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  EZ Flash V 3-in-1 Expansion Pack Officia...cial review inside.
Posted by retrohead on Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 01:57 - 43 Comments
 
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retrohead United Kingdom

 



Introduction & Packaging



The EZ Flash team decided they would combat the issue of no GBA support with the recent Slot 1 device surge that is going on. They have done this by releasing an expansion pack for the EZ Flash V which allows the booting of GBA roms from your Slot 1 card. On top of this it packs in a rumble pack and contains extra memory for the use of such popular software as the Nintendo DS Browser!

Our friends at KickGaming sent us along one of these packs so we could put it through it's paces and see how it actually performs. You have to think about GBA compatability here when you think how terribly devices like the Supercard perform when trying to load GBA roms.



Hardware



The quality of the actual card itself is good, it is disappointing straight away that you can only use this in a DS Lite, it would have been nice if perhaps the EZ Flash Team had included a different shell to give users the choice of using the expansion pack in the older model of DS.

Opening it up you can see the rumble motor which is hanging on to the main board by a thread which perhaps gives you a reason why there is not an extra shell included, fear of people damaging it then returning them for replacements. Thankfully it is held in place nicey and won't move without a bit of force having been applied to it. The components on the board pretty standard and flipping the board over there are a couple more chips on the back. The review model I recieved actually had a few blemishes on the back of the PCB and I also noticed one of the legs on one of the chips on the rear is crossed and attached to the one next to it (see above). It is supposed to be like that but it makes you wonder why it is not incorperated into the tracks on the PCB rather than this way.




Comparing it to some other slot 2 cards you can see quite a difference in the finish of card. The expansion pack has got a matt finish to it and is more in line with the texture of the plastic that the trigger buttons are made from rather than the nice glossy finish of the DS. It is as expected the perfect shape and fits nicely flush into Slot 2.


Software



You need to update to the latest software if you want to use the expansion pack with your EZ Flash V so I picked up the latest kernel from the DS-Scene downloads section and headed off to the home page to find out more about this device. You also need a different save.lst file for rumble enabled games as this is where the EZ Flash V finds out if it needs to turn rumble mode on or not. Quite handy because it means the list is updatable manually if you want to experiment or add new games to the list, something I won't be doing for this review. You also need to get the latest EZ Flash IV client which is used to transfer the GBA games to your microSD card but I will explain this in more detail later in this review.

Here are the files I used for this review:

Latest EZV Kernel from DS-Scene
EZ Save file from here (Official) or Here (Unofficial)
Download the latest EZ Flash 4 Client Here (Needed for GBA games)

I also had a quick read of the following guide which comes in handy for those new to the device. It's a good reference for general use of the expansion pack. Again i had to search a little bit to get this and it's a shame the EZ Flash Team still do not include any kind of instructions for new comers. Here's the guide:

EZ Flash V Forum Expansion Guide



Compatibility



Before I go onto the compatibility, I have to note the slight glitch effect that happens to the bottom screen on the menu for the EZ V when you have the expansion pack plugged in. You can see this in the pictures here, the right picture is without the pack inserted and the left is with it inserted. It's not really major and you can see why it is there so hopefully this will be fixed to not look like the screen is corrupted so much in a future update. UPDATE This is now fixed with the latest version of the EZV kernel.

Ok, time to check the compatibility with the various features promised by the expansion pack.


Memory Compatibility



The only thing that can be tested for the extra memory is the Nintendo DS Browser. I dragged the clean rom to my microSD and fired up the EZV. The browser ran flawlessly with the EZV Expansion pack with no noticable slowdown or crashes. So far so good. I also tested the expansion pack with another 2 slot 1 devices (R4DS and DS-X) using the clean browser rom, unsirprisingly neither of these worked. There is an unofficial patch in development for this so keep an eye out for that but for the meantime, only EZV users can benefit from this which is fair enough really.

Hopefully DS Linux will add support to use the extra RAM aswell so homebrew users can get the best out of the Links browser and maybe more homebrew can be made to utilise this space aswell, only time will tell. UPDATE DSlinux has now added support for the 3-in-1 expansion pack, check out more information here.


Rumble Compatibility



The rumble feature is activated by changing a setting in the save.lst file which is quite easily updateable. You can set the rumble strength in the options menu by pressing both the triggers at once. When you click on a rumble enabled game to load it, the card gives out a rumble so you know it's working. There's not much more I can compare this to as I don't own an official rumble pack but I tested all the rumble games that are available to see how it performs and they all worked with the feature:

42 All-Time-Classics
Custom Robo Arena
Diddy Kong Racing
Elite Beat Agents
Hotel Dusk: Room 215
Magnetica
Mario and Luigi - Partners in Time
Metroid Prime Hunters
Metroid Prime Pinball
Picross DS
Starfox Command
Star Trek Tactical Assault
Super Princess Peach
The Legend of Spyro  A New Beginning


I'm not going to comment on the way that the individual games use the rumble pack as that is not really of concern here. I will mention that the rumble can be felt and in some games is actually a nice addition (Mario & Luigi comes to mind). The rumble is actually quite noisy sometimes though and I found it best to keep it set on the lowest setting, again different games seemed to effect the rumble pack differently though with some causing a more pleasing effect than others.

This is one of the main features people may be looking to buy this expansion pack for and the feature works as well as can be expected.


GBA Compatibility



To load GBA roms is what the main aim of this device is in my opinion. So how exactly does this work?



The expansion pack is actually a Flash Card which stores the GBA Rom on it like the older EZ Flash devices of yesteryear (anything before EZ Flash IV). What is different here is that you store your selection of GBA games on your microSD card then from the menu you choose your gba rom and it is then flashed to the expansion pack and launched. The flashing process is actually quite tedious with larger roms and I don't think you will be switching games very often. There is a hint that they may add multi-game support!



You need to transfer GBA roms to your microSD card using the EZ Flash IV client software. This is pretty basic requiring you to select the rom, choose your output directory and hit transfer.



Once your game is written to the expansion pack, it is treated like a normal GBA game and can be loaded without the need of the EZ Flash V. You can of course launch the GBA game from within the menu aswell by navigating back to the root where you can explore the expansion pack which also hints at future multi-boot support.

First I tried a selection of commercial GBA games to see how the unit performed. I would have thought even though RTC is not supported, they may have added this into the patching process for clock fixes but unfortunately you can't even play a couple of games at the moment.

Here are the games I tested:

Astro-Boy Omega Factor
Boktai - the sun is in your hand - Does not save
Castlevania - Circle of the moon
DOOM II
Final Fight One
Fire Emblem - The Sacred Stones
Hudson Collection 6
Kururin Paradise
Mario Golf Advance Tour
Mario Kart Advance
Mario Pinball Land
Pinball of the Dead
PokƩmon Sapphire - Does not save
R-Type 3
Rythm Tengoku
Riviera - The Promised land
Summon Night - Swordcraft Story 2


The GBA compatibility is pretty awesome even with it's lack of RTC support. Everything works but there a few saving problems which cause save files to be created without .sav at the end which means you cannot load your save file, you can of course just rename it on your pc then use the manual backup for your saves instead which makes this nothing more than a minor annoyance for the meantime (Mbmax actually found a fix for this which you can read about here). The other downfall is the amount of time it takes to load the game onto the expansion pack but when you think your DS is doing all this for you, it is quite an impressive feature.

I also wanted to try out some of the popular GBA homebrew that is available. There are still a few applications that are not available on the DS yet so it would be great to have this as an extra option. I could not get Goomba color (The GBC emulator for GBA) to save properly with which was unfortunate but Dipstar and PocketNES worked well.



Conclusion

Overall I was quite impressed with the EZ-Flash V expansion pack. Having never tried an official rumble pack before, I can't really compare that to anything else but the feature impressed me at times and is a nice addition to DS game playing.

The extra memory works well for the DS Browser and for the price, you get alot more here for the few bucks extra it costs compared to an official RAM card.

There were a few disappointments along the way as far as GBA was concerned but the main thing is that there is good rom compatibility which should soon be 100% with future updates once all the software creases have been ironed out. This could well be the type of device everyone will be wanting for their DS next.

The EZ Flash V Expansion pack can be bought from KickGaming in a bundle with the excellent EZ Flash V for $59.95 and is currently on sale for $54.95. you can also buy it alone for $22.95

If you see any errors in this review or want any further tests then please let me know.

PROS
+ 99% GBA rom compatability (A few save problems with RTC prevent a few games being played)
+ Good build quality. Card fits flush in the Slot 2 of the DS Lite.
+ Extra memory so you can use the DS browser without the official memory pack.
+ Play GBA roms and homebrew on your DS and store them on your microSD card along with your DS roms.
+ Rumble pack works well for games that support it.
+ Rumble support can be manually updated for future games if you are impatient for official updates.
+ Save games are backed up automatically.


CONS
- Need to patch GBA roms.
- Saving issues with GBA roms.
- No RTC support and no clock fix patches provided.
- Can currently only load 1 GBA game onto the card at any time.
- Does not match the glossy finish of the DS.
- Slow at loading GBA games due to having to wait for it to flash.
- Currently has a glitchy menu display for GBA rom name.
- DS Lite ONLY.



Overall Score


  83%


Links
Everything you need for EZ Flash V and the 3-in-1 expansion pack can be found here.


DS-Scene would like to thank KickGaming for sending us a sample of the EZ Flash V 3-in-1 Expansion pack for reviewing purposes. Check out KickGaming for all the flashcards reviewed on DS-Scene


 
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#1
 
ccosmos2 French Southern and Antarctic Lands

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 02:59
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Thanks retrohead for this great review.  cool

And for the slight glitch effect that happens to the bottom screen on the menu under kernel v1.37, itĀ“s seems that you donĀ“t have the last shell here at ds-scene ;)

Shell v070328 vista standard
3in1.bmp is included in the new shell.

all you need for ezv

PS : DS-linux already use 3in1 extra memory ;)


*edited on 2007/04/07 03:20:28 by ccosmos2
 
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duelistXmist United States

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 03:12
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Awesome review :yaylite:

*edited on 2007/04/07 03:13:30 by duelistXmist
 
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retrohead United Kingdom

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 04:12
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Quote 
ccosmos2 Today at 02:59

Thanks retrohead for this great review.  cool

And for the slight glitch effect that happens to the bottom screen on the menu under kernel v1.37, itĀ“s seems that you donĀ“t have the last shell here at ds-scene ;)

Shell v070328 vista standard
3in1.bmp is included in the new shell.

all you need for ezv

PS : DS-linux already use 3in1 extra memory ;)


*edited on 2007/04/07 03:20:28 by ccosmos2


IĀ“ll get those updated tomorrow. IĀ“ve been a bit ill and I started this review about a week ago so I must have missed the updates. IĀ“ll get that shell uploaded aswell if it isnĀ“t there when i wake up. Great to hear Linux is updated, I did check the homepage once more before I posted it but didn´t see it.
 
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#4
 
ModMyDS United States

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 06:32
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Great review :) You had said that there is an unofficial patch in the works for the Opera browser to work with the R4. The patch was actually released a few weeks ago by cory and it works great.. I´ve been using the Opera browser on my DS for a while with this :P
 
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ccosmos2 French Southern and Antarctic Lands

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 11:00
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retrohead Today at 04:12
IĀ“ll get those updated tomorrow. IĀ“ve been a bit ill and I started this review about a week ago so I must have missed the updates. IĀ“ll get that shell uploaded aswell if it isnĀ“t there when i wake up. Great to hear Linux is updated, I did check the homepage once more before I posted it but didnĀ“t see it.



Great  :)

Last thing, here is a 3in1 pcb.



I think the sample youĀ“ve received is a bit damaged or a pre-production model ;)


*edited on 2007/04/07 11:26:50 by ccosmos2
 
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#6
 
Homie Portugal

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 12:26
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Congratulations on your great review mate!
 
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#7
 
DenSho Spain

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 13:47
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WOW! Great review. I´m craving for one of these, I´ll get it as soon as I have ā‚¬30 ... BTW, Retro, do you know something about the compatibility with other cards? I know there´s a patch or something out there that allows you to use this 3in1 with other cards, mostly the Simply/R4, but I don´t know much more.
 
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 » Comment On: EZ Flash V 3-in-1 Expansion Pack ...Read the official review inside.
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retrohead United Kingdom

  Sat, April 7th, 2007 at 14:51
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Quote 
DenSho Today at 13:47

WOW! Great review. IĀ“m craving for one of these, IĀ“ll get it as soon as I have ā‚¬30 ... BTW, Retro, do you know something about the compatibility with other cards? I know thereĀ“s a patch or something out there that allows you to use this 3in1 with other cards, mostly the Simply/R4, but I donĀ“t know much more.


IĀ“m just looking at this patch now infact, this is all relatively new stuff so sorry for the lack of information in this respect. You can read more about the test version of this software here. Cory1492 and BigBoss are doing a great job getting things up to speed.

Here is the browser patch for other slot 1 devices, excellent stuff  :-O
 
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DenSho Spain

  Sun, April 8th, 2007 at 15:51
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Thanks Retro for the link and that whole post with everything we need ;)
BTW, does anyone know if the shell can be changed for the dust protector´s glossy one? Instead of having this one, which seems "grainy", I mean.
 
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