Wednesday, 20 February 2013

New Arrival

Just bagged myself a Spectrum Plus 3. Always wanted one of these, and after a few days play, I now realise I should have got one much sooner – it’s brilliant.

There are a few scratches on the casing, but it works 100% and I am really pleased with it so far. Got a few blanks discs too, plus a few disk games, but I am spending a lot of time converting some of my own games across to disc.

I ordered a scart lead which produces a really nice picture and the only bad thing I can say is that the sound is a bit poor. This is a known problem with these machines and there are fixes outlined on the internet, but as yet I am not confident about doing them!


For me, the Spectrum +3 was the computer I always wanted but never had  for a number of reasons, mainly because it came too late in the Spectrum's life span. It was released in 1987 at which time more powerful 16bit computers like the Amiga and the Atari ST were already available, wowing the public with their superior graphics, sound and storage options.

It was also not a real Sinclair computer, Sir Clive having sold off his prodigy to Alan Sugar’s Amstrad in the previous year.

So this machine was the best bits of the Amstrad range of CPC’s – the keyboard, connectivity and built-in storage plus the best bits of the Spectrum, Massive games catalogue, easy to use and a thriving copying culture.

The machine itself was larger than previous machines, nearly twice as big as the rubber keyed version and a third larger than the Spectrum Plus. The 3 inch drive was the same as the one in the CPC range, capable of holding around 170k per disk across two sides. The drive only had one read/write head, so the disk had to be turned over to read the contents of the other side.

Speed wise, it was a huge step up from tapes, loading a typical 48k game in around 3-5 seconds depending on how it was presented – loading screen etc.

There are single keys for certain characters like quotes or delete, and the familiar keywords of the 48k days are no longer to be found apart from the odd, well used command like LOAD. If you switch to 48k mode though, they are still present – but 128k basic offers a much better typing experience – you don’t have to look for commands on the keys, just type them in fully.

Connectivity wise there are two joystick ports for Sinclair joystick on the left hand side, next to the reset button. At the back there is the normal ZX expansion port – featuring some annoying changes that means some peripherals no longer work. There is also an expansion for an external disk drive. There is a video out socket that allows the use of scart cables – a big improvement over RF, which is also still available if required. and finally there is an RS232 serial port that can double up as a midi port and also an auxiliary port.

There is an audio socket to load and save to tape, so you can still load in all you old games.

On the down side, every Plus 3 had a built-in sound fault. Sound via the television was distorted due to an error on the PCB. There are various ways to fix this issue that can be found on the internet, but I am not brave enough to attempt them sadly. The other common fault is the drive belt. This often decays leaving the drive inoperable. Luckily you can still get replacement belts and they are not too difficult to fix.

Loading and saving to disc was nowhere near as complex as using the ZX Microdrive, there was no strange command s to remember. Loading and saving used the same commands as tape, but because the A drive was the default storage system, the Plus three used that. Simple.

My plus 3 has been permanently setup right beside my PC since it arrived, and I have spent many a good hour converting my games across, saving them to disc and building boot menu’s. It’s everything I wanted my Spectrum to be in the 80’s and although it isn’t a Sinclair machine, it still has that special something.


See the video review in episode 14


6 comments:

kit1980ukr said...

Cool! Congratulations.

Paul (Random Kak) said...

Thanks.Enjoying the real hardware.

Preston Thomas said...

If you ask on world of spectrum there is a little board you can get that will fix the problem and give you stereo AY sound. I have to get me a +3 and I am going to give it a blast.

Paul (Random Kak) said...

I looked at that, but it needs a hole drilling in the case (or using the existing audio port) which I was not keen on. Maybe I'll try thy the single resistor fix!

Robert Hazelby said...

I remember getting a +3 for Christmas 1989. One of the reasons I wanted a 128k machine (having had a 48k since 1982) was the gorgeous sound that I'd heard on a friends' +2. Imagine my disappointment when I heard the +3 sound.

Not realising the sound problem was an issue with all +3 models we ended up going back to Toys R Us many times, but all replacements had the same problem. By the 6th machine I gave up.

The only way I managed to (sort of) get around to it was once the game had loaded I also played the music out of the tape recorder hooked up to the +3. If you got the volume on the TV to be slightly lower than that on the tape recorder you could 'hide' the distortion.

Paul (Random Kak) said...

Mine is still distorted. Not brave enough to attempt to fix it!

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