Amiga CD³² vs. Philips CD-i: 32-bit game console versus 16-bit CD player

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Of the Amiga CD³² from the house of Commodore was a particularly compact Amiga 1200 with CD-ROM drive that was reduced to its gaming attributes and competed as the first 32 game console in Europe against the one introduced in 1991 CD-i from Philips with 16-bit architecture. The first PlayStation soon made both systems look old.

After the Dutch manufacturer had launched its multimedia system CD-i, which was developed together with Sony, in 1991 in the USA and also in Europe from 1992, Commodore introduced the first game console with modern 32-bit architecture from 1993 onwards on the European market, however. In the end, neither of them had a chance against the PlayStation from Sony, which was to revolutionize the game console landscape from 1994 onwards.

In 1993 the Amiga³² was the first 32-bit game console in Europe

C: B_retro Ausgabe_98 Amiga CD³² vs. Philips CD-i

32-bit game console versus 16-bit CD player

The Amiga CD³² and the CD³² were based on the Amiga 1200, but, unlike the Amiga 1200, did not rely on its system controller “Gayle”, but on its own newly developed custom chipset called “Akiko”, which in particular made porting PC games easier should do.

The concept was similar to that of the CDTV, was packed in a case that was modeled on the 16-bit game consoles that were extremely popular at the time, such as the Sega Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Like many consoles and home computers of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Amiga CD³² also relied on a main processor from Motorola.

The CD³² bet on one Motorola 68020 with 32-bit wide data bus, 16 MB address space and a clock frequency of 14 MHz. In contrast, the CD-i was a 16-bit CD player with a main processor of the type Philips SCC68070who is on a Motorola 68000 based and operated at 15.5 MHz.

The technical specifications of the Amiga CD³²

The Amiga CD³², the first real 32-bit game console for the European market, could be expanded to a full-fledged Amiga or, alternatively, to a video CD player via a slot on the back and had the following technical specifications.

Technical specifications:

  • Motorola 68020
    • with 14.18 MHz in the PAL version
    • and 14.28 MHz in the NTSC version
  • 2 MB chip RAM
  • 1 MB ROM with Kickstart ROM 3.1 and integrated file system
  • 1 KB Flash ROM for saving games
  • AGA chipset
  • CD-ROM double-speed drive
    • with audio CD playback option
  • Akiko chip that was responsible for the CD-ROM drive plus other features
  • 24-bit color palette with 16.7 million colors
    • up to 256 colors simultaneously in palette modes
    • 262,144 colors simultaneously in HAM8 mode
    • Resolution up to 1280 × 512 pixels (more with overscan)
  • Amiga OS 3.1
  • 4 × 8-bit audio channels
  • Gamepad, serial port, 2 × gameport, interfaces for a keyboard

Connections:

  • S-video output (4-pin mini-DIN)
  • Composite video output
  • High frequency audio / video output (antenna)
  • Audio output (2 × cinch and 3.5 mm stereo jack socket)
  • Keyboard (6-pin mini-DIN)
  • 2 × mouse / joypad ports (D-Sub9)
  • RS-232 serial / AUX port (6-pin mini-DIN)
  • Expansion shaft:
    • 182-pin connector for MPEG cartridge
    • Third party adapters such as the SX-1 or SX32 expansion cartridges

With this hardware, the Amiga CD³² competed from September 17, 1993 in particular against the Sega Mega-CD, a Sega Mega Drive with a CD-ROM drive and the Philips CD-i. A retrofittable MPEG accelerator card can also be used to play back video CDs in S-VHS with stereo sound.

The German language website CD32-Allianz.de provides many more details and exciting background information on the CD³².

Motherboard of the Amiga CD³² Main board of the Amiga CD³² (Image: Bill Bertram, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The hoped-for conversions of PC games did not materialize, however, as the main processor was not sufficient to keep up with the development of 3D games without further hardware support.

The YouTube channel “Games world“Has dedicated its own special to the Amiga CD³².

The technical specifications of the Philips CD-i

The Philips CD-i was a multimedia system released in October 1991 that was jointly developed by Philips and Sony and later sold exclusively by Philips.

The CD-i was not only a CD, video and audio player for audio CDs, CD + G (CD + Graphics), karaoke CDs, Photo CDs (Kodak Photo CD) and video CDs, but also a 16-bit game console that had the following specifications.

  • Processor: 16/32-bit Philips SCC68070 with 15.5 MHz
  • Video: SCC66470 later MCD 212
  • Audio: MCD 221
  • RAM: 1MB
  • Colors: 16.7 million including 32,768 on the screen at the same time
  • Resolution: 384 × 280 to 768 × 560
  • Operating system: CD-RTOS

The CD-i was played either via a remote control, a joypad or a gamepad. In addition to the Philips CD-i 910, the slightly cheaper models CD-i 450, CD-i 400 and CD-i 210 were also released, which marked the entry into the CD-i world.

Philips CD-i 910 Philips CD-i 910 (Image: Evan-Amos, CC BY-SA 3.0) Philips CD-i 400 Philips CD-i 400 (Image: Evan-Amos, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The support from the programmers was good in the beginning and so even titles licensed by Nintendo appeared for the CD-i. Among them today were sometimes strange-looking games from the Zelda and Super Mario franchises, which the YouTuber “Ulti“Took a closer look.

After sales of the CD-i dropped sharply from 1994 onwards and the first PlayStation began its triumphant advance, Philips released a TV with an integrated CD player in addition to a comparatively inexpensive expansion card for the PC, which made the CD-i functionalities available under Windows 95. i.

The Dutch manufacturer then let the project expire at the end of 1995 and did not present a successor to the CD-i.

Well-known games for the Amiga CD³² and the Philips CD-i

For the Amiga CD³² in particular, numerous successful games were released that had already enjoyed great success on other home computers and game consoles. Next to Battle Chess, Defender of the Crown, Frontier: Elite II and Legends are here among others too Exile, Gloom, D-Generation and Superfrog.

A total of 175 games were published on CD for the Amiga CD³², the YouTube channel “J Does It All“Played them all and published their own top list.

The point-and-click adventure that stood out on the CD-i was the most prominent The 7th Guest by Virgin Interactive and the puzzle adventure Myst, with six million copies the best-selling computer game in the world at the time.

The YouTube channel “Dubbloseven“Presents all the games for the Philips CD-i in an overview lasting almost an hour.

The Amiga CD³² and the Philips CD-i could not stand up to the overwhelming power of Nintendo and Sony, who split up the console market with the first PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 in the mid-1990s and consequently disappeared from the scene. Today both platforms have almost been forgotten.

C: B_retro Ausgabe_98 Game consoles_bei_C: B_retro

In the meantime, C: B_retro has already reported on many retro game consoles and home computers from the 1970s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s, high time for a small overview:

Well-known game consoles and home computers from 1977 until today

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The editors are happy to receive constructive criticism, praise, and suggestions in order to be able to align the series even more closely with the wishes of the readership in the future. With this reading material in your luggage, the editors wish you a relaxing Sunday.

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The last fifteen issues at a glance

The last 15 topics of the previous editions of C: B_retro can be found here:

  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_97 : How the Motorola ROKR E1 became the first iPhone
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_96 : The Intel Pentium Pro
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_95 : Games that have defined their own genre
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_94 : Doom 3 in the benchmark
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_93 : AMD K6, K6-2 and K6-III
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_92 : GeForce vs. Radeon in a duel of generations
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_91 : One of the most successful game consoles in history
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_90 : The ideal gaming PC has been advising gamers for over 15 years
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_89 : Your best games of all time have been announced
  • C: B_retro Issue_88 : What are the best video games of all time?
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_87 : The first IBM PC in the world defined standards
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_86 : Microsoft Windows 96
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_85 : AMD Phenom and Opteron (“K10”)
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_84 : FIFA Soccer and other soccer pioneers
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_83 : Hercules 3D Prophet 4500 with PowerVR Kyro II
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_82 : ComputerBase builds the perfect Voodoo-2-Retro-PC
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_81 : The first graphics cards from the ComputerBase community
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_80 : The early history of the graphics card
  • C: B_retro Issue_79 : Nokia Communicator
  • C: B_retro Ausgabe_78 : The first Microsoft Xbox

Even more content of this kind and many more reports and anecdotes can be found in the retro corner in the ComputerBase forum as well as in the subject areas C: B_retro and Retro.

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