Studying the FALCON & the FALCON CT2b
(c) Rodolphe Czuba - JANVIER 99.

This page presents some of the technical ascpects of performance of a processor regarding bus and ram.


The basic system is a FALCON 030 equiped of a 16 MHz MOTOROLA MC68030 with a 16 bits bus.

On this system, the ram is divided in 2 banks of 16 bits, 2 MBytes each. This makes a total of 4 MBytes adressed in 32 bits only by the video chip (VIDEL).

The advantage of the 2 banks is the interleaving.
On the memory mapping point of view, accessing to an even WORD ($00, $04, $08, etc) is done on bank 0, accessing to an odd WORD ($02, $06, $0A, etc) is done on bank 1.
So the acces to sequential linear (in lots of cases), the processor acces to bank 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1 etc...

But why ?
To avoid the loss of cycle durring PRECHARGE TIME. This precrache time is the time necessary between 2 DRAM acces. So, for a 60 ns, this is 40 ns; one 16 MHz cyle is enought. The entire cycle of this RAM is 110 ns !
The F030 RAM is a 80 ns (complete cycle is 150 ns).

The question is why the FALCON has a 16 bit wide data bus. Here is the most probable answer :

To have a 32 bit wide DATA bus for the CPU and to keep same performances using interleaving, Atari would have to provide RAM configurations of 2 or 8 MBytes. 2 is not enought, and 8, at the time the machine was done, was too expensive.

The 030 of the FALCON accesses in 4 (16 MHz) cycles to a bank. A cycle is 62.5 ns long. This is 4 x 62.5 = 250 ns. This could be done with 80 ns ram.

The calcul of band width in the RAM is the folowing :

1 WORD / 4 clock cycles, so 0.5 octets / clock cycles.

So 0.5 x 16 000 000 =
8 MBytes/s.

What you can send to the RAM is one thing, but what the processor cant do with it is another.
In fact, to transfer between a RAM and a CPU, the CPU have to execute instructions. The most used is a MOVE.L that is 5 clock cycle. on a 030 (2 on a 040) and this of cource is faster to write. So, the 8 MBytes/s a only theory, the reality is a bit different :
On a 16 bit bus, a MOVE.L makes the processor de 2 output on the bus to read/write 2 WORDS. Hopefully, this type does not make delays between the 2 WORDS.
Moreover, you have to take care of the time of an acces to the RAM to feed the VIDEL. This can take from 4 up to 32% of the band width of the bus. This problem does not exist with FAST-Ram because this one is not used by video...

Let's see the case of the 640x480x2 color mode (1 bit per pixel) :

The number of bytes to transfer from RAM to the VIDEL (the COMBEL is adressing those) is (640x480)/8 = 38400. This represent 9600 LONG (acces to RAM in 32 bit mode).
The VIDEL recieved those LONGs by bursting 17 longs.
BURST is achieved in 3, 1, 1, [...] 1, 1 using FAST-PAGE mode of the 80 ns RAM.
So 9600/17 = 565 BURST (of 17 LONGs), this is 565x19 = 10735 cycles for an image.
For a second (60 image in a 60 Hz VGA mode), it's 10735x60 = 644100 cycles.
Durring this time, the CPU can't acces to the ST-RAM.
This represent 644,100/ 16,000,000 = 0.04, so
4% !

With the 25 MHz of the F030 bus when it has a CT1, the TC slowness is 20%, 10.2% in 16 color and 2.56% for the 2 color mode. We let you make the calcul for the 256 color mode, and discover a surprise...

To be sure of the calculs, read thoses remarks :

  1. The BURST mode of the 030 CACHEs are unusable with 16-Bit bus.
  2. This does not take of refresh cycles that occur every 15.6 ┬Ás that slow down the 030 (WAIT SATES). But it's on all system, and it does not influence the calculs a lot.
  3. The calcul is made aserting that we are accessing to the RAM lineary, so without the interleave of memory banks. If we access anywhere (lake every 4 bytes), we have to calcul once more (read this article in french for details).
  4. Making a distinction between reading and writing in RAM is interessant, because if the hardware is well made, it is possible to write faster that reading. You can notice it using NEMBENCH (5.3 / 6.4 on a normal F030 and 31.2/32.2 on a Falcon CT2).
  5. The band width of the bus is allso consumed by chips capable of being MASTER in stead of the CPU. On the Falon, 2 chips does it : the SDMA and the BLITTER.



The bigest techincal point of the CT2 is the 32 bit FAST-Ram. In fact, this RAM allow BURST durring the loading of caches of the 030.
A line in the cache is 16 bytes long (4 LONG), so this make 4 bus acces, but in a faster way.
The FAST-Ram controler is realy faster that the Falcon ST-Ram one.

Let's talk about BURST :

The CPU bursts in most part of the time. The CT2 gets 5, 2, 2, 2 cycles at 50 MHz.

The calcul is the folowing :
16 bytes / (11 + 5 x 3) 50 MHz cycles,
so 16 bytes / 26 cycles = 0.6154 bytes/s
so 0.6154 x 50 000 000 =
30.77 MBytes/s !

This is 30.77/5.3 = 5.8 time faster than a stock Falcon. Is there any pepole that work without a CT2 ???

REMARQUE : The BLITTER is not usable on a CT2 because of it's incapacity of adressing a 32 bit adresse space, including FAST-Ram (you have to have NVDI).

This is the end of this analysis. Thanks for your attention.
We hope that you understood and that you will start to calculate band width yourselves.