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Buyer's Guide: NDS Flashcards

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#1
Mooney

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v0.9 by Mooney (Last edit: May 17, 2008)
Still a lot to work on...

Intro

Whether you're getting in to NDS homebrew or you've grown tired of buying games that look good only to find out they're crap, you've probably become interested in purchasing a flashcard for your NDS. Flashcards for NDS are incredibly useful things. Not only do they allow you to play homebrew and backups of your original games, most of them will also let you listen to music, watch videos, and view picture files. Each cart has its own pros and cons, so you have to look carefully for the cart that is right for you.

What you need to know

The difference between slot-1 and slot-2

This seems to be one of the main things that baffles first time buyers. What's the difference and why the heck should you care?

Pictures:
Slot-1 on the NDS Lite
Slot-2 on the NDS Lite
Slot-1 and slot-2 on the original NDS

The difference between NDS slot-2 flashcards and GBA flashcarts

Slot-2 NDS flashcards are NOT the same as GBA flashcarts. The main difference is that slot-2 flashcards generally use seperate memory cards to store ROMs while GBA flashcarts have on-board flash memory. Since a flashcart’s memory is not expandable, and usually fairly small to begin with, they are quickly going from new technology to fossils of the past. Also, many of them have rather poor compatibility with NDS ROMs. Therefore, I will not talk about them in this guide.

Quick Overview

- Slot-1: This is the DS game card slot located on the top of the system. This slot can be used for original DS game cards, a pass device (PassMe, NoPass), or for a DS flashcard (M3 Simply, SuperCard DS).

Pros: Fits right into the slot, does not require any additional hardware, relatively cheap, can be used as a PassMe.
Cons: Cannot play GBA homebrew or backups, low compatibility with some of the early DS homebrew, too expensive to be used just as a PassMe.

- Slot-2: This is the GBA cart slot on the bottom of the system. This slot is for original GBA carts, DS option packs (Rumble pack, Opera memory expansion), GBA flashcarts (EFA, EZ-Flash), or slot-2 NDS flashcards.

Pros: Can play GBA games, great homebrew compatibility.
Cons: Requires additional hardware to play NDS homebrew and backups, rather expensive.



Slot-1

As the latest addition to an NDS owner's homebrew arsenal, the main advantage to slot-1 cards would seem to be that they fit right into the DS card slot and they don't require any other hardware (other than a memory stick, of course), so they are easy to set up and start using. Most slot-1 carts will let you drag and drop your homebrew and game backups right on to your memory card so there's no hassle with extra software. These carts will also works with DS option packs, such as Opera's memory upgrade and the DS rumble pack.

Unfortunately, even clouds with silver linings are still clouds. A huge drawback with slot-1 cards is that they cannot play GBA homebrew/backups/emulators. You may not realize the magnitude of this until you realize that some of the best emulators are for GBA (PocketNES, Goomba, SMSAdvance, PCEAdvance) and not DS.

Required Equipment

- Slot-1 flashcard
- Memory Card (Usually microSD or microSDHC)
- Memory Card Reader/Writer


Another feature that most clot-1 cards have is the ability to act as a NoPass device. This means you could use your slot-1 device to run NDS games off of a slot-2 device. However, I would not recommend getting a slot-1 device just for that feature, go with a product whose only function is to be a NoPass device. It'll be cheaper yet just as reliable.

SDHC

Most new slot-1 carts support SDHC (Secure Digital High-Capacity) cards. SDHC cards have a much higher capacity that regular SD cards (from 4GB to 8GB, soon to 16GB) and come in 3 speeds:

- Class 2: 2 MB/s
- Class 4: 4 MB/s
- Class 6: 6 MB/s

NOTE: SDHC cards will only work on slot-1 cards that support it.


Popular Devices

- R4DS
- CycloDS Evolution *
- M3DS Real *
- M3 Simply
- TopToy DS *
- SuperCard DS One
- EZ-Flash V
- AceKard R.P.G. *
- AceKard 2 *

* Supports SDHC

Pros

- Only takes up one slot
- Compatible with DS expansion carts (RAM expansion, rumble, etc)
- Supports drag-and-drop of clean ROMs
- Not very expensive


Cons

- Does not support GBA ROMs without a slot-2 expansion pak
- Not very compatible with older homebrew (Homebrew usually requires a DLDI patch to work on a slot-1 device)

Get more info on DLDI here: Mooney's Complete Guide to DLDI


Slot-2

The first generation of flashcards made for the NDS were slot-2. As I mentioned before, slot-2 flashcards go in the GBA slot located on the bottom of the NDS. Most people who buy slot-2 cards do so because they want to be able to play GBA games and emulators, which slot-1 does not support. However, slot-2 flashcards usually do not support the convenient drag-and-drop method for writing ROMs to the memory card that slot-1 cards support, they usually require software to write ROMs. Also, since you need an extra piece of equipment to run NDS games and emulators from a slot-2 device, it can get a bit pricey.

Required Equipment

- Slot-2 flashcard
- Memory card (Usually SD, MicroSD, MiniSD, or CF)
- Memory Card Reader/Writer


Optional Equipment

- Pass Device (PassMe, PassKey, NoPass, WifiMe)


A pass device is not required to use a slot-2 flashcard. However, if you want to be able to run NDS games or emulators off of your slot-2 device, a pass device is required. The only alternative is FlashMe, but installation of FlashMe requires a pass device to get started. For more info on pass devices, please scroll farther down the page.

Popular Devices

- M3 Family: Pro, Perfect, Lite, Slim, Mini.
Memory Cards used by M3 adapters: CF, SD, MiniSD, MicroSD

- SuperCard Family: CF, SD, MiniSD, Lite, Rumble (Does not support GBA mode)
Memory Cards used by SuperCard adapters: CF, SD, MiniSD, MicroSD


Pros

- Support for GBA games and emulators
- High compatibility with older homebrew
- Works with all models of the NDS
- Compatible memory cards are relatively cheap


Cons

- Requires a pass device to play NDS games and emulators
- Flashcards are rather expensive
- Does not support drag-and-drop
- Do not support some newer homebrew designed for slot-1 cards



Pass Devices

Anyone with a slot-2 flashcard who wants to play NDS games will need one of these. A pass device is a piece of hardware that you insert into the DS card slot (slot-1) of the DS that allows you to load NDS games off of a slot-2 flashcard. It must be noted, however, that the model and firmware of your DS will decide which pass devices are right for you, as not all pass devices work with all models of DS.

How to Check Your DS’s Firmware

The following set of steps will allow you to determine the firmware of your NDS, and therefore help you choose a compatible pass device.

1. Insert an official (commercial) GBA or NDS cartridge into the DS.
2. Turn on your DS, enter Pictochat, and enter any chat room.
3. Once you have entered the chat room, remove the GBA or NDS cartridge from the DS without turning the DS off.
4. Something should happen to both your screens, usually a change in color:

- No change in color (Pictochat freezes): Firmware v1
- Both screens turn blue-gray: Firmware v2
- Both screens turn dark green: Firmware v3 (iQue DS systems have this firmware)
- Both screens turn yellow: Firmware v4
- Both screens turn purple: Firmware v5 (Most DS Lites have this firmware)
- Both screens turn dark blue: Firmware v6

^ Click for pictures ^

Now that you have determined your firmware, here is a list of pass devices and the firmwares they support.

Popular Devices

Pass Devices for Firmwares v1-v3 (Requires a commercial NDS cartridge)

- PassMe
- EZPass
- SuperPass
- PassKey


WifiMe is another option for people who’s NDS has firmware v1, v2, or v3.

Pass Devices for Firmwares v1-v6 (Not compatible with GBA Movie Player, requires a commercial NDS cartridge)

- EZPass2
- PassMe2
- PassCard 2
- PassKey 2


NoPass (Compatible with all firmwares and flashcards)

- EZPass3
- MAX Media Launcher
- PassCard3 (Not compatible with EZ-Flash IV)
- MK4 Mini
- MK4 Key
- SuperKey (Not compatible with EZ-Flash IV)
- Ninjapass Media Launcher
- Action Replay DS (With firmware 1.02 or later, hold “select” while booting up with an NDS flashcard in the GBA slot)

NoPass is becoming the most popular pass device today because it does not require a commercial NDS cartridge to be inserted into the device and it does not stick out of the DS slot at all.


Coming Soon
- Any changes I might make
- Anything someone might suggest to include
- Probably a whole crapload of edits and additions


Special Thanks
- lakalt (Pictures of firmwares v3, v4, and v5)
- iq_132 (Picture of firmware v2)


Sources
http://wiki.pockethe...com/DS_Firmware
http://wiki.pocketheaven.com/PassMe
http://wiki.pocketheaven.com/PassMe2
http://wiki.pocketheaven.com/NoPass
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PassMe
http://en.wikipedia....lash_cartridges
http://en.wikipedia....wiki/M3_adapter

#2
Mooney

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A few minor updates, more to come tonight.

#3
Mooney

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- Added pictures of DSes showing their true colors (firmwares)
- Made a few small changes

#4
teriases

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Hi Mooney,

Every nice guide, thanks for putting it up. But I am still bit confused about some stuff....

For the Slot 1 cards, says they play NDS "CLEAN" ROMs..... what does that mean? I often see bit-torrents of NDS ROMs for download. Are most of them "clean"? If they are clean, they should work just by copying the ROM file onto the card and boot up my DS?

Also, which of the slot 1 cards do you recommend personally? :huh: I dont have much interest on GBA games, so slot 1 cards are perfect for me.

#5
iq_132

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Hi Mooney,

Every nice guide, thanks for putting it up. But I am still bit confused about some stuff....

For the Slot 1 cards, says they play NDS "CLEAN" ROMs..... what does that mean? I often see bit-torrents of NDS ROMs for download. Are most of them "clean"? If they are clean, they should work just by copying the ROM file onto the card and boot up my DS?

I'm not Mooney, but I can maybe answer your questions. Older cards would require that you run the games through a program on your pc to patch them so that they would be playable on the card. Most games that you see for download are "clean" and if you have a card that supports clean roms, it will run them just fine if you put them on your card.

Also, which of the slot 1 cards do you recommend personally? :huh: I dont have much interest on GBA games, so slot 1 cards are perfect for me.

I have (as does Mooney) and recommend an R4DS. It supports external SD Micro cards up to 2GB (Gigabytes), allowing for swapping them in and out. It is a slot 1 card, has a good team that fixes most problematic games as soon as they are dumped (Legend of Zelda was fixed a few hours after being on the net), it gets updates regularly, the firmware (which is simple and safe to upgrade), supports cheats and a "soft-reset" which takes you back to the firmware.
The M3DS Simply is exactly the same card as the R4DS, they just get the firmware updates a little later.
Also, the R4DS/M3DSS are very inexpensive $40-$50USD. And you can find a MicroSD card online for ~$25USD for a 2GB one.

The only major cons of the R4 is that it's download-play support isn't great (but is being worked on), the spring for the SD slot can only take so much of a beating before it breaks, and it doesn't support GBA games (but this is true for all Slot-1 solutions).

Other cards that you may find interesting are the CycloDS the G6DS Real.

#6
olaf

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I personally recommend the R4DS as well. I have one and love it dearly. ;)

#7
colloner

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so a m3 is no different from r4? then why do you recommend r4 over m3?

#8
olaf

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so a m3 is no different from r4? then why do you recommend r4 over m3?

Because it's what I own, obviously.

#9
iq_132

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so a m3 is no different from r4? then why do you recommend r4 over m3?


The R4 gets the updates sooner and is often cheaper.

#10
olaf

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The homepage has been down for a week or two now, though.

#11
colloner

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so if i get R4, i can only play NDS and not GBA? hmm anyway to play both?




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