posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Oct 2009 16:28 UTC

Sugar...

Sugar...

The EFIKA is a small PowerPC motherboard, with everything included to get going (except a video chip).

  • Freescale MPC5200B System-on-Chip up to 400MHz
  • 118x153x38mm
  • 128MB 266MHz DDR RAM
  • 44-pin IDE connector
  • 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet
  • 2x USB ports
  • 1x RS232 Serial port
  • Stereo audio out, microphone and line-input
  • 33/66MHz PCI with bundled 90° AGP riser slot

The EFIKA machine AmigaRobbo loaned me is built into a case resembling that of early external CD burners (if you can still remember those), and includes a Radeon 9250 AGP video card, mounted using the 90° AGP riser. It has a CF card instead of a hard disk, and it uses a small pico power supply unit, and is actually completely silently cooled. This particular EFIKA case does have a tiny fan attached, but AmigaRobbo assured me it was more of a precaution than a necessity. I hooked it up nonetheless, as I didn't want the scorching Dutch summer (ahem) to affect the machine.

This particular case does have a rather odd port layout though. The USB, video, serial, audio and ethernet ports are all located at the back (or front?), while the power connector is located at the front (or back, depending on your choice earlier). This means wires are sticking out of both ends of the machine, making it a bit weird to position properly. The lightness of the entire machine also means that it's hard to keep it from moving. Ah, the luxuries of being small and light.

Those problems are all minor, however, as you'll likely place the machine somewhere far away out of sight anyway - it's small enough to fit almost anywhere. Its biggest problem, sadly, is an inherent limitation of the EFIKA hardware which really made it very difficult to use the MorphOS properly: the EFIKA has far too little RAM, and no RAM expansion slot.

The EFIKA has 128MB of RAM, and while MorphOS itself is very light on resources; some applications are not. This amount of RAM is not enough to properly multitask on MorphOS, and while this may seem like something you could adapt to, it really isn't. It is very frustrating to keep watching the RAM meter at all times to make sure you aren't running out.

You can get along with 128MB RAM running a few light applications, but you're going to be in most trouble when running a web browser. More often than not, even when being the only application running, the Orygin Web Browser would eat up all the free RAM, often to a point where it couldn't even load a single web page because there was no room anymore for it in RAM! And trust me, in this day and age, it's really annoying to have to close all your applications to free up just enough memory to load your web browser, and then hope that the page you are looking for will still fit in RAM.

All this is especially cruel because MorphOS absolutely flies on the EFIKA. Despite having only 400Mhz to play with, the entire operating system and its applications remain responsive and quick to load at all times. Boot times for the operating system are short, and applications load up very quickly. In fact, I was so impressed by the speed of MorphOS that I'm fairly confident in saying that had the EFIKA had enough RAM (or an expansion slot, I've got dozens of RAM sticks here), it might have even been as pleasant to use as the much more powerful sam440ep board running AmigaOS 4.1 - which is saying a lot.

This is the reason why I found it very difficult to properly review MorphOS in a very extensive manner. The hardware is quite clearly holding the operating system back here, and just like it would be unfair to judge Windows 7 by running it on a PII 400MHz with 256MB RAM, so it would be unfair to judge MorphOS based on how it performs on the EFIKA. Let me reiterate, though, that I have the feeling that more RAM is really all it needs. Processor and video card are fine.

Table of contents
  1. The pickle jar
  2. Sugar...
  3. ....spice, and everything nice.
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