Well my brand new DS-X turned up this morning from Divineo UK. There has been a lot of hype about this product and I have purchased it for various reasons. The main reasons being inter-operability between operating systems and the DS homebrew scene compatibility. So I'm very interested to see how it turns out in these areas. Obviously I'm interested in its other features too. Namely MP3 playback, DS Rom compatibility, the much hyped skinning engine and those crazy dancing lights. It also boasts a USB 2.0 connection meaning transfers of up to 480Mbits/second.
Packaging and Contents
The DS-X comes packaged in a nice simple glossy cardboard box. The box has the DS Xtreme logo on it and links to its web site and support forums. Only English is present and no spelling or grammar mistakes to boot.
Upon opening the box, it contains a usb cable and a cardboard holder for the actual cart itself. No manual, documentation or driver disk are present.
In The Fitting Room
Whilst removing the DS-X cart you can't help but feel that is does indeed feel different to a commercial DS Cart. The size is identical, but the plastic is lighter and does comes across as a bit flimsy. The mini USB port also looks very fragile. The cart is held together by 5 plastic clips
However after a closer inspection it would appear it is more rugged than initially thought. The mini USB port seems solid and I believe you would have to apply a bit of force to bend it. Also the Cart itself does seem very sturdy apart from maybe the piece under the DS-X label. However I imagine they need to cram more into the DS-X cart than a commercial cart. Overall I think its a great build, very comparable to the quality of my G6 Lite.
** A few hours later **
After 2 hours of use it appears that it doesn't like ejecting itself with any pressure unless it is applied on one of the corners. It sometimes feels like it might break.
As you can see from the picture the DS-X fits snuggly into my DS Lite without any parts protruding. You'll also see that the USB mini port is exposed which means the cart does not need to be removed from the DS Lite to have content added to it. However I would advise if you were to go down that path that you don't have you DS on at the same time.
Operating System Compatibility
Inserting the usb cable into the DS-X and plugging it into my laptop which at the time was running Windows XP SP2 produced great results. The device was detected and continued within 20 seconds with no input on my behalf. The Cart itself is 4gb or 512MB and was correctly detected within Windows XP as a USB storage device and formatted as Fat16. The volume name was also DSX.
As I dual boot with Ubuntu Edgy Eft I wanted to make sure that he device worked correctly under that. So I rebooted and well, the results speak for themselves. It was corretcly detected and even setup faster than Windows XP. I am impressed.
What's on the DS-X
As you can see this is already a directory structure in place but that is merely a guideline as the DS-X OS will scan the card for DS executables. Included is the default DS-X skin and a sample mp3. So no applications have been provided out of the box.
First I booted the DS-X without making any changes. After a few seconds of loading the main menu comes up. It consists of 4 items currently.
As you can see the menu is very nicely laid out. Containing 4 items. Apps (containing DS Executables), Music (mp3s and ogg files), Settings and About.
Upon entering the Apps menu it proceeds to find available applications on the DS-X. It does not find any as it does not comes with pre installed apps.
The Music menu also comes up blank. However once selecting Library is scans the cart and finds the sample mp3. The menu system is great and very responsive. The music will display the Title, Artist and Album contained within the ID3v1 tags (does not display ID3v2 Tags) . The sound is great. It still works when the lid is closed however the screen does not turn off, so hopefully in the future this may be rectified.
Settings The Settings Menu is fairly basic. Containing one option for Instant boot and various options for the LEDs including the turning on the dancing LEDs. The On/off switches are nice little graphical switches. Turning on the Dancing LEDs has the desired effect whilst playing music.
About The About Menu is a very simple about box. Containing the OS Version (Mine shipped with V1.0.1 and various links for Sales, News and Support.
Ok, after a run down of what the DS-X came with lets throw it some curve balls and see how it holds up with the DS Homebrew scene and various problematic backup DS roms.
I created a new folder on the DS called games and dumped a bunch of clean backup roms into it
*** Unfortunately having only inserted and removed the card twice it decided to stop being detected on my DS. Promptly inserting a commercial card confirmed that the DS worked and there was a malfunction with the DS-X. After removing the commercial cart and re-inserting the DS-X it decided to work again. To be honest, my No Pass device sometimes does that. However on with the review ***
Loading up the Apps menu it quickly searches my card whilst grabbing the embedded icon and rom name and sorting them alphabetically. A great menu and once again very responsive and makes full use on the touchscreen. You do however have to use the D Pad to move the screen down and up if there are more than 4 applications present. Upon double clicking the application wanted to be run it does ask you to confirm. Hopefully there is an option to turn this off as it gets quite annoying to confirm something after having to double click it to run. Once it is run a little animation removes the DS-X menu screen and it promptly loads the applications.
DS Compatibility 0105 - Castlevania - Dawn of Sorrow (E) (M5) - PERFECT 0174 - Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (U) - PERFECT 0201 - Mario Kart DS (E) (M5) - PERFECT 0389 - Animal Crossing - Wild World (E) (M5) - PERFECT 0413 - Tetris DS (E) (M5) PERFECT 0431 - Metroid Prime - Hunters (E) - PERFECT 0524 - Final Fantasy III(J) - PERFECT - note: Did not test saving 0562 - Lego Star Wars 2 (E) - PERFECT 0569 - Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (U) - PERFECT 0572 - Alex Rider Stormbreaker (E) - PERFECT 0573 - Mario Vs Donkey Kong 2 March of the Minis (U) - PERFECT 0595 - Club House Games (U).zip - PERFECT 0603 - Crash Boom Bang (U).zip - PERFECT 0615 - Contact (U) - PERFECT
0479 - New Super Mario Bros. (E) - ALMOST PERFECT
notes: Mini games ok. When saving to save slot 1 its okay, however when rebooting complains about corrupt Save Slot 2. However Save Slot 1 works fine.
0614 - Children of Mana (U) - ALMOST PERFECT
notes: Plays perfectly, but some problems encountered when saving. When saving to Save Slot 1 and restarting it complained about corrupted data found in Save Slots 2 & 3 and each were promptly deleted. Original save file in Save Slot 1 unaffected. Saved original game over Save Slot 2 and restated. It then complained about Save Slot 3 being corrupt and that was deleted. Then loaded Save Slot 2 and then saved over empty Save Slot 3 and restarted. Now all save slots are fine. Strange
Loading up some homebrew, I removed the DS-X cart and put some apps on, and once again the DS-X cart was not recognized when reinserted into the DS. It was once I removed and reinserted again.
Homebrew Applications Beup V3 Fixed Chism - PERFECT and saves user details DSOrganize v2.3 Gray - PERFECT including creating dir structure and saving scribble pad NDSMail v0.47 - FAILEDnotes: Stops at check init Moonshell v1.4 Stable - PERFECT ComicbookDS v1.2 - FAILEDnotes: 2 Blank screens - used a big zip of images and a image zipped. Both failed
Homebrew Games Invasion V1 - PERFECT EYEQ - The Film, TV & Music Quiz v1.0 NeoFlash Compo - PERFECT FP Frozen Bubble (Bust-A-Move) clone r5 NeoFlash Compo - FAILEDnotes: locks up before reaching title screen
At the moment there are currently no skins available for download, but from what has been said it the DS-X OS itself is very flexible and nearly all off it can be changed to suit a users needs. This looks very promising especially for SC Lite users like myself who don;t get to look at anything pretty whilst loading apps on the card
Check out some of the ideas being aired out over at the DS-X forums here
Pros - 99% DS compatibility - Great DS-X Operating Systems - Not Operating System dependent - Fast USB 2.0 transfers - End of patching roms - Good Homebrew Compatibility - Slot 1 Cart with ability to utilize slot 2 carts - Addition of LEDs to separate it from the competition - Firmware on DS-X easily upgradable
Cons - Expensive for the moment - Limited to 4Gb (512MB) interntal memory - Some save glitches encountered - Rom title display is problematic with some Japanese roms - Not the vaunted 100% homebrew compatibility - Not the vaunted 100% DS compatibility - Could be broken if not handled carefully - At the moment no way to transfer saves other flash carts - Screen does not turn off during MP3 playback when lid closed - Does not have the ability to read ID3v2 mp3 tags
I was quite impressed with the DS-X. It was surrounded by a lot of hype and I believe it has lived up to it. There are a few minor issues I had. The Saving problem was not a major but it still worried me a little. Also the fact that ID3v2 tags are not read properly when in music mode is annoying. I'm sure these will all be fixed when a new firmware is released.
However, if you ar after GBA support you are out of luck, but there are some sacrifices to make a slot 1 solution a reality.
The support forums provided by the DS-X team are very busy and frequented by the developers. I hope there level of support continues.
A major bonus is the fact that is does not require rom software to be loaded, meaning all us linux and mac users are not left out in the cold.
This is the first high profile slot 1 card to be released, and I feel that this cart is gonna be a hard one to beat.