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  NeoFlash NEO2-TF Official Review - Read ...cial review inside.
Posted by retrohead on Fri, October 20th, 2006 at 03:02 - 5 Comments
 
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retrohead United Kingdom

 

Introduction & Packaging

The NEO2-TF comes packaged in a plastic moulded case. It is not vacuum sealed so pops open in a matter of seconds and you will be greeted with the NEO2-TF, MK4-Mini, cardboard backing sleeve and a mini CD containing some drivers and things which i will talk about later. On the front of the card sleeve you have a rendered picture of the NEO2-TF, 6 coloured DS phats (perhaps a little strange when it's only for DS Lite?) and you cant help noticing that they mis-spelt SNES with SENS. Well with that good start it's on to the back of the package where there are the specifications which boast:

  • Compatible with all versions of NDS Lite only
  • Compatible with TF (microSD) card only
  • Built-in 3 set separate RTC, one for game, onr for real time, and one for game playing time counter
  • Built-in 16 bit DMA, the transfer speed can match the maximum GBA/NDS transfer rate
  • Built-in battery AD convertor, can watch the voltage of SRAM battery on screen
  • Pure GBA hardware save, can auto detect GBA save type
  • Built-In hardware FAT system, each sector is 2mbit
  • Built-in 8k bit high-speed level 2 cache
  • Built-in 2m save SRAM
  • Built-in 16m menu flash
  • Built-in 128m~256m Zip RAM
  • Built-in 256m~1g NOR flash memory




Of course not forgetting the final one that it is compatable with the Neo Sega / SNES / N64 up-coming flashcarts. I have to bear this in mind when reviewing this product and I do not own one of these other "Adaptor" cards to test these features out so a few extra points will be added at the end of the review for this but for this review I will be studying the DS and GBA features of the card only.



Hardware




The hardware itself doesn't feel all that great. The plastic feels  a little cheap and is just clipped together quite loosly. It is a shame as the actual parts used on the chip board seem to be high quality. The microSD slot has a locking mechanism so when you push your microSD into the NEO2-TF it goes in with a click without fear of the card ever falling out.




The card fits into the GBA slot of the DS Lite really easily and sits flush in the slot with the microSD slot area being the only part of the card that "sticks out" of the DS. There is also small infra red remote on the top of the card next to the microSD slot and the code for it is fully upgradable. Something that sounds quite promising and very unique to say the least, perhaps we could see some interesting uses for it in the future though I doubt it will be from outside of the Neo Camp.



When put next to other cards the NEO2-TF seems small, there is a comparison picture above of the card next to a SuperCard Lite and the DS Lite dust cap.




The NEO2-TF that I was sent came packaged with a MK4-Mini which is essential to the correct working of the NEO2-TF and any other method of booting the device seems to cause problems with the menu. I won't go into much detail as I have already reviewed the MK4-Key in a seperate review here. What I will say about it is that the overal design appears to be have improved upon with the circuit board parts nowhere in sight, the mode switch has been improved and the plastic no longer seems to be so easily breakable.

On the down-side, I noticed that they did not change the label to read correctly on MK4-Mini (GBA is DS mode and vice versa) and also disappointing was the fact that my MK4-Mini is a different colour to the NEO2-TF. angry

The MK4-Mini also does not funtion that well with FlashMe




On The CD



There is CD-R included in the package which is actually an updated version of the CD I recieved with my MK4-Key. On it there are some handy links to websites and small guides including FlashMe. After looking at the contents of the CD, I head off into the "NEO2 SD_TF Serial" folder and see 2 more folders. One folder here is for the PC side applications which are for the NEO2-Lite and the other has 2 update files for the firmware on the NEO2 products. This now brings me nicely onto the next section but before I do this, I head off to the NeoFlash website to check if the files given to me are up to date. ;)



Software

I downloaded the latest menu, NEO2-SD/TF Menu v1.1 to update the firmware, this should be a simple process :)

I extracted the archive and was graced with 2 old beta versions of the menu plus the latest file "NEO2 Menu v1.1.neo" which I promptly copy onto my microSD and fire up my DS.



After checking the microSD card is in the NEO2 as it asks you press the A button and get your first glance at the NEO2 Menu, I will describe this very soon. Here you can see clearly the new menu file which you click on and are then asked to confirm if you want to flash the firmware. Looking at the the top screen (I already have 1.1 installed in this photo), it shows that the file i have opened is v1.0 but on the bottom screen it shows 1.1. I take it the NeoFlash team forgot to update the top screen for this menu release and I continue along. After a few seconds you are prompted with a confirmation screen telling you the file was flashed successfully then after pressing A again, the NEO2-TF soft-resets back to the menu where you can check that you now have the new menu. All's well ;)

Now I'm going to get to the bit you're probably all interested in.



Menu



On first appearance the menu seems ok, you have your game icon, file name and file type. Illogically, for some reason they decided to make it so you have to press up to scroll down the games list which feels a little strange but you soon get used to that. Probably more unforgiving though is the fact that the menu is not touch screen which perhaps should have been included along with a skinnable feature if you want to make the menu look nice but it is good to see the icons present and the menu is fast and simple to use just like some of the competition (SuperCard menu anyone?). Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that the menu does not sort your files for you. To do this you will need to use a program like Fat Sort the same as SuperCard users especially when you get alot of save games on your card as these are displayed on the menu aswell.

Once you click on a game, the SRAM save that is stored on the card is written to FAT and then blanked before the rom is ready for playing. You are given some more information about the rom on the top screen and a simple Play Game? Cancel or OK on the bottom screen. This process can be quite lengthy and in comparison to how long it takes to load roms on other cards is comparitively slow. I suggest this is due to the SRAM activities performed and I suppose it cannot be helped.

There is nothing implemented in the menu yet to control the IR remote either.



Game Dumping

The NEO2-TF supports dumping of your NDS games. The first SD flash card to support this function officially and I must say it seems to work quite well. I dumped Mario 64 and Advance Wars both with no problems except the resulting CRC and secure area location is different to that of scene released roms. The dumped games load fine on the NEO2-TF.


Game Compatibility

First off, this card is supposed to be compatible with GBA games aswell as NDS but currently the NEO2-TF and SD do not support GBA games so the compatability for GBA games is non-existent at time of writing.

So on with the DS games. I dragged a selection across to the microSD without patching purpously choosing some of the more problematic games. I recieved mixed results:

FAILED TO LOAD
Animal Crossing Wild World USA SCZ (Freezes on Nintendo logo)

BUGGY OR PROBLEMS
Castlevania - Dawn Of Sorrow EUR Legacy (Intro Movie lags and sometimes freezes, otherwise perfect)
Final Fantasy III JPN WRG (Japanese text perhaps an error while quick saving and the save is lost)
New Super Mario Bros USA pSyDS (Random Freezing)
Starfox Command USA Legacy (Random Freezing)
Tony Hawk's American Sk8land USA Mode7 (Slowdown when the songs change)
Tetris DS USA WRG (Freezes when quiting from Nintendo WFC, otherwise perfect)
Ultimate Spider-Man USA Legacy (Locks up randomly on loading new sections)

PLAYED FINE
42 All-Time Classics EUR Legacy
Alex Rider Stormbreaker EUR Trashman
Harvest Moon DS USA Legacy
Justice League Heroes USA Legacy
LEGO Star Wars II - The Original Trilogy USA Legacy
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 USA Legacy
Mario Kart DS USA SCZ
Mario Vs Donkey Kong 2 March of the Minis USA WRG
Super Monkey Ball - Touch & Roll EUR Legacy

You can check out the official compatability list here.

All in all, the DS tests i ran did not turn out that amazing. The problems that the NEO2-TF is currently plagued with, all seem fairly minor though and quite easily fixable within the next few menu updates. It is good to see that some problematic games are working like Harvest Moon while it is disappointing to see games that work perfectly on other cards are not working here yet (Animal Crossing).



Homebrew Compatibility

Next I went on to test out how the NEO2-TF stepped up to the challenge of running homebrew games and applications but soon realised that these would not be supported until the GBA support is implemented. This was a major disappointment considering NeoFlash's huge role they play in the ds-scene by hosting a coding competition twice a year.  :-O

Let's hope that they fix this soon. ;)

UPDATE Menu 1.3 Released
The new menu includes support for NDS Homebrew and a good percentage is now working. Here are a few that I have tested so far:

None - Testing now.



Conclusion

Using the NEO2-TF kind of feels like you've been sent a promo cart of a new product that is coming out soon. There are swarms of tiny things wrong with the device yet the potential just can't help it but to smack you in the face while you are using it. Perhaps I havn't chose the best time to review this card and unfortunately it is inevitably going to suffer in this review because of the flaws I have experienced.

PROS
+ Future proof concept giving you a card you can use on 4 systems and play games from 5 systems.
+ No patching required, just drag and drop to play.
+ Card fits flush in the DS (aside from the IR / SD socket) and slides in and out easily.
+ Internal parts are of a high standard and the microSD locks into place nicely.
+ IR remote that promises to be programmable in the future with most household IR appliances.
+ Can dump roms to the microSD card.


CONS
- The card is not not compatible with any passme device or FlashMe except for the bundled in MK4-Mini which has problems functioning correctly along side FlashMe.
- Still no GBA support.
- Casing lets down the internal build quality and lack of a cover for the bottom half could cause damage over time.
- Menu is a little strange to get used to pressing up to scroll down the list and looks messy with lots of files on your media (use Fat Sort occasionally to clean your menu up slightly)
- Games are slow to load considering this is a high-speed TransFlash device.


This is quite a tough one to call. What you have with the NEO2-TF is a well made, intuitive piece of hardware let down by the casing and current lack of software support. The ideas that are packed into the NEO2 range of products are quite, and I quote, "A Myth" at this moment in time. The game compatability is far from perfect and there is a lack of GBA support and homebrew support at this moment in time.

The future could be bright for this one though once the new Genesis, SNES and N64 adaptors are spread at large and the sooner GBA and DS Homebrew support is added the better.

I look forward to watching this one progress into something that many DS enthusiasts can enjoy along side retro gaming fans alike but for the moment the facts have to be faced that this card just doesn't quite cut it yet. :closedeyes:

The NEO2-TF sells for US$69.00 and you can but it from any of the Official Resellers


Overall Score


  82%



 
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 » Comment On: - NeoFlash NEO2-TF Official Review
#1
 
FifthE1ement United States

  Fri, October 20th, 2006 at 06:44
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Love the site retrohead and a great review!

This is such as shame as the neo team used to make sure great products. I am sad to see them to this point where half of their features don't even work as of yet. Not having GBA working?! WTF are they doing as this card has been in dev for almost a year now! And these are clean ROMs, since you really didn't say? Also do you see the resemblance to a clit in the way the product looks, lol?! Were you able to test the remote control, lol? This is a product almost all users should stay away from when there are so many quality products from SuperCard and M3 out there for purchase. Its almost like a joke product...

FifthE1ement  :ras:
 
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retrohead United Kingdom

  Fri, October 20th, 2006 at 08:10
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Hey FifthE1ement, glad you are enjoying the site.

Yeah they are clean roms I must've forgot to mention that, if you look at the roms I used you can see that :)

I was disappointed with it overall and it's a shame that 90% of the features are not currently working. The potential is good but you can't sell a product on potential alone!

Also worrying for this product is the fact they have announced the NEO3 range which is basically the same thing without GBA support. That and the fact the NEO2 products are not working with GBA yet, does not bode well for the future of this product.  :crazy:
 
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 » Comment On: - NeoFlash NEO2-TF Official Review
#3
 
muggsy New Zealand

  Fri, October 20th, 2006 at 09:30
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Great review.. a great read.... shame about the product though.... especially homebrew support.. since they run a coding comp...
 
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FifthE1ement United States

  Fri, October 20th, 2006 at 10:21
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Lol, the Neo3 series!? They are nuts as I can't even figure out how they are still in business? Who buys their products? They are very big supporters of the homebrew community yet you can't even play the homebrew that users create in their compos on their products. They need some help bad and I don't think they are going to get it.

FifthE1ement  :playlite:
 
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retrohead United Kingdom

  Sat, October 21st, 2006 at 01:19
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I updated the review with a price and some links. Also mentioned that there is nothing to control the IR remote yet. angry

It has been mentioned that if you have a Neo Slim Loader that you can put the GBA roms on your card using that. I sense that the GBA support is not included due to issues with the no patching idea...
 
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