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[4/12/07] 1Emulation eXclusive: R4DS Flashcard Review


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Product: R4DS (Nintendo DS/Lite Flashcard) | Official Website

Product Supplier: ModMyDS.com "Your one stop shop for everything DS!"

Review Author(s): GameCop, Mooney, and iq_132

Digg it: http://www.digg.com/gaming_news/Comprehens...Pictures_Videos

Features

-2nd generation storage device (no booting tool required)

-Flush fitting slot 1 card

-Uses MicroSD card, FAT16 or 32

-Supports any MicroSD card speed with no lag in game

-Supports Clean ROM, drag and drop. Works on any OS

-Built in NoPass

-Automatically detect save type

-Save directly to MicroSD card, not to onboard chip

-Supports Moonshell and other homebrew. Open I/O interface

-User friendly skinnable interface. Touchscreen or button operation

-Supports rumble pak and memory pak

-Supports the WiFi game, DS Rumble Pak, DS Browser

-Supports changes of the background of Operation Interface

- Support Skin DIY by setting background and font colors on Main Menu and Game Menu manually and automatically

-Supports 4-scale-lightness adjustment ( DS Lite only )

-Supports the Soft Reset.

-moonshell 1.6 support Software Reset function( Press START key back to the R4 menu)

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PLEASE NOTE: The R4DS and M3 DS Simply are almost the same EXACT products.

 

The only minor difference consists of the operating systems they use which are slightly different (same features, usage, etc.)

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# Introduction #

 

The Nintendo DS has been the most successful handheld device sold by Nintendo since the original Game Boy. It also was prone to be hacked just like the rest of them (Sony PSP, Game Boy Advance) to play homebrew and backup games. Circumventing Nintendo handheld hardware is much easier than other companies because all that is needed is a hacked flashcard. You pop it in and voila … backup games, music, videos, everything playable. No hacked firmwares needed (but can be done) and what’s even better is that Nintendo does not fight against it, unlike Sony constantly releasing new firmwares every hour. Before, it was a bit difficult playing homebrew and backup games on the Nintendo DS. You needed not 1, but 2 hacked flashcards to do the trick. With the new slot-1 solutions for the Nintendo DS, you can just insert one hacked flashcard and rejoice. Currently, the most popular slot-1 solution is the R4DS flashcard. Developed in China, it has become notorious for its capabilities and cheap price compared to its predecessor, the DS-Xtreme (retail value: $100). The R4DS also uses the removable microSD card as its choice of memory instead of onboard memory. So can the R4DS pass the 1Emulation test? Let’s find out!

 

# Opening the Box (Packaging) #

 

- What's Included:

---- R4 DS Slot 1 Micro SD version (ENGLISH) [1 unit]

---- MicroSD card reader [1 unit] (micro-SD card sold separately)

---- DS Card Holder w/ Wrist Strap [1 unit]

---- Software CD [1 unit]

 

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The packaging for the R4 is very nice and professional looking. At first glance it resembles a small model of the boxes PC software comes in. Like everything else about the R4, the box feels very tiny and very breakable in our large hands. The box is black with a flat (matte) finish. The text is white and very easy to read (against the black background) and is very direct about stating the capabilities of the product and what is included.

 

The inside of the box slides out and contains the R4DS itself, a Micro SD card reader, a carrying case for the R4 (or any other card), a strap for the carrying case, and an installation/documentation disk (on Mini CD). Everything is packed nicely and neatly into the box, and held into place by slots in the cardboard. The R4 itself is inside the carrying case from the get-go, so no need to worry about receiving a broken product. The included CD and carrying case’s strap are packed inside the box and slide around in there a bit.

 

# Product Build #

 

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The R4 (Revolution for DS) has come a long ways in flashcard design. It is a first generation slot-1 card and at the moment can only play Nintendo DS backup games and homebrew. This does not include Game Boy Advance backups until the R4 Team or another company releases a slot-2 expansion slot. The other way is to create a second generation slot-1 card that can play Game Boy Advance backups which is currently impossible.

 

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The R4 flashcard looks just like a genuine Nintendo flashcard but with a few minor differences. First, you’ll find the microSD slot (small notch) at the top left. This is where you’ll meticulously push the microSD card you purchased separately into the small hole. It also has a tiny metal screw near the bottom of the back (which, apparently is for a shell replacement). The last unique trait is that it has a smooth edge on the bottom right corner instead of square. The label on the cart is a bit retro looking; metallic silver and black (we noticed that this smudges very easily, giving it a dirty look very quickly). Other than that, the average person will have no idea that you didn’t buy this flashcard from the nearest Toys R’ Us.

 

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As for the build quality, it seems fairly durable, but as with a licensed cart, it is very small and in large hands, seems very fragile. The only problems that we can really see are mainly about the Micro SD slot. The slot is slightly too large for the card to fit into snugly, allowing some wiggle room (though with it locked in, it doesn’t really move much at all), the plastic on the front and back of the slot is extremely thin (we managed to give it stress marks very easily), and lastly, the spring inside the slot; it is the only moving part on the entire cartridge and is TINY. The spring is the most worrying part of the entire build. We imagine that if it breaks, the SD will be a pain to slide in and out and having it stay in, but in all likelihood, you will have to severely abuse it before it breaks.

 

# Accessory Build #

 

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The Memory card reader works very well; slide the card in, wait a second, and Windows automatically detects it as a “Removable disk.” A second or two later, a window will be brought up asking you if you want to view the contents of the disk. Transferring files back and forth is just as simple; like copying files back and forth between directories. The only problem we’ve encountered was our own fault for not inserting the card quite far enough into the slot, resulting in it not being detected. We’ve found this extra extremely helpful and nice. Having it included easily saved us another $10 to $15. The original card readers that came with the R4DS were reported to be very buggy and not a safe choice to transfer files over to your microSD card. However, we have found that the later versions of the card readers work wonderfully.

 

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The DS card holder really seems unnecessary to us; nice, but unnecessary. The build quality is superb and it effectively holds and protects 2 cards (one in each side). The rubber inside seems forgiving enough that you can really push and pull on it without any issue. The case, which is deserving, clear plastic, snaps together nicely and tightly. The strap for it (which comes as a separate piece), is actually quite sturdy and seems fairly strong. The holder, as a whole, seems extremely strong; we have no doubt that it will protect any cartridges it is holding very well (even if you drop it a few feet onto the concrete).

 

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Lastly, is the software CD. It is probably the only real negative of everything that was included. Almost all of the software on the disk is easily available from the R4DS website and is very out of date. There is also some documentation on the disk, but it is not very well written. The only real use for the disk is for a customer who doesn’t have access to the internet to get the required software (which we think is a moot point since the R4 can only be ordered from online). Maybe it'll be most precious to the ones who receive the R4DS as a gift and live in an area without internet access.

 

# Functions #

 

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The R4DS operating system is simple, but very clunky to use. When it starts up, there are three icons; from left to right these functions are: launch homebrew (known as "Game"), run Moonshell, or boot from the GBA slot. The background design also changes every month with the default firmware package. If you browse the official R4 website, you'll be able to find all kinds of appealing designs (skins) to choose from.

 

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If you choose the homebrew button, it brings up a file explorer allowing you to browse through the file system on the SD card, only listing .nds files. This is nice and all, but the browsing has to be done using the up/down on the control pad and launched using the ‘a’ button. While this may not bother some people, we like consistency in our UI (User Interface). It should have the ability to select the games with the touch screen. Mixing control schemes just seems sloppy to us.

 

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The nicest features of this function are the ability to delete files off of the SD card by pressing the ‘x’ button (though it should also give an option to delete .SAV files), and how it shows the game title, developer, and icon, but it still seems untidy. The file list should be displayed on the touch screen and the game information should be on the top screen. Maybe show a ‘launch’ button or double-tapping to launch a game would be a more effective and consistent way of navigating. Also, it only takes a few seconds to launch any game, regardless of size.

 

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The Moonshell feature is kind of a pain to actually get functioning (for the latest R4DS beta firmware); you have to install Moonshell, which involves a somewhat complicated looking setup program, and then a manual renaming of the .nds file. Even after all of this, we still get a brief error message (supposed to be normal) every time we launch Moonshell telling us that we're missing a file (though it doesn’t tell us which one). Even with the error, Moonshell does start up. It also played pretty much any file type we threw at it, though moving the windows around on the interface caused some audio skipping/choppiness (We're sure this is due to the fact that the audio takes quite a bit of CPU power to process).

 

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Moonshell also contains a GUI system menu which allows you to do some more complex options such as: Open text as local, UTF-8, UTF16LE, UTF16BE, Open Binary Mode, L/R Lock, Customize, Change Backlight Bright, and RESET.MSE. You probably will only care about 2 or 3 of all these options such as changing the backlight brightness and the customize mode. The rest of the options are pretty much useless to the average consumer. Also, soft reset doesn't seem to work without crashing Moonshell (using R4 OS v1.7). This may be because of the current R4 firmware configuration.

 

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The great thing about Moonshell is that it can play virtually any mp3 file you have. The quality sounds great with the tiny stereo speakers located at the top of the Nintendo DS. You can hook up some headphones, close the lid, put it in your pocket, and use your DS as an iPod if you wish.

 

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We were very surprised with the video feature in Moonshell. First off, the process is very similar to the Sony PSP. You have to always convert the video files to the proper format which for the NDS is ".dpg" and then drag it to a "Videos" folder to play. However, once you convert the videos, you'll notice immediately how much smaller (in memory size) that your videos will be. For our test, we used our video located at the top of this review of us opening the R4DS package for the first time. The initial size of the video file in ".mpg" format was 78MB, however; after we converted it to ".dpg", it was 6MB. At first, we thought it was a mistake, but when we attempted to play it in Moonshell, it worked perfectly! The quality and sound appeared to be the same as the original (with default conversion settings).

 

We don’t have a slot-2, so we couldn’t test the slot-2 launcher. We simply booted the GBA game we had in the slot and the R4DS operating system put a rather unattractive border around it. Not really necessary, but we suppose someone will like it.

 

As you may have noticed, we really have a problem with the software of the R4DS. We suppose the one redeeming quality of it is that it is still in development. As of this review, a new version of the R4DS firmware is being worked on with Action Replay support built in. While this doesn’t fix the problems we have with the shell, it is nice to see that the R4 team didn’t simply release one revision of the software and call it good enough.

 

# Compatibility #

 

Homebrew Testing

-------------------------

A Touch of War - Works fine

Beup Live - Works fine (Patched with r4tf.dldi)

DS2Key - (Not tested yet)

DS85 - Does not work (No DLDI support)

DSDoom - Does not work (No DLDI support)

DSLinux - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

DSMasterPlus - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

DSOrganize - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

DSQuake - Playable

End of the Shadows - Works fine

nesDS - Works fine, but has a size limit of 3MB

Phidias - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

PicoDriveDS Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

PointyRemote - (Not tested yet)

SNEmulDS - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

StellaDS - Does not work (No DLDI support)

Tales of Dagur - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

Warcraft: Tower Defense - Works fine (patched with r4tf.dldi)

Wifi lib test - Works fine

Win2DS - (Not tested yet)

 

Commercial Game Testing (Download play, multi-card play, and Wifi were not tested for all games)

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1. Animal Crossing: Wild World - Game works, Wifi works

2. Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow - Game Works

3. Castlevania: Portait of Ruin - Game Works (1GB Kingston microSD - JAP)

4. Custom Robo Arena - Game Works, Wifi works

5. Diddy Kong Racing - Game works, Wifi works

6. Final Fantasy III - Game works

7. Gunpey EUR - Game works

8. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 - Game works

9. Jump Ultimate Stars JAP - Game works, Wifi works, multi-card play works

10. Lunar Knights - Game works

11. Madden NFL 2007 - Game works

12. Megaman ZX - Game works

13. Mario Hoops 3 on 3 - Game works

14. Mario Kart DS - Game works, Download Play does not, Wifi works

15. New Super Mario Bros. - Game works, Download Play does not, multi-card play does work

16. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All - Game works

17. Pokemon Diamond JAP - Game works

18. Pokemon Pearl JAP - Game works

19. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - Game works

20. Spectrobes - Game works

21. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Game works

22. Tetris DS - Game works, wifi works

23. Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam - Game works, Wifi works

24. Trauma Center: Under the Knife - Game works

25. Yoshi's Island - Game works

 

# Conclusion #

 

Price: 9.5

The R4DS is extremely cheap, comes with some very nice extras, and uses extremely cheap storage media. Currently, you can find the R4DS unit for $44.99 and $21.99 for a large Micro SD from a separate retailer. So for the price of one and a half games, you can get a very nice backup \ homebrew \ multimedia solution.

 

Quality: 7.0

The build quality on it is quite good, the only real problems are surrounding the SD slot, but we don’t think that this can really be helped. There’s just not enough room to work with given exactly how tiny a slot-1 cart is. The only real negative about the R4 that we came across is the software (firmware / operating system). It does exactly what it is suppose to do, but for a professional product, it just feels sloppy.

 

Compatibility: 9.5

This thing ran nearly everything we threw at it. The only issues we had were with older homebrew (due to not supporting DLDI) and a single official game (if you're not using the 1GB Kingston Japanese microSD). Download play did not work for most of the games we tested.

 

Design: 10

The design is really quite good. The developers of the cart managed to fit nearly everything we could possibly want into it. The passme function, the ability to use SD Micro cards, and the ability to use ‘clean’ backups are all fantastic.

 

Features: 9.0

While we were fairly unhappy with the software on the R4, we can’t say it doesn’t do anything that it is advertised as doing. The R4 is a very nice piece of hardware and an excellent choice for a slot-1 device. We would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a DS flash cart.

 

# Final Rating #

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A lot of work put into this review (I can say that since I saw it being made :D ). My only beef is that the videos are quite blurry and so whatever is on the screen of the DS is hard to make out.

 

If it ever happens that I get a DS I will be certain to get a R4 as well.

 

Not sure why everyone (Mooney I presume) had to wear gloves? Maybe to stop fingerprints?

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very elaborative review. The video demonstration was great but the overuse of pictures deserves the most kudos of any product reviews out there. Yes this is the best product review example you see people. This review clearly shows exactly what it can do, if you read it thoroughly you knew this is a great investment for NDS owners.

 

now stop reading my comment and go buy it now! (or DIEEEEEEE! I gotta stop learning from K'dash ;P )

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