Recommendations for an all-in-one cartridge for an MSX2 system

Par Jukka Aho

Supporter (1)

Portrait de Jukka Aho

03-02-2023, 18:32


I just recently bought a Sony HB-F1 MSX2 computer. Or, actually, it is yet to arrive (still waiting for the parcel) but I am trying to orient myself a bit in advance.

First things first: I come from Commodore background (VIC-20, C64, Amiga 500, Amiga 3000; the works!) and also have some experience on CP/M computers (Osborne 1). This will be my first time owning an MSX computer, though.

Back in the day, I briefly experimented with some MSX1 systems at my friends and relatives but never for any extended period of time. My primary frame of reference for the 8-bit era of computers remains the C64.

To set the baseline for what I do know, I can quickly list the differences between MSX systems and the C64 I observed back then:

  • Z80 vs. 6502/6510 — different CPU, different machine language, obviously!
  • MSX cassette drives: intriguing from the point of view of a Commodore user in that they appeared to be ordinary mono tape recorders (for dictating voice memos etc.) repurposed as computer peripherals rather than dedicated, built-for-the-purpose computer peripherals.
  • ROM-based cartridges seemed to be much more prominent method of software distribution in the MSX world than on the C64 side.
  • The MSX BASIC was easily more advanced and user friendly than its C64 counterpart due to the built-in graphics and sound commands. (But that can be said of just about any BASIC dialect when compared to the somewhat austere BASIC V2 of the C64.)
  • On the MSX, the addition of a floppy disk drive seems to upgrade a BASIC interpreter-based home computer to a more serious MSX-DOS or CP/M computer. On the C64, the floppy disk drive is just another way of storing files and the immediate mode of the BASIC interpreter will remain as your primary “shell”. All in all, the MSX seems to be more “modular” in the expandability department.
  • The standard FDD type on the MSX seemed to be a 3.5-inch microfloppy from the get go whereas the C64 FDDs were mostly of the 5.25-inch type.
  • Graphics and sound — well, the gritty SID is in some regards still unbeatable, and the C64 VIC-2 graphics chip is quite capable as well (scrolling, sprites, organic color palette) but the MSX1 offerings I saw were OK, too and some MSX game cartridges apparently came with an additional sound chip!
  • MSX2: The local computer magazines presented MSX2 as the “future of MSX” and had some stories of genlock and video titling capability, along with 256-color video modes. Alas, MSX2 computers never actually materialized in Finland (and the Amiga had already happened, anyway) so I never got to experience one. (Except that a friend of mine installed some sort of an aftermarket upgrade kit on his SVI-728, with an MSX2-compatible graphics chip, and gained a 256-color mode, which was pretty neat at the time, and for an 8-bit machine.)

That is basically the extent of my knowledge. Of course, I’m now going to finally experience an MSX2 system myself...

* * *

Now onto my actual question:

What is the present-day, definite, super-duper, all-in-one expansion / mass storage / FDD emulation / multicart cartridge I should get to accompany my HB-F1, once it arrives?

I am looking for something that:

  • accepts a detachable CF card, SD card, USB flash drive, or similar for mass storage
  • emulates FDD and virtual floppies with disk images
  • emulates various common cartridge types / memory mapping configurations (an essential thing in the MSX world, I gather)

Additionally, some of the features I’d like to see but not all of which can probably be found on a single cartridge would be:

  • enhanced sound (I keep reading about SCC, MSX-MUSIC and whatnot but do not know the pros and cons of any of these)
  • enhanced video capabilities (if even possible, but it seems there are even better graphic chips (for MSX2+ etc.) than what baseline MSX2 offers)
  • additional RAM to the extent needed (how much is enough?)
  • connectivity or I/O capabilities such as a serial port (UART) or Ethernet port or USB interface (for communicating with the outside world, remote-controlling the cartridge and the computer, quickly transferring blocks of data from an external system to the MSX RAM or back etc.)
  • anything that I obviously need for an HB-F1 but was not knowledgeable enough to ask about.

Now, I’ve been reading this site a bit so I know at least some of this exists in cartridge form — but which all-in-one cartridge, exactly, to choose for the HB-F1, and on what grounds, is the question.

* * *

I am a programmer-tinkerer at heart, if that helps. Games are, of course, part of the retrocomputing experience, and it is nice to have large number of runnable titles available, but gaming is not my primary goal. I might try programming the system a bit have some special interest to the available enhanced sound options.

Any comments, tips and advice are welcome. Thank you in advance!

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Par AndreV

Master (219)

Portrait de AndreV

03-02-2023, 23:10

Upgrade msx2 to msx2+ only possible by converting the msx2 it self, not by cartridge.
Only thing these days is where to get the cartridge, mostly out of stock. What i read is that carnivore 2 is still available by maxiol..

Sofarun needs a flash cartridge like carnivore 2 or megaflashrom.

Some handy program dsk file to real disk (usb diskdrive )

Par gdx

Enlighted (6120)

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04-02-2023, 01:54

Best "All in one" cartridges:

FlashJacks (long to get):

Carnivore 2 (very complet):

GR8NET (Ethernet support)

MegaFlashROM SCC + SD (Prefer a recent version)

SD_Drive_v4 (korean Flash card with original functions):

SD Mapper/Megaram 1024KB (less functions but good price):

Par gdx

Enlighted (6120)

Portrait de gdx

04-02-2023, 11:06