UK1541 – First Impressions


The ruling times (or even ages) of the well-known „1541Ultimate” full floppy hardware emulator, we can perhaps see as passing to the past. Since not so long ago, the first users of Kisiel's newest project – Ultimate Killer 1541 (UK1541) – may express their satisfaction mixed together with delight. For the price of about 50-60 Euros one can buy this piece of electronic, LCD-equipped (!) miracle almost fully emulating a classic 1541.

Kisiel's UK1541 as well as Gideon's 1541U solution have a common, important feature – both can fully, in a hardware-copatible way, emulate a Commodore's 1541 floppy drive. And, that's all for the similarities between these two solutions. Kisiel's idea was not to copy something what already exists, but to create a cheaper alternative to 1541U. The Ultimate Killer stands high against all those pseudo-sellers out there who claim (to the newcomers or not oriented ones) that the „SD2IEC” is a full, although SD-based, 1541-emulator of the C64's drive.

The Ultimate Killer by Kisiel has also some brand-new features not implemented (nor found) in other 1541-based solutions available for the Commodore 64 (as well as for the C128). The first feature which makes the UK different from the well known 1541U is that the Ultimate Killer does not block the Expansion Port! This is essential if one wants to use, at the same time, one of his beloved cartridge such as Action Replay. The UK1541 is to be mounted into rather unused port – a User Port.

Kisiel's first idea was to design the UK1541 in a close-to-cartridge size, placed in a horizontal position, but after, let say, official presentation at the „Stary Piernik 8” party, the scenners suggested to make it in a, attention, vertical position.

A vertical placement of UK1541 is mostly due to one of its key element - the LCD screen – which is a handy feature helping a user to choose any disk-file in a very „no-blind” comfortable way. The small LCD screen itself is divided into two colons. First - on the left – displays the whole memory card directory, second – on the right – displays the floppy drive one (that of the .d64 image being precise).

Maneuvering and navigation thru UK1541's can be done using a joystick or with a help of a special, dedicated remote controller. The latter one is good solution, especially for those of you, who are more demo than games, having no joystick around. The remote is supplied by a small cell-battery.

An interesting thing is a fact that Kisiel included a small, 6 din-to-stereo-jack cable connector. Thanx to this minimalistic and very original approach the UK1541 has no that-big-DIN slot sticking out, as it is in the case of 1541Ultimate.

As a small curiosity I can add, that thanks to my suggestion, the Ultimate Killer is equipped with a reset button, very helpful when, for example, a disk loader hangs a floppy drive.

Another nice Killer's feature is a slot for 3V (CR2032) battery. This additional power supply is, among others, dedicated to store the actual and/or latest UK1541 configurations (such as latest mounted file) or to keeping the power of the RTC (Real Time Clock).

What needs to be mentioned, is that the UK has no dedicated plastic case. But by all means, this is not a UK's drawback. The author includes special small „handles” letting the UK1541 to be easily put in and out of the User Port's slot.

How is it serving us in practice? Well, in fact really very well. For our tests I was armed with an 8 GB SDHC memory card, and a bare UK1541 unit. I copied a few random .d64 images into a freshly created directory. Next I put the card in to UK1541's SD slot. Once the C64 was under tension, the small LCD screen displayed properly my directory's name. Next, I entered into that directory and chose the first .d64 image available. I wish to mention that my Commy was not equipped with any AR cartridge.

All the navigating and loading processes went very well without any problems. No differences comparing to a real 1541 drive. Although... in a few cases I had an impression, that using a real 5.25" floppies and drive would have been faster than a manual .d64 file image selection from the SD card. But, it is not a UK1541's fault. The UK was just doing its job, plainly.

One of the most important features of this device is its use of the User Port. For example, to change a disc side, the user does not have to interrupt his work with the C64 (as it is in the case of Ultimate) by entering into a dedicated menu to swap a disk. It is an important information especially for those who like to watch the trackmos/demos uninterruptedly. Now, thanks to Ultimate Killer’s automatic disk swapping, the 8-bit demo projections will be silent and consecutive. What one needs to unmount an actual .d64 image, is to push a fire button in a joystick connected to the UK1541 (or its corresponding remote-controller's button), and push it again in order to mount another one automatically.

From my observations, the UK1541 will surely revolutionize the C64/C128 adaptors' market. The UK1541 solution is dedicated to those of you who does not expect any extra sophisticated services offered by the Ultimate or the Chameleon. For a decent and not exorbitant price, one can buy a very useful 1541 „real” drive emulator which, what is worth to repeat, works independently on the cartridge.

The Ultimate Killer 1541 works very well with Commodore 128 as well, what has been proven during my tests.

Personally, even if I still will stay a real 5.25” floppy user, the Ultimate Killer impressed me a lot. I think that such projects are needed not only because they improve work's comfort, increase the capacity of storage to name a few, but, what is also very important, this kind of solutions motivates a user to become interested in a real C64 hardware and in its specifications. At the same time reducing the PC-to-C64 data-transfer to the minimum.

V-12 of Tropyx on December, 15th, 2014.

Translation: Sim / Wanted Team, Lamers, Resistance, Titan...