Updated: Sep 19, 2022
So, I've been refurbishing some “breadbins” recently and as usual, find myself grabbing my Ultimate 2 cartridge to run through my tests. This involves making sure that disks load, cartridges and “prg's” boot correctly, plus my favourite option (from back in the day) cassettes load correctly.
And then I started thinking. What if I didn't have the Ultimate cart? I mean, it is
an expensive bit of a kit and not everyone needs all of its features. (It has a plethora – like Ethernet, multiple virtual drives and RAM disks but most people don't need these advanced options.)
And so I borrowed a Kung Fu Flash from AMI64 and decided to see what it could offer me. Now, for the record, I do have a few “modern” solutions for storing and retrieving data on my faithful Commodore 64's but this was one that had passed me by. You see, the thing is that, you don't need every peripheral “out there”, just one or two to cover all the options.
I use (for example), an SD2IEC reader when I need portability and quick plug'n'play features. I also use it to cover all my Commodore machines (plus 4, VIC 20 etc) so it's a great all rounder if you like to use more than just the C64. SD2IEC (with adapters for power) cover pretty much every 8 bit Commodore computer.
Added to that, I do also have an Easy Flash 3 cartridge and this is great for testing multiple kernals and it provides easy access to my BBS software (for when I fancy hopping online) for example.
But what if you want something that provides the features of both of those and still doesn't break the bank (like the Ultimate cart)... would the Kung Fu Flash fill your requirements?
Well after playing and testing with it for a number of days I can explicitly say “Yes, it will”.
You see, the thing is, the KF cart can (as I discovered) hold virtual Easy Flash images. It can also load disk images (including prg files) and it does both of these rather well.
This means then that, it pretty much combines both of the features sets of not only the Easy Flash 3 but also the SD2IEC reader (IF, we are purely focussing on the C64/128 machines) and so from a point of view of cost, makes a lot more sense.
Another advantage of course, is the KF cart is (well obviously!) a cartridge, so it won't need to take power from your C64's cassette port. (SD2IEC needs either the cassette or user port to leech power from). The Easy Flash, on the other hand, uses your machine's cartridge port and as useful as it is, it's not a cartridge that is flexible enough for me to leave it in permanently. I tend to pop in my cart for specific reasons but it doesn't “live” in my machine as it doesn't hold enough of my programs to be useful that way. The Easy Flash 3 can hold a fair number of programs but it can't save and be added to easily. In other words it's really a multiple cart/kernal system as opposed to a disk drive replacement.
Now in terms of speed, I am rather impressed with the KF system. What I didn't anticipate was that it literally flashes the chosen program into internal memory. It does this extremely quickly however and for this gets a thumbs up. This makes it, not quite the powerhouse the Ultimate 2 is but for almost one third the price, remains suitably impressive. Another nice feature (sadly lacking in the SD2IEC) is it supports all disk file types. This means not only your standard C64 disks (images) but also D71, and D81. These disks are much faster than the usual disks used on the breadbin and much larger. For some, this might not be a deal breaker but for others, a nice bonus.
So, what is my overall opinion on the KF cart? I think for the price it's a much better deal than the SD2IEC and/or Easy Flash options. As I have alluded to, it pretty much can do what they do but in an all-in-one unit and at a lower price. Having extra disk format support is a nice added bonus too and the fact that it can just sit in your cartridge port is a welcome feature.
Should you buy one to sit alongside your SD2IEC? I'd say it's not going to add enough new features for that, but if you're looking for your first modern disk and/or cartridge solution, it's definitely the way to go. If you own an Ultimate or U2, then it won't add anything new to those. In conclusion it's a newer (and more flexible, feature packed) solution for fans of the Commodore 64 who are looking to buy a storage solution that runs games and demos easily. I highly recommend it, for the fact that it combines two peripherals into one and for half the overall price. The only thing really lacking is any kind of cassette solution but beyond that it covers most (if not) all other needs.