The EZ Flash V is made by one of the leading manufacturers of GBA cards and promises to be one of the best slot 1 solutions available. Our friends at KickTrading.ca kindly sent us one of these cards so we could put it through it's paces.
The EZ Flash V comes packaged in a relatively good quality cardboard box with a picture of the EZ Flash V itself on the front along with a microSD logo, a small Nintendo DS logo telling you that it is compatible with it and of course the main EZ Flash V logo. Flipping the box over gives you a few details on what the EZ Flash V is going to be doing for you and a link to the main website. Here's what we should be expecting from this device according to the box:
Unified slot-1 solution
DS homebrew support
Well that all sounds easy enough. Lets take a look inside the box.
On first appearance the card seems to be a perfect replica of the official DS card albeit with a microSD slot of course. On closer inspection you can notice that the front of the card is moulded differently than that of an official card due to the contents that are packed inside. The plastic is good quality with no sign of any creaking or any concerns of breaking anything. The microSD slot however is a little on the tight side. Pushing the card in is not a problem but getting out again can sometimes be a pain. The slot could easily be in the top of the card allowing access without removing the DS card and still you would not need to worry about the microSD card falling out. Of course some may prefer the slot being in the side of the card and I can assure you, due to the perfect sizing of the case, you won't worry about pulling it in and out alot.
Sliding the card into the DS is no problem and it clicks into place perfectly and is removed just as easily and cleanly. Of course it fits in the Slot 1 just like any other official card.
There's not much more to say about the hardware itself. The card is of a remarkable quality and can't be faulted, In the pictures above you can clearly see this.
Without further ado I wanted to move on to the software side of things so first things first I check out the homepage for more information. I finally come up with the following links to everything I need to get setup:
Now there was quite alot here to download so I'll describe better here what I downloaded and what each file is going to be doing:
Hybrid Tool V1 This is an optional tool that is used for trimming roms increasing the compatibility of the card.
Shell (Vista Skin) This is the main shell folder. You cannot use your EZ5 without it.
Save List This is the save configuration file. You need to update this for increased compatbility with commercial roms
Loader V1.31 This is an updated loader for the EZ5. It's optional as there is one built in as default but it is always best to upgrade for better comptability again with commercial roms.
Next I want to install all these files. I start by formatting my microSD card to FAT32 then extract the shell folder to the root of my microSD card. I then updated the save list in the shell folder with the latest version. Next I want to update the loader so I put the update file on the root of my microSD and boot into update mode (see wiki guide and pictures above). The update process takes a few seconds to run and before long im back in the menu.
No problems there. What I will say at this point though is that this process was a little long winded for new comers though the guide provided on the wiki is very good and anyone should be able to follow it with ease. It would have been nice to take the card out of the box and be ready to go but you can't fault it more than that.
The Hybrid Tool is for patching and trimming roms for better compatbility and for fitting more roms on your microSD card. I'll tell you more about this later.
The menu is replica of moonshell. If you have used moonshell before then you will be perfectly at home here. You can play your .mp3 files and .dpg video files from the main menu and can continue browsing while the mp3 is playing viewing .jpg files as you go. Moonshell is about as good as it comes so the EZ Team made a good move when they chose this. Of course the menu is just as skinnable as moonshell and uses the similar skins easily availabe on the net. There is a fundamental difference between this menu and moonshell though and that is that you can launch your commercial games from it. When you highlight the roms you see the icon for the game on the bottom screen and when you next load the EZ5 the previous game save data is written to the microSD card but i will discuss saves more later.
When you press start you are greeted with the help menu which displays the various key presses to utilise the menu. Pressing L and R brings up the settings for the language and the microSD speed which can be altered to further increase game compatibility. The best settings to use as said on the wiki are:
I left mine on auto for the tests and would only change this if I experience problems with running roms which is what I will go onto next. There is also one other option which is used when loading roms. You can change this by holding L and pressing X or Y to further improve game compatibility by forcing the size of the save. I needed to do this for one game which I explain below.
Game Compatibility & Hybrid Patcher
First up i thought I would try the EZ Flash V out with clean roms to see how it performs with the drag and drop functionality. Here are my results without patching anything:
BUGGY OR PROBLEMS Animal Crossing Wild World USA (Slightly Slow, not really a problem) Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow EUR (Intro Movie lags, otherwise perfect) Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Played fine speed wise but few graphical glitches during game that I didn't experience on SuperCard Lite but that had slowdown)
PLAYED FINE 42 All-Time Classics EUR Castlevania: Portait of Ruin Final Fantasy III USA Harvest Moon DS USA Hiite Utaeu DS Guitar M-06 JPN Kirby Squek Squad USA LEGO Star Wars II - The Original Trilogy USA Mario Hoops 3-on-3 USA Mario Kart DS USA Mario Vs Donkey Kong 2 March of the Minis USA Micro Machines V4 EUR (Had to force save size to 64kb with L+X/Y for saving) New Super Mario Bros USA Nintendo DS Browser: Patched for Supercard as RAM (Had to force save size to 2MB Flash with L+X/Y for saving) Rafa Nadal Tennis EUR (Had to force save size to 4kb with L+X/Y for saving) Starfox Command USA Super Monkey Ball - Touch & Roll EUR Ultimate Spider-Man USA Yoshi's Island DS USA
After the highly impressive performance of the card leaving me with nothing not working using clean roms. I thought it was about time I tried out the hybrid patcher to see if this would fix the few minor issues that were there.
First up I installed the hybrid software, easy enough. The actual software is simple and easy to use with a nice GUI which has a selection of 2 skins (pictured above). It is a fairly simple process of selecting your send path, choosing whether you want to trim and/or use the compatbility patch, finding your rom and let the patcher fdo the rest for you.
So does it increase the compatbility for the problematic games, lets hope so... let the test commence :
PATCHER CRASHED Although there are no results here, I did try to patch a few games which were not working while the save folder was corrupt (See save games below). Some games did cause the patcher to crash one of which being Harvest Moon DS
PATCHED BUT DOES NOT FIX Animal Crossing Wild World USA (Does not load patched) Nintendo DS Browser: Patched for Supercard as RAM (Still had to force save size to 2MB Flash with L+X/Y for saving) Rafa Nadal Tennis EUR (Still had to force save size to 4kb with L+X/Y for saving) Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Does not load patched worked before)
PATCHED AND FIXED Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow EUR (Intro Movie does not lag at all, perfect!) Micro Machines V4 EUR (Now saves correctly with no need to force save size)
So after all the tests I'm left with nothing which doesn't work even the DS Browser works and that's not supposed to be officially supported anyway I just tried to run it for fun
Overall I'm very impressed with the EZ Flash performance so far and the patcher helps to improve some small issues that were not necessary to fix whilst it does break some others.
The save games are easy enough. they are all stored the the save folder in .sav format. and are stored when you next load the EZ5 after playing a game. Something that we all like to do is use our save files from our old flash cards (those of us that are lucky enough to have one already) so I tested some of my SuperCard Lite saves on the EZ5 and the ones I tried worked flawlessly except one. Here's a list of what I tried if you are interested:
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Worked) Mario Hoops 3-on-3 (Worked) Mario Kart DS USA (Worked) New Super Mario Bros (Did not work)
One thing I must note before I continue is that I did experience corruption in the save folder on occasions while testing the roms. Whilst my saves were still there also were a few corrupt files with sizes of over 2GB (on a 1Gb microSD!?) but a quick format sorted this out. I put this down to me adding and removing so many roms at a time and my microSD card not liking it too much but it must be noted.
The box boasts DS Homebrew support which is true in the fact that already the FAT lib is available already at the downloads link I posted at the top of this review. I wanted to try out some old favourites on the EZ Flash though and see how it stands up to what is out there already.
amplituDS (non fat version, FAT version does not work) - Works beup Live 0.3 - All versions worked but no avatars or smilies loaded from FAT Comic Book DS - Doesn't boot DSLiveWeather Aperio - Worked but did not save
Considering the FAT lib has only just come out it was good to see some of the old homebrew working and you can see pretty much what is going to work and not work from here. For instance I didn;t try DSFTP as the main point of it is being able to write to FAT so the process would have been pointless.
Overall I was more than impressed with the EZ-Flash V. From the build quality to usability it to me is second to none. Perhaps touch screen icons for some people are nice but you really cant fault booting directly into a moonshell interface with everything at your reach from the get go. A few points have been deducted for having alot of stuff to update to get you going but other than that it is fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone.
The EZ Flash V can be bought from kicktrading for the reasonable price of US$49.95.
If you see any errors in this review or want any further test with homebrew then please let me know.
+ 100% rom compatability with download play working fine + Excellent build quality. Card fits flush in the DS and slides in and out as if a commercial card. + No patching required, just drag and drop to play 100% of games. (Use hybrid roms for extra compatbility with speed etc) + No Slowdowns in game + Supports clean roms + On board options to help increase compatibility with roms + Moonshell inspired menu provides the best options available on DS from the go with the best way of doing it. (Skins, Music, Video and Images) + Homebrew working already although FAT support needs to be added by the developers of the homebrew apps/games.
- Requires some work to set up out of the box. - Minor glitches experienced with one game from test. - Have to wait for full homebrew support from the developers of the actual homebrew now - microSD slot is a little awkward to remove the SD card and perhaps could have been on the top of the card. - Save folder can corrupt occasionally but you dont lose your saves (Could have been my microSD card acting up)
DS-Scene would like to thank KickTrading for sending us a sample of the EZ Flash V for reviewing purposes. Check out kicktrading for all the flashcards reviewed on ds-scene
<div align=left class=edittxt >*edited on 2007/01/07 16:30:05 by retrohead</div>
Everything ran without the patcher but it was needed to speed things up a bit and it did fix some save issues which otherwise needed to be fixed by forcing the save size. Overall I would have been happy enough without it though.