working setup complete with various utils and games. It’s a lot easier than finding the utils separately. Only thing I would say is put sidplay64 on there! ;) If you know of my other c64 activities you will know why.
The s2diec was born from the mmc2iec device which allows an sdcard to mimic some of the functionality of a 1541 disk drive. The device supports and runs a myriad of file formats that you are probably used to if you have ever used a C64 emulator, eg; D64, PRG files. For t64 and TAP files though you will still need to use another method. For me a cheap audio cassette adapter to
3.5mm jack and my tablet using tapDancer fills that capacity very well. For crt files though you will have to invest in a more expensive device like the 1541 Ultimate and the like.
One of my favourite utils this device lets me load is sidplay64, which enables you to play sids dropped on the sdcard though the c64. So I felt immediately compelled to download and copy the HVSC on to this, so ALL that music is available to be enjoyed on real hardware. *dreamy*
Usage is really easy, especially if you use the download package from the website. This includes (amongst other things) a huge collection of games and the CBM filebrowser which makes browsing the sdcard and loading images a breeze. If not using the fastcart you only need to do a LOAD”fb64″,8,1 and your in, ready to go.
When you have the File Browser loaded, you are able to use the joystick to navigate the
contents of the sdcard, and with a simple hit of the fire button, you are on your way to near infinite gaming goodness.
The only limitations of the device I have found is mainly that it is not able to load some of the new fastloaders that are used in newer demo’s and some games. These demo’s do some serious voodoo when it interacts with the hardware to achieve what they do. That’s not to say all demo’s don’t work, I have been able to run a bunch of demo’s that do work on the sd2iec, but if you really need something to be able to load any demo, d64’s, on real hardware, you will either have to own a real c64 drive (which if you are a c64 enthusiast you probably have already, but not me yet *sob*) or pay up for a device that fully emulates the c64 disk drive, Like the 1541 Ultimate II.
Even if I did own a real 1541, I would still use the sd2 mainly for convenience and saving wear and tear on those old drives.
EPYX FAST CART
The other beauty in the package was the Epyx Fastcart reloaded. This beastie is a reproduction of the old Epyx FASTLOAD cart made by them in 1984 but now are offered with the same software and some very funky coloured cartridges.
Usage is even easier this time. Plug into cart port. Done. As you can switch back into regular mode if you need to, there is no need to take it out. Well unless you want to play a cart game, obviously. To get it into fastload mode you hit the reset button and then “FASTLOAD” will appear below the ready prompt. With this you can then do normal disk operations as usual but faster, and if you have put CBM brower on the root of the sd card all you need to do is press CBM key + runstop and it will automatically boot into the browser. I REALLY like that :)
And now to the main usage of the cart, it makes disk operations faster. How much faster?
Well lets find out. I decided to run some (un)scientific benchmarks to see how much faster file operations are with and without fastload running.
(these are approx values, am doing this with the stopwatch on my tablet) lol
Loading CBM filebrower : Normal : 4.21secs EPYX : 2.30secs
Loading sidplay 64 : Normal : 10.40secs EPYX : 3.40secs
Loading a sid tune in sidplay : Normal : 6.87 EPYX : 1.61secs
Loading Darkness D64 to intro : Normal : 1min 34secs EPYX : 14.76secs
Loading Commando Arcade to Game options screen : Normal : 1min 30secs EPYX : 1min 14secs.
Loading Creatures title screen : Normal : 2mins 4secs EPYX : 1min 5secs.
So yeah, faster.
So there we have it, has been a blast using these items. Being able to have a massive
collection of games and the complete HVSC ready to go is soo good. Have been using it for over a week now, and with new cables meaning my audio is connected to my PC, my c64 has been fully promoted back to my desk.
Yes there are other devices around that can do more, but they are much more expensive.
For the price of these devices, they are a more than worthy edition to any c64 arsenal.