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> [REVIEW] EZ-5 + Expansion pack 3-in-1
Evrain
messaggio Tuesday 25 September 2007 - 13:19
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EZ-V + 3-in-1 Expansion Bundle Pack

[ English Version | Versione Italiana ]



Quick Links:
Official Site: http://www.ezflash.cn/en


Ever since the discovery or a way to manufacture flashcards for Nintendo gaming units, many have attempted to enter this business, with mixed results. EZ-Team was one of the first teams, and worked hard to build a strong reputation.

Their lineup includes the most successful flashcard models to date: EZ1, EZ2 and EZ3 are even nowadays rare and in high demand, due to their excellent compatibility and quality. After the launch of the Nintendo DS, the EZ-Team released an updated version of their third model, dubbed EZ4 and specifically aimed at Slot-2 solutions, which managed to reach a consistent market share.

Back in December 2006, the bar was raised with the introduction of Slot-1 designs. These flashcards were aimed at preserving the possibility of running homebrew code whilst taking advantage of the lightweight and compact design of DS cartridges

As such, the flashcard we're going to review is the latest update of EZ-Team's valued product: the EZ-V Bundle Pack.


Introduction & Main Features


We'd like to thank the EZ-Team for their kindness in sending us a sample for reviewing purposes.
It is now time to acquaint ourselves with this flashcard, already reviewed in its previous iteration on this site.
Let's begin by noting how this card is based on a U-Disk Drag&Drop approach: although the files loaded can be preprocessed to some extent, it is generally not necessary to perform any operation prior to copying them to the card's memory. Using a flashcard has never been this simple.

Now, let's take a look at the features list, as provided by the manufacturer:
  • Same size of a Nintendo DS cartridge
  • TransFlash/microSD storage media
  • Direct boot: the card itself functions as a third generation PassMe device, no additional hardware required
  • Moonshell integrated within the bootloader: MP3, DPG videos and TXT can be opened and enjoyed on the fly, without external programs
  • Open source bootloader, highly customizable and skinnable
  • Dual Read mode: Clean and Hybrid: games and homebrews can either be run directly or patched for optimal usage on slower or older media
  • Full FAT support, with auto savefile generation and multiple save slots available
  • Hardware-stored savegames, no risk of deletion after shutdown
  • Upgradeable bootloader
  • Full homebrew support, with open source DLDI driver (a guide to the DLDI standard can be found on this site)
hese features, common to many of the Slot 1 solutions, make the EZ-V card a flexible and reliable choice. Simplicity first!


Inside the Box


After so much talking, it's time to open the box and see for ourselves what this is all about.
Shown in this brief photo gallery is an overview of what you'll receive after purchasing the kit:



As we can see, there isn't really much to say: the elegant sobriety of the card's packaging is one of EZ's trademarks.




After opening the small cardboard box, the sense of essentialism of the outside continues on the inside: a simple plastic cradle houses the EZ-V flashcard and its Expansion Pack.




A rear view of the packaging, with the contents laid on top of it for size reference.



Last but not least, a full overview!


As you can see, you will receive the card in a small cardboard box, painted orange and white, with a brief description of its features. Said features are printed on the back: not much of a list, but it's probably a matter of available space... The Bundle being reviewed is marked by a sticker on the front, so pay attention when you purchase it.
As for what's inside, it's only the flashcard and its Expansion Pack, which will be thoroughly examined in this review. No driver disc, no USB card reader, absolutely nothing.







Here's the appearance of the EZ-V card once inserted into a white Nintendo DS Lite: even though the outer casing of the flashcard is only available in black, this doesn't diminish its aesthetics. As you can see, even like this it's quite an elegant sight.




Various Nintendo media and flashcards: the legendary Mortal Kombat II for the Gameboy, followed by Yoshi's Universal Gravitation for the GBA platform, up to Mario Kart DS, one of the most famous kille application for our favorite console. The rest of the hardware pictured should be well known to every hacking enthusiast!




For completion's sake, here's a quick test of the card in operation within the DS Lite's bigger (literally) brother. Nothing worth of notice.

The card is obviously identical to a standard issue Nintendo cartridge: on second thought, it's impressive how the various teams have managed to cram so much hardware in such a compact shell.

Materials: a card's major weak spot, usually, as they're often overlooked to ensure a lower price. An example is the CycloDS unit, reviewed on GbaRL. Units built with poor materials and lower standards are usually prone to malfunctioning and breaking, it's therefore our advice to spend a little mroe on a sturdier model.

Back to out EZ-V: we can say the manufacturing is solid and accurate, with no imperfections whatsoever. By just touching the card you can feel how the ineer mechanisms are protected by most generic accidents and breakings. Probably due to the sample being a newly manufactured one, it's sometimes difficult to extract the microSD; on a few occasion we had to apply considerable effort to actually do that.





Solid manufacturing, there's no doubt: even the expansion pack hasn't revealed any problem during usage and extraction/reinsertion.


--------------------
Just keep tryin'
Keep on flyin'
I will be the light...

- from Last Exile: Cloud Age Symphony -


Togisumasareta tsume wo hate ima kagayaku tame ni sono kiba wo muke...
Shiren wa norikoerarenai hito ni osoikakari wa shinai!

- from Megaman X8: Wild Fang -


Proud supporter of EVAC Industry co.ltd.
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Evrain
messaggio Tuesday 25 September 2007 - 13:29
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The Evra Powwah! (Pirla)
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Getting Started


Sure, impatience is quite a common "virtue", yet a few preliminary steps are to be taken, before being able to use your brand new EZ-V unit.

As no additional software is provided via a CD in the package, the required components have to be downloaded from the Internet. The official Italian retailer, Mediadealer.it, along with GbaRL's own File Archive, host copies of the relevant files
You'll be required to fetch: the Shell, the latest Kernel (or Loader, it's the same), Save List and the Hybrid Tool; let's now take a closer look to each one of them.
  • Shell:
    It's the unit's Graphical User Interface. It has to be copied to the root folder of your microSD media, else a “can not found shell folder” error message will hinder your progress. It's, essentially, a modified version of MoonShell.
    Its installation is absolutely simple: just unpack the contents of the archive distributed by EZ-Team and you're ready to go.

  • Kernel (or Loader):
    The flashcard' core, it's basically its firmware.
    In order to update it, simply paste the “ez5upldr.bin” file into the storage media's root folder, then hold the R button as you select the EZ-V from the DS' main menu. Hitting R again after the bootstrap menu is displayer starts the update process.

  • Save List:
    To avoit problems related to the save game type (DS games include memory chips of different type and size to store your saves), this database pairs each released game with the relevant save type. Again, all you have to do when the need for an update arises is copying the newest database to the shell folder, overwriting the previous one.

  • Hybrid Tool:
    Older or slower medias often pose a problem, when using them within a flashcard: this is why the Hybrid Tool is an important piece of additional software.A not-working dump, in the general idea, can be patched to attempt having it run at decent speeds: results may vary, although Hybrid ROMs can greatly improve performance on average or less than average microSD's.
    On top of that, the Hybrid Tool includes a swift trimming function, easy to use and not too time consuming.
Once all the files have been downloaded, it's time to start the preliminary update. After copying the “ez5upldr.bin” file and the shell folder to the microSD root folder, start the flashcard using the afrementioned "R button" technique. This will bring you to the in-depth boot manager.







As shown in the images, you will be given three choices: card update by pressing R, third generation PassMe function by pressing L, and normal startup by pressing A. Obviously, this menu is aimed at advanced users, whereas for common usage no button or particular procedure is required to fully enjoy your EZ-V.

GUI


As previously mentioned, the EZ-V's graphical interface is based on Moonshell, the most influential DS homebrew targeted at media files. Fans of this program will be happy to know that the shell is, in fact, a heavily customized version of Moonlight's brainchild.
Video, music, photos, text files won't be a problem anymore: copy them onto your microSD and you're all set. Albeit based on MoonShell, the EZ-V GUI lacks touchscreen support, so navigation has to be performed via good 'ol D-Pad.








Hitting L + R while at the main menu brings up the configuration dialog. At your disposal, an option to switch the Shell language back and forth between chinese and english, as well as speed and safety settings for the media storage. If you experience anomalies while playing, try varying these values, which range from 1 to 12, until you reach a satisfying performance level.





Upon selecting a file, a dialog on the touchscreen will show title, genre, savegame type and size, as well as the internal icon. To start the game/homebrew, simply hit A.

There's something to note about savegames, as 619619 thoroughly explained in our previous review:
CITAZIONE
Saved data is processed and stored on a dedicated memory chip within the card: the game save is transfered to the internal EEPROM, then copied to the microSD when the console is next switched on, as a *.sav file; in the same way, when a ROM is booted, the corresponding save file is imported to the EEPROM. This allows the EZ-V to avoit the problems due to a direct access of the mass storage unit during gameplay, causing random crashes within certain games.
At the moment of this review, save settings have been updated to ROM 0773, whereas attempts to run untested games can be done by switching back and forth the various save types, by simply pressing L+X o L+Y. Usually, a couple attempts is everything it takes.


Of course, the current save database is much more up-to-date.


--------------------
Just keep tryin'
Keep on flyin'
I will be the light...

- from Last Exile: Cloud Age Symphony -


Togisumasareta tsume wo hate ima kagayaku tame ni sono kiba wo muke...
Shiren wa norikoerarenai hito ni osoikakari wa shinai!

- from Megaman X8: Wild Fang -


Proud supporter of EVAC Industry co.ltd.
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Evrain
messaggio Tuesday 25 September 2007 - 13:43
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The Evra Powwah! (Pirla)
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Compatibility


Generally, Compatibility Lists for Slot 1 flashcards aren't considered, due to their highly advanced hardware and 99-100% compatibility in nearly every instance. It is therefore of little use to verify a flash kit that has already proven its worth; neverthless, our reviewer 619619 did benchmark a few notable games in his previous review of the EZ V Flash Kit, looking for glitches and unusual execution speeds.
his subject is th soft spot of many flashcard users (including myself): homebrews! As many of you already know, these programs are literally "home made", built from scratch and freely distributed by their programmers, who often modify them to great extent in order to meet community feedback and requests, sometimes peaking as high-ranking must have software.

In order to simplify both writing and using these programs, the DLDI libraries eliminated the problem of building each time a custom I(O interface, specific for a certain flashcard. In any case, our "Guide Hacking DS" section hosts all the required information for your enjoyment.

Tests have been run pre-patching every executable file: ad hoc programs are required, although the exact software to use is the user's choice. We strongly advice DLDIrc or DS_ROM_Tool, both of which are the brainchild of two GBArl members.

The following are the results of our stress test:
IrcDS: No problem. The wireless connection was immediately detected and no touchscreen issues arose. An ASUS Wl-167g WiFi card has been used as an access point.

DSOrganize v.2.9 Neoflash: DragonMinded could hardly fare any better: DSOrganize is undoubtedly one of the best DS homebrews, who you will now be able to fully enjoy on your EZ V, thanks to its extensive DLDI support.

ScummVM DS: Having a taste of LucasArts' old glories has never been simpler. Full hardware and DLDI support: just patch the program, copy the game files over and you're ready to go.

Lameboy: Perfect file detection, fast loading, not a glitch to be found.

SNEmulDS v.0.5: As far as the emulator's capacities go, everything runs smoothly. Fast loading, fast games... to make a long story short, it works.

BlipTracker: Albeit less known than its bigger brother NitroTracker, it allows you to edit your arrangements on the fly, saving them directly to your TF card.


--------------------
Just keep tryin'
Keep on flyin'
I will be the light...

- from Last Exile: Cloud Age Symphony -


Togisumasareta tsume wo hate ima kagayaku tame ni sono kiba wo muke...
Shiren wa norikoerarenai hito ni osoikakari wa shinai!

- from Megaman X8: Wild Fang -


Proud supporter of EVAC Industry co.ltd.
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Evrain
messaggio Tuesday 25 September 2007 - 13:48
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The Evra Powwah! (Pirla)
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3-in-1 Expansion Pack


Finally, we've gotten to the fulcrum of our review. The EZ V Expansion Pack is an amazing piece of hardware, included in the latest bundle from the manufacturer, capable of handling features lacking from virtually all the solutions actually sold to the public: GBA games, RAM expansion and Rumble Pak features!
We can easily state, then, that this accessory allows the EZ V card to gain a small lead on the other Slot 1 offerings: apart from making us coffee, the small GBA-like card makes for an all around backup and development kit, worth its monetary value.

As obvious, the expansion can be used exclusively in conjunction with an EZ V flashcard: buying it separately won't unlock its features. The EZ Team has already stated that a full SDK will be released to developers, in order to take advantage of the extra hardware for homebrew enhancing and nearly limitless possibilities.

As we mentioned earlier in our review, this additional hardware is specifically made for the DS Lite: although a DS Classic case has been announced, for now the only available version is tailored for the Lite's Slot 2. Apart from that, the materials and build are solid and creaking-free, giving an overall sense of compactness and stability.

Update - 27/01/2008: a few months later, the EZ team has kept its word. Thanks to the sample kindly sent us by Ultragames, we can shed some more light on the EZ 3-in-1 stand-alone version, available in designs suitable for both Lite and Classic DS'es.





This is how the package looks: again the pure white with touches of orange color scheme is predominant, as is common with the latest EZ products, in a compact format, which comes naturally seen its content. On the front, only a few, essential infos are printed, namely the 3-in-1 functions and it compatibility with both Nintendo DS models. On our sample, a small sticker (another EZ penchant) points out that it's the GBA-sized version.

On the back, everything follows the pattern already mentioned regarding the standard EZ-V bundle: clean and straight to the point. Particularly relevant is the mention of how the RAM available for homebrews and the Opera Browser is a stunning 128 Mbyte, quite impressive when compared to the meager four of the official Nintendo expansion. Another detail we'd like to point out is how the team is now officially endorsing its use with other Slot-1 flashcarts: true, that was already common practice among more expert users, by means of the excellent 3-in-1 Tool by Rudolph (prolific hacker with a thing for EZ hardware) which is available at our Area Files. It's still advised to use a EZ-V, but enough said, any other flashcard will benefit from this useful expansion pack.





Once you open the box, you'll be presented with another plastic tray housing the expansion pack, offering the same degree of protection against damage as the EZ-V bundle we've been reviewing so far. Even with this GBA sized version, the EZ 3-in-1 is exceptionally well built: we suspect ABS being used instead of plastic, with a single screw on the back for the usual mainteinance procedure of changing the battery used for GBA save games. No creakings, no weak spots, absolutely nothing: not even an accidental fall has damaged the sample.




Last but not least, here is how the cartridge looks when plugged into an ordinary DS Classic: as you can see, the case modeled after a standard Nintendo GBA game makes for a smooth and perfect fit, without protrusions. To sum it up, the promises have been kept.

Let's put each of the three features to extensive testing.

GBA

GBA functionality requires us to patch our games with the EZ 4 Client, available from the mirror sites mentioned at the beginning of our review. This is to ensure saves are fully compatible with the new hardware. It's somewhat an hassle, having to rely on an external piece of software: it's neverthless possible to use unpatched games, but saver problems are likely to arise.

Once the game has been copied on the microSD, simply highlighting it within the Loader and pressing R + Select will start the copying process towards the 256 Mbit internal memory of this Expansion Pack. Time is a requirement for this operation: a 128 Mbit game took roughly 2 minutes to fully transfer. An useful progress bar, fully skinnable, will keep us updated on the process.

It might look like an awful lot of time, but keep in mind that a NorFlash identical to the one used in original GBA games is used, not the (faster) microSD card: this allows for perfect simulation of the real hardware, and glitch-free playing. Simulation is completed by a battery-backed SRAM for savegames.

Due to EZ's decade long experience with GBA flashes, this features comes out as absolutely perfect. True, the long transfer time and the need to change the battery every now and then are points of complaint, yet again, this is so far the only kit allowing for GBA gaming.





This video shows the full procedure.




RAM


When Opera DS was released, as many of you will recall, it was bundled with a special RAM pack. This was to supply the DS console of 4 extra Mbytes of RAM space, bringing the total to 8 Mbytes. The EZ expansion provides the needed hardware, as well as opening up interesting possibilities for homebrews (like ScummVM DS for example).

The procedure is painless: copy your version of Opera into your microSD, turn on the console, start it like a normal game. Apart from a wireless router/access point, nothing else is required: it's fascinating, using your compact DS game unit to visit complex sites like GbaRL. Indeed, the lackings of this web browser, namely Javascript, are well known, yet the Expansion is immediately recognised, carrying out the job without any complaint.

We often stated that the most interesting use of this hardware might be on the homebrew side: once the EZ Team releases the sourcecode for the RAM banks, executing code that takes full advantage of the enhanced calculus power will be easy. It's our wish that this will happen in the near future.

Opera's functionality is briefly shown in this video.



Rumble Pak


As the name itself says, along with RAM / GBA functionalities, the Expansion Pack includes a Rumble Pak DS feature, whose Nintendo made counterpart was first bundled with Metroid Pinball.

What does it do exactly? It vibrates.
Yup, it vibrates. The Nintendo Pak is sold either as a stand alone add-on or bundled with certain games, such as ActionLoop and the aforementioned Metroid, allowing for tactile feedback from rumble enabled games. A complete list of said titles can be found on the relevant Wikipedia page.
No special setting or patching is required: Rumble is automatically detected by the game, whereas the user will only need to access the flashcard options screen ( L + R ) to adjust the inner engine's intensity.
No flaws were found to the hardware, apart from the noise.
The only downside of this feature is the steady, strong noise the mechanics make, especially during most chaotic moments: it is true that the Rumble function is rarely called too often or for prolonged time spans during a game, yet they make such moments frustrating, as shown in Metroid Pinball.
Apart from that, the mechanism is solid and efficient, without worries for breakdowns.



As we can see and hear, the noise is steady and annoying. Although the movie doesn't render the audio side especially well, the resonation of the wooden table we used as a workbench makes clearer the buzzing the Rumble feature produces.
Of course, after some time, the player's ear will filter out the noise.


--------------------
Just keep tryin'
Keep on flyin'
I will be the light...

- from Last Exile: Cloud Age Symphony -


Togisumasareta tsume wo hate ima kagayaku tame ni sono kiba wo muke...
Shiren wa norikoerarenai hito ni osoikakari wa shinai!

- from Megaman X8: Wild Fang -


Proud supporter of EVAC Industry co.ltd.
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Evrain
messaggio Tuesday 25 September 2007 - 13:50
Messaggio #5

The Evra Powwah! (Pirla)
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Conclusions


EZ Team has always produced top tier products. We said it as soon as we opened this review: all of their previous products have gained a special place in the heart of GBA/NDS users, all of them fully satisfied by their purchase. Their Slot 1 iteration successfully passed all the tests we put it through.

Excellent manufacturing, accurate, quick and sustained support from the team, all aspects that make it a recommended choices for those who haven't yet thought about switching to a Slot 1 solution for their DS.

The Expansion Pack, on top of it, allows for an exceptionally versatile and multi-purpose kit, filling up the blanks left by previous flashcards.

This is the pro's and con's list we've prepared based on our review:

Pro's
+ Extremely user-friendly.
+ Videos, images, MP3's and text documents can be enjoyed out of the box, without the need for additional software
+ Near-perfect game compatibility.
+ MicroSD support, for versatility and expaindable memory
+ Integrated PassMe function
+ Fully skinnable interface.
+ Resistand and lightweight
+ Last but not least, the Expansion Pack: GBA gaming, RAM upgrade and Rumble function, all in one.


Con's
- Essential packaging: the lack of a memory card reader and a software disc, manuals and other paper instructions might be an obstacle for inexperienced users
- No touchscreen support within the Loader: although it's a minor flaw, operating straigt from the lower screen is a feature we'd love to see in future updates.
- Comparing to other Slot 1 cards, the microSD slot seems to be more narrow, making inserting/extracting the card a bit more difficult.



Review written by Nemo_DS for GBARL.it. Thanks to Evrain for his extensive support.
Unauthorized copying and editing is forbidden outside of Network RL.


--------------------
Just keep tryin'
Keep on flyin'
I will be the light...

- from Last Exile: Cloud Age Symphony -


Togisumasareta tsume wo hate ima kagayaku tame ni sono kiba wo muke...
Shiren wa norikoerarenai hito ni osoikakari wa shinai!

- from Megaman X8: Wild Fang -


Proud supporter of EVAC Industry co.ltd.
 Go to the top of the page
 
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