SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared
I regularly get the question what someone should choose if he wants a (more) modern storage for his Commodore 64 (and C128 in most cases too).
It is not easy to see the wood for the trees, given the number of different storage options and their advantages and disadvantages.
Simply we can divide the storage variants into 2 categories : The Disk alternatives, and the Other.
The Other category can actually be subdivided into Tape alternative and Cartridge alternative, but for the sake of convenience I classify it under 1 category.
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : Category Disk Alternative
The disk alternatives consist of at least 3 variants :
Other options include backbit, and no doubt more.
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : The SD2IEC
The SD2IEC is a fairly inexpensive solution that simulates (not emulates) a disk drive.
This is because the SD2IEC doesn't emulate the disk drive's hardware, so things like copy protections, fastloaders, and all sorts of other things don't work.
75% functionality value, price 30-50 euros
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : the Pi1541
The Pi1541 comes in several variants, but the common denominator is that it emulates a complete Commodore disk drive.
that means that the Pi1541 also has almost all the functionality that a real disk drive also has, including fastloaders and to some extent also copy protections.
95% functionality value, price 50-75 euros
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : the Ultimate II+
Although I never got to test the Ultimate II+ myself, the general tendency is one of jubilation.
If I can believe all the reviews and criticisms, this is the best you can get.
There is a price tag attached to that, and due to the chip shortages, it is almost or no longer available
100% functionality value, price 125-150 euros
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : Other category
The other category consists of at least 3 variants:
Other options include backbit, Kung Fu Flash, and no doubt more.
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : the Tapuino
The Tapuino is one of the oldest developments, it is a cassette emulator, which means that you can load dumps of cassette tapes in the *.TAP format via this device.
The nice thing (if you like that) is that it is an exact emulation of tape, with loader, and intermediate screens and music, but also the loading times are exactly the same as the original tapes.
The nice thing about this way of loading games is that you really have the experience as it was then, and for many people that is the real feeling of their childhood.
The disadvantage is that rewinding to another part on the tape is not fully implemented, so games that want to reload the intro after playing, for example, cannot always be played completely.
90% functionality value, price 30-50 euros
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : the Tapecart_SD
The Tapecart_SD is really a neglected child, and that's a shame, because it offers a lot of functionality for a small price tag.
the loading times of the Tapecart_SD are phenomenal, there are almost no faster solutions than this one.
In combination with the instant menu loader , the only slow step in the entire loading process is also removed.
By default, you load the boot menu by pressing Shift-Run/Stop, the loader loads at standard tape speed for 10 -15 seconds, but any program you load after that will start at hyperspeed, I'm talking a few seconds.
The disadvantage of this solution is that it only supports *.PRG files and therefore cannot load games from multiple parts.
90% functionality value, price 25-35 euros
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : the IRQHack64
The IRQHack64 was a promising new development that unfortunately died a quiet death, presumably because the designer was unhappy that more people were going to sell the product under conditions that were unacceptable to the designer.
In current functionality it is a similar product to the Tapecart_SD, it runs *.prg files, but also *.crt files should be supported, I personally have had little success with that.
The IRQHack64 also contains the possibility to put programs under hotkeys (1-9) and to make a program autostart when you switch on the Commodore 64.
I've seen proof of concept of streaming audio and video, network functionality and more beautiful things.
But as said, the project died a quiet death
90% functionality value, price 30-45 euros
SD card based solutions for the C64 Compared : conclusion
And then the final question, what would you recommend me :
Well, I personally am an absolute fan of the Tapecart_SD , simply because of the ease and speed with which you load programs.
No installing kernels, updating firmware, configuration files, cables or whatever, an additional advantage is that your user port and cartridge port remain free for other extensions.
The price is very friendly, you certainly don't have to leave it at that 🙂
Disadvantage : only *.prg files are supported, that means no disk or multi disk games.
If you want to play disk games then I recommend at least the Pi11541 , the SD2IEC works well for simple disk games, but many demos or protected disks won't run.
In terms of price, it doesn't make much difference, so that's why my advice is for the Pi1541.
(The Pi1541 is sold both as a 'HAT', and as a complete set with a Raspberry Pi, if you only buy the 'HAT', it's cheaper but you have to take care of a Raspberry Pi yourself)
The Ultimate II+ is a completely different caliber from a price point of view and the availability also plays a part in that.
* All functional values and prices are my personal estimates based on my preferences and insights !!