Review: Cobra BlackFin (Hardware)

Cobra BlackFin: Official GBAtemp Review

Hardware 4,497 views 8 likes 17 comments
Reviewed by Normmatt, posted Sep 8, 2016, last updated Sep 9, 2016
Sep 8, 2016
The Cobra Black Fin. This device could be compared to flashcards - it enables the user to play pirated or their own dumped Playstation Vita games. The technique behind it is quite interesting. Via P2P (Peer-to-Peer) for non local games, A user can play the games others share on the Black Fin servers.
Normmatt
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Packaging and Contents

Our review sample was delivered via DHL and was carefully packaged to prevent any damage.
The review sample was provided by SnapUpHots. Check out their other products: ZENBLU High precision gaming mouse.

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Below you can see what the pakage looks like and what's inside:

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As you can see, the contents include a Blackfin card reader with 7 slots, a Blackfin game card emulator, a Blackfin USB dongle and a Mini USB cable for BlackFin card reader. No manuals are included but it can be downloaded on their website.

How it works & setting it up

The games are not shared as a whole of course, that would be really bad for traffic (especially if yours is limited). So how does it work exactly, you may ask? You Rip your own, or download the game ISO's, put them on a MicroSD card. Now you put that card into the Black Fin Flashcard which you put into your Vita.

Now you connect to the Black Fin server if the game is not in your Fin (if you own one as it is not included in the Lite version), let the device authenticate your game by matching the ISO to an actual game Card, which is running on another person's Black Fin reader, which is connected to the Black Fin server. If the game Serials data match, you can play the Game. Unfortunately, if that game is not currently on the server you can't play and you do need to have an active internet connection to be able to play ISOs via Black Fin.
if hosted localally or a private network is created with trusted friends that all own different games your golden as you can host your own server as the files are included to do this.

The reason behind the whole authentication thing is simple: PSVita games are highly encrypted in a security Authentication Chip. When the Black Fin was produced and released and still currently as of writing, there is no other way to load Game Images.

For the Black Fin to work, your PSVita needs to be on Firmware 3.57 or lower currently . I couldn't test its PSTV compability (mine is on 3.60), I currently do not know if it works with it or not, but would assume so (if someone could clarify that would be fantastic).

I tested a couple games. While most of the games seemed to worked fine, one game was not recognized by the card reader at all.

  • Sorcery Saga: The Curse of the Great Curry God (USA)- PASS
  • Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (EUR) - PASS
  • Ys: Memories of Celceta (USA)- PASS
  • LittleBigPlanet (EUR Vita version)- PASS
  • CRIMINAL GIRLS: Invite Only (EUR)- PASS
  • LEGO The Lord of the Rings (USA)- PASS
  • Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (JPN)- PASS
  • DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS (JPN)- PASS
  • Hatsune Miku Project Diva X (JPN)- PASS
  • Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed (KOR)- PASS
  • Dramatical Murder Re:Code (JPN)- FAIL (reader failed to recognize the game to dump but would say it would authorize to no avail)
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Personal impression

Now to my thoughts on the hardware...

The casing of the Black Fin and flashcard feel weak and flimsy. When I first unpacked the items i noticed a Fin inside the Fin was loose inside, opening it to refit the fin broke a small plastic lock (there was 2). The boards however are pretty nice and solid, I'd question getting a 3D printed case to replace it.
it has 4 Light settings that I noticed, Red (bad read), Orange (Flashcard), Blue (game inserted but not authenticated), Green (game inserted & authenticated)
has a Day 1 Firmware Update that takes a few minutes to install.

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The flashcard was a very neat and tidy little board that the MicroSD fitted nicely into and worked a treat, only downside to it was that I couldnt close the flap on the gamecard slot on my Vita Slim Model, though that may hinder the connection to the PC Dongle.

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Well this doesn't look very glamorous but this little USB 2.0 RF Dongle, connecting to the Flashcard to authenticate the games, it does the job though it feels cheap with nasty casing but I couldn't seem to open it without causing damage so i left it. Installing the custom Drivers for it is the fun part though.
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Wrapping up

Overall the device works as it says on the website. Your firmware should be up to 3.57, but according to latest news it might work on 3.60 soon-ish (with some help from Henkaku apparently).

The Guide on the Website States it works on Windows 7 but the software also works on Windows 10 though installing the Drivers was much more of a pain due to the security settings of the OS, but is indeed doable.

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The Cobra BlackFin Team have announced the Lite version, but how it is going to work since it comes without the Cart Emulator, which you normally need to write the ISOs to the MicroSD card in the Flashcard. I guess time will tell.
Verdict
Pros
+ Simple to Use
+ Almost perfect compatibility
+ Super-fast loading
+ No Patching Required
+ Can setup Private Network with Friends
Cons
- Requires P2P network for non owned Games
- 3.60 and above OFW not Supported
- Homebrew not Supported
- Mods not Supported
8
out of 10
Overall
It does what it says, and loads Vita games from the Micro SD card only downside was the Cheapness of the Plastic used, the 1 game it failed to read that I found, hopefully with a firmware Update this can be rectified
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