The R4-DS is made by the factory that produces the M3 DS Simply and infact early versions of the card have the ability to be modified into an M3 DS Simply with little effort and a blob of solder. This review is covering the earlier model of the R4DS so if you are using this review to buy the product then please bear in mind that this is the first version of the R4DS.
With the M3 being one of the more popular SLOT 1 solutions available it should be interesting to see how this product performs in comparison. Samad at ModMyDS kindly sent me a v1 R4DS so we could review it for you guys so a big thanks for that.
The R4DS comes packaged in a relatively good quality cardboard box which resembles an audio book box and is wrapped with a thin vacuum sealed plastic. It's got a sleek look to the box due to the black and green and looks very matrix-ish. It has the R4 logo on the front of the box, a link to the website and the microSD logo. The back of the box tells you what to expect from the R4DS. Here are the details from the box:
Original DS cart sized device
Drag 'N drop files NO software required
Play in SLOT-1 withough Passcard or Flashme
Supports TF(microSD) capacity upto 4GB(32Gbit)
Supports DS Sleep mode
Supports FAT 16/32 File System
Supports screen touch sensitive
Compatible clean Rom, homebrew & moonshell;- Compatible all versions of DS
Intuitively upgradeable custom operating system
There is also a small block of text on the back of the box which tells us the contents of the box and that the CD inside has a user manual on it, that should help.
Once you get the box open you won't be disappointed and yet more re-assurance fills you that you have bought a good product when you see the collection of goodies inside. You get the R4DS housed in a white case, a spare case which resembles the colour of an offical card, the keychain holder which can hold 2 cards and a USB MicroSD reader/writer.
With the R4DS you get 2 cases to choose which you prefer so the first thing i wanted to try out was how easy it is to switch the board into another case. The process was very simple requiring you to unscrew the absolutely tiny screw on the back of the card then you can prise the case open carefully with a screw driver. The plastic is good quality with no sign of any creaking or any concerns of breaking anything and the circuit board fits perfectly in the case without any sign of the internal chips on the outside. The microSD slot is top mounted on the R4DS and is spring loaded, of course some may prefer the slot to be in the side of the card and I can now say that it does not make much difference where the slot is, when you push the MicroSD in to remove it, the R4DS pops out aswell due to the nature of the Slot 1 locking mechanism on the DS.
Sliding the card into the DS is no problem and it clicks into place perfectly and is removed just as easily and cleanly. Again this card like many others fits in the Slot 1 just like any other official card but with this you can see your microSD card to remind you that there is a flashcard in there. Is that a good or bad thing? For the record, the position of the MicroSD slot will not effect this review.
What more can I say about the hardware itself? The card is of a remarkable quality and can't be faulted, In the pictures above you can see the quality of the circuit board and I have marked the position of the contacts which tell me I have a v1 model of the card.
The USB reader on the other hand seems very cheap. The case is coming apart almost by holding it alone and they quite clearly just threw in a cheap-ass device to keep costs down. After a few hours the adaptor starting playing up and was not recognised by windows but I must admit, it still is nice to get one whether it ends up being useless or not but this could mislead some people into thinking they will not need one. I went back to using my normal reader for the remainder of this review.
On The CD
The R4DS comes with a mini CD which contains various software to allow you to use the device to it's full potential. Here is a breakdown of what is included:
M3.G6.SC SAVE TO R4 SAVE Transform This is a convertor for your save game files. It will ensure that you can use your old save games from your older flash cards with the R4DS
moonshell-1.5 This is moonshell 1.5, the version that is installed into the menu.
R4 manual This is a great addition to the package. There are not enough flash cards that come with installation instructions and a manual.
R4DS ROM Trimmer This is just as the title sais, a rom trimming utility. Nothing more.
system v1.03 This is the main software for the R4DS and you cannot use it without this. Good job it is included then!
I will describe each of these in more detail later when appropriate.
As usual, I'll now move on to the software side of things. After opening the manual and following the easy installation instructions the card is ready to use. The installation process was a breeze and involved choosing your skin from a selection of 6 available on the cd and copying the appropriate files to the root of your MicroSD card. Then you are ready to go.
I wanted to check out the homepage to see if there are any updates available before I moved on. Sure enough I found version 1.06 beta (I wanted to get the most out of the card for review purposes so I used the beta version).
Installing the update was easy aswell. After extracting the archive I copied the _DS_MENU.DAT to the root of my microSD overwriting the one already there. You do lose your skin when updating the loader but you can reskin it using a tool on the homepage
The menu is very simple with 3 options to choose from along with the current time and the version number of the current OS installed. The option on the right is used to boot a device in SLOT 2 of the DS. I tried this on a SuperCard Lite and a SuperCard SD and it worked fine. The option in the the center is the media option. This boots into moonshell 1.5 to allow you to play your movie files, mp3's and view images. The downfall with this is that you need to reboot the DS to get back to the main menu should you want to load a rom as you cannot load roms from within moonshell, it would also be nice to listen to music while choosing a game.
The final option on the menu is the games menu. Entering it brings up an explorer as shown above on the top screen with a description of the highlighted file / folder on the bottom screen. The bottom screen makes use of the touch screen with the two icons in the upper corners. Touching the left one will change the brightness of the screen whilst the right one enables/disables soft reset mode, red for off and green for on. You can also change these settings by using the trigger buttons respectively, left fot the light and right for soft reset. You can also touch the folder or game icon to enter the folder or launch the game.
Game Compatibility & Rom Trimmer
Time to try the R4DS with clean roms to see how it performs with the drag and drop functionality. There is no additional patching software available which could improve compatibilty should we experience any issues, clean roms are all you can use on the R4DS.
Using my Sandisk 1GB Ultra II microSD, here are my results:
BUGGY OR PROBLEMS Animal Crossing Wild World USA (Slightly slow entering menus, not really a problem) Mario Kart DS USA (Download Play not working) New Super Mario Bros USA (Download Play not working) Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam USA (Played fine but suffered from slowdowns in graphic heavy areas in races)
PLAYED FINE 42 All-Time Classics EUR Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow EUR Castlevania: Portait of Ruin Final Fantasy III USA Harvest Moon DS USA Hiite Utaeu DS Guitar M-06 JPN Hotel Dusk Room 215 USA InuYasha: Secret of The Divine Jewel USA Kaitou Wario the Seven JPN Kirby Squek Squad USA LEGO Star Wars II - The Original Trilogy USA Mario Hoops 3-on-3 USA Mario Vs Donkey Kong 2 March of the Minis USA Micro Machines V4 EUR Nintendo DS Browser: Patched for Supercard as RAM Rafa Nadal Tennis EUR Starfox Command USA Super Monkey Ball - Touch & Roll EUR Ultimate Spider-Man USA Yoshi's Island DS USA
The results of the test were highly impressive and there was not a single game I tried that did not boot. The 2 games that did have issues were not really a problem but the slowdown in Tony Hawks Downhill Jam was not good to see. It isn't as bad as with the patched rom for SuperCard but it was still very noticable. Also there seems to be an obvious lack of Download Play support, although some game are reported as working, only 1 game of 3 worked in my tests. You can check out a full compatibilty list here which seems to reflect most of the results I experienced.
I tested the Soft Reset function which every game and only once did it not work. After playing games and resetting the system approximately 20 times, the console froze on the R4DS menu after using the soft reset feature. This did not happen again so I can say that this works almost flawlessly.
There is also a rom trimming utility which comes on the CD with the R4DS or is available for download from the homepage. It is as basic as you can imagine requiring you to choose your rom you want to trim then click start and the patcher pops up an "ok" message when done. I didn't test any trimmed roms as it is likely to make the results worse due to issues found on all cards with trimming roms which I am sure you are all aware of.
The save games are easy enough, they are all stored the the same folder as your roms in .sav format. If you do not have a save file then one is created when you launch the game if you have enough room on your card. If you don't then a warning is displayed and you cannot start the game (see screenshots above). There is no indication of the save being backed up to the card and the games seem to load fast because of this. It makes the whole experience seem very seamless and user friendly.
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) and the R4DS comes with an application for converting the more popular save types into a compatible format. The converter, like the rom trimmer, is very simple to use and only a few clicks are required to get the save file converted. I tested some of my SuperCard Lite saves on the R4DS and the ones I tried worked flawlessly. Here's a list of what I tried if you are interested:
Animal Crossing Wild World USA Mario Hoops 3-on-3 USA Mario Kart DS USA New Super Mario Bros USA Rafa Nadal Tennis EUR Yoshi's Island DS USA
Whilst there was mention of homebrew support from the box, it should also be true that the R4 DS performs well with homebrew due to the new implementation of the DLDI device patches that have been embraced by the homebrew community. I wanted to try out some favourites on the R4DS and see how it performed:
Games amplituDS (non fat version as DLDI not supported yet) - Works but does not save New Caisse DS (non-FAT version) - Works perfectly
Applications beup Live 0.3 - All versions worked but no avatars or smilies loaded from FAT Comic Book DS - Doesn't boot DSFTP 2.4 - Works perfectly DSLiveWeather Aperio - Worked but did not save NitroTracker 0.3 - Works and saves fine Win2DS - Works perfectly
You can check out a full compatibilty list at the bottom of the page here which again reflects most of the results I experienced.
The R4DS is a great piece of hardware. The rom compatibility is 100% with the exception of a few minor problems and the homebrew compatibility is also very high. It has a great user interface which takes full advantage of the touch screen and is one of the easiest SLOT 1 solutions to use. It also has a minimal amount of messages about save files etc which makes the whole experience seem that much better whilst making things alot less confusing to the new comer. There are no additional options in the menu to allow you to customise the way the games are loaded though and this could cause problems in the future forcing you to wait for an update to be released but looking at the current compatibility, this is not highly likely to happen.
With the integration of moonshell you can be assured that you won't have any problems playing/viewing your media files on the R4DS although it would be nice to play music files from the main menu whilst browsing your games rather than having to reboot the console.
On top of the actual R4DS, the box contains a few goodies which add to the enjoyment of owning the card although the USB reader/writer cannot really be trusted as a reliable way of transferring your files to your microSD and I would suggest you buy an alternative (It has been noted that the new model of the R4DS has a new USB reader with it but how much better that is remains to be seen, perhaps in a v2 review in the near future).
Overall I would recommend this card to anyone wanting to purchase a SLOT 1 solution and you certainly won't be disappointed if you decide to choose this device.
The R4DS can be bought from GetYourGamesHere for the extremely reasonable price of US$44.99.
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 + Extras included in the box including a software cd and a cool case for 2 DS cards. + Works as a passcard device allowing booting of devices in Slot 2 from the menu. + 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. + microSD slot is spring loaded. + User friendly experience after initial set up. + Supports clean roms + Skinnable menu + Moonshell integrated into the menu provides the best options available on DS. + Homebrew compatibilty growing due to DLDI implementations.
- Requires some work to set up out of the box although a software CD and manual are included to help. - The included USB reader/writer can not be relied upon, suggest you use an alternative. - Minor problems experienced with some games from test. - No additional in menu options to help with future compatibilty with roms. - Download play compatibilty is currently quite low. - Have to reboot card after viewing media files.
DS-Scene would like to thank ModMyDS for sending us a sample of the R4DS for reviewing purposes. Check out ModMyDS for all some great deals on the flashcards reviewed on ds-scene
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I have a finished SC1 review done but I am waiting since they seems to be a new revision of the device (3rd one already) that has no chip sticking through the front and uses a PCB much like the R4/M3 slot 1 devices. Anyone know anything?
Hey retro, I can never make or edit a post without geting errors on dsscene?
*edited on 2007/01/27 07:02:20 by FifthE1ement
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What a great review, and very indepth... I hope the Supercard DS offers the same kind of compatibility. It look like the comptetion with the Slot-1 devices is really heating up, and it´s gonna be a great fight to see who gets your money