Author Topic: NEO N64 Myth Flash Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83  (Read 11249 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Link83

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 59
NEO N64 Myth Flash Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« on: April 08, 2010, 05:58:04 AM »
Sorry for taking so long to write this review, at first I thought it might be best if I waited to see if a Menu was released for the NEO N64 Myth before writing a review. However, when I realised a menu might not be released for a while I started working on the review, but then I became really busy and it got delayed :(

Since there is no Menu yet this is just my 'preliminary review'. I feel that the NEO N64 Myth has not yet reached its full potential, and since I can't yet test all the possible features I can't give a 'final review'

My review is posted here:-
http://forums.benheck.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=35583&p=415099#p415099

I hope you enjoy reading my review, and if you have any questions please feel free to ask in this thread :)

*This review is still a 'work in progress'!*

Please Note: Some of this review is written with the expectation that the reader has at least a little knowledge of different memory chip types and prior N64 backup units (Otherwise this review could go on forever!) Although if you don’t know anything don’t worry as I have provided some Wikipedia links at the end of the review which you may find helpful.

NEO N64 Myth Flash Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
Introduction
Since being announced in 2006 many people were beginning to believe the NEO N64 Myth flash cart would never be released, but a couple of months ago the Neoflash Team surprised everyone by finally releasing their first N64 backup solution, so just what should you expect from the NEO N64 Myth?

Firstly you may be wondering, what exactly is the NEO N64 Myth flash cart? And what does it do? Well put simply, it allows you to play Nintendo 64 game ROM files (Like those used with N64 emulators) on an original Nintendo 64 console.

The NEO N64 Myth is the first flash cartridge to be produced for the N64 system since it was discontinued by Nintendo in 2001/02, and is currently the only N64 flash cart that is still readily available to buy. It’s also the first ‘modern’ N64 flash cart, in that all files are transferred over USB rather then the old parallel ports used on previous N64 backup solutions, this is very convenient considering that most PC’s nowadays don’t even include parallel ports.

Since this will likely be a huge factor to some people I will mention right now that the price is high at $199.00, which might put off many people, but its important to realize that this product is designed for a niche retro market and its the only device of its kind still on the market, so the high price is understandable. Also, even old N64 backup units often reach similar prices on ebay, so it’s not as far out a price as you might expect (Although of course it would be nice if it was cheaper!)

Packaging and Contents
The NEO N64 Myth flash cart comes in a simple re-sealable plastic clamshell packaging:-


Inside you will find the NEO N64 Myth flash cart itself with a smaller NEO2 512Mbit cartridge inserted in the top, a standard Type-A to Mini-B USB cable, and a software/drivers disk:-


Some close ups of the NEO N64 Myth flash cart – front, back and top edge:-


You may be wondering what the small NEO2 512M cartridge is for:-


Well, originally it was the Neoflash Team’s flash cartridge for playing Game Boy Advance games on the Nintendo DS Lite, only it has now been ‘re-purposed’ to provide game storage space for the NEO N64 Myth Cart. A 512Mbit NEO2 cartridge is included as standard – this is large enough to store even the biggest N64 game.

The NEO N64 Myth seems to be quite well constructed. It is made from a smooth, shiny plastic which doesn’t feel quite as solid as an original N64 game cartridge, but it doesn’t feel as ‘cheap’ as the N64 GameShark/Action Replay either. It can be a little bit ‘creaky’ sometimes, especially when your inserting a N64 game in the back, but overall I would say its quite well built.

Installation is relatively straight forward; first you install the ‘NEO2 Ultra Menu’ program from the included disk, or download the latest version from the Neoflash website. Once installed you just:-

- Connect up the NEO N64 Myth cart to your PC with the USB cable
- Use the ‘NEO2 Ultra Menu’ program to burn an N64 ROM to the NEO N64 Myth cart
- Insert an original N64 game into the back of the NEO N64 Myth cart to bypass the N64’s security lockout chip.
- Finally plug the NEO N64 Myth cart into your N64 console and start playing!

Really, it’s as simple as that.

Game Compatibility
In testing I have found the NEO N64 Myth to be extremely compatible, in fact I have yet to find any N64 game that wouldn’t play - with just one condition - you must play the game on the correct region N64 console it was designed to play on, this means:-

- You should play NTSC games (USA and Japanese games) on an NTSC N64 console (USA and Japanese consoles)

- You should play PAL games (Europe and Australian games) on a PAL N64 console (European and Australian consoles)

The only time I have experienced compatibility problems is when playing NTSC games on PAL consoles, or visa-versa. Many times the game will still play on the wrong region console, but some have sound/graphics glitches due to the different speeds between NTSC and PAL N64 games. There are a few solutions to this problem, such as patching the games, but this is not always reliable. However, it’s important to realize that this is not a problem with the NEO N64 Myth cart, but is due to the technical differences between an NTSC and PAL N64 consoles and the way the games were originally programmed for each region, so no N64 backup device could be perfect in this regard.

In addition, if you want to play any N64 games larger than 256Mbit then the NEO N64 Myth cart is easily the best option. Games larger than 256Mbit include:-

Paper Mario - 320Mbit (USA & Japan) / 512Mbit (Europe)
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber - 320Mbit
Conker's Bad Fur Day - 512Mbit
Pokemon Stadium 2 - 512Mbit
Resident Evil 2 - 512Mbit
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest Debug Version - 512Mbit
Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Debug Version - 512Mbit

The only other N64 backup device capable of playing N64 games larger than 256Mbit was the V64 Jr, which is very rare to find nowadays. The V64 Jr is also much larger than the NEO N64 Myth cart and required a parallel port to transfer games. Not only that, but it needed constant power to keep the stored game ‘alive’ in its SDRAM, by either using an external power supply, or six AA batteries which lasted less than six hours, and once the V64 Jr lost power the stored game disappears. This is not the case with the NEO N64 Myth Cart as it uses flash memory which does not require any power to store the game.

Saving
Some people might be surprised to learn that original N64 games stored save files in multiple different ways, the simplest way is the Controller Pak (A memory card that plugs into the controller) and games that use the Controller Pak save just like they would normally.

However, many first-party Nintendo games saved to a chip inside the actual game cartridge, and different games used different types of save chips. Nintendo used four different types of save chips, which included:-

EEPROM 4Kbit (512bytes)
EEPROM 16Kbit (2Kbytes)
SRAM 256Kbit (32Kbytes)
Flash 1Mbit (128Kbytes)

Previous N64 backup devices would often required a ‘boot cartridge’ be inserted into the back that used the same save type as the game you wanted to play, this is not the case with the NEO N64 Myth cart which supports all the different save types independently of the boot cartridge by simply setting the correct save type in the NEO2 Ultra Menu program before burning the game to the flash memory. This is much simpler than it sounds, and I use this very handy save type list:-
http://n64.icequake.net/mirror/www.elitendo.com/n64/usa_boot_save_list.html

There are even future plans to make the program recognize every N64 ROM file and then select the correct save type automatically.

Security
All original N64 games include a security lockout chip inside the game cartridge to try and prevent people from using backups, these were often called ‘CIC’s or ‘boot chips’. Nintendo produced five different revisions of these security chips for each region, and older N64 backup devices would often require the use of a ‘boot cartridge’ that had the correct revision security chip for the game you wanted to play. This is not the case with the NEO N64 Myth cart as it has a built-in ‘universal boot emulator’ which allows you to boot practically any game using any original N64 game as a boot cartridge, all you have to do is insert any original N64 game into the cartridge slot on the back of the NEO N64 Myth cart.

There are only two exceptions to the above, and that is Jet Force Gemini and Banjo Tooie – these two games have extra security programmed into them, so for these two games it is still necessary to use an original game that has the correct security chip, which is known as the ‘6105’ boot chip. This is not as much of a problem as it may seem, as quite a few great games used the 6105 security chip, see this link for a list:-
http://n64.icequake.net/mirror/www.elitendo.com/n64/usa_boot_save_faq.html#b7
Most people will likely already have at least one ‘6105’ N64 game, or will be able to buy one for little money. This means if you use a boot cartridge with a '6105' security chip you can boot any N64 game.

All of the above features all add up to make the NEO N64 Myth cart one of the easiest to use N64 backup units available.

Criticisms
So far I have discussed a lot of features and positive points about the NEO N64 Myth cart; however it’s not all perfect. There are some negative points about NEO N64 Myth; one of the most obvious is the decision to use a proprietary NEO2 cartridge as storage, rather than having the memory built into the cartridge from the start and using an SD card to store the games. Of course you can optionally upgrade to the NEO2-SD cartridge but this will cost you an extra $69.00 on top of the price of the NEO N64 Myth cart itself, pushing the total price up to $268.00.

Another downside is that the included NEO2 512Mbit cartridge uses flash memory to store the games. Flash memory is very slow to write to, and although it only takes roughly 2 minutes to burn a 64Mbit game, larger 512Mbit games can take over 15 minutes to burn, and this is just a bit too long in my opinion. It is also doubtful that the burn times can be vastly reduced.

Flash memory can also only be written to a certain number of times before ‘wearing out’, admittedly this is usually thousand of times, but every time you want to play a different game you will need to re-burn the flash memory, so it is not out of the realms of possibility that some users could wear out some ‘blocks’ of the flash chip, at which point you would need to buy a new NEO2 cartridge.

If the cartridge had used 512Mbit SDRAM/PSRAM instead of flash memory and had included an SD/microSD card slot, then loading times would likely have been less than a minute, and in my opinion the NEO N64 Myth cart would be much better value for money.

Another important point is that there is currently no menu system for the NEO N64 Myth cart, in other words its acts like an original N64 game cartridge and little more. The cartridge does feature a switch on the top allowing you to swap between two different stored games, but this pales in comparison to what flash carts for other systems offer, and what many people now take for granted. The NEO N64 Myth cart does include extra memory set-aside for a menu system, but it is left up to homebrew developers/programmers to design a menu system, and although I am sure one will be developed given enough time, there is still nothing available as of March 2010. As there is no menu system, you cannot select and load different games from your N64 console, instead every time you want to play a different game you need to reconnect the NEO N64 Myth cart to your PC and burn another game to the flash memory.

If you do upgrade to the NEO2-SD this has 128Mbit of PSRAM and 256Mbit/512Mbit of flash memory (Depending on the model) The NEO2-SD’s PSRAM will hopefully allow much faster loading of games using the forthcoming NEO N64 Myth Menu, but this is still under development so is an ‘unknown variable’ at this point. Also, although the 128Mbit PSRAM is plenty big enough for the NEO Myth Mega Drive 3in1 flash cart and NEO SNES/SFC Myth flash cart, around 20% of N64 games are larger than 128Mbit and will not fit in the PSRAM, so will still have to be burnt to the flash memory chip. It also seems unlikely that the flash memory burning process will be much quicker even if its performed on the N64 console itself (If a forthcoming menu even supports burning to the flash memory)

Conclusion
For N64 fans the NEO N64 Myth cart is great, it allows you to play hacked N64 games like GoldenEye with the Citadel level, or unreleased N64 games like 40 Winks, all on a real N64. It’s also the only N64 backup device still readily available to buy without scouring ebay for an old backup unit.

At the moment its best to think of the NEO N64 Myth cart as just a ‘blank cartridge’ which can be any game you want it to be. However, the downsides appear when you start to compare it to flash carts for other systems - in particular the lack of a menu system, which is a pretty important feature in my opinion. It also requires extra outlay to upgrade the NEO2 cartridge to one that supports SD/microSD cards, although as there is currently no menu system this is almost irrelevant.

Although the NEO N64 Myth cart has a lot of potential I don’t feel that it has quite reached the point that justifies its high price tag. If you are a die-hard N64 fan with money to spare, then I would say go for it. However for people who are not quite sure if it’s for them, I would say wait a while and see how the NEO N64 Myth cart develops.

Positives
- Modern N64 backup solution supporting USB instead of parallel cables
- Compatibility appears to be practically 100% (As long as you play games from the same region)
- Very compact when compared to older backup solutions
- Readily available to buy

Negatives
- Costs $199.00
- Uses proprietary NEO2 cartridges as storage
- At present can only store and play a maximum of two games
- Requires additional outlay of $69 to upgrade the NEO2 cartridge to one supporting SD/microSD
- Takes more than 15 minutes to burn a 512Mbit ROM to the flash memory

Interesting/Useful Wikipedia Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEO_N64_Myth_Cart
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD64_(Nintendo)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_V64
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z64
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_port
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EEPROM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Static_random_access_memory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_memory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSRAM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SDRAM
« Last Edit: May 07, 2010, 02:50:46 AM by Link83 »

Offline sanni

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 502
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2010, 05:22:31 PM »
Thats a very good and honest review, I liked it  :-* ::sm-29.gif::
I especially liked the part about the psram, I didn't even know that you can write faster to psram then to flash.

I did a little research on the flash chips by myself. The flashchips inside my Neo2 are dated 2003. So they are at best 130nm Intel Strataflash P30/P33.
(90nm flash chips were introduced in 2005 and offered 3x faster write speeds, the recent 65nm chips are 6x times faster than 130nm.)

The P30 has a write speed of 7 μs/byte, a 512Mbit game has 67108864 bytes.
That makes 469762048 x10^-6, which are 470s or 7,8 minutes.  :-\
Thats 8 minutes for a 512Mbit game at the theoretical top speed. The Mr. Backup Z64 needs only one minute for the same cart size in reality.  :-*
How can it by that a backup device produced in 1998 is more than 8 times faster than the Neo Myth?
Sounds like a new generation of highspeed Neo2 carts is needed.

Source: P30 Datasheet
« Last Edit: April 08, 2010, 05:26:54 PM by sanni »

Offline Dr.neo

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3826
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2010, 05:57:20 PM »
yes  Link83 , i have to say your reivew is fair and honest  ~sm-35.gif~
In my world,have 0 and 1 only ......Matrix World......

Offline ChillyWilly

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1751
  • Just a coding machine.
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2010, 01:42:54 AM »
8 to 15 minutes is a long time to wait for a game. One of the things I'm experimenting with on the N64 is using the zip ram on the Neo2-SD - the intention is to load a game into zip ram instead of burning it to flash. Depending on the model of the Neo2-SD, that limits you to 128 Mb or 256 Mb games, but if it fits, it will be MUCH faster as you only have to wait on the game to load, not load AND burn to flash. Unless NeoFlash comes out with a 512 Mb model of the Neo2-SD, you're stuck burning 512 Mb games to flash.

Offline sanni

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 502
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2010, 06:57:00 AM »
My 512Mbit Neo2 SD has three chips on the pcb.
One is labeled ST M36DR432A. This is the 32Mbit menu with 4Mbit sram save.
Then there are two chips labeled 4050l0ytq2. I couldn't find a datasheet. But they are ment for the SE K750i mobile phone.
In some K750i there was a chip from ST called M36L0R806 instead of the Intel one. And this one has 256Mbit flash memory and 64Mbit psram.
Since there are two of them, that would make 512Mbit flash and 128Mbit psram alltogether.

So it has:
- 4Mbit battery powered sram save
- 32Mbit menu flash
- 128Mbit psram
- 512Mbit flash

Thats also exactly what the Neo Ultra Menu tells me.
What Neo2-SD model has 256Mbit psram?
Would it be possible to split a 256Mbit game between psram and flash so that only 128Mbit would need to be flashed?

Offline ChillyWilly

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1751
  • Just a coding machine.
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2010, 08:23:22 AM »
My 512Mbit Neo2 SD has three chips on the pcb.
One is labeled ST M36DR432A. This is the 32Mbit menu with 4Mbit sram save.
Then there are two chips labeled 4050l0ytq2. I couldn't find a datasheet. But they are ment for the SE K750i mobile phone.
In some K750i there was a chip from ST called M36L0R806 instead of the Intel one. And this one has 256Mbit flash memory and 64Mbit psram.
Since there are two of them, that would make 512Mbit flash and 128Mbit psram alltogether.

So it has:
- 4Mbit battery powered sram save
- 32Mbit menu flash
- 128Mbit psram
- 512Mbit flash

Thats also exactly what the Neo Ultra Menu tells me.

Sounds like the current batch of Neo2-SD carts.


Quote
What Neo2-SD model has 256Mbit psram?

Dr.neo sent me one that says it has 256Mb of psram, but it also has 0Mb of flash, so I think it's really a Neo3-SD. If you look at the specs, the Neo3-SD says it has 256 Mb of psram and no game flash.


Quote
Would it be possible to split a 256Mbit game between psram and flash so that only 128Mbit would need to be flashed?

Not that I'm aware of - you get psram, or you get flash, not both at the same time. The menu flash, game flash, and psram are all mutually exclusive. You switch between menu and game flash, and between game flash and psram.

Offline sanni

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 502
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2010, 08:54:21 PM »
Sorry for spamming, but assuming the 4050l0ytq2 has the same specs as the M36L0R806, since both are used in the same mobil phone(I opened my K750i and I had a M36L0R806 in it) it would need 10us for one word.
One word is 16 bits. So a 512Mbit game would have 33554432 words and would take 335544320 us or approx. 6 minutes.

So I think writing the the full flash from sd should take between 6 and 8 minutes in theory, games that are not bigger than 128Mbit could be written to the psram and would take very little load time.

Did you test if the Neo3 works in the Myth cart?
If yes then all that is needed would be a 512Mbit psram Neo3 sd/tf cart for full performance.
If no then we would need a Neo2 sd/tf cart with 4x 4050l0ytq2 chips, giving it 1024Mbit flash and 256Mbit psram. So you could leave two 512Mbit games always flashed and use the psram for all other games.

Offline Dr.neo

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3826
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2010, 11:45:54 PM »
Quote
Thats also exactly what the Neo Ultra Menu tells me.
What Neo2-SD model has 256Mbit psram?
Would it be possible to split a 256Mbit game between psram and flash so that only 128Mbit would need to be flashed?

all neo2-SD have up to 128M PSRAM only at this moment, but i have send one pcs new neo2 pro cart to ChillyWilly last time, it have 1G flash and 256M PSRAM. now this neo2 pro cart is ready, will start for sale soon.
so with this neo2 pro cart, user can download the N64 roms which up to 256M size to it from the SD (sure, we all wait this SD function ready,but not yet now), in this way can play almost N64 ROMs and not need burn to flash first, much much fast will be.

and ChillyWilly, your neo2 pro cart was full test before i send to you,you should can see the 1G flash too, do you try with the last neo ultra menu?  ~sm-41.gif~
In my world,have 0 and 1 only ......Matrix World......

Offline ChillyWilly

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1751
  • Just a coding machine.
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2010, 02:09:09 AM »
all neo2-SD have up to 128M PSRAM only at this moment, but i have send one pcs new neo2 pro cart to ChillyWilly last time, it have 1G flash and 256M PSRAM. now this neo2 pro cart is ready, will start for sale soon.

I'll have to try that cart again on the 3.04 Neo2 Ultra Menu... that last time I checked, N2UM said it had 0Mb of flash.  ???

That's why I thought it was a Neo3-SD cart.


Quote
so with this neo2 pro cart, user can download the N64 roms which up to 256M size to it from the SD (sure, we all wait this SD function ready,but not yet now), in this way can play almost N64 ROMs and not need burn to flash first, much much fast will be.

Yes, leave the one 512 Mb game on your 512 Mb flash cart and use the SD cart for the other stuff.  ;D

Quote
and ChillyWilly, your neo2 pro cart was full test before i send to you,you should can see the 1G flash too, do you try with the last neo ultra menu?  ~sm-41.gif~

I will. The last test I made with it was like 2.98 or something. The 3.04 has most of the "quirks" worked out. I can even write my DX menu to the menu flash (for the MD Myth) and use it with N2UM! So ideally, once we've had a chance for folks to thoroughly check the v2.2 DX menu we should be releasing today, you could make that the "official" menu on the MD Myth.  8)

Offline stefan_iro

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 218
  • It´s a me, Mario
Re: NEO N64 Myth Cart 'Preliminary Review' by Link83
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2010, 05:01:26 PM »
all neo2-SD have up to 128M PSRAM only at this moment, but i have send one pcs new neo2 pro cart to ChillyWilly last time, it have 1G flash and 256M PSRAM. now this neo2 pro cart is ready, will start for sale soon.
so with this neo2 pro cart, user can download the N64 roms which up to 256M size to it from the SD (sure, we all wait this SD function ready,but not yet now), in this way can play almost N64 ROMs and not need burn to flash first, much much fast will be.

That sounds great!  ~sm-36.gif~
Can´t wait to finally see the Neo2 Pro Cart and the N64 Myth menu released...  ~sm-92.gif~.gif
-----------------------------------
8bit & 16bit
the golden age of videogames