Review: EverDrive GB X7 (Hardware)

EverDrive GB X7: Official GBAtemp Review

Hardware 3,133 views 9 likes 20 comments
Reviewed by raulpica, posted Dec 3, 2017, last updated Dec 3, 2017
Krikzz has been refining his flashcart lately, and after the Mega Everdrive X series, another classic Krikzz cart gets re-released. My full Game Boy collection is ready to be put to the bench to test it.
Dec 3, 2017
Ah, the Game Boy. Most of us have fond memories of playing with it. Such an unique experience has created hordes of modders who are always striving to modernise it and bring new features to it, like backlighting. And Krikzz wants a piece of that sweet sweet pie. Enter the EverDrive GB X7, the new version of the EverDrive GB. Can Krikzz make it even better?
raulpica

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GBAtemp review of the...

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EverDrive GB X7
Developed by: Krikzz
Worldwide sales by: Krikzz Store, Stone Age GamerRetroGateEverdrive.deStuffpoint.ru, RetroTowers.co.uk
Additional sales by: Various, full list here
Also known as: ED GB X7, EverDrive GB X7
Review by raulpica - Completed 03/12/2017

Introduction

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Another year passed and another Krikzz flashcart is out. This time around, it's facelift season for the EverDrive GB. The old version was a pretty solid cart, but it didn't have luxuries like Real-Time Clock or Real-Time Saves (also known as "save-states" on PC emulators). Instead of just tackling on these features, Krikzz decided to step up his game and provide a much higher quality product.

Just like with the GBA, the GB situation was pretty dire until recently. It was either clunky USB solutions with no support at all which required proprietary software (which usually didn't play nice with newer versions of Windows) or heaven-forbid, Parallel Port based solutions. There were some other products on the market, like the Drag'n'derp or the ElCheapo SD, but they were mostly made for musicians, since they didn't care much for commercial games compatibility or in the case of the Drag'n'Derp, even storing more than one ROM at a time. Then the EverDrive GB came along - the first modern Game Boy Flashcart made for people that intended to game on their GBs. But it still wasn't perfect, it lacked things like RTC (essential for Gen 2 Pokémon games, or Harvest Moon... or maybe Mary-Kate and Ashley - Pocket Planner, if you're into that sort of things) and Real Time Save, which is nowadays a necessity for tough-as-nails games like the ones present on Game Boy which often didn't have an internal save system AT ALL.

To fix these two issues and more, here comes the EverDrive GB X7.

 

Important GBAtemp Information:
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Special Thanks:
A special thanks must go out to Krikzz for providing the review sample.

Product Information

Copied straight from the official website, here's the spec-sheet for the flashcart:

  • Max ROM size: 8MByte
  • Max SAVE RAM size: 128KByte
  • Save States function and In-Game menu function
  • Isolated RTC function. "Isolated" means that multiple games can use RTC without interference. Each game will have own copy of time
  • Instant loading
  • Low power consumption
  • High quality 4-layers PCB
  • GameGenie cheat codes
  • Soft reset to menu
  • Supported mappers: MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, MBC5
  • SDHC/SDXC support
  • Compatible with all systems which supports GB and GBC cartridges, including Super Game Boy*
  • OS supports up to 1000 files per folder

*Cartridge may not work with Game Boy pocket.

It is worth keeping in mind that since the cart launches in three different editions, X7, X5 and X3, not all these functions will be available on lower tier carts. Since we're reviewing the X7 here, I'll always refer to features that one model possesses, but it's pretty important to stress that the X5 won't have RTS, RTC and In-Game Menu, while the X3 won't have all of that PLUS you'll have to reboot to menu every time before turning it off or you'll lose all your saved progress. That's a pretty important limitation there, and you should consider it when purchasing an ED GB X series flashcart.

The cart obviously uses microSD cards, which have been the media of choice for pretty much anything produced in the last 5 years. I'm currently using a 4GB Kingston microSD, which is big enough to store the entire GB and GBC romset plus a few extras, like hacked and translated ROMs.

 

Contents, Packaging, Design & Impressions

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You remember the old Krikzz boxes, filled with bubble wrap? Those are GONE. The cart now comes in a fancy black box, with foam inserts to keep the cart snuggly and safe. The box itself feels like it could stand being squished and squashed by even the most careless postman, but it will still protect what's inside. Kudos to Krikzz, that's how every shipping box out there should be. The shell itself feels pretty sturdy, and externally it looks like perfect clone of the official GBC carts of yore (except for the "Game Boy Color" text, for obvious reasons), but in fact, it's a bit bigger and it'll be a tight fit on some GBs, like the Pocket. It comes in a smoky grey colour very similar to the standard GBC one, but it's a bit darker - the fact that the PCB inside is black probably makes it look darker too.

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The PCB looks of excellent quality, and the solder points are all clean and with an adequate amount of solder. No edge-cutting here. Just as in the EverDrive X5, the battery is a CR1220 and it's stored in a handy slot, if the need to replace it ever arises. That means no soldering required! You can also see the In-Game menu button here. Yes, to access it, you'll have to squeeze your ED GB X7 with the cartridge inserted in your Game Boy. More on that later.

Since it's almost 1:1 sized when compared to official carts, there's no risk of anything sticking out from your favourite console.

Setup and Usage

In traditional Krikzz fashion, the OS is directly loaded from the SD card, with a small upgradeable bootloader stored in flash memory on the cart itself. If the need arises, Krikzz can push out low-level upgrades for the cart, for example to fix compatibility issues with some microSD card brands. The OS can simply be upgraded by dragging a new OS file in the appropriate folder on the SD card.

There's no maximum card size specified, which means it'll support cards up to 2TB - not sure why you would do that, though, since the entire romset fits in a little more than 2GBs. But hey, maybe you like to have ten thousand copies of Pokémon Silver on your microSD, and be reassured, you'll be able to do so if you wish. As usual, it is recommended to format the card using the Windows Formatting utility and 32k cluster sizes. Using other programs is not advised nor supported, so please be wary of that. I'm using a cheap Class 4 microSD card, and loading times are pretty much instantaneous on classic Game Boy games, but that's to be expected since the usual GB roms are pretty small for today's standards. Most GBC games also load in a flash, except HUGE games like Dragon Warrior III. For those, loading times can be up to 5-6 seconds, which is not insignificant - I advise splurging out a bit more for a Class 10 microSD and you'll avoid any unnecessary delays when loading games.

You can find the latest software for the ED GB X series in the Downloads section of the cartridge's product page. Currently the software version is GBC O/S v1.01, released on 30.08.2017. It is usually recommended to always update to a newer version as soon as it's released, as they'll fix bugs and improve functionality. Some features are expected to come in a later update, like automatic file sorting.

You'll find a folder named GBCSYS in the zip - just slap it onto your microSD and pronto! Your ED GB X7 is now ready to go. Things like saves and RTC settings will be stored in that folder, so if you're looking on how to take a backup of your saves, that's where you'll need to look.

Let's get on with the cart now, and see what the software is like.

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Well, nothing special here. It's just your bog-standard Krikzz browser. It has no frills at all, but it gets the job done. Some of you might notice that it's pretty similar to the one on the ED GBA and the Super ED, and well, it is. That means it'll also come with some of its downsides, like limited text space and pretty big fonts which... on a Game Boy aren't downsides at all. The menu is always pretty legible, but the choice of colours makes it kinda hard to read the top and the bottom of the screens in some situations on non-backlit GBs if your contrast is set too high. On a GBC the screen is always sharp and nice.

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Like with the ED GBA, files are not automatically sorted by name. The feature was added later on the Super ED, but not on the ED GBA X5, so I'm not sure what to think here. They told me it should happen sometime in the future, but take it with a grain of salt. Until then, a software solution like FAT Sorter is needed if you like to have all your games sorted alphabetically like I do. It's worth noting a limitation of the OS: huge folders (you can't just slam the entire romset in a single folder) or too long names (like for example with David Crane's The Rescue of Princess Blobette Starring A Boy and His Blob (Europe)) will make the OS implode. So you'll have to be a bit creative with folders and renaming when needed. I've already sent a bug report to Krikzz about this and they promised me that it'd get fixed in a future update.

The controls are quite simple: Right and Left will jump pages, Up and Down will let you select individual titles, B takes you back to the previous folder, A brings up the "Game Menu" which lets you start a game, add Cheats to it or see its infos, SELECT gets you to the options screen while START will let you immediately jump back in the last game you loaded in the EverDrive GB X series. Let's have a look at the various options the menus provide:

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Select And Start will load a game and start it immediately, while also keeping the game in the flashcart's memory until you load another one; Select Only will let you preload a game, without starting it (I haven't ever found a reason to do it, though); Rom Info will instead give you some infos about the game you've just selected (like the Save Type or if it uses RTC). Cheats will instead load up a screen which will let you load up to 16 Game Genie codes, which are stored on a per-game basis. If you don't feel like inserting a bunch of codes by hand, you can also directly edit them on a TXT on your computer after inputting the first one. Pretty nifty!

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The remaining options will be stored in the Main Menu, which is accessed by pressing START. There you'll find Options, which will let you disable or enable Cheats globally, Swap A/B which does what it says on the label, Hide GBCSYS which will make the GBCSYS folder disappear from the file browser and Sys Button which enables or disables the internal button which I mentioned earlier while examining the PCB. The other entries in the Main Menu will display your latest played games, fire up a random game, look at the currently set Cheat codes, have more info on your device (like the O/S version or the cart's Serial Number), run some Diagnostics on your cart, set up the internal RTC (which is something you should do as soon as you get the cart anyway, even if you don't intend on using the RTC features, as it'll let the cart use timestamps for things like saves) and see the credits along with a miniguide on controls.

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If you have an X7, you'll be able to squish your ED GB X7 and access the in-game menu, which will let you Load and Save State and also Return to Menu, which will avoid any unnecessary stress on that poor power switch. Good news: the Save and Load State option seems to be working wonderfully on most titles. Bad news: Doesn't work on a very small percentage of games (the menu just won't appear, or it'll just reset the game when a state is loaded) and the button is kinda hard to reach. You'll need to squeeze your entire console to have a hard enough push on the internal switch to trigger the In-Game Menu. I can understand the need to avoid any accidental presses (especially since there's no "Return to Game" option, which honestly kinda looks like an omission) but a key combination would've been nicer. Not sure how doable was that on a Game Boy, though.

Let's get to the meaty part now: Compatibility.

Compatibility

A 4GB Class 4 Kingston microSDHC was used for testing. It was the cheapest microSD I could find, and while it's a bit slow when loading GBC games, it's plenty enough. A Class 10 would certainly be preferable when running GBC games, though. The card was formatted in FAT32 using the Windows Formatter, as recommended by Krikzz. I've used the No-Intro Romset, which contains clean, 100% unaltered dumps of every GB and GBC game out there. I've just slapped both romsets on the microSD and launched some random classics to test it out. I haven't tested the RTS function with every single game on the list, but whenever I used it, it worked flawlessly. Please note that games are to be assumed to always be unpatched unless explicitly marked as such (which is the usually the case for fan-translated games). The (Europe) version was always used when available, if that wasn't the case the (USA) version was used instead. Lastly, if there is no English release, the (Japan) version is the one that has been tested. Most of them were tested on my Game Boy Advance SP.

 

Hardware:

Game Boy Classic (DMG-001) - PASS

Game Boy Pocket (MGB-001) - PASS on Rev. BISSUES on Rev. A

Game Boy Light (MGB-101) - PASS

Game Boy Color (CGB-001) - PASS

Super Game Boy (SNS-027) - PASS

 

Yes. It looks weird to have a "Hardware" category in compatibility, but it's required this time around since the Game Boy Pocket has got some issues with Rev. A, which is what I've got here. The GBP will correctly load the ED GB X7 only after a quick power cycle (quickly turning it off and then on using the power switch). A new revision is already out though, so most purchasers won't have any issues at all with it.

The Super Game Boy works as intended - games correctly identify it and will enable their special features (if they have any) and it'll display the borders and the added colours, if available. Furthermore, the GBA/GBC correctly load the special per-game palettes stored in the GBC BIOS.

Commercial Games:

  • 1942 - PASS
  • Another Bible (w/ Aeon Genesis' English Translation) - PASS
  • Azure Dreams - PASS
  • Balloon Kid GB (w/ dACE's English Translation) - PASS
  • Battletoads - ISSUES (In-game menu not working)
  • B.C. Kid 2 - PASS
  • Bomberman GB - PASS
  • Bomberman Quest - PASS
  • Cannon Fodder - PASS
  • Castlevania Legends - PASS
  • Contra - The Alien Wars - PASS
  • Donkey Kong - ISSUES (Reboots when loading a Save State)
  • Donkey Kong Country - PASS
  • Donkey Kong GB - Dinky Kong & Dixie Kong (w/ Blaziken257's English Translation) - PASS
  • Donkey Kong Land III - PASS
  • Double Dragon - PASS
  • Dragon Ball Z - Legendary Super Warriors - PASS
  • Dragon Warrior - Monsters - PASS
  • Dragon Warrior I & II - PASS
  • Duck Tales 2 - PASS
  • Elevator Action EX - PASS
  • Final Fantasy Legend III - PASS
  • Game Boy Wars 2 (w/ TransBRC's English Translation) - PASS
  • Game Boy Wars Turbo (w/ TransBRC's English Translation) - PASS
  • Gargoyle's Quest - PASS
  • Ghosts'n Goblins - PASS
  • Harvest Moon GB - PASS
  • Harvest Moon 3 GBC - PASS
  • Heracles no Eikou - Ugokidashita Kamigami (w/ HTI's English Translation) - PASS
  • Home Alone - PASS
  • Initial D Gaiden - PASS
  • Jurassic Park - PASS
  • Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (w/ ryanbgstl's English Translation) - PASS
  • Keitai Denjuu Telefang - Power Version (w/ andwhyisit's English Translation) - PASS
  • Kirby's Dream Land - PASS
  • Legend of Zelda, The - Link's Awakening - PASS
  • Legend of Zelda, The - Link's Awakening DX - PASS
  • Legend of Zelda, The - Oracle of Seasons - PASS
  • Lufia - The Legend Returns - PASS
  • Magic Knight Rayearth (w/ Kuroi to Aoi Translations' English Translation) - PASS
  • Mega Man - Dr Wily's Revenge - PASS
  • Mega Man Xtreme 2 - PASS
  • Meitantei Conan - Kigantou Hihou Densetsu (w/ mz's English Translation) - PASS
  • Metal Gear Solid - PASS
  • Metroid II - Return of Samus - PASS
  • Mole Mania - PASS
  • Monster Max - PASS
  • Mr Nutz - ISSUES (In-game menu not working)
  • Mystic Quest - PASS
  • Nemesis II - Return of the Hero - PASS
  • Perfect Dark - PASS
  • Pocket Monsters - Green Version (w/ LandaR's English Translation) - PASS
  • Pokemon - Crystal Version - PASS
  • Pokemon - Gold Version - PASS
  • Pokemon - Red Version - PASS
  • Pokemon - Yellow Version - Special Pikachu Edition - PASS
  • Rainbow Islands - PASS
  • Resident Evil Gaiden - PASS
  • Solomon's Club - PASS
  • Super Mario Bros. Deluxe - PASS
  • Super Mario Land - PASS
  • Super Robot Taisen (w/ Aeon Genesis' English Translation) - PASS
  • Survival Kids 2 (w/ NikcDC, hattontown's English Translation) - PASS
  • SWIV - PASS
  • Tetris - PASS
  • Tomb Raider - PASS
  • Turrican - PASS
  • Tyrian 2000 (Proto) - PASS
  • Ultima - Runes of Virtue - PASS
  • Wario Land - Super Mario Land 3 - PASS
  • Wario Land 3 - PASS
  • Wizardry Empire (w/ MrRichard999, Helly, AgentOrange's English Translation) - PASS
  • Worms - PASS
  • X (Proto) - PASS
  • Xenon 2 - Megablast - PASS
  • Yoshi's Cookie - PASS
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Duel Stories - PASS
  • Zool - Ninja of the 'Nth' Dimension - PASS

The games requiring RTC work flawlessly, and don't interact with each other in any way (this issue was instead present on the ED GBA X5) since they save their respective times in different RTC state-files. Mad kudos to Krikzz for taking the correct approach to this issue, this time around.

I've been told by Krikzz that there isn't much hope for the games having issues with the in-game menu feature as quirks in their code prevent the injection feature used by the ED GB X7.

Homebrew:

  • Biotic Limit - PASS
  • Bung Trivia - PASS
  • Dungeon Escape - ISSUES (In-game menu not working)
  • Poke Mission '97 Final - PASS
  • Soup Raiders: Jailbreak - PASS
  • They Came from Outer Space - PASS
  • uCity - PASS
  • Zork I - The Great Underground Empire - ISSUES (In-game menu not working)

I was seriously impressed how every Homebrew I threw at it just worked, as they all saved and ran correctly even if some of them didn't want to play nice with the in-game menu - quite a different scenario from the ED GBA, which required an update first, before nailing them. Bravo Krikzz! 

I haven't put LSDJ or Nanoloop in the list since I couldn't figure out how they work or how to save with them. They run, though.

Conclusion

The ED GB X7 is another homerun by homebrew hacker extraordinarie Krikzz. It does everything you'd expect it to do, even if with some minor niggles (can we haz automatic file sorting, puh-leez?).

Now onto the most pressing question: is the X7 worth the added cost over the X5? In my humble opinion, yes, without any doubt. RTC support is probably my biggest reason for such an endorsement. Gen2 Pokémon games are getting rarer and rarer (unless you're willing to compromise with Chinese clones) and if you don't own these already, you'll be saving a substantial amount of money. Add on top of that the RTS support, and well, there you go. If you don't really care about either RTS or RTC, then the X5 is a more than decent cart. It'll run everything you'll throw at it and that's what matters the most. I'm a bit torn over the X3, though. I've owned a SuperCard SD in the past, and having to go back to the menu each time before turning it off meant a lot of lost savegames. Personally I'd never go back to that, but if you're on a budget and are ready to put up with that, it'll still do everything else the X5 does for a fraction of the price.

tl;dr: If you love the Game Boy and its games, don't fret - there's nothing better on the market and your money will be money well spent with one of the ED GB X series cart.

Verdict
Pros
+ Amazing design and build quality
+ No patching needed
+ Excellent ROM compatibility
+ RTC Support (X7 only)
+ RTS Support (X7 only)
Cons
- Still no auto-sorting
- Can't disable/enable cheats from the in-game menu
- Interface is sometimes hard to see on non-color GBs
- The SYS button is hard to reach and it doesn't work every time
- No "return to game" option in the in-game menu
9.3
out of 10
Overall
Some minor software issues notwithstanding, when compared with the rest of the competition the EverDrive GB X7 is an amazing piece of hardware and totally deserves its score, as it's without any doubt the best solution on the market right now for Game Boy fans.
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