GBAtemp Review of the... K101 Revo SoC Designed by: K-Team Sales by: K1GBASP Also Known As: Revo K101, Revo, K101 Review by Another World – Completed 12/11/12 Introduction Following the success of the Game Boy, Nintendo began to look towards the future of portable gaming. Being an innovative company, they probably considered the importance of backwards compatibility, better graphical experiences, a simple design, long battery life, and hardware that was easy to develop for. In 2001 the market was ripe for something that would fit these needs, and Nintendo answered with their 32-bit sprite-based handheld, the Game Boy Advance. With hardware comparable to the SNES and backwards compatibility with more than 800 software titles, the GBA proved that sprites could continue to entertain gamers in an emerging 3D-gaming market place. Chinese developers have set out to exploit the GBA-generation one handheld at a time. While some of these gaming devices have taken on familiar shapes, each of these devices has had one thing in common; they are all based on emulation. The K-Team’s software-on-a-chip (SoC) aims to revolutionize the “clone” handheld market by being the first hardware based solution. The K101 Revo is the second implantation of their SoC, which was previously released in a GBA SP form factor. Incorporating the first ever implementation of a hardware-based Real Time Clock (RTC), this wider form factor features a stereo headphone jack, micro-USB charging, and upgradable firmware. The K101 Revo offers embedded 8-bit emulation, and due to the amount of available ROMs, these emulators will be discussed for their features more than for their compatibility. While many ROMs have been tested during the review process, a complete listing of working 8-bit ROMs will not be discussed or listed in this review. Before beginning this review, it became crystal clear how inefficient it would be to rewrite a review of core-hardware which has already been scrutinized. It is extremely important to point out that the K1 GBA SP and K101 Revo use the same SoC and currently feature the same firmware updates. These commonalities were made apparent during compatibility testing, and when the RTC functionally was disregarded, the results were exactly the same. As there are only a few distinctive differences between both units, their software options, and their intended functionality, a review of the K101 Revo as a supplemental update to the K1 GBA SP review began to make more sense. However, the desire of this endeavor was to provide a standalone guide to help interested consumers make more informed purchases. With this goal in mind, a full review has been constructed. In an effort to increase efficiency and minimize the amount of repetitive rewording, many sections of the K1 GBA SP review have been used verbatim, while other sections have been adjusted to more accurately describe the new product. Important GBAtemp Information: GBAtemp has recently opened all reviews for user comments. Please remember that the comments must adhere to our strict guidelines. Do not post congratulatory comments or comments speculative in nature, negative in nature, or the like, that has nothing to do with the review or the review’s content. Such comments will be deleted without warning or explanation. Users should consider only posting well researched comments that further the overall effect of the review and nothing more. I would like to thank Revo K101 and K1GBASP for supplying the review sample. K1GBASP is the only official reseller of the newly designed K101 Revo. These units have a Product ID number of 00620601, and have been confirmed by K1GBASP as being fully upgradable. Their free worldwide shipping and excellent customer service make http://www.k1gbasp.com an ideal place to purchase your K101 Revo. Product Information The K-Team developed a system on a chip (SoC) design that allows the K101 Revo to run GBA ROMs and Homebrew on actual hardware. The K-Team is not responsible for the end result, they simply sell the SoC and its firmware to interested manufactures. It is up to the manufacture to decide how best to implement the SoC, including such things as form factor, the ability to accept firmware updates, the inclusion of the K-Card interface device, and the type of hardware. The product information list included with this review was obtained from conducting research and from discussions with the sales team, as a result, it may contain inaccurate information. The information collected from K1GBASP was reworded for this review and as a result is not an exact copy of the original content. The included technical information list was compiled after discussions with the K-Team. The technical explanation paragraph that follows is a rewording of information received during those discussions. Product Information: Full compatibility with normal hardware GBA games and ROMs. Support for official GBA cartridges Support for pirated GBA cartridges Official and Unofficial GBA link cable support (K101-K101, K101-K1 GBA SP, K101-GBA) Charging via mini-USB cable (powered USB and/or optional wall adapter) Support for standard 3.5 mm headphone jack TV-out via a 2.5 mm AV cable In-game menu, allows for soft-resetting back to the main firmware menu Real Time Clock (RTC) functionality MP3 playback functionality Text reading functionality JPG viewer In-game guide support (ANSI/UTF-8 .TXT) GBA cheat support High-quality LCD with 5 levels of brightness Built in LCD scaling engine Front facing speaker Side mounted system power button and volume adjustment wheel Top mounted AV-out jack, extension port, mini-USB port, and backlight button microSD/SDHC support (up to 32 GB) Function shortcut keys (*+L for in-game menu, etc) Built in interrupt controller for cartridge hot swapping Game preview picture support (based on internal GameID) Cheat support (GBA .CHT files) Ability to change the power-on and background images Multiple language support Zipped ROM file on-the-fly decompression Technical Specifications: Dual Core system - ARM7+ARM9 compatible CPU - 16.67 MHz DRAM - 50 MHz Frame Rate - 60 fps Graphics - Dedicated GPU hardware circuits Sound - Dedicated SPU hardware circuits LCD - AUO TFT 3 inch screen (960x480 max resolution) Battery - Nokia clone BL-58 3.7v 890mAh Li-ion rechargeable The K101 Revo utilizes both an ARM7 and ARM9 CPU. The ARM7 is responsible for controlling the 2D dedicated graphic hardware and the sound hardware. The ARM9 acts as the master CPU for everything else. The system has achieved a high compatibility rate by implementing technology that can handle graphic, sound and data communications among all engines on the SoC. The K101 Revo makes use of a special memory interface that allows the GBA cartridge interface to be "emulated" by a modern DRAM interface and DMA. The K-Card acts as an access device allowing the contents of the microSD card to be utilized by the SoC, and also doubles as a storage device for save files. The on-board DRAM is accessed only when the K-Card is used and functions by accepting the entire ROM before executing it. Contents and Packaging The review unit contains bonus items only available with the pre-order bundle. As these items currently can not be ordered separately, their listing will not be grouped with the main content listing. Contents: 1x K101 Revo 1x K-Card 1x mini-USB Cable 1x USB AC Adapter 1x 2.3 mm AV-Out Cable 1x microSD Card Reader 1x Wrist Strap Pre-Order Contents: 1x Soft Carrying Pouch 1x Kingston 4GB microSDHC Memory Card 1x 3.5 mm Ear Bud Headphones 43x Pre-installed Homebrew Games and Applications Packaging: The K101 Revo comes packed inside a thin, glossy, cardboard box. The box measures approximately 6 and 3/4 inches by 3 and 3/4 inches by 2 and 1/4 inches. The top of the box is secured by both a tuck flap and a locking flap. The tuck flap folds down and across the box, while the locking flap closes the box and locks the entire package securely. The cardboard is thick enough to provide basic protection, but is not thick enough to be considered crush proof. The review unit contains bonus pre-order items, and as a result, the K101 Revo shipped inside the soft carrying pouch. Tucked on top of the unit was a section of bubble wrap, and I can only assume that non-pre-order shipments will come wrapped inside this layer of protection. The contents are additionally secured by a cardboard insert. The insert splits the box almost in half, and provides both an area for the K101 Revo and the included adapters and cords. The K-Card will ship already inserted into the K101 Revo. The AC adapter, mini-USB cable, and AV-out cable will ship in their own protective bags. The LCD has been protected as well, thanks to a thin disposable screen protector, which can be easily pealed off. Overall the careful design of the cardboard insert and the extra layers of protection should be more than enough to secure safe delivery. Unlike the K1 GBA SP, the K101 Revo box does not attempt to fool the consumer. It clearly states on the front of the box that the item is a “GBA Hardware Clone”. The front and top of the box display images of the front and top of the K101 Revo, making it extremely easy to see what you are buying. The left side of the box contains a list of included items, of which only the user manual was not found. The right side of the box contains a warning to “read through the instruction manual” and informs the user that the LCD screen may have “some dots that do not light up or that never turn off”. This side of the box also contains check boxes for white, black, and blue colors. These choices hopefully hint towards future revisions of the shell being made available in alternate colors. The back of the box contains a drawing of the unit with each of the various buttons and jacks labeled by name or functionality. The AC adapter is a standard USB-to-wall adapter. It is not grounded and can be inserted into a N. American wall plug in either direction. A bright red LED will let you know that it is receiving power. The AV cable contains a small 2.5 mm male end. The cable has one output for video and one for audio. The mini-USB cable is a standard cable, which is only used for charging. The microSD card reader is the same generic gray and black reader we have seen shipped along with Flash Kits for years. The wrist strap is also the same generic gray wrist strap which shipped along side the original R4, and later with other various Flash Kits. The pre-order bundle includes a soft carrying pouch, ear buds, and a 4GB microSD card. The soft carrying pouch is available in multiple colors, from which one is chosen randomly for each order. The review unit shipped with a light grey pouch, that is ivory white on the inside and soft to the touch. The pouch is secured shut by two loops of string, and a plastic bead. The bead, which is knotted around one loop of string, when tucked inside the other loop of string, provides a means with which to block the K101 Revo from sliding out of the pouch. Overall, the pouch does a great job of protecting of unit from surface scratches but should not be relied upon to secure the unit at all times. The ear buds are white with a blue leaf print, and contains a cord long enough to allow the K101 Revo to be tucked into a pocket during MP3 playback. While the ear buds do work, they produce a flat sound, which may not be ideal for some users. The included memory card is a 4GB Taiwanese branded Class-4 Kingston microSDHC card. The card was properly formatted with the Panasonic Formatter before use and has performed exceptionally well. During the course of the review, no serious issues, data corruption, or the like, was experienced. The K-Card is a simple interface device that allows for the booting of ROMs and Homebrew. The K-Card is not a Flash Kit and will not function as such on other hardware. The K-Card accepts a microSD/SDHC card and allows for simple drag/drop ROM support. It also doubles as a storage device when GBA game saves stored in the DRAM are written to the microSD card. The K-Card has the same dimensions, look, and feel, of a retail GBA cartridge. The two halves of the shell are secured using a micro-sized Phillips head screw. The microSD card slot is spring loaded and top mounted, making it fully accessible when the K-Card is inserted into the K101 Revo. Design and Impressions PCB shots provided by RyanRDLPS The K101 Revo is currently sold in only one color, and the sales team has hinted that the possibility of future color variations rely solely on the demands of the consumer. Currently, the only available color is matte-finished milk-white, which is separated down the middle by a matte-black stripe. The K-Card is a slightly brighter shade of white that blends rather well with the K101 Revo. The front face of the unit contains a directional pad, 4 buttons (X, Y, A, B), a start button, a select button, and 6 small holes for the audio speaker. Just below the LCD, also on the front face of the unit, is a “REVO K101” logo. The left side of the unit is where the power button is located, along with an area to connect a wrist strap or a cell-phone charm. The volume wheel is located on the right side of the unit, while the bottom right of the unit contains the 3.5 mm headphone jack and a system reset switch. The left and right shoulder buttons are located on the top of the unit, and a comprised of freely-floating smooth plastic. Also located here are the DC 5v mini-USB jack, the brightness button, the 2.5 mm AV-out jack, and the GBA extension port. The K101 Revo is surprisingly light and evenly weighted. The matte finish is smooth and lends a slight “chalky” aspirin-like feel to the 6 face buttons, while the directional pad is slighty smoother. The directional pad and buttons feel wonderful while gaming, they do not squeak, click, or rub in any annoying fashion. The freely-floating matte-black shoulder buttons allow pressure from various angles, and they are just as smooth and conformable to game with as the rest of the input buttons. The various input jacks and buttons have been well placed, making it seem clear that some careful planning went into the design of this device. The power button and volume wheel can be comfortably reached with a quick adjustment of the index fingers. The speaker holes are in a spot that prevents the sound from being muffled while holding the device. The various extension, charging, and output jacks are positioned so that when in use they will not inhibit gaming. The bottom facing headphone jack is properly placed but may get in the way of gamers who use their pinky fingers for support. AGS-001 vs. K101 Revo vs. K1 GBA SP at lowest brightness setting The LCD screen is bright, colorful, and feels like an evolution for GBA-era gaming. The higher resolution of the modern LCD causes some graphics to appear different than on an original GBA, at times, making them somewhat less-sharp in nature. This phenomenon is mostly noticeable on still graphics such as introduction or start screens. The LCD has a max resolution of 960x480 and a default resolution of 320X240. The 3:2 image scaling option uses a resolution of 320x213 and the 4:3 image scaling option uses a resolution of 320X240. While the 3:2 scaling mode maintains the same width, it lessens the height to something that more closely resembles the original GBA. The LCD supports 5 levels of brightness, the highest of which is well suited for outdoor gaming. When enjoying MP3s it is possible to turn off the backlight, however, this last setting does not turn off the LCD. The LCD is visible from many angles but does begin to fade when positioned more than 45 degrees away from the user. The K1 GBA SP had one major drawback, the directional pad and buttons suffered from moderate to severe sensitivity issues. The K101 Revo has addressed these concerns, making the unit much more responsive. The directional pad requires normal amounts of pressure and will catch diagonal input exceptionally well. However, the directional pad can be a bit over-sensitive at times, especially when pressing UP. This “extreme sensitivity” is much less of an issue than the lack of sensitivity that the K1 GBA SP suffered from. Each of the input buttons are extremely responsive, and require only normal amounts of pressure. The X and Y buttons double as front facing L and R shoulder buttons. At first it is a bit awkward to implement the usage of such buttons, and then quickly they become more common place for games which do not require L+R inputs. After experiencing the comfort that comes along with their inclusion, it became clear what a great addition they make to GBA gaming. Set-up and Usage The K101 Revo can accept firmware upgrades, however, the unit current ships with the most up-to-date firmware, dated 10/21/12. In the rare chance that future revisions contain updated or different hardware, the Product ID (PID) number must be located before flashing a firmware upgrade. This number ensures the correct build of the firmware can be matched with its corresponding hardware revision. Currently the K101 Revo has a PID number of 00620601. Before playing with the K101 Revo, it is advisable to fully charge the unit. Charging can be accomplished by using the included AC adapter, a 3rd party adapter, or a powered USB port. When charging a unit without a fully charged battery, the bottom LED will be amber in color while the top LED will be green in color. When charging a unit with a depleted battery, the bottom LED will be red in color and the top LED will be green in color. When fully charged, both LED lights will be green in color. It will take approximately 3-4 hours to fully charge the unit from a completely drained battery. After which the unit should provide approximately 4-6 hours of gaming, depending on the level of brightness, level of volume, etc. When the power LED turns red the system will hold enough charge to game for approximately 1 hour. It is important to note that the software may not always function correctly while the unit is charging. The main issue experienced was that of the menu continually scrolling to the right, making it near impossible to pick a game or Homebrew for execution. Also, Depending on the file in use, the shoulder buttons were not always responsive and the in-game menu function shortcut key put the unit into sleep mode. These problems occurred with the included mini-USB cable and AC adapter, and also while using a 1st party mini-USB cable and dedicated AC adapter from an extremely reputable portable MP3 manufacturing company. The level of the charge and at what point the unit was plugged, did nothing to alter the results. However, the unit did not always experience these issues right away, and when unplugged the unit did not experience any of these issues. Further testing will be required to determine the cause of the problem. Until such time as a solution can be reached, users should be aware that they may only be able to fully utilize the unit when it is unplugged. K101 Revo Set-up: Format the microSD card using the Panasonic Formatter Download and extract the Cheat Database Download and extract the Game Pic collection Make a folder in ROOT named ksystem Place the GamePic and Cheat directories into the ksystem folder Drag/Drop some ROMs or Homebrew Insert the microSD card into the K-Card, the K-Card into the K101 Revo, turn on the system and enjoy! The microSD card must be placed into the K-Card with its contact-teeth pointing towards the bottom of the K-Card. When the K-Card is inserted into the K101 Revo, the teeth of the microSD card will point up. When the unit is first powered-on, a K-Team splash screen will appear. The splash screen will remain for approximately 3 seconds and then be replaced by a structured microSD directory listing. It is possible to customize the splash screen and background image by simply adding the appropriately named .JPG images to the ROOT directory. The files must be named userlogo.jpg for the splash screen, and bg.jpg for the background image. While the firmware should be able to scale down images, some larger resolution background images caused the menu to display indecipherable garbled graphics. As a result, when implementing a custom image a resolution of 320x240 is recommended. Browsing the directory structure is completely intuitive, the d-pad controls the browsing of the list (up or down) while "A" executes and "B" cancels a selection. Pressing right or left will page through the directory structure 1 listing at a time, with each listing comprised of 10 file or folders. At the top of the screen are additional menu items and displayed at the bottom of the screen is the currently highlighted file name. File names within the directory listing are truncated. Thankfully, the area at the bottom of the screen will scroll each highlighted name from right to left, making them extremely easy to read when game artwork is taking up a portion of the screen Pressing SELECT will move through the menu items one at a time from left to right. Pressing the left shoulder button will move 1 item to the left and stop on the first item, while pressing the right shoulder button will move 1 item to the right and stop on the last item. The first item is "LIST" which simply returns to the directory browsing view. The second item is "OPTION", which provides some basic behavioral tweaks. The third item is "HELP" which lists the function shortcut keys as well as other important system related information. The option menu contains settings for system language, display output, keypad, RTC, file filter, splash screens, and an auto-sleep countdown setting. The first option is a language setting, which allows the user to adjust the system language between 1 of 8 possible choices (English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Spanish). The display options contain settings for LCD or TV output, LCD and TV scaling (4:3, 3:2, 640x480, 480x320), LCD brightness (0-5), and TV system (NTSC, PAL). The audible tone which the keypad makes can be turned off in the keypad settings, also the key press delay and key press repeat delay can be adjusted (0.0s-MAX). The real time clock can be enabled or disabled in the RTC options, also the Year, Month, Day, Weekday, Hour, Minute, and Second can be set and adjusted. Files can be hidden by extension in the file filter setting both globally and on a per-file basis (Game, Save, MP3, JPG, TXT). The boot-up screen and GBA BIOS splash screen can be turned on or off in the miscellaneous section. Also in this section is an option for an automatic sleep countdown (OFF-10min). The sleep mode will initialize when a button has not been pressed for the set amount of time, to wake the system back up simply press any of the front facing buttons. The Help menu contains a listing of the function shortcut keys. The function shortcut keys are simple on or off toggles. For example, the auto-fire mode is adjusted using the in-game menu, but to turn this setting on or off on-the-fly the function shortcut key can be utilized. Also found in this menu is a listing of supported file types (.GBA, .NES, .PCE, .SMS, .GG, .SG, .GBC, .GB, .SGB, .MP3, .JPG, .ZIP, .TXT) and the system machine info. The system machine information includes the Product ID number, the current firmware revision date, and the version name (maxzhou88’s gamer version). The K101 Revo offers some additional features, including a text reader, image viewer, and MP3 player. The text reader is used for both reading and in-game guides. It is limited by the fact that it can only display ANSI/UTF-8 .TXT files. Text which has not been formatted to fit the screen can be scrolled left, right, up, or down, using the directional pad. The image viewer currently only supports .JPG images, of which size and resolution do not appear to matter. However, loading larger images will take longer, but once images are loaded they can be zoomed in or out by pressing the shoulder buttons (L - out, R - in). Images can also be scrolled left, right, up, or down using the directional pad. MP3 playback supports both CBR and VBR MP3 files. While playing music, the screen will display the file name, kbps, Hz, audio type (IE: 192 kbps, 44100 Hz, joint stereo), the duration of play, and the total length of the audio file. The MP3 player is rather basic and only supports pause and play functionality via the "A" button. Pressing the directional pad either up or down will play the previous or next file in the directory; if only 1 file is in the directory then it will reset the playback position to zero. MP3 files are played according to their directory order; however, pressing START will initialize a random playback mode. No matter which additional feature is being used, the "B" button always cancels by returning to the last browsed directory. Highlighting a .GBA file and then pressing "A" will launch the GBA BIOS splash screen. When the splash screen is disabled the LCD will flash once before the file loads. The firmware currently does not patch Homebrew with bad headers. A sure sign that a Homebrew requires a header fix is when the splash screen displays a garbled Nintendo logo. To patch a Homebrew file simply open it with GBA Tool Advance and click the "Fix header" button. An in-game menu is available for all files under 32 MB in size. Files which are 32 MB make full use of the allocated memory leaving no free room for the menu patch. To access the in-game menu while actively gaming, the function shortcut key *+L must be pressed. (* refers to the backlight button). After the menu has been loaded, game cheats can be turned on or off, a game guide can be read, the auto-fire mode can be adjusted, and the RTC can be enabled, disabled, or adjusted. Game guides must be ANSI/UTF-8 .TXT files, named the same as the .GBA file you wish to associate it with, and placed into the same directory (IE: Xxx.GBA.TXT or Xxx.ZIP.TXT). Game guides make use of the text reader and as a result utilize the same control scheme. Cheats can be turned on or off on-the-fly, they do not permanently patch the .GBA file, and in most circumstances progress should be correctly stored in the save file. The auto-fire mode can be associated with any number of input buttons at the same time, using a global frequency of repetition (2, 6, 15, 30 seconds). The RTC can be adjusted on-the-fly allowing the user to have full control over clock-based events. However, the RTC must be enabled before a ROM is launched, otherwise it may only work in part or not at all. It is possible to enable cheats and other in-game menu features before a ROM has been executed, thus allowing 32 MB ROMs to experience the benefits of the K101 Revo. To accomplish this, simply highlight the ROM and then hold down the "A" button. A second menu will pop-up offering options such as Open, Delete, Config, and Cancel. Selecting the Config option will load the in-game menu options. To turn on or off these options when gaming, make use of the function shortcut keys. The RTC does work, and was represented correctly in-game by various clocks, etc; however, it suffers from a few software bugs. The clock itself is not entirely accurate. At one point it was running an estimated 7 seconds behind with each passing minute. When the unit was turned on the next day, the seconds were again synced but the time was off by more than 2 hours. Thankfully, for the majority of testing the clock was rather accurate and did not experience sync issues. The date, however, would often reset itself to a new day or year. For a few days of testing the day continued to reset itself back to Wednesday and the date would reset forward to 2089. After resetting the RTC, and remembering to “save settings”, the clock has since maintained the correct date and time. As long as the RTC is turned on before the game is launched, and if the game is not 32 MB in size, then it is extremely simple to adjust any incorrect settings via the in-game menu. All GBA saves are stored in the DRAM and will not remain so after the unit has been powered off. Saves will be automatically written to the microSD card when the in-game menu is accessed. For 32MB games that do not have access to the in-game menu while gaming, or for any game that requires a quick save back-up, pressing the function shortcut *+START will write the save from DRAM to the microSD card. For those interested in continuing EMU saved games on the K101 Revo, make use of Shuny’s K1 save conversion tool, which will convert EMU .SAV files to the K1 format (K1 GBA SP, K101 Revo). To use the tool, simply drag/drop an EMU save onto the .EXE and watch as it instantly outputs a properly formatted save file. After using the tool be sure to change the file name to Xxx.GBA.SAV as this is the K101 Revo recognized save file naming convention. Embedded 8-bit Emulation The K101 Revo includes embedded emulators capable of simulating some rather enjoyable 8-bit experiences. Currently, the system natively supports the NES, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gamegear, Master System, and PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16 systems. The firmware allows for direct ROM booting, simply click on an associated file (IE: .NES, .GG, etc) and the emulator will begin to run. The emulators appear to not be completely original code but enhanced versions of popular Homebrew projects. After speaking with various sources and completing testing for the K1 GBA SP review, it was concluded that the included emulators are enhanced copies of PocketNES, Goomba Color/Goomba Paletted, SMSAdvance, and PCEAdvance. While they retain a similar compatibility, each emulator has been enhanced for the K101 Revo. In some instances this simply means the adjustment of in-emulator menus and the removal of options not supported by the K101 Revo. The custom build of PocketNES, however, is based on work completed by Maxzhou88 and includes updated mapper support for ShenZhen Nanjing Technology games (FF7, etc). There is no known way to flash emulator updates to the firmware, and as a result all future updates will be at the discretion of the K101 Revo firmware author. All tested files which were listed in various compatibility lists functioned as expected. The multiplayer link function of PocketNES, known to have issues with generic link cables, performed perfectly from K101 Revo-to-K1 GBA SP and also from K101 Revo-to-GBA. Emulators utilize the systems original aspect ratio which can only be adjusted according to the K101 Revo options. There are currently no emulator specific options for display modes such as full screen, stretch mode, etc. Save-states are written to a virtual SRAM and will remain in DRAM until the unit is powered-off. Writing the SRAM saves out to the microSD card can be accomplished by simply accessing the K101 Revo in-game menu or by executing the *+START function shortcut. In regards to the K101 Revo in-game menu, it functions with all embedded emulation but with limited accessibility. Game cheats, for example, do not function as they are associated only with GBA files. The included Game Boy emulator suffers from save issues, it appears that saves are not being correctly written back to the microSD card, yet they function correctly until the emulator is closed. Some of the current embedded emulators suffer from various speed issues, it does not appear that the embedded emulators are accessing the claimed higher CPU clock speeds. Official comments mention that the CPU can be clocked to 150 MHz, and if possible could bring future EMU enhancements to the K101 Revo. It looks like it may be up to the Homebrew development community to see what emulation, application and Homebrew possibilities the K101 Revo has to offer. Performance Each of the tested GBA ROM files was checked by CRC against a known goodset listing. Some ROM files were tested on the K101 Revo, on a K1 GBA SP, on an official GBA SP via a Slot-2 Flash Kit, and on PC based emulation. The latest revisions of Homebrew projects were tested for this review. Select retail carts were tested on the system, each cart was additionally tested on an official SP. A 2 GB Japanese Kingston microSD card, a 4 GB Taiwan Class-4 Kingston microSD card, and an 8 GB Class-6 Transcend microSD card were used for all testing. Each microSD card was properly formatted using the Panasonic Formatter v3.1. Files were chosen based on their inability to run on “clone” systems or for their unique features. Each file was tested for a minimum of 30 minutes while some were tested for more than an hour. During testing, the in-game menu was accessed and many of the systems features and options were utilized, however, each available option was not tested with each file. Each result is listed below by Homebrew name, GBA ROM name, or GBA cartridge name, followed by a color coded phrase. Green colored phrases mean the file performed as expected with no serious problems. Blue colored phrases mean the file performed with some problems. Problems could include speed issues, compatibility problems, graphical issues, in-game menu issues, etc. Red colored phrases mean that the file failed to run. GBA ROM Compatibility: 3 Game Pack - Connect Four - Perfection - Trouble - Pass 3 Game Pack - The Game of Life - Yahtzee - Payday - Pass Around the World in 80 Days - Pass Baldurs Gate - Dark Alliance - Pass Classic NES Series - Bomberman - Pass Classic NES Series - Donkey Kong - Pass Classic NES Series - Excitebike - Pass (Minor HUD graphical flickering) Classic NES Series - Ice Climber - Pass Classic NES Series - Pac-Man - Pass Classic NES Series - The Legend of Zelda - Problems (Slowdown in some areas, perfectly playable) Classic NES Series - Xevious - Pass Doom - Pass Doom II - Pass Double Dragon Advance - Pass Earthworm Jim - Pass Famicom Mini Series 1 - Super Mario Bros. - Pass Final Fight One - Pass F-Zero - Maximum Velocity - Pass GBA Video - Strawberry Shortcake - Volume 1 - Problems (slowdown, sound stuttering, fixed by stopping/restarting) GBA Video - SpongeBob SquarePants - Volume 1 - Pass Golden Sun - Pass Gunstar Super Heroes - Pass Manic Miner - Pass Mario Golf - Advance Tour - Pass Mario Kart - Super Circuit - Pass MegaMan Zero 4 - Pass Metal Slug Advance - Pass Mother 3 (English Translation v1.0) - Pass Motocross Maniacs Advance - Pass NHL 2002 - Pass Ninja Five-O - Pass Pokemon Emerald - Pass Pokemon Sapphire - Pass Rayman Advance - Problems (Some audio does not play) River City Ransom EX - Pass Rockman EXE 4.5 Real Operation (English Translation) - Pass Samurai Deeper Kyo - Pass Sigma Star Saga - Pass Snood 2 - On Vacation - Pass Super Mario Advance - Pass Super Mario Advance 4 - Super Mario Bros. 3 - Pass The Legend of Zelda - The Minish Cap - Pass Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 - Pass Wings - Pass Wolfenstein 3D - Pass GBA Retail Cart Compatibility: Around the World in 80 Days - Pass Classic NES Series - Super Mario Bros. - Pass (Minor bottom tile graphical flickering) Classic NES Series - The Legend of Zelda - Pass (Minor slowdown in some areas) Final Fight One - Pass Golden Nugget Casino - Pass Paperboy/Rampage - Pass Spy Hunter/Super Sprint - Pass Super Mario Advance - Pass The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie - Pass WarioWare Twisted - Pass GBA Homebrew Compatibility: 3 Weeks In Paradise - Fail (Black screen) 2 Bits Ball Wall - Pass 5nake - Pass AGB Rogue - Pass Anguna: Warriors of Virtue - Pass Another World - Pass Atomix - Pass Barbarian - Fail (Black screen) Bauble Break - Pass Beer Belly Bill - Pass Bengt Swinger of Longarm - Pass Blast Arena Advance - Pass Blockbusters - Pass Bounty Hunter X - Pass Broken Circle - Pass Bullet GBA - Pass Chaos – The Battle of Wizards - Pass Codename Hacker - Pass Crystal Clear Clone for Portables - Pass Dangerous Xmas - Fail (Does not start) Defender Advance - Pass Factorybots - Pass Frogger - Pass G.O.R.F. - Fail (Black screen) Herg’s Solitaire - Pass Herg's Yahtzee - Pass HexaVirus - Pass Hierogyphic Man - Pass Keeper - Pass Lab Sound - Pass Lindsi Luna Blast - Pass Lockjaw - Pass Mediaeval Quest - Pass Minesweeper - Pass Motocross challenge - Pass Paint Master - Pass Pocket Raider - Fail (Black screen) Powder - Pass Serp - Pass Skool Daze - Pass Space Twins - Pass Spout GBA - Pass Super Mario - The Last Quest - Pass Sushi The Cat - Pass The Last Seal - Pass The Tragical Historie of Rodion and Rosalind - Pass Thrust advance - Pass Uranus - Pass Uranus 2 - Pass Uranus Zero - Pass> Uranus 0 EV - Fail (Does not initialize) Every ROM I tried on the system was fully playable. However, not every ROM played without issue. Two of the Classic Nintendo series of games had lines of flickering graphics, which were also present when using the actual game cartridge. Even with the flickering lines of sprites, both Super Maro Bros. and Excitebike were fully playable and extremely enjoyable. The Legend of Zelda suffered from slow-down on the area just to the right of level-1, and again on many of the crowded areas of level-1. These game slowdowns were experienced on a ROM booted from the K-Card, on a different ROM (CRC verified) booted from an M3 Lite Perfect, and when using a retail cartridge. The Strawberry Shortcake GBA video ROM had its own unique slowdown issues that caused video lag and sound stuttering, a problem which was overcome by stopping and restarting the video. Both the Legend of Zelda and Strawberry Shortcake issues always occurred at the same point across multiple retests. Rayman Advance suffered from missing audio, where various musical notes of the audio track did not play. However, even with the missing audio tracks the game itself was perfectly playable. Every normal hardware GBA game cartridge that I tried on the system worked. Carts were tested after cold boots and via hot swapping, and both methods caused no issues. Unlike testing completed for the K1 GBA SP, WarioWare Twisted was fully functional on the K101 Revo. Homebrew compatibility is acceptable but rather disappointing in regards to older GBA Homebrew projects and relatively polished releases. It was surprising to find that projects such as PocketRaider, G.O.R.F., and Dangerous Xmas were unplayable, while these same projects functioned perfectly on an official SP. Conclusion The K101 Revo is an excellent sophomore effort. For as many things as it corrects about the K1 GBA SP, it also manages to have a few issues of its own. This conclusion aims to point out the areas in need of adjustment. As you read the end of this review, remember that the K101 Revo does a lot right, and a little wrong. It is not perfect, yet it is a solid attempt at a true hardware-based GBA clone, one that is definitely worth experiencing. With that said, let us wrap up this review by discussing in greater detail a few specific points about the system. The first of which is the choice of LCD. The system’s video is projected through an AUO TFT 3 inch LCD with 5 levels of brightness. The screen provides visible gaming angles from every position and only begins to fade when pushed more than 45 degrees away from the eyes. The images produced by the LCD are vibrant, colorful, and bright enough on the lowest backlight setting for hours of comfortable daylight gaming. With these advancements comes a pixel-to-pixel ratio that is not a perfect match to the displays used in the original GBA handhelds. Graphic scaling is close enough to make the wider, and sometimes taller, images easy to adapt to, however, not all GBA-era purists will find satisfaction in this modern-day LCD screen. They may also find fault in a dead or stuck pixel, of which more than a few recipients of the unit have typed their complaints. The review unit can be counted among these as it arrived with 1 stuck blue pixel. No matter the amount of pixel fixing attempted it remains a solid blue point of light across all gaming experiences. Sound is produced through a mid-range speaker that is a close match to the official GBA SP. Volume is decidedly louder than the official GBA and easy to manipulate thanks to the right mounted adjustment wheel. The addition of a 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack provides a means to enjoy the sounds of gaming in private or to output them to a set of amplified speakers. The only issues with sound arose when the AV-out cable is used, as the built-in audio speaker continued to broadcast uninterrupted. The insertion of headphones into the 3.5 mm jack did nothing to interrupt the dual sound output. Unlike the K1 GBA SP, the K101 Revo supports the WarioWare Twisted cartridge, a wonderfully surprising addition. As no other special hardware cartridges were available for testing, it will remain the discretion of the GBA community to compile a full list of functioning peripherals and special hardware cartridges. In regards to ROMs, every file tested performed exceptionally well, a testament to the K-Team’s SoC design. While some ROMs did produce minor issues, these issues remain uneventful. However, Homebrew compatibility testing resulted in the discovery that some rather well documented projects failed to run. One can only hope that a future update address these issues while providing a simple software-solution for the automatic fixing of bad headers. The K101 Revo has done a wonderful job of addressing the control issues of the previous model. The buttons on this unit are extremely responsive, requiring normal amounts of pressure, while being smooth to the touch and comfortable to game with. The directional pad is also very comfortable and rocks into position without any squeaks or loud clicks. While each directional pad position is responsive and registers quickly with the on-screen action, it can also feel overly-sensitive, forcing the user to adapt to these faults. An example of this is the forward movement of first person shooters (IE: Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, etc). A wrongly placed thumb, more focused on the edge of the directional pad itself, will register as a diagonal movement. Please understand that what I am attempting to describe is the misplacement of pressure by a fraction of a millimeter. This issue caused the on-screen movement to veer off the path of a straight line, often resulting in missed opportunities and a quick death. The only fix for this sensitivity issue would be to master the application of pressure onto the center edge of each directional point. With the over-sensitivity issue aside, based on my experience with many Chinese made handhelds, I can honestly say that the directional pad of the K101 Revo is among the better experiences. Its imperfections are not enough to cause any serious concerns, as they can be adjusted for and adapted to, however, they do exist and were worth noting. The Real Time Clock is easy to set and is correctly represented in-game. In order to function correctly, the RTC must be turned “on” before the ROM is launched. In some instances (Rockman EXE 4.5 Real Operation English Translation) the RTC must be accessed from the in-game menu, yet no adjustments need be made, before the date is correctly represented. During early phases of testing the clock lost time and the date reset itself. A few days prior to writing this conclusion, everything was reset and both the clock and calendar have continued to function correctly. The RTC can always be adjusted via the in-game menu, making any discrepancies in accuracy minor complaints at best. Due to some unforeseen circumstance, actively charging the unit while using it can cause the main menu to act uncharacteristically buggy. The menu will scroll to the right, and forcibly stay on the “help” tab. Also some gaming controls may behave erratically, including right shoulder button inputs and the use of the in-game menu. As soon as the method of charging is disengaged, regardless of which was used, the system returned to normal functionality. This behavior did not occur at all times, in fact, I was able to charge and use the unit for a long time before this bug presented itself. This issue is possibly the most annoying and also the most disappointing, as it directly relates to an inconsistency of advertised functionality. Chinese made handhelds always ship with a few quirks, yet I find it rather curious that this one remained after initial testing. One feature that is still missing from the firmware is the ability to set the in-game menu shortcut key combination (L+R+A, perhaps?). Forcing the user to rely upon the only backlight button seems like a poor decision. Some game art is still incorrectly associated with Homebrew files that utilize a legitimate Game ID. Hopefully some type of CRC check or game database will finally be added to a future firmware update. If the system ever freezes the only way to turn it off is to hit the reset button. Unfortunately, the reset button can only be reached by inserting a paperclip into a tiny hole on the bottom of the unit. Pulling the battery out may also reset the unit, however, the battery door is secured by a screw, making it virtually impossible to open it while gaming around town. During testing for this review the unit did experience one freeze, which happened while writing a Samurai Deeper Kyo save to the microSD card (*+START). This was the only single instance, and while freezing is rather uncommon, it may happen. The developer has put a lot of effort into creating this system and the result of which is a versatile, feature-rich video game handheld. Its light-weight comfortable design, has been built around the upgradable K-Team software-on-a-chip, a hardware based solution that should ensure a growing compatibility rate for the life of the system. Its carefully chosen design elements, coupled with microSD patch-free ROM loading and modern day features have made the K101 Revo a GBA clone worth owning. The K101 Revo is not perfect, yet it manages to do so many things correctly. After testing, I truly believe that many of its current issues can be fixed with a simple firmware update. Hopefully the developer is listening, as he has yet to fix any of the complaints made since the K1 GBA SP review. As it currently sits, the K101 Revo is a solid “silver” award. I can recommend it as a GBA-only handheld to those who have no other means of enjoying such games on the go. For those that do, I can also recommended it as a wonderful alternative. For those interested in emulation and the future of exclusive Homebrew, I would advise you to consider another alternative. The K101 Revo GBA-based Homebrew emulation is fun, but its featured systems are much more enjoyable on more powerful handhelds (Dingoo, PSP, etc). Important Update (1/8/13): Many users have complained about the loss of save data. After more extensive testing, I am now able to confirm this problem. There is no apparent reasoning for the loss of save data, it does not seem to be caused by microSD corruption, SRAM patching, microSD formatting tools, or user error. Some users have reported that correctly sized save files continues to exist, but simply will not load. On 12/29/12 a firmware update was released in an effort to combat this problem, bundled with it was the ability to re-size graphics to 240x160. However, this update has not corrected the problem. It is yet unknown when this issue will be addressed. The only certainty is that at some point you will most probably lose save data. Further debugging is required and in an effort to tackle the problem users have suggested that all future bug reports be as detailed as possible. If and when this problem is finally addressed this brief update paragraph will be removed from the review conclusion. Additional Update Information (1/29/13): After some debugging the community has determined that saves can be retained between power cycles by utilizing the *+L function shortcut key. This key combination will return the firmware to the main directory listing, and powering off from this point appears to solve the issue. Users who simply *+START (dump SRAM to microSD) or who power off (hold the power button), without returning to the file directory listing, continue to lose their save data. The factory has been made aware of this problem but as of yet there has not been a firmware update to address it. As with the previous update, when this problem is finally addressed this brief additional update paragraph will be removed from the review conclusion. New Firmware Claims to Fix Saving Issue (4/15/14): A new firmware was released that claims to fix the saving issue. The instructions for flashing the firmware remain the same, a download link can be found via the GBAtemp News Article. It is recommended to hold the Power button for up to 3 seconds after powering down the unit. The theory is that some microSD cards are slower than others and this additional few seconds of power will result in a proper save file being written. Full testing will be left up to the community and a full round of retesting will not be performed for this review. Pros: + Hardware based GBA solution + Dedicated graphic and sound hardware + Wide-style form factory, encased in a top-quality shell + Lightweight, evenly weighted + Excellent button sensitivity, extremely comfortable buttons + Modern AUO TFT 3 inch LCD with 5 levels of brightness + mini-USB charging solution + 3.5 mm headphone jack + TV-out functionality + ROM and cartridge support + WarioWare Twisted support, possibly other special hardware cartridges + Cartridge hot swapping support + microSDHC support + Cheats, in-game guide, auto-fire, RTC + Image viewer, MP3 player, text reader + Firmware updates possible, can address compatibility Cons: - Directional pad is somewhat over-sensitive - Charging while playing can cause system menu and control inconsistencies - Reset switch requires a paperclip - GBA Homebrew compatibility not equal to actual hardware Links: K101 Revo Homepage K101 Revo Official Retailer Site This review was written for GBAtemp.net ONLY. The article and included photos are the property of Another World and published by permission for GBAtemp.net. Research was conducted by contacting other K101 Revo users, Homebrew development programmers, the K-Team, K1GBA.com, K1GBASP.com, and by reading various articles about the device and its hardware. Special thanks to Shaunj66 and Costello. Without GBAtemp this review would not have been possible. Special thanks to Revo K101 and K1GBASP for providing the review sample. Special thanks to the K-Team for some great conversations Special thanks to Abra for providing stuff that made this review possible. Special thanks to Rain for providing cartridges used for this review. Thanks to Brien for cutting out the header image. Thanks to the Bura boys for the use of their GBA SP. Thanks to RyanRDLPS for the PCB shots and some fun K101 Revo chat. Thanks to Mega Ran for providing the theme music of this review! If you see this review on any other site please let Another World know by PM.