As stated, I want to cover the hardware first. ACube Systems from Italy produces the sam440ep, a PowerPC-based all-in-one motherboard that is licensed to run AmigaOS 4, giving Amigans the opportunity to actually buy new hardware to run their favourite operating system on - only a short while ago it seemed as if no one was willing to step up to the plate to deliver Amiga-capable hardware.
The sam440ep comes in a number of varying configurations, but ACube sent me their Vento bundle, a machine that has everything in it to start playing with AmigaOS 4 right away, such as a case, decent video card (in Amiga terms), hard disk, DVD writer, and so on.
- a Sam440ep-Flex board with AMCC440ep@733Mhz
- 1 GB DDR RAM
- ATI 9250 128MB Graphics Card
- Maxtor 160GB SATA HD
- SATA DVD Recorder
- Case Asus model "TM-B12" "Vento" series
This system configuration sells for 699.60 EUR including taxes, which isn't anything to sneeze at - especially if you take into account that you must buy AmigaOS 4 alongside this package, which adds another 130 EUR to the price. While this may seem expensive, it's a lot better than not having any hardware at all. Of course, you can buy the sam440ep motherboard separately as well, and it can run various other operating systems too, like Linux distributions, FreeBSD, or AROS.
Despite maybe the price, there is really very little to complain about when it comes to ACube's system. The biggest benefit in their hardware package is that it runs completely silently; the motherboard itself doesn't require any fans, and as such, only the power supply uses a fan. The power supply they put in the machine uses a large fan that is barely audible - only when you put your ear next to the machine. One tiny detail that ACube should work on: a plate covering the ports at the back. The ATX porthole is - on my machine, anyway - widely open.
The Asus case might hide it a little bit, but the sam440ep flex is a small motherboard, coming in at just 21.6x17cm. In other words, while the Asus case may not do the motherboard's features particular justice, you can easily buy a much smaller case and put the sam440ep motherboard in there, and enjoy a silent, small machine running AmigaOS 4.
Coming up with any performance benchmarks or measurements didn't seem like something very appropriate to me; I dislike benchmarks anyway because they have little significance in real-world usage anyway. Due to the low resource requirements of the AmigaOS, this system is perfectly capable of powering the operating system, and in my weeks of usage I haven't experienced any performance problems.
The only performance issue of note to me is the surprisingly long boot time. After years of listening to Amiga users brag about their machines' fast boot times, I am positively underwhelmed by how long it takes for this machine to go from pressing the power button to a usable desktop: an agonising 45 seconds. Breaking the boot time up in two parts ("BIOS" vs. the loading of the actual operating system), we see that the "BIOS" takes up 15-20 seconds, and the operating system itself the remainder seconds. A sidenote: shutdown time is 0 seconds. You just... Press the power button.
I'm not sure whether or not this is an issue with the hardware, the software, or the combination of the two. After all, the sam440ep wasn't made specifically for the AmigaOS; it's a general purpose main board compatible with various operating systems. You can just as well install Ubuntu on the sam440ep, and you'll have a very silent, almost fanless Linux box. Nothing wrong with that, now, is there?