Shoptemp product link EZ5i long term review Official GBATemp Review GBAtemp.net review of the... EZ-Flash Vi aka: EZVi, EZ5i, EZ-Flash 5i. Manufactured by: EZFlash Review samples supplied by: EZFlash Additional thanks to Mbmax and yuye for providing some extra videos, pictures and pointers. By FAST6191 - posted 10th July 2010 Revisited December 2012 Review Contents & Index: Links Introduction State of the DS The essentials for a modern flash cart and how the EZ5i responds The EZ5i GUI (OS) Extra features Conclusion Links Cart homepage: http://www.ezflash.cn/home.htm FAQ: EZFlash wiki link English speaking EZFlash cart support forum http://ezflash.sosuke.com EZFlash wiki http://ezflash.sosuke.com/wiki GBAtemp support section: http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showforum=94 GBAtemp wiki: http://wiki.gbatemp.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page Introduction Welcome to the official EZ5i review for GBAtemp. Back in April 2008 GBAtemp reviewed the EZ5 plus* which at the time looked to be a consolidation of the EZ5 line with some new ideas at the software level and that is where some predicted the world of DS flash carts would peak at. However in a somewhat unexpected move November 2008 in Japan and April 2009 for the rest of the world saw the release of the DSi and among other things the DSi brought new anti flash cart measures. This served to shake the somewhat stagnant world of DS flash carts up quite a bit and the EZ5i was the response of the long standing EZTeam (sometimes also known as the EZGroup or just EZFlash) to this change. *while you can read this review by itself many things are covered in the EZ5 plus review that will not be covered in as much depth in this review so it could be worth reading it. The EZTeam initially sent the sample back in 2009 so this can also be considered a "several months with the EZ5i" review. During this time we saw many high profile releases (and their protection) and other things that any prospective flash cart owner would want to hear about- teams often have great devices out of the gate and get worse or the opposite and have a weak start but turn out to be a top flight device. The earlier kernels (including the 2.0 rewrite that saw great improvements to the EZ5 kernel) that were used for the bulk of the review did not really change much at the user level* from the EZ5 plus and as such the EZ5i was "just an EZ5 plus with DSi compatibility". The last month though has seen a new kernel line in the 3.0 kernel that brings several very big and very important changes to the EZ5i with respect to features and anti piracy bypassing. While the older hardware lines are still supported by the team with updates but the main features from 3.0 are only for the EZ5i (they updated the internal firmware of the cart which the older ones can not do via software). This review will cover the entire "experience" of using an EZ5i but much of it remains the same as the older lines so in some respects it will not be as in depth as the older reviews. On the other hand the DSi and changes to the way of things as far as DS flash carts are concerned means this review will be a bit of a departure from the standard GBAtemp review layout but it is done with the aim of providing a more informative review. *Those interested in the hardware changes are pointed towards the hackmii deconstruction of the DSi compatible action replay as they equally apply here. State of the DS As mentioned in the introduction there was a new model of DS released known as the DSi (there has also been another version known as the DSi LL/DSi XL although this does not represent a hardware change from the DSi so much as new screens and a new shell). It is not however the same sort of change as say the GBA to the GBA sp but more the original gameboy to the gameboy color in that additional features were brought forth for certain titles and a fair amount of the underlying hardware changed. While we do have DSi homebrew available to us all present DSi compatible carts including the EZ5i operate in the “original DS” mode meaning the DSi enhancements built into some games are not available. The DSi also brings a readily upgradable firmware unlike the original DS and DS lite so flash carts can be prevented there as well (indeed the 1.4 update saw a relatively simple check added that blocked flashcarts at the time, more on this in the review proper). Over in the games releases scene it is no longer all about supporting the newest save formats and points of entry for them or making sure your games work with soft reset but about bypassing the checks games perform to make sure they are not running on a flash cart (usually some form of checksum on the game binary- to work and add things like cheats and soft reset flashcarts have to alter this binary in the DS ram which alters the checksum). This is not all that new but the last few months have seen hundreds of checks per game which all have to be weeded out to be played. There is also a secondary method that relies on flash carts not providing a perfect emulation of a DS cart protocol that as of the 3.0 kernel line the EZ5i has sorted. While these methods do stop roms from initially working out of the box (or they did- some of the bypass and detection options can still mean they are able to be played) they do not represent a definitive method of flashcart prevention as we own the DS and can control it completely. Instead it is more of a war of attrition approach. Some rom release groups and some individual cheat makers and hackers have patched games to run but for the most part it is down to the flash cart loader makers/programmers themselves to sort things out and indeed this is a review of the flash cart maker not the scene release groups (it is always worth checking though as you could miss out on a few days of game playing if you always wait for the teams). We also saw a change of SDK (from the nitroSDK to the TWL SDK) to match the DSi enhanced games which needed a change of loader for them to load properly. On the matter of flash cart clones the now long defunct R4 team (whose name became synonymous with DS flash carts to the point where the less knowledgeable often refer to DS flash carts as an “R4”) and the so called ncard have had many clones of their hardware made and distributed either under the original name or some tweak to the name. A select few have seen hardware and software enhancements and some have even seen a different brand of hardware released with an R4 like name. Moralising aside the main complaints with such devices is lack of support for the clones as well as build quality and while the EZTeam have seen their EZ5i line hardware released under a R4 like badge there have been no reports of anyone getting a fake EZ5. The essentials for a modern flash cart and how the EZ5i responds There are three things the would be DSi owner who wants to use a flashcart to run all the DS rom scene has to offer needs to be aware of. 1)DSi compatibility. Who knows what the next update will bring but looking back the EZ5i was the first to release a software fix for the DSi 1.4 firmware checks that blocked flash carts. Unlike many other carts you will need to be able to run software with the EZ5i to update it (those others have extra hardware, ports for cables or the ability to update only being powered with the updates autoloaded from the memory card) but it should not be hard to find someone to lend you a DS for a few minutes or you can hold back on updating as in other areas of the copied games world. Working is arguably more important than speed of updates but for the 1.4 update the EZTeam were the first to release a software loaded fix, time will tell as to whether this feat will be repeated (or need to be). 2)Game compatibility. A fundamental for any flash cart really and as mentioned in the introduction/state of the DS section many games feature extensive checks to see if they are running on flash carts which is a departure from the earlier times where it was mainly save related troubles. Most would agree the gold standard in the DS flash cart world goes to the AKAIO team (a third party loader for the Acekard flash carts) and as such they will be used as the point of comparison. Also mentioned above was the new SDK used in the DSi enhanced games, these games did not work at first on flash carts but support has now been added for them by most teams. The 3.0 kernel released towards the end of the review period also brought two big changes to the EZ5i line. One is the 0x8000 emulation- this is a first among flash carts and while we will not cover the technical side of things in depth the general idea is that the DS is not able to read below 8000 hexadecimal (scroll down to "get data") in the rom, all prior flash carts would happily return the rom data from below this address and in doing so open themselves up to detection. The other is the special mode- this mode works with limited patching (naturally at the cost of extra features soft reset and cheats) and as such provides a way for most roms to work prior to being manually fixed to work on a flash cart. The EZTeam have their own hackers (it is not a coincidence that clone teams publish fixes shortly after other teams do) and if you scan through the changelogs of the releases for game support and compare them to game release dates (as in scene release date) then you will see things match up quite nicely. These two new features mean that while patches will still need to be made (cheats and the like are considered necessary) if just playing a rom is your desire it is now once again the exception rather than the rule for a rom not to work. On the other hand they are perhaps not at AKAIO level of speed and thoroughness but new games are rarely unplayable for long. On the matters of anti piracy protection it would mean testing just about every rom now it applies to nearly every rom. Even then most are variations on the checksum theme and the below 8000h reading meaning there is not a list of "trouble" roms any more. To this end this review will not feature a list of tested roms. A notable point however is that some scene intros which have now appeared as a semi regular occurrence have on occasion caused issues on the EZ5i where they did not on some other carts (this is a downside of such intros). Such problems can usually be solved by using an intro bypass hack or a clean version of the rom. Similarly some roms have been released with the so called secure area encrypted, there is no technical reason for this but it is what happened. The EZ5i offers no support for this (a few carts have added support) but eNDryptS Advanced will be able to sort that trivially. The EZ5plus was tested with several earlier problem roms in the EZ5 plus review which it aced and a revisit on the EZ5i on the matters of slowdown and hacked roms (not to mention it being used for hacking purposes throughout the review) sees the same results- working fine across the board. Download play (where you send a small version of the rom to another DS and get to either play a demo or a cut down version of multiplayer) is also of interest to some as it requires either extra patching of for the receiving DS to have a hacked firmware like flashme which is not possible on the DSi and DSi XL. Download play patching is an optional patch in the rom settings which helps it on the occasions it might conflict with another option like the special mode. If a list of roms is called for on this then it will be added as an addition to the review, in more empirical terms the roms it was tested for worked quite well. As a quick sample though three staples of the download play and a few others were tested- receiving DS was a UK DSi XL Mario Kart- works New Super Mario Brothers- works Tetris DS- works Jigsaw World- works Do note that you might need to lose some options if you rely on download play (it might not work with real time guide available or something) 3)Homebrew code compatibility. Few would debate that the DS does not have an extensive collection of great homebrew code including ports, remakes, entirely new code and emulators. Access to the memory card is a frequent requirement of such code and for the last few years a library known as DLDI which delegates this access to the cart side of things has been the standard and while a few other methods do exist this is the main one. *update December 2012*Homebrew compatibility has long since been resolved* Homebrew compatibility has slipped a bit with the newer kernels/flash cart lines (indeed it presently lacks argv support) which is a pity as homebrew support was great (near perfect) for the old EZ5. This is something of a regression associated with the newer kernels and DLDI versions and something the EZTeam assure us is being worked on (there are some workarounds too using extra menus and a few tweaks). None the less this is a weak point on what is otherwise a great flash cart. In other DLDI related news though the 3.0 line also brought an update to the DLDI which helped somewhat on the code running stakes but for the code that worked it brought speed increases of nearly an order of magnitude in terms of write speeds and also improved read speeds significantly (on some homebrew programs like lmp-NG it was quite noticeable when scrolling down a file list, no more with this DLDI though). The EZ5i In this section we will cover the EZ5 hardware and software in a bit more detail. The hardware itself has great build quality with the cart being glued together. It does have two chips that can be seen under the sticker but this has never been known to cause troubles and the cart itself is very much at home in the slot 1/DS slot of all the devices we tested it in. Naturally for a flash cart in this day and age it supports SDHC. Next up is the packaging. The EZ5i comes in two main flavours with those being the deluxe package and the simple edition (it also changed sticker and now has one with a black background and yellow lettering and one with a white background and black lettering that you can see at the start of the review). Hardware wise they are no different but the deluxe packaging comes with a microSD reader, a thumb stylus and a pull out metal stylus while the simple edition is just the EZ5i in a plastic package like you might see on any other electrical item. The extras probably would not sell by themselves but the stylus works for long play, the reader (that does support SDHC) does the job and the thumb stylus does save the screen from fingerprints although it might not suit those with larger hands. You might have some trouble finding a shop with both but the price difference is usually negligible. Some of the pictures will enlarge if you click them. EZ5i deluxe EZ5i simple edition A shot of the various styli- from top to bottom the EZ5 bundled one, a DSi XL one, a DS lite one and an original DS one PCB shots thanks to yuye. GUI (OS)[/url] A complaint with the older kernels for the EZ5 was the menu as it was somewhat slow (among other things this was a side effect of using moonshell as a base for the loader). The menu the 2.0 rewrite massively increased speed for it and a multitude of skinning tools and options exist although most focus on EZ Skin forger. This set of updates allow for far reaching changes in skins ranging beyond the usual buttons and background replacements to touchscreen button placement and animated introductions. Do note that moonshell media playback is not part of the loader any more but there is a shortcut in the icons on the touchscreen. http://gbatemp.net/jscripts/player_flv_maxi.swf" height="384" width="512">http://gbatemp.net/jscripts/player_flv_maxi.swf">http://gbatemp.net/up/logotrans.png|5|5&showiconplay=1&iconplaybgalpha=25&showtitleandstartimage=1">[tv]32303-66[/tv]A video of the EZ5i launching a rom it has already launched before (old 1 gigabyte Sandisk on the original DS, class 6 samsung 4 gigabyte SDHC being used on the DSi XL)Thanks to Mbmax for the source video of the DSi XL. EZ Skin forger A shot of the EZ Skin forger skin making application http://gbatemp.net/jscripts/player_flv_maxi.swf" height="384" width="512">http://gbatemp.net/jscripts/player_flv_maxi.swf">http://gbatemp.net/up/logotrans.png|5|5&showiconplay=1&iconplaybgalpha=25&showtitleandstartimage=1">This video showcases the EZ5i loader and the options of it and just a fraction of what can be done with the skinning tools can do.Thanks to Normmatt for the videoExtra features Vital for some, a nicety for others to have for some and of no interest to others still. In the review of the EZ5 plus a list of features various carts have demonstrated was mentioned and are repeated below. In addition to that we have also seen the rise of the enhanced flashcart in the likes of the iplayer and SC DS two from the supercard team which added serious use video support (common formats and sizes/bitrates) and homebrew expansions by way of an onboard chip. These have afforded such things as a GBA emulator to be possible (even on hardware like the DSi which lacks a GBA port). The EZ5i does not have any of these such features though. *Soft reset aka in game reset *Cheats *Slow motion (unlike some other devices it not inbuilt but it can be implemented as a cheat in some cases and as a hack in others with a third party tool like DSATM ) *Real time save *User interface based functionality *Text reading in game (real time game guide) *Expansion pack compatibility *GBA linking (bonus features on some DS games as a result of a GBA game being present). *Download play support. At the time of that review the EZ5 line lacked Slow motion (see bracketed text above), real time save and in game guide/text reading in game. Since that review real time save and in game guide have been added and in the case of the game guide it is probably the best of any flash cart line (many are plain text- this the EZ5i one allows formatting, tables, colours and more). Nobody expects emulator grade (that is to say can be used instead of inbuilt save methods and for "cheating"/rewind time type purposes) real time save from a flash cart and while the early implementations drew some well justified criticism the present versions do make a nice alternative to sleep mode for many games and can be quite useful for a more slow paced game or at key points (those that use quicksave and quickload buttons more than shoot will not get along here or on any other flash cart for that matter). The other features have also been improved on in many cases (the cheat mode now uses standard formats meaning no more conversion), the soft reset is very stable and there have been loads of little tweaks here and there. Getting down the features themselves there are a few troubles with cheats in that the engine does not support some of the more exotic code types that are available in NitroHax. Similar the window used to select cheats has a limit so some extensive cheat libraries may have to be cut down (if you have say a cheat list for a pokemon rom featuring every single minor variation in cheats for every item, pokemon and more then you might have to chop it down to the just the ones you want with R4CCE. The EZ5 at one point boasted great support for the companion card in the 3 in 1 and along the way the team tried some innovative things (including 512Mbit NOR on the 3 in 1 plus in a few versions of the loader), today it still has those features and thanks to the source code the EZTeam released so do many other flash carts and homebrew programs not to mention a select few features (GBA cart launching) also work for other GBA slot cards which is nice. Things still work and roms still launch but many users of the EZ5 instead opt for things like Rudolph's GBA Exploader for extra features and other functionality. The loss of moonshell from the loader could be a sign of a shift in ethos towards the loader should be just that and serious purpose extras can be saved for homebrew but for others it does mean it loses some of the shine. Battery life: it is not a great concern for many these days (certainly compared to the likes of the GBA days) but as an aside some tests were done measuring the current draw of the device. On average it was about 20 milliamps (mA) more than an official cart which is just over 10% more (battery science is an odd thing but that 10% more or less carries over into the amount of time a charge provides not to mention the current draw varies sometimes between sitting at a 2d menu and playing a 3d game with sound up, light on and over wifi). In more empirical terms we did not notice an overwhelming difference between normal games and the EZ5i (indeed to twist a slogan from the EZ5i package a flash cart is indeed the best partner for a DS so any difference will probably come from your playing it far more than you might). It should be noted that this 20mA difference carries over into sleep mode though making a rather large difference there (for the sake of a phone call it might not matter but for the sake of a long meeting/lecture/class it can add up), without testing other carts it is impossible to say for certain but it likely follows for them too (one of the reasons you can not hotswap a flash cart or swap it out for say dumping a rom). The regular menu on a DSi, thanks to yuye for the picture The options you can choose before you start a rom (saved on a per rom basis) The in game menu (hold L, R, A and B) EZ5 in game text/walkthrough viewer The EZ5i can also display files the wlk format that allow for some formatting to be done. The EZteam made a tool to generate them though which you can find here A shot from the text viewer The FAQ in the images is TETRIS DS By Ice Queen Zero Conclusion Pros: + microSDHC support + Competitive price (cheaper than a new game just about everywhere) + Regular updates addressing AP issues and improvements to the loader. + Very fast and equally full featured menu + Updatable internal firmware (for helping with future DSi protection and internal improvements) + Highly customisable interface. + Multi-language support + Stable extra features (cheats, reset, savestates, text reader) + In-game menu supporting a top of the line text reader (formatting, tables, colours and more). + Action Replay cheat support + Savestates + Auto DLDI patching support + Good read speeds from DLDI + On-the-fly AP patching- clean rom support (no need for PC side patching). + "Special mode"- a minimal patching mode aiming to help with checksums (a common AP check) + Proper emulation of below 8000h reads (a common AP check) + Above two points make for extremely high compatibility (often working where others fall down and playable immediately after release) + Great build quality + Strong user community Cons: - Updatable internal firmware requires ability to run code on the device (if you update and block yourself you will need to find another DS) - Some big issues with homebrew (regressions from previous kernels) - GBA functionality overtaken by various homebrew programs. - Lack of Homebrew soft-reset support - Soft-reset always returns to the top most menu - Some more exotic cheat types not supported compared to loaders like AKAIO - "argv" support missing (troubles some newer homebrew). - Download play needs to be selected and may require you to pick and choose options- works very well though. The EZFlash name is not one you will hear as often as you might the Acekard, Supercard or M3 if you are new to the world of DS flash carts (at least outside of the 3 in 1 GBA expansion) which is odd; they are a long standing team providing good, regular updates leading to a highly compatible, well featured flash cart at a respectable price. In the EZ5 plus review we said that the EZ5 plus is a solid cart lacking that little bit of polish to put it up there with the best of them and with the DSi, subsequent shifts in development and protection doing much to cull the weaker teams from the race the DS flash cart world still has lot of choice available. None the less courtesy of the updates since the last review and the response of the EZTeam to the developments in the flash cart and commercial DS code running scene which represent more than a "little polish" we here at GBAtemp have no trouble recommending it. One line summary: The EZ5i does not represent a clear leader of the pack owing to some extremely strong competition but it should definitely be in your shortlist and it is most certainly not another R4/Ncard/DSTT clone/respin. December 2012 update The EZ5i remained very competitive for quite some time into the DSi/3DS era and they even ironed out a few of the bugs that stopped it from being truly great; they got a nice DLDI patch which more or less sorted the few homebrew regressions in the big updates (eventually even getting argv support), several tweaks to the various features and at once became one of the more powerful flash carts out there when it came to running the newest games (proper fixes for below 8000h reads and a special mode to try to bypass hashing checks). However updates stopped around April 2012 for both the DS game fixes and the DSi/3DS firmware updates (it did stick around through a handful of updates but the June 2012 was the one that took it out) so we can not even really suggest it as a card to ride the DS game library out on (even more so seen as it does not even have a third party loader like Wood, AKAIO or even something like what RetroGameFan does for various carts). That said if one is going cheap and you are looking to play a lot of the DS back catalogue with options beyond soft reset and cheats you could probably do a lot worse.