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The ZX Spectrum Next - Kickstarter Now Live! : Now Funded!


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Just for clarity, the HDMI video sync issue is something I've not experienced, so maybe it's only a problem for a tiny amount of games or demos! However, the HDMI power thing definitely is an issue.

 

As someone who owns a Spectrum +2 with a DivMMC future (which ironically I got because I was fed up with the delays to the Next), I have to disagree with you @Camel and say it's hard for me to recommend getting a Next over just buying an original +2 Spectrum and a DivMMC Future. Especially if the official line of HDMI support seems to be that it's not the main supported video output with RGB being the main supported option, as the +2 comes with RGB video as standard. Maybe the whole HDMI issues with the Next is down to it not being a commercial release, so the post sales support just isn't there when the HDMI issues have been raised, but when the dust has settled a bit, the reality is that the Next isn't currently doing that much more than my +2 with DivMMC Future can do (features like NMI/Multiface, save snapshot, load TAP/SNA/Z80 all come from the DivMMC to begin with, plus the DivMMC Future has a built in Kempston joystick port). 

 

The Next Turbo Mode is really nice, but I've mentioned it before that it does seem a bit flaky - either it works or it doesn't work at all and even then some games that do work are unplayable in Turbo Mode. Maybe there will be a definitive list compiled of the games that really do work well from the Turbo Mode (Buggy Boy is brilliant), but it's a bit trial and error down to the Turbo Mode not always working and finding out what games really benefit from it.

 

There's been a fairly new piece of kit called the ZX-HD which connects to the Spectrum edge connector and gives not just HDMI video out, but also supports ULA Plus. At the moment, it's a bit clunky as you still need to connect a DivMMC device to the thru connector on the ZX-HD, but I wouldn't be surprised if thefuturewas8bit don't come up with a new version of the DivMMC Future with the HD output built in (oh and at least the DivMMC Future SD card slot has a push to release mechanism! ;))

 

Maybe this will all change thanks to the source code being released and we'll see lots of new, amazing features being added to the Next (plus one of the benefits of having an FPGA based device), but if you're just looking for a Spectrum to hook up to a TV via RBG/Scart with the ability to easily load games from an SD card, I honestly can't say at this moment in time the Next is significantly better than just buying a +2 and a DivMMC Future when you get past the various Facebook posts of "ohh... look at my new Spectrum in 2020 sitting in my retro man cave and doesn't it feel niiiiiiiiiiice!!!"

 

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8 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:

Just for clarity, the HDMI video sync issue is something I've not experienced, so maybe it's only a problem for a tiny amount of games or demos! However, the HDMI power thing definitely is an issue.

 

As someone who owns a Spectrum +2 with a DivMMC future (which ironically I got because I was fed up with the delays to the Next), I have to disagree with you @Camel and say it's hard for me to recommend getting a Next over just buying an original +2 Spectrum and a DivMMC Future. Especially if the official line of HDMI support seems to be that it's not the main supported video output with RGB being the main supported option, as the +2 comes with RGB video as standard. Maybe the whole HDMI issues with the Next is down to it not being a commercial release, so the post sales support just isn't there when the HDMI issues have been raised, but when the dust has settled a bit, the reality is that the Next isn't currently doing that much more than my +2 with DivMMC Future can do (features like NMI/Multiface, save snapshot, load TAP/SNA/Z80 all come from the DivMMC to begin with, plus the DivMMC Future has a built in Kempston joystick port). 

 

The Next Turbo Mode is really nice, but I've mentioned it before that it does seem a bit flaky - either it works or it doesn't work at all and even then some games that do work are unplayable in Turbo Mode. Maybe there will be a definitive list compiled of the games that really do work well from the Turbo Mode (Buggy Boy is brilliant), but it's a bit trial and error down to the Turbo Mode not always working and finding out what games really benefit from it.

 

There's been a fairly new piece of kit called the ZX-HD which connects to the Spectrum edge connector and gives not just HDMI video out, but also supports ULA Plus. At the moment, it's a bit clunky as you still need to connect a DivMMC device to the thru connector on the ZX-HD, but I wouldn't be surprised if thefuturewas8bit don't come up with a new version of the DivMMC Future with the HD output built in (oh and at least the DivMMC Future SD card slot has a push to release mechanism! ;))

 

Maybe this will all change thanks to the source code being released and we'll see lots of new, amazing features being added to the Next (plus one of the benefits of having an FPGA based device), but if you're just looking for a Spectrum to hook up to a TV via RBG/Scart with the ability to easily load games from an SD card, I honestly can't say at this moment in time the Next is significantly better than just buying a +2 and a DivMMC Future.

 

 

Well yes, the HDMI thing affects only a tiny proportion of demos and games. That's been well documented. I'd very surprised if a VGA->HDMI solution resolves that issue. 

 

LIke I said, an original Spectrum is still a good option. Joystick interfaces is a pain at times though. Kempston interface built-in is nice unless your game needs Cursor. Being able to switch mid-game is a handy feature of the Next.

 

Also depends on whether you want to play Next games. Warhawk is brilliant. I'm not convinced we're going to see a HUGE amount of brilliant Next games though, considering the user base is only about 2000 or so. I suppose that will change with Kickstarter round 2 but there's still not going to be a big enough audience that masses of quality games will suddenly appear. We'll see I guess.

 

I'm really pleased with it, personally, but mostly I wanted a hassle-free, single solution way of playing games from an SD card and it gives me that in a really neat package. It's also going to continue to be supported (who knows, they may even solve the HDMI issue) and improved. Cores for other machines is an excellent addition, but that's not something that's going to interest everybody.

 

I've been on the various FB pages since getting mine and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, so I'm surprised* that the reception here has been so negative. It's a fucking proper new Spectrum in 2020 and it's pretty damn good. It's probably my favourite retro purchase since getting an Ultimate 1541 II.

 

 

* I'm not surprised in the slightest

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Sure, the Next does have some really nice features like being able to swap joysticks and I'm sure it's going to be made even better in the coming weeks and months, but the Accelerated Next costs £250, you can pick up a +2 and a DivMMC Future for less than half that amount.

 

A big question mark for me still is the durability of the Next. Someone on the Next Forum has reported their QAOPM keys showing signs of wear with one of the responses (not official) being that it's not uncommon for laser etched keyboards to suffer from this and sure enough, checking my Kickstarter updates there was a post from October last year showing the keyboards getting their "black magic" laser etching to the keys. Reading about laser etched keyboards and it seems it's a known issue with some methods of laser etching. Is it going to affect the Next keyboard? The Next team haven't given an official response of "no, we use a method that means this shouldn't happen", there's no official response on it.

 

Maybe it's not going to be a problem, but stuff like that just makes me worry the cased Next, like the manual, is really a tribute to Clive Sinclair and Rick Dickinson, designed to sit on someone's retro gaming shelf and rarely get used.

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6 minutes ago, Lorfarius said:

Think it's been a good mix of both but people who have problems will always stand out more. 

 

For the power situation could something like this help from a Rasp Pi?

 

USB-C Cable with On/Off Switch

 

Nah it's not powered via USB. There's already an inline power switch which resolves the issue of having to switch off at the mains which I linked to upthread.

 

The bigger issue is that if you connect via HDMI, the Next takes power from the HDMI source and sort of half-powers the Next when you've turned it off. On my TV, it's not a massive deal as changing input on the TV or putting into standby and then on again cuts the power to the Next. Not all TVs do that though, so you either have to turn the TV off at the mains, or remove the HDMI lead from the Next.

 

It's a silly oversight that really should have been sorted as it becomes a pain in the arse. I'm not sure why the Next even takes power from the HDMI connection, but I'm no electronics expert. I've never seen it in another device.

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The HDMI Power/Voltage issue was known 2 years ago when the initial boards were released:

 

https://www.specnext.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=946

 

I'm sure there were hardware revisions made after the board was released (although I'm struggling to find where the hardware revision information is kept!), but the HDMI Power must be something specific with the Next hardware as I've never seen it on any other device connected to the same TV, including a Raspberry Pi. 

 

At the moment, it does seem most of the Next users are retro enthusiasts who are using RGB with a CRT for video and at the moment I only have the Next hooked up to my TV (all my retro stuff is packed away due to imminent home improvements) with easy access to the mains plug, but yeah literally having to switch off the TV and the Next, or pull out the HDMI cable on the Next, is a total pain in the arse.

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Sounds like the boards were printed ages ago (to go in the keyboards) then just sat around until they turned up for packing. It's messy but understandable, doubt any of them had done a proper product like this before. Fingers crossed that they make decent changes when it comes to the next run.

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I should say that on the two TVs/monitors I've tried, the HDMI power issue wasn't an issue. The unit properly powers off when unplugged from the power. I've also not run into any HDMI incompatibilities, over hundreds of games tried. I do have an issue with HDMI sound, but I have the same issue on some MiSTer cores, so I'm inclined to believe that's a quirk of that particular monitor.

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4 hours ago, Dr_Dave said:

I should say that on the two TVs/monitors I've tried, the HDMI power issue wasn't an issue. The unit properly powers off when unplugged from the power. I've also not run into any HDMI incompatibilities, over hundreds of games tried. I do have an issue with HDMI sound, but I have the same issue on some MiSTer cores, so I'm inclined to believe that's a quirk of that particular monitor.


One of the games that it affects is Old Tower. The screen flashes a lot... It’s not supposed to.

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23 hours ago, Swainy said:


One of the games that it affects is Old Tower. The screen flashes a lot... It’s not supposed to.

 

I think it's anything that uses the Nirvana engine which is supermegacomplex regarding exact timings to actually defeat colour clash (witchcraft!).

The Next itself is compatible with those games/timing routines but the HDMI spec can't support them so you need to use regular RGB/VGA.

 

I suspect that if you could magically add a HDMI port to the older speccy's then they would also fail to show the games properly.

 

I'm no expert on this but it's my take on it.

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The problem with the HDMI video timing is  - how are developers going to test their new Spectrum games are compatible with HDMI in the Next? It’s sounds like it literally can’t be tested through an emulator, but is only seen on real Next hardware through HDMI. That doesn’t seem fair adding in a completely new situation to test for, hopefully it doesn’t put off developers.
 

Just tried Gandalf - maybe one of the best modern Spectrum games. It’s supposed to look like this(it’s a Nirvana engine game so does look really, really good)

 

 

The graphics are quite messed up on the Next and it looks like this

 

4E6759F9-FDFF-418E-AEB0-1769E358C7BB.jpeg.f7afe61ee4c05978c497087b71aaf366.jpeg

 

The main sprite when you jump goes like this (image needs to be rotated but I’m on my phone!)
2FF236EB-BCF2-48AD-A4E3-D8A4DC816FAD.jpeg.9cee4f65ead551bd732fc800362daf33.jpeg

 

It’s really disappointing if it is the case that the Next can’t support Nirvana games through HDMI. It’s a really good engine and sure it does use trickery to make the graphics they are, but this looks like Nirvana games simply don’t work on the Next via HDMI because of the decision to not have it as the main video output (or implement a screen buffer of some sort). 
 

I’ll try a few more Nirvana games and see what they’re like just in case it’s maybe a dodgy file I’ve got!

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22 minutes ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

If HDMI, as a standard, doesn't support  the exact timing of the programming tricks used then it's not the fault of the next designers.

 

 

But the Next could support it, the decision was made to not include a frame buffer - either in hardware or implemented on the FPGA.

 

Quote

HDMI can display 50Hz but it can’t display the nonstandard spectrum timing (Ts per line and lines per frame) without a frame buffer

 

Quote

The fpga size is getting in the way. Since the spectrum on proper timing produces video data at a different rate than the hdmi consumes it, you have to buffer the video signal in between and the buffer space isn't there. 

 

I'll go back to the original Kickstarter Campaign

 

Quote

And while we’re looking at the future with the Next, by no means it forgets its roots: it has full support to tape loading and saving (fancy hearing that game loading?), it works with old CRT and VGA monitors (while also supporting modern HDMI output) and it’s compatible with original hardware expansions.

 

Quote

Future-proof for another few decades

We did a good job with the Spectrum Next, but it wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t made it to last. While you can use the Next with old CRT RGB monitors, it also support VGA and modern HDMI monitors and TVs, future-proofing the computer for decades to come.

 

Except it's not really true, is it? Sure, it supports HDMI... but actually it doesn't quite support it. If the Next was going to be future-proofed, like it claimed in the original Campaign, then a frame buffer would have been a minimum requirement. Instead we're now being told you should really be using VGA or RGB, which as it's been pointed out is pretty hard to find on a TV you'd buy today, never mind finding one that supports it in 5-10 years time.

 

It is totally jarring when they've just spent two years fannying around with the keyboard trying to make it absolutely perfect then it turns out HDMI isn't completely supported.

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But it's not non standard programming modes, the Next doesn't 100% support the Spectrum's native video timing over HDMI. 

 

That means any programs exploiting the exact video timing won't work correctly (or at all) over HDMI, but they'll work over VGA or RGB. 

 

And that means you likely won't be able to play over HDMI games that have benefited from 30+ years of knowledge on how to exploit the Spectrum's timing and being able to do stuff like remove colour clash (well, it gives the impression of it). For example Nirvana engine games like these

 

 

 

 

 

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Yeah, so I just tried Gluf and it's unplayable (the colour changing blocks don't work, the sprite colours are messed up when you move) and Yazzie is playable but the graphics, like Gandalf above, are horrible compared to what they should be.

 

IMG_9056.thumb.jpg.da398ff860f1177b359978df47bae052.jpg

 

Also tried Manic Pietro (another modern game) and it's a total mess.

 

It's supposed to look like this:

 

And on my Next over HDMI  it looks like this:

 

IMG_7638.thumb.jpg.7da62497103feb7f6e78c20b9ac5d5a6.jpg

 

So yeah, it looks like there's going to be quite a few of modern Spectrum games (that look amazing on original hardware) either won't work, or will look like utter shit which is a total disservice to the guys who made the games.

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1 hour ago, gone fishin' said:

But it's not non standard programming modes, the Next doesn't 100% support the Spectrum's native video timing over HDMI. 

 

 

 

 

No, HDMI does not 100% support the Spectrum's native video timing. A buffer in the FPGA hardware would be nice but it's a hardware fix for a shortcoming of the HDMI standard.

 

Use a different connection FFS.

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28 minutes ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

 

No, HDMI does not 100% support the Spectrum's native video timing. A buffer in the FPGA hardware would be nice but it's a hardware fix for a shortcoming of the HDMI standard.

 

The point of the Next was that it was supposed to be a Spectrum with HDMI output. The original campaign was sold on it being future proofed by having HDMI.

 

A buffer isn't nice, it should have been a requirement.

28 minutes ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

Use a different connection FFS.

 

Yeah, that's the answer... don't use HDMI, use RGB? I'd be just as well using my +2, seeing as it's going to be as future proofed as the Next is.

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Sure, but the amount of Next games developed is going to be dwarfed by the amount of Spectrum Homebrew released. The Nirvana+ engine was really exciting, some of the tricks people could do made the games really impressive.


There’s about 10 games on the Next and dozens of new Spectrum games released every year, although still not as many as on the C64. I was hoping that the Next would bring interest back to the Spectrum. The HDMI issue is going to stop new developers using the Nirvana engine, which is a real shame as it does really push the Spectrum.

 

 

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2 hours ago, crocked said:

Have the next plus models already shipped? I thought I read they would ship last week but maybe I’m remembering wrong. When they ship do you get a tracking number?

The Plus models shipped late last week. Mine arrived last Saturday. Are you sure that you didn’t back an Accelerated model?

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