Only last month we featured possibly the best way to play C64 cassettes in the form of the UCassette. But this time we are moving onto a piece of hardware that comes highly recommended for old disk based games and the latest homebrew titles, and that is the SD2IEC. The SD2IEC is an SD CARD reader for commodore computers that emulates floppy disk drives like the 1541 and 1541-II. Thanks to ScitechSuppliesLTD who has kindly sent us this nifty little product for review, we will be able to delve into the usage of hundreds of classic C64 games without the fuss of the cassette issues all on an SD device!
The first thing to greet you through the mail is a well packaged delivery with everything you need to get yourself started. Depending on which part you ordered with the SD2IEC, either the power connector that plugs into the cassette port (found on all commodores except the plus-4 and SX-64) or one for the user port (on all commodores including the plus-4 and SX-64). The cable provides both data and power. Also supplied is a DVD full of games, software and a help guide to get you going, of which I'll get into more detail later.
Moving onto the attachments, what really appealed to me with this SD2IEC device unlike other ones is that both power connectors are designed to allow you to still use the port. So for those of you who want to still play cassette games for example, either for nostalgia reasons or to listen to the awesome loaders can still attach a cassette deck or cassette adapter to the cassette port.
Now before we get started onto the games, this SD2IEC has the latest firmware which supports JiffyDos, Geos, Final Cartridge III, Exos, TurboDisk, Epyx FastLoad, Speeddisk and Dreamload Fastloaders. It will run D64, D71, D81, M2I or PRG files straight from the SDCARD, which is especially useful as many latest homebrew games are released in the D64 format. This SD2IEC is also fitted with a 1284P ATMEGA which has spare capacity for newer versions of firmware as they become available
Thankfully though, the developer has provided a DVD with all the instructions, utils and many many games to play which saves a lot of time hunting through the internet looking for every single game. Another time saver is the fact that the creator ScitechSuppliesLTD has placed all the retro games in neatly listed categories, for example Buggy Boy is in the C64, B, then Buggy Boy folder. It is both neat, and easy to list in the file browser which I'll get to next.
Click the picture for a larger view
The main accessory you will need though to play these games and actually run the file browser is an SD Card. For the purpose of this review I used a Sandisk/MicoSD adapter with a micro 2GB SD attached. Simply copying over the DVD files to the SD card and all the contents of the filebrowser folder will make the SD card ready for usage in the SD2IEC. The instructions did mention a futurewas8bit zip file of which I couldn't find, but not to worry as it wasn't needed.
Now we move onto the fun and games! Making sure everything was attached the first thing I did was to test cassettes as I was assured that I can use the back of the connectors and they will still work. Sure enough I attached the UCassette onto the back of one of the adapters and yes it worked! Please note I don't have a real cassette deck to test as they are all faulty.
Turning the system off and on again, it was time to test the SD2IEC device, a device which I've heard a lot about but it's only now I finally have it in my hands. Yet this is where I ran into a few issues, firstly I would've liked a simple click or a sound to note the SD was actually placed correctly into the SD2IEC and secondly, according to the manual if you have setup the card as described in the instructions, you will have the various versions of the filebrowser in the root directory of the SD card. Simply type: LOAD”FB” RUN to load the file browser. However this didn't work for me as it would keep trying to load tapes! Thankfully I did know something about C64's, I'm an Amstrad man remember ;) the command is actually LOAD”*”,8<ENTER> RUN<ENTER> and this will load the filebrowser on the SD card.
And here it is, the filebrowser, a piece of software that enables you to scroll through the games using the joystick and clicking the fire button to get them to run. Oh and remember I said about all those games listed on the DVD? This is why it's important to have them categorized as you simply scroll through each alphabet directory with the joystick and click fire on the game you want. I for one am a huge fan of Buggy Boy. So I went into the B directory, then looked for Buggy Boy and ran it.
ScitechSuppliesLTD certainly understood ease of use when playing categorized games on the SD2IEC! I was able to play Buggy Boy without the constant need to press play and pause or worry about volumes being set incorrectly, it was just a matter of loading the game through the file browser.
The SD2IEC provided also had a disk swap button for multi disk games ( instructions provided ) and a reset button. There was a bit of a downer though and it was nothing to do with this particular SD2IEC but I believe they all are the same. As the SD2IEC loading speeds are the same as a real 1541, which means slow! Yes it is way faster than a cassette deck and easier but it's not instant, it's much slower than my HxC on my Amstrad. The good news is you can buy a cartridge with certain fast loading supports that will speed up the loading a lot. I've also read you can have JiffyDOS on the SD2IEC to speed up loading as well, but I didn't get around to testing this.
So here we are then, what do I really think of it? Apart from the few critiques such as a click sound when you place the SD card into the SD2IEC or the loading command instructions, I was really impressed. Not only was I happy with the price of only £34.99 which is the cheapest around but the package you get to set it all up is just spot on. You'll have everything you need to connect to a Commodore with a DVD packed with hundreds of games and the ability to copy it all over to run a filebrowser.
Available to buy through the ScitechSuppliesLTD Ebay store here or here or an even better price if you buy direct (10% off eBay price for anyone who makes the purchase by contacting him personally and quoting your website, firstname.lastname@example.org). That's £31.50 including UK postage or £34.50 for EU, USA and rest of world (approx 44 Euro or $55).
UPDATE : One person has stated that the sd2iec does NOT emuluate any floppy drives. It is merely an SD card drive for the Commodore serial bus that accepts many of the commands used by Commodore DOS and has additional emulation capabilities for a few selected fast loaders.
Referring to the C64-Wiki and quoted: The most prominent use of SD2IEC is emulation/replacement of a Commodore-1541 disk drive for a C64. A direct quote from the developer of this SD2IEC also states : The SD2IEC is an SD CARD reader for commodore computers that emulates floppy disk drives like the 1541 and 1541-II.