C64SD V3.0 Princess - The first SD2IEC with tap file support! [Hardware Review]


In August 2014 we gave everyone the heads up over a new device that was set to push the SD2IEC into a new realm of excellence and that is the C64SD V3.0 Princess. From the experience of c64sd v2 INFINITY (by Manosoft) and ITS module (infinity tape sd2iec) (by Hawui1/Manosoft), this device emulates both floppy disc and real player datasette's! Today thanks to Manosoft they have sent us their latest brand new product for review, so let's take a look!


As is the case with all of our reviews so far, none of the designers have spared the expense in packaging, making sure that you, the buyer, get the goods needed to set your device up on your C64. When it comes to Manosoft, they sent us a set of instructions, the C64SD V3.0 Princess and an adapter to plug your own datasette into the back of the Princess. What I would've liked however is a DVD with all the files and games needed to run the SD device, but not to worry as they can be downloaded from the main Manosoft website.

Moving on to the device itself, the C64SD V.30 by Manosoft is a thing of beauty, the attention to detail and how many accessories this C64SD V3.0 Princess has is beyond anything I've seen before for a SD2IEC. It also looks far more impressive than my HxC SD that I use on my Amstrad! Not only can you plug the datasette into the back of the C64SD device using the adapter, but you can also daisy chain real disk drives. It also features a reset switch, play/stop button, disk swap, volume control for tapes, a jumper to change the drive number and of cause the tape port and serial port connection which is a must.



Attaching the device to the C64 at first was a bit fiddly as you have to make sure that both the tape port connection and the serial port line up. If you put it at an angle you will run a high risk of breaking one of the pins. Thankfully that didn't happen and it was a straight slot into the back. Looking at all of it connected it almost looked too good for the C64, as if a 1980's Metro just got an MP3 player! But still there's no wires here, just straight in the back and that's it.


The first thing you'll notice on start up is the C64SD beeping at you with flashing lights to let you know that it is active. Because I have an Epyx Fastload Cart and I already had an SD from a previous SD2IEC with the latest browser software, I was able to Commodore Key and Run/Stop to boot from SD2IEC.  As per usual I selected a variety of .D64 games in the browser listing and most of the games loaded up perfectly. However one homebrew game didn't work Donkey Kong Junior, as it got as far as the game screen and nothing happened. I wasn't sure if it was the game or something else, as I have heard of some homebrew titles not working on SD2IEC's. Many of them did work though and you could even see the activity light flashing away to let you know it was loading. Multi-Disk loading also works wonders and instructions are provided.

UPDATE : Retroplay on EAB has provided me with a link to an updated Donkey Kong Junior and it works perfectly, so the recent non working part has been removed.




But that was all well and good, the real reason I wanted to have this, apart from the looks was the ability to load .Tap files from the SD, as the developer puts it "The first SD2IEC in the world with TAP support INCLUDED!". Yet for me I could not get it to work, it didn't matter how many times I clicked a TAP file (Tapes) it would give me a garbled screen and or completely black. Checking the instructions and there was nothing about getting .TAP files to work.

Thankfully through research and a bit of human error, I figured out how to get them to load. What hit me in the face was reading the instructions I should be typing LOAD"MENU".8 then RUN to get the C64SD menu to load. Which for one thing I didn't have the latest C64SD menu I was using the original SD2IEC package and I was using the Commodore Key and Run/Stop because of my Epyx Fastload Cart. Such a derp moment, I must read instructions, however it would've been nice to have a step by step in how to get tapes to load, not just disks.

Visiting the Manosoft download site, I grabbed the latest C64SD-C64-4gb-10-10-2014 package, followed the instructions provided in the file, copied it over to the SD, placed the SD into the C64SD and started the old girl up.

As usual I got the beeps, then proceeded to type LOAD"MENU",8 then RUN and I was greeted with the C64SD menu, of which I didn't do originally.


Selecting F1 as a first choice, just to be quick and easy. I selected the tape directory which has many *.tap files provided from the earlier package and picked a tape game ready for testing. This time it worked and boy did it work. This C64SD unlike all those other tape loaders and SD2IEC's has full emulation of datassette motor line. There is no need to guess the pauses while loading as it works like a real datassette, you just select a game with the joystick button and then play by pressing the play button, it's that simple. You also don't have to adjust any volumes to make it work which is a real pain when using other tape loaders and mp3 files. What was also really cool was the squealing tape being played through the tiny speaker which takes me back to the 8-bit loading days. Thankfully this can be turned down or off, it's not needed just sounds good.

So here we are then, me playing a tape based game with no hassle. No worrying over the pause button, no messing with volumes, just select a .tap file and you're done. This is pretty much the next best thing in SD2IEC usage.


But how much does it cost? Well you've got to factor in this is a new device, it's also built like a tank, it's built to last, both individually burn-in tested before delivery with very tough precision construction. It costs about €83.00 and is available from Italy, but that cost is very much worth it, you're pretty much getting an SD2IEC with a Tape Loader all in one and no wires, unless of cause you use your own Datasette. If I had to give this a score, I'd give it a 9/10 just a lower number based on no DVD and better step by step tape guide.

If that doesn't tempt you to buy one, check out the features and preview video!

Features:


- IEC – 1541 Disk Drive emulation with all functionalities of sd2iec latest firmware
- Compatible with all Commodore models of the classic series (C64 all models,C128,C128D,VIC20,VC20 etc) and 264 series (Plus/4-C16)
- Works on NTSC model too, including tape functions
- Reads TAP files from SDCard into Commodore computer with possibility to set a tape rewind point in realtime
- Writes TAP files from SDCard to Real C2N Datassette (1530,1531 or compatible models) to recreate damaged cassette
- Grabs cassette from C2N or compatible datassette and creates a .TAP file (only C64/VIC20 tapes as of now)
- High precision digital TAP emulation for all TAP functions, no need to setup volume or any parameter
- TAP digital sound monitor
- Full emulation of datassette motor line, no need to guess the pauses while loading, works like a real datassette
- Datassette passthrough connection. Allows to keep datassette connected without having to remove the card from Commodore computer
- Disk Drive daisy chain possibility (card can be connected at the same time as other real disk drives)
- Fully supported by FB (CBM Filebrowser) can read TAP files just selecting them in a menu and pressing Enter key
- Disk functions can be disabled to load protected tape images



Available to buy on the Website

For more informations write to: info@manosoft.it

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