MB-03+ Ultimate- introduction
Author: Shrek, translation to English by Hood 27.9.2019
Today I received a brand new interface called MB-03+ Ultimate. Apart from others, hosting FPGA this device is not meant as a substitution for hardly breathing old ZX machines but as an expanding interface for real Speccy (48/ 128). Some may object that it is a foolish idea to carry good old Speccies around fans meeting praying for them to survive the way but it makes a sort of sense in times when everyone can build his own e.g. Harlequin (even my son who is 9 could do that with my little help). Yes, MB-03+ Ultimate is a multi-device but so was his predecessor and I personally did not mind. In its times MB-02+ could do things other systems could only dream of. With ease we used all MB-02+‘s advantages (DMA, RTC, 512kB RAM paged in lower memory, tape emulation…). Ok, with MB-03+ Ultimate comes one disadvantage. You could threaten a naughty Atari or a cheeky C64 user to flap his head with a bit more massive MB-02+. It was all packed in well-made sheet metal case so other 8 bit platformers just got shut up. MB-02+ had its authority weight MB-03+ Ultimate is packed well in a printed plastic case, which hardly can do any damage to an Atari or C64 user.
• PCB dimensions: 10 x 10 cm
• power source taken directly from ZXS (hurray, I really hated that on MB-02+)
• FPGA Xilinx Spartan7- XC7S50 484 pins- the core of MB-03+ Ultimate
• 16MB SRAM + 4MB Fast SRAM + 2MB FLASH + FRAM 8KB (system info, bios config); all is expandable through extra slots, if needed
• CompactFLash (IDE) and two slots for microSD cards
• WiFi module- type ESP 8266
• two USD ports- the first for firmware update, the second for K-Mouse
• compatibility with MB02+, MBIDE, BSDOS308, DivIDE, DivMMC, ESXDOS 0.8.7 and Residos ensured
• Z80 DMA
• integrated sound cards: 3x AY- Turbosound, SAA1099, SoundDrive/Stereo, Covox, Specdrum and General Sound
• Ultimate firmware- easily configures your MB-03+
• two expandable slots
MB-03+ Ultimate parameters are breath taking and you might feel slightly at loss: what the hell I need it for? Truly, the time will show it. There is no WiFi support yet on MB-03+ (remark from the translator: in time of translation Shrek is finalising WiFi routines, enabling file download from Internet, Time synchronisation through WiFi is available already+ WiFi connection). All is prepared hardware-wise but the software is missing. According to LMN’s info, FPGA’s capacity is filled up by only 25% so still plenty of space for further development although I cannot think of other meaningful ideas to implement. The time will show it. Let’s have a look at how work on MB-03+ looks like.
After you connect MB to your ZX Spectrum there appears a neat animation with selection:
1. BS Dos 3.08 with HDD patch (this is what I’ve been used to)
2. DivMMC- this is what I’ve been getting used to;)
MB-03+ is also prepared to boot BS Dos Ultimate though it cannot run it at the moment since it is in development and Busy will be the heroic author. You can also run diagnostic tool and test your Spectrum, memory ULA timing, etc.
Work with BS Dos 3.08 is just like I remember it from the past only BS Dos seems to me a far lot quicker but this can be a placebo, impressions of the new hardware. EsxDos works flawlessly too and all works the same way as DivMMC, which I am used to. So nothing really to take me down. What did took me down was the moment I run MOD player or games adapted for General Sound (Chase H.Q. and its turbo boost „Oh, shit!“ exclamation cannot be forgotten). I started to feel there is really anything new under my hands and that added value of this HW is high. My ZX Spectrum can do a lot now without having tons of add-ons which is a pleasant bonus. And it would require tons of add-ons if I wanted to had all the functionality without MB-03+. I am sorry, I wanted to write a detailed review full of beneficial information with kind and quality humour but now I have no time. I really want to finish Chase H.Q. and listen to some music…;) Besides, MB-03+ host also LED Matrix showing AY channel volumes at the moment.
Finally, some not so good quality pictures of MB and thanks to LMN for sending me a first piece to my hands. In the course of time, I will be publishing new information and experience with this piece of hardware.
Photo gallery to be found here: http://mb-maniax.cz/2019/09/04/mb-03-ul … edstavuje/