Amiga A570 CDROM drive review

How do you make an awesome thing better? You add peripherals, that’s right, peripherals.  To wit – The F16 Falcon is great, but when you add a couple of AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, it becomes awesome.  Fish & Chips are good, but when you add enough chicken salt to dehydrate an adult Rhino they become spectacular. James Matson investigates one of the many  peripherals designed to take the Amiga 500 into awesome territory.

As far as strange business decisions go, Commodore was always capable of making the highlight reel. The Amiga A570 CDROM attachment was certainly right up there, for more than one reason. The A570 was compatible with the Amiga 500 and only the Amiga 500, a model of Amiga that was discontinued by the release of the external CDROM drive.  The base Amiga that was being sold at the time – the Amiga 600 – went without ever having a similar device released for it (in fact the 600 has the impressive reputation as one of the least expandable legacy Amiga models available).  The fact that an Amiga 500 with an A570 attached was also functionally identical to Commodore’s other CD based platform – the multi-media CDTV – and could run all CDTV software without issue hurt sales and confused the user community to no end.

So why talk about it then? Why are we even here? Because that which failed at retail release often makes a fine and interesting retro collectible and the A570 is no exception.

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If you have an Amiga 500 and have the chance to grab an A570 (uncommon though they are) then do so. It’s a cheap way to get into some great CDTV software and games like the CDTV release of Xenon, a game possessed of some of the most rocking soundtrack music ever. That’s right, ever.

The A570 simply bolts directly into the side of your Amiga 500 via the Zorro II expansion port on the left side of the Amiga, zero configuration required – true plug-and-play! Once connected you’ll have yourself a genuine single speed CD-ROM with mode 1 access speed of 153KB/sec and a mode 2 speed of 171KB/sec and supporting both audio CDs and ISO-9660 formats.

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With the A570 attached, your humble A500 will boot to the CDTV animated logo screen. This goes a long way to reinforcing the fact that the Amiga 500 with CDROM attached is a functional CDTV (minus the remote and black painted exterior). We’re willing to admit straight up that this is freaking awesome to see on screen. What Amiga fan doesn’t have memories of seeing this logo on CDTV systems advertised in Amiga magazines and thinking how awesome it would be to own one!? These days with the prohibitive price and scarcity of working CDTV systems (expect to easily pay AUD500+) this is the closest many of us will ever come!

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So what does owning an A570 give you access to? While there were a few commercial releases that took advantage of the CD format (in particular the CDTV library) one of the biggest draw cards is the excellent range of PD (Public Domain) stuff available, the best of which are the Assassin’s Ultimate Games CD compilations.  Each disc is packed with 600 MB of public domain games and programs for the Amiga (some made in AMOS, some not) providing hours of entertainment available from easy to navigate menus. Highly recommended if you end up with an A570. Perhaps the most interesting possible use of the A570 however, is as a launchpad to play images of disk based games off CD (giving you access to a wealth of Amiga goodness).  We’ve put our best Retro Domination scientists to work investigating whether or not this is possible, but if people have already figured out how to create bootable compilations of Amiga disk games for CD32 machines surely A570 compatible collections are well within reach?

There are a few downsides to the A570 design. First up, it needs its own power supply to run, and not just any PSU, but the lovable Amiga ‘brick’. The exact same brick in fact, as the Amiga 500 itself. While this means you have to run both power supplies to keep an Amiga and A570 running, if you happen to find a CDROM drive without a power supply and have a spare A500 PSU, you can use that to power it.  The other downside, is the devices use of CDROM caddys.

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“CDROM what now?” I hear you say. Believe it or not, in the early days of CD ROM media, some devices required that you put your CD into a plastic caddy before inserting it into the drive. Pain in the arse? Hell yes. Capable of driving you to madness when you can’t find a caddy anywhere? You better believe it. This is a painful consideration when you’re looking at purchasing an A570 drive, because if it doesn’t come with at least one caddy at purchase, you’re only going to be frustrated when you get it home and can’t use it straight away.

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So there are some limitations and quirks to owning or seeking out an A570, but hopefully we’ve still given some people out there the urge to find one, and begin chasing down some ISO images of CDTV software to play around with (then going through what will no doubt be the arduous task of finding the right media settings for burning said images to CD. If we figure out a good media/settings combination, we’ll be sure to let you know on our Facebook page!)