Phil South review of Ami-Hybrid pack
Firstly it important to say I supplied this free to Phil and paid for his thought on this. However, he is a very respected Amiga journalist and I have not edited or influenced his words. I just thought it would be nice to have something on the site about a project I really like and I am not good with words.
Although I’ve been closely associated with iMica and Checkmate for years, I’ve only ever been employed as a copywriter. I’ve never even seen a Checkmate case in person until now. In another life I was a computer journalist, as you may know, so I thought it would be a good time for me to review an actual unit. I haven’t had a proper Amiga on my desk for the thick end of 30 years and you know what I’ve really missed it.
The combo in question for this first look is the Checkmate Mini A1500+ with the kit to fit a Raspberry Pi into it. It’s a full blown Amiga desktop computer with both Amiga and Linux operating systems running concurrently.
Unboxing the Beastie
The packaging design and construction harks back to the golden age of Amiga while still looking fresh and modern. Inside the satisfyingly huge box there’s a tray covering the case containing the two manuals, a user manual and a reprint of a classic piece of Amiga literature called Mastering Amiga AMOS by (checks notes) someone called Phil South. Whatever happened to him? He used to be huge.
Once the tray is removed you see the case, the power cable, and any trays and inserts and panels that are part of the kit variant you ordered. In my case all the parts within relate to installing a Raspberry Pi. Also supplied was a white cased keyboard with suitably white and beige-coloured keycaps and the two command keys are Amiga keys! (I involuntarily shouted “aw no way” at this revelation.) It’s also illuminated by RGB LEDs and ripples and throbs with a variety of user selectable patterns. A proper 21st Century gamers keyboard but heavily Amiga flavoured. What a nice touch.
Rigging the Case
So the case itself has a really decent heft to it. It feels very sturdy in the hands and once you put it down, it’s not going to dance around your desk as you type. It’s solid, but it’s not a tank. It’s also very nicely engineered. Unscrewing the top of the case and sliding the top off elicited an audible “oooo” from me, it was so very silky smooth. Often there’s a graunching noise with metal cases but this was really silent and lovely.
Power is supplied by a damn decent desktop power supply, which attaches to a power adapter board with the usual motherboard plug. The Pi adapter board fits snugly onto the edge of the Pi and transfers the HDMI twins and the audio socket in a neat right angle and sends them out the back. The Ethernet and USB sockets are already poking out the back. Everything seated beautifully with minimal effort.
Once you have the thing up and running and connected to a suitable monitor the machine starts up Amikit and you have an Amiga desktop. The default desktop is the AROS cat eyes but I’m a traditionalist so I went back to a plain blue.
Speed wise it’s really impressive. I have a Pi4 and obviously that gives you the best chance of getting up a proper head of steam, but still it was very smooth. I ran demos. I ran games. It was just like a proper Amiga.
There are a lot of additional bonuses with the kit, such as you not only have an Amiga in the box but also a Linux machine.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve loved every minute of this test. Everything from the box to the power adapter, to the case and keyboard looked exactly how it should and worked easily without any faffing about. Main takeaway? The attention to detail is amazing. On the desk it feels like a proper Amiga. The build quality is superb and it looks amazing on my desk.
Verdict: Totally worth the wait. I won’t leave it 30 years before my next one.