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the NEO2-SD review by Guyfawkes

the NEO2-SD review by Guyfawkes

more info: http://www.neoflash.com/forum/index.php/topic,3334.0.html

The Neo2 and MK4-mini are the latest products from the Neoflash team who have been manufacturing GBA and DS flash carts over the past few years. The Neo2 is a Slot 2 cartridge (GBA slot) which as well as featuring the usual flash memory has a Secure Digital (SD) slot which allows you to run software directly from it.  The MK4-mini is a ‘NoPass’ device for Slot 1 (DS slot) which acts like an original DS cart.

Here is a quick overview of some of the features:

  * Runs clean ROMs from the SD directly, no need for any patching software
  * Support multiple clean ROMs
  * Built in SD/MMC slot
  * Supports SD/Mini-SD/MicroSD (TF)/MMC/RS-MMC, up to 4GByte
  * Supports GBA/SP/GBM/NDS/NDS-lite all platform
  * Built in battery AD monitor
  * 100% GBA hardware save
  * Built in 3 set separate RTC
  * Built in 16 bit DMA
  * Built in 8Kb inner high-speed buffer
  * Built in 2M SRAM
  * Built in 16M flash menu
  * Built in 128M Zip RAM, support compressed ROM
  * Built in 256M flash memory
  * Same size as original NDS cart.
  * Support any version of NDS & NDS LITE.
  * Brightness adjust — Can adjust the brightness level of NDS / NDS lite.
  * Built in 2M EEPROM save chip.
  * Hardware supported NDS sleep mode
  * PLUG and PLAY – don't need modify your console, just need to plug in the MK4-mini.
  * GBA/NDS Swap — You can boot any flash cart (like the NEOFlash / XG / SC / M3 / EZ / MP / GBALink) from the GBA slot, and you can boot MK2 / MK3 serial form NDS slot too.
  * R-S-A Secure — 100% support R-S-A secure arithmetic.

What’s in the box
The MK4-mini and Neo2 are packaged in a clear plastic case which is thankfully not a blister pack. It can be opened and closed which is great as you firstly don’t have to battle with opening a blister pack and secondly the packaging can be reused if you want to store the contents or sell it on at a later date. Inside the packaging is the following:

  1x Neo2 cartridge
  1x Magic Key 4 mini (MK4-mini)
  1x Software CD

There are no printed instructions provided but you can find these on the Software CD along with some homebrew software and some tools. No PC side software is required for either the MK4-mini or Neo2.

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The MK4-mini
As mentioned above, the MK4-mini is a NoPass device which means it is fully compatible with all DS/DS Lite firmware revisions. It does this by having the software encrypted like a real DS cartridge which means you can boot the cartridge from the DS menu as you would with a real one.  The benefit of this is you do not need to flash your DS/DS Lite firmware which means you do not have to run the risk of ‘bricking’ your DS.

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The size of the MK4-mini is exactly the same size as a real DS cartridge; it slots in and out of the DS perfectly and apart from a small switch which changes between GBA and DS mode it looks identical to a real cartridge. There is a small design problem with the switch being slightly bigger than the case which ends up with a slight bulge under the sticker where the switch is, this doesn’t affect the usage of the MK4-mini but I wouldn’t put any unnecessary pressure on it in case it breaks. I spoke to Neoflash about this and they said that I have the first version of the MK4 and that since last week a new version has been released which does not have the switch defect. This should mean that if you purchase a MK4-mini you will get a new version so let us know if you dont.

The switch allows you to change between two modes at bootup, the GBA selection will boot straight to the software on the cartridge and the DS selection will boot up to the DS menu screen as you normally would see. Most people will choose the GBA option which will load your menu software which is in the GBA slot. The MK4-mini is compatible with a variety of other manufacturers Slot 2 devices such as the Supercard (normal and lite) and M3 Adapter. A full compatibility list can be found at http://qrayzie.gbatemp.net/reviews/nopass-20060724.pdf

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The MK4-mini has a built in 2M EEPROM chip which, if needed, can hold your DS game save. Depending on what slot 2 device you are using you may not need to use this as your device may already handle the save data. The Neo2 lets the MK4-mini handle it and manages multiple saves via the menu software, which is explained in more detail in the Neo2 review.

Finally, the MK4-mini can use PC side patching software which is compatible with any flash cartridge but must be used with the MK4-mini in the DS. The compatibility is a bit hit and miss so I don’t recommend you buy the MK4-mini just for the patcher feature with is just an added extra.

The Neo2
The main feature of the Neo2 is its support of the Secure Digital (SD) format. The Neo2 does not come with a SD card which is probably to keep the costs down and also because many people already own a SD card from various devices such as digital cameras or other flash kits. This does mean you have to purchase one separately but you can decide for yourself what size card you can afford and wish to use, the Neo2 supports SD cards up to 4GB in size. You may also need to purchase a SD card reader which connects to your PC and transfers files to and from the SD card and PC, you can purchase these for as little as a few pounds or dollars.

No additional PC side software is required in order to use the Neo2. All that is required is a simple drag and drop of the ROM you wish to use from your PC to the SD card. The advantage of this is that it is fully compatible with any operating system that supports a card reader. The design of the Neo2 is a standard GBA cartridge with a small slot on the top where the SD card is inserted. Unfortunately due to the size of the GBA cartridge and SD card size, the SD card sticks out a considerable way when inserted. I was a little worried that while using the DS I might accidently move the SD card but after several hours of testing I haven’t had any problems, even when trying in bed with the DS resting on me when lying down (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) I do however think that while the DS is being moved around, for example in a bag or pocket, it would be wise to remove the SD card in case it gets damaged.

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Upon switching on the DS with the MK4-mini and Neo2, you are presented with a menu which allows you to access the files on the SD card. The icons of each ROM are displayed with the filename beside it. The menu isn’t the prettiest thing to look at when compared to other devices menus such as the DSLink, but it does the same job, hopefully they improve the look of the menu in a future release.  The navigation is performed by pressing Up or Down, or Left or Right shoulder buttons to skip a page, on the Joypad to move between the files and then press the A button to select it and boot the ROM.

Once the ROM boot process has started it will perform a couple of maintenance steps if needed, no user interaction is required. The first step is to backup the MK4-mini save data from the previous ROM used to your SD card. The second step is to erase the MK4-mini save data and then the third step is to load the save data (if it exists) from the SD to the MK4-mini for the game you have just chosen. It sounds complicated but as I said, no user interaction is required. This process takes up to 20 seconds if you are changing to a different ROM, otherwise there is no delay between pressing A and the ROM booting if playing the same ROM as before. The above process means you can have multiple ROMS on your SD Card along with their respective save data which is not overwritten when you load another ROM.

I tried quite a few commercial releases (over 30) with firmware v1.1 and the vast majority worked. There were however a couple of games where the save failed, these include FIFA 07 and 42 All-Time Classics. You find a compatibility list update (posted October 9th) at http://www.neoflash.com/forum/index.php/topic,3315.0.html. I spoke to Neoflash about the save game issues and they assured me that saves would be improved for the v1.2 firmware release expected in the next few days, so I will update the review when its released to reflect the improved compatibility.

Although the Neo2 can be used to play GBA ROMs you can’t directly do this with the current menu software. For the moment you will have to purchase the Slimloader 4 flash linker which includes software to flash GBA ROMs to your Neo2 cartridge. Neoflash said they are working on a new firmware feature with GBA support, you will be able to store zipped GBA ROMs on your SD card which will flash to your Neo2.

The firmware update is performed by downloading the update which has a .neo filename extension. You select this as normal in the menu and then press the A button to start the update. The process takes a few seconds and should be trouble free, I have performed this twice with no problems. Firmware updates at the moment seem to be fairly regular, in the past couple of weeks there have been two releases and a third update is expected within the week.

I did not have any problems with the MK4-mini and can recommend this device to anyone that requires a NoPass solution for their DS/DS Lite. My only concern, which is very minor, is the bulge on the cart where the DS/GBA switch doesn’t quite fit but it is not a big enough problem to detract from the overall product. As this is apparently fixed in the new MK4-mini version I will for the moment ignore the defect unless people buy them and are still getting the old versions.
Final verdict – 9/10

I found the Neo2 to work for the majority of ROMs released and apart from a handful of games that did not save correctly (which will be fixed in the next firmware release) the menu software was very reliable. The SD card sticking out of the Neo2 is a bit of a put off but after a while I got used to it, as mentioned I would advise removing the SD card if you are carrying it around as you might damage it. Providing support is continued for ROM compatibility this is a Slot 2 solution you should definitely consider.
Final verdict – 8/10

The homepage for both products can be found at http://www.neoflash.com and you can purchase the MK4 and Neo2 from http://www.ic2005.com/.

original link: http://www.emuboards.com/invision/index.php?showtopic=27585


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