Sun Solaris Unix Workstations

Suns are very well built machines which have a high level of third party hardware and software support. I don't tend to deal in the pre-Sparc 5 machines or servers but can get just about anything else. Ask me for a quote.

Sun Model Speed
drive bays
SPECint92 SPECfp92 Comments
Sparc 5 70 2 SCA hard drives, floppy, CDROM SCSI-2 - - 49.8 44.5 -
85 - - 56.3 51.4 -
110 - 1.88 68.7 63.0 -
170 3.53 3.00 - - Not supported under RedHat Linux
Sparc 10 Various 2 normal SCSI-2, floppy SCSI-2 varies varies - - Can have 1,2 or 4 CPUs. See text
Sparc 20 Various 2 SCA hard drives SCSI-2 varies varies - - Can have 1,2 or 4 CPUs. See text
Ultra 1 140 Two 68 pin SCA hard drives.

Optional floppy and CD.

4.66 7.90 - - Same footprint as older Sparcs, newer generation cpus.
170 6.26 9.06 - -
200 7.44 10.4 - -
Ultra 2 various Two SCA hard drives, CD, floppy SCSI-2, Wide SCSI various various - - Dual-cpu capabe. Lots of ram slots.
Ultra 5/10 270 Floppy, IDE CD, 2 x IDE hard drives. IDE 9.16 10.1 - - Ultra 5 has desktop case, U10 has mini-tower.
300 12.1 12.9 - -
333 14.1 18.3 - -
360 15.2 19.9 - -
400 16.5 21.9 - -
440 18.1 22.7 - -
Ultra 30 250 2 SCA hard drives, CD, 2 floppy bays SCSI-2, wide SCSI - 14.9 - - Mini tower, single cpu.
300 - 18.3 - -
Ultra 60 1x300 2 SCA hard drives, CD, 2 floppy bays SCSI-2, wide SCSI 13.2 18.3 - - Dual cpu capable U30.
1x360 16.1 23.5 - -
2x360 - 29.5 - -
1x450 19.7 35.2 - -


Sun Basics

Suns have a few wee peculiarities. The most obvious is apparent the first time you try to plug one into a monitor. Older Suns (but not Ultra 5/10s) use 13W3 video connections, these offer better signal to noise performance than VGA if you use the right cable. But luckily everyone's favourite Nerd has adaptors to let you use a normal SVGA screen.

Suns use a proprietary keyboard interface and the mouse plugs into the keyboard just like a Macintosh, great idea. Sun keycaps have a nasty habit of falling off in transit but they just push back on, it's only the top that's a problem not the push switch itself.

Sun memory is proprietary and not all Sun models are compatible with each other. Boards may be used singly, there is no need to use them in pairs as on HP machines. Most systems have eight memory slots.

Sun floppy drives are custom, they have no eject button as the floppy is under software control like a Mac.

For some inexplicable reason older Suns never seem to have a parallel port, this is a pain if your printer doesn't have a (slow) serial port or a network interface.

One nice feature of Suns is that they tend to have a power output connector to run your monitor and reduce the need for mains plugs (no Nerd ever has enough mains outlets). I wish HPs had this feature.

Older Suns use SBUS cards for expansion. You can get a SBUS card to do just about anything, there is an excellent selection. But some hard to get cards can be surprisingly expensive on the used market. One notable exception is the Creator 3D graphics card which has a custom port on machines which support it.

Sparcstation 5Sun Sparcstation 5

These units have the processor built into the motherboard and thus only take one CPU. They have three SBUS slots one of which is used for video. They have no parallel port but do have SCSI-2, UTP network, RS-232 serial, audio I/O and an 8 pin mini-DIN keyboard port. Speeds range from 70 to 170MHz. The CPU is not upgradeable without swapping the whole motherboard.

Sparc 5's use SCA internal drives with a custom bracket. They can hold two hard drives, a floppy and a CDROM. There are two types of case. One lets you use a normal height CROM but the other is a few mm shorter and need a custom Sun CD or an external drive, pain. The SCA brackets are a work of art and wonderfully easy to use!

Sparc 5s look just like the U20 below.

Sparcstation 10

These have similar external dimensions to a Sparc 5 but are quite different inside. These models have four SBUS slots and two MBUS but no CPU on the motherboard. The CPU(s) must be fitted on MBUS cards. This allows one, two or four CPUs. Most CPUS are 36-75MHz but substantially faster units such as 170MHz may be fitted.

SS10s have two ISDN ports as standard, which is nice. Makes them a good choice for a router.

All the SS10s I've seen have a standard floppy drive. There are mountings for two internal hard drives using normal 50 pin connectors but there is no way to fit a CD or DAT in the case, you need an external box. I'm told some hard drives won't fit in the case but I've yet to have a problem.

Sparcstation 20Sun Sparcstation 20

Essentially an updated SS10 with similar multi-processor facilities. This uses SCA style hard drives as on an SS5. It runs it's bus at 50MHz as opposed to 40MHz on an SS10 and has better cooling (handy if you have several CPUs). The SS10 has onboard ISDN but alas the SS20 doesn't.

Ultra 1 SeriesSun Ultra 1

Ultra 1's look very different from the older "pizza box" stlye Sparcstations. They have the same footprint but are just under twice as tall. They use the same keyboards and other peripherals as the older boxes.

A U1 is a single CPU machine and it comes in a few flavours. Normal, Enterprise (with faster networking) and Creator 3D (with a better video card). Creator3D cards only plug into a Creator 3D machine as they are not SBUS cards.

Some models have external 50 pin SCSI, some have external wide 68 pin SCSI. Inside they support a floppy drive, one 50 pin 5.25" device and two 68 pin SCA hard drives with custom brackets. They have four SBUS slots and eight memory slots.

Ultra 1's are a lot faster than most earlier Sun workstations.They are a good choice if you plan to run the latest versions of Solaris. Ultra1's take the same style of memory as an SS10.

Ultra 2 SeriesSun Ultra 2

Ultra 2's are similar in size to U1s, just a bit taller. These are dual CPU capable and have 16 ram slots (vs 8 on the U1, same type of ram) so can be a lot more powerful. They use SBUS cards just like the U1 and have similar expansion options. We find these are very popular machines but don't see many of them.

These take the same cpu modules as the single cpu Ultra 30s.

Ultra 5/10 SeriesSun Ultra 10

These are more modren machines. They use PCI cards which makes finding high power video cards or network cards easier. They have built in networking and all the usual ports. The U5 has a desktop case and the U10 is mini tower. These take IDE discs, if you want SCSI you need to add a PCI SCSI card, but be careful - many cards such as Adaptec are not supported by Solaris.

Unlike older Suns U5/10s do NOT automatically sense the voltage! There is a switch next to the power inlet at the back, always check it's set correctly or you'll need a new power supply (ask me how I found that out).

These machines have the CPU on a plug in board so you can upgrade them. But be careful you don't bend any pins as they're very fragile!

Unlike all our other Suns these will work with any VGA monitor. They have vga ports, not 13w3 and don't need unusual sync support.

Ultra 30 SeriesSun Ultra 30

Ultra 30s are one of our favourites. These take the same ram as the U1/U2 (16 slots) but offer modern PCI slots instead of SBUS. Unlike the U5/10 they're SCSI with two internal half height drive bays and are more substanially built. A lot more computer for your money :-)

Although these are single cpu they take the same cpu modules as U2s so are easy to upgrade. 250 and 300MHz seem to be the most common.

Ultra 60 SeriesSun Ultra 60

The U60 is basically a twin cpu Ultra 30. The front of the case looks slightly different but it's pretty much the same inside. 16 ram slots, PCI, wide SCSI, etc. Nice and fast.

CPUs can be fitted singly or as a pair. Speeds include 296, 360 and 450MHz.

Normally these have Creator video cards although the Raptor is a popular non-Sun replacement.

Sun Links

Need Solaris? Get it here.

Specs for older Suns here.

For Linux try here.