Acekard 2 Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Urza, Mar 21, 2008.

Mar 21, 2008

Acekard 2 Review by Urza at 5:12 AM (260,283 Views / 0 Likes) 0 replies

  1. Urza
    OP

    Member Urza hi

    Joined:
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    GBAtemp.net review of the...

    acekard 2
    [​IMG]

    Manufactured by: acekard

    By Urza - 19th March 2008

    [​IMG]Purchase your Acekard from our official partner store!
    Thanks for reading our review, if you are interested in purchasing this product and wish to support the GBAtemp community or simply to reward the reviewer for their amazing work, please buy it from ShopTemp.com, GBAtemp's official partner and recommended online store! The benefits will be reversed to GBAtemp, which helps keep the site alive, support the costs for running the website, and allows the community to receive awesome prizes for competitions!

    In addition, ShopTemp offers a Premium Update & Flashing Service which allows you to get rid of all the hassle of setting up your flashcart: flashing the firmware, finding the right system files, and if you order a microSD card they will also fill your card with loads of awesome homebrew applications and games.

    ShopTemp is a reliable web shop selling flashcarts and electronics. They have amazing prices, among the most competitive on the market! They offer 100% free shipping worldwide so you won't have to pay extra. Customer service is top-quality and you get all the answers you need. You even get to use the dedicated ShopTemp Discussions Forum on GBAtemp for any further questions you may have! Wait no more, visit ShopTemp.com and get your flashcart immediately!

    Review Contents & Index:
    • Introduction
      - Official feature list
    • Packaging and Contents
      - Box Contents
    • Cart Design
    • Setting Up & Using
      - GUI (OS)
    • Performance
      - Download Play compatibility
      - Homebrew Support
    • Additional Features
    • Conclusion
    Introduction

    Touted as the budget alternative to their dual-memory NAND/MicroSD acekard R.P.G., the acekard 2 inherits several of its superficial father's strong points - without the premium for built in flash memory.

    Official Feature List:
    • Perfect Compatibility. No need to convert, No need to flash.
    • Write save file directly to TF card. No more save type selection.
    • Auto patching DLDI. Run homebrew programs without convert.
    • Support Soft-Reset. Support Download play. Support Wi-Fi.
    • Support SDHC microSD card. No maximum file limit.
    • Support Action Replay. Built-in editor.
    • Low power consumption. Long playing time.
    • Easy operation. Support pad and touch screen control.
    • Multi-languages. Support Customize Skin.
    • Support launch slot-2. Support expand package.
    • 4 level brightness adjustment.
    • Support reading text files, listening mp3 and watching movie.
    Packaging and Contents

    [​IMG]

    Fairly standard plastic blister packaging. The paper insert has the acekard logo on the front, feature list on the back (in Engrish and Chinese). It folds out to reveal simple instructions, explaining where to download the latest firmware, where to put skins, and how the save system works (also in both Engrish and Chinese). The contents rattle around just a bit in the packaging.

    Box Contents
    • 1x acekard 2 slot-1 cart
    • 1x MicroSDHC card reader
    As you can see through the clear plastic, all thats included here is a microSDHC reader and the cart itself. I do have to say though that I quite like the included reader. It doesn't have the cheap plasticky look of most included readers, and actually has a nice solid feel to it. This in addition to the small form factor make the acekard reader a keeper.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Cart Design

    [​IMG]

    Currently only available in black, the sticker has a rainbow reflective surface to it. Makes it hard to take a picture of the front. At the bottom there is a URL to the acekard website, and above that it has their slogan - "the real ultimate experience in your hand". It is spring-loaded.

    The acekard's shell isn't as sturdy as some, due mainly to the fact that the two halves are "clipped" together, as opposed to fastened with screws. It will bend a bit if you twist it, and you can hear quiet creaking sounds at times. The build is quite similar to the M3 DS Real - which I'd reckon is a tad sturdier than this. Overall it doesn't really feel like it'd break if you accidentally dropped the device; but its a step down from the solid construction I've experienced in carts like the Supercard DS One, DSTT, and EDGE.

    Running your finger over the sticker you can feel a chip sticking out about a millimeter. Doesn't affect insertion into the DS.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The backside of the unit lacks the plastic strips covering the contacts, so be wary of how you hold it to prevent getting finger oils on them. The microSD slot holds the card tight. Removal and insertion are fairly smooth.

    [​IMG]
    In order: Supercard DS One, DSTT, EDGE, 1st gen R4, M3 DS Real, acekard 2, Final Fantasy XII (commercial cart)

    The two halves of the shell can be separated by gently prying open the 5 clips along the sides.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Setting Up & Using

    For this review I will be using the v4.07a2 loader found on the acekard site. I will be using 1GB and 2GB Japanese Kingstons, along with A-Data's Class-6 4GB MicroSDHC card.

    After downloading and extracting the loader to the root of the microSD card, I'm left with a folder called "__ak2", and the loader itself, "akmenu4.nds". The file structure inside the folder is as so:

    Code:
    | + cheats
    ÂÂÂÂ |-cheats.dat
    ÂÂÂÂ |-cheats.xml
    | + language
    ÂÂÂÂ | + lang_en
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-language.txt
    ÂÂÂÂ | + lang_cn
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-language.txt
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-local.fon
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-unicode.ank
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-unicode.l2u
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-unicode.u2l
    ÂÂÂÂ | + lang_etc
    ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ|-language.txt
    | + ui
    ÂÂÂÂ | + theme1
    ÂÂÂÂ | + theme 2
    ÂÂÂÂ | + theme etc 
    |-ak2_sd.dldi
    |-globalsettings.ini
    |-lastsave.ini
    The "cheats" folder is where cheats are located, in both .dat and XML format. If you want to download and use an unofficial third-party cheat pack, you would simply replace one of these files. Each "language" folder contains a "language.txt", which is where all the text strings displayed in the menus is located (these can be altered in a standard text editor). Languages with special characters (such as Chinese) will have additional required files. The "ui" folder contains the skins; each have their own folder and each are comprised of about 25 files. More on skinning later in the review.

    "ak2_sd.dldi" is the DLDI file the acekard requires for auto-patching homebrew. "lastsave.ini" stores the location of the last save thats been loaded. "globalsettings.ini" contains 32 settings, ranging from the width of the font, to scroll delay, to whether or not you want to autorun the last loaded ROM. Below is a copy of the default "globalsettings.ini" so you can have a glance at what can be tweaked:

    globalsettings.ini


    GUI (OS)

    Unlike most slot-1 cards, the acekard 2 does not override your auto-boot/DS menu setting. If you have it set to go to the console's menu, it will go to the menu. Booting takes approximately 2 seconds once you've clicked 'A' on the health screen.

    [​IMG]

    Upon booting the first time you are presented with two icons. The top will take you to the contents of your microSD card, while the bottom will boot the slot-2 in PassMe mode if you have a flashcart inserted.

    Here we come to the shining point of the acekard, the interface. An considerably in-depth level of customization in the skinning allows for some truly gorgeous themes. Scroll to the skinning section below for some examples.

    [​IMG]

    The top screen will display a calendar and clock throughout all of the flashcart's menus. These are read from the DS' BIOS and updated in real-time. Depending on the theme, it can also display your DS' name.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Essentially, the acekard 2's menus are a carbon copy of that of the RPG. By default you have an icon-based menu, pressing the 'Select' button toggles between that and a text-based menu. The left shoulder will take you up a directory in the folder structure (or back to the microSD/slot-2 screen if you're already at the root). The right shoulders cycles through the 4 brightness settings. 'X' will bring up the cheats window, and 'Y' will bring up the properties window. All aspects of the acekard's menus - with the exception of the cheat window - can be navigated quite well with the stylus.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Undoubtedly the most unique feature of the acekard interface is the 'start' menu. Tapping the word, or pressing the physical start button will bring up this 'start' menu, which takes up a third of the screen (can reside on either side depending on them), and allows you to perform several operations.

    "Copy", "Cut", "Delete", and "Paste" do what you would imagine they would, allowing you to manipulate files throughout the folders of your card.
    "Patches" - Displays the "Patch Options" window, which allows you to toggle Download Play, cheats, and soft-reset.
    "System Options" - Displays the "System Options" window, details below
    "Properties" - Displays the "Properties" window displaying detailed information about the highlighted file.
    "Help" - Displays button commands for the loader

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    The "System Options" window allows you to change many system settings from the card itself. "Interface Theme" lets you cycle through the unlimited number of skins you can have on the cart. "Interface Language" lets you change the language (8 are preloaded). "Brightness" lets you change the default brightness setting (toggling via the "R" button only changes the brightness until you turn the DS off). "Show files of type" designates which file types are shown in the main menu (the options for this are ".NDS", ".NDS + .SAV", and "ALL"). The final option is "Trim ROM when copying", which lets you toggle whether or not the ROM should be trimmed when using the acekard's built in copy or cut function.

    Overall, the acekard menus are quite responsive and speedy (more so than even the EDGE I dare say), and can be further tweaked by modifying the "globalsettings.ini" file.


    Video demonstration of the acekard 2



    Performance

    All tests were conducted with both a 2Gb Japanese Kingston and 4GB Class6 A-Data SDHC. Firmware used is v4.07a2

    ROM compatibility seems to be 100%. Even trouble game of the month Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fate doesn't rear its ugly Moogles of Death head. Commercial ROMs take approximately 4 seconds to load the first time (due to creating the save file), and 2 seconds from then on.

    Download Play Compatibility

    From testing, it appears all or most games are working great with download play.
    • 42 All-Time Classics/Club House Games
      - PASS
    • Bleach 2nd
      - PASS
    • Mario Kart DS
      - PASS
    • Metroid Prime Hunters
      - PASS
    • New Super Mario Bros.
      - PASS
    • Tetris DS
      - PASS
    • The Legend of Zelda - Phantom Hourglass
      - PASS
    Homebrew Support

    Auto-DLDI patching works great.
    • CFC2EnglishDS
      - PASS
    • GBA ExpLoader v0.51
      - PASS
    • Lameboy v0.10
      - PASS
    • OpenTTD
      - PASS
    • Pocket Physics v0.5
      - PASS
    • POWDER 102
      - PASS
    • Warcraft: Tower Defense v0.5
      - PASS
    Saving

    The acekard uses a 512kb save format similar to that of the R4, Supercard, EDGE; so they're interchangeable. It saves to "GAMENAME.nds.sav".


    Additional Features

    Auto-DLDI Patching
    Works fine. See "Homebrew Support" under the "Performance" section of this review.

    Boot to slot-2 (PassMe mode)
    Works fine. This will allow you to boot any slot-2 flashcart in DS mode. Not compatible with commercial GBA carts.

    Language Support
    English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, German, and Spanish are all bundled with the acekard 2, and can be cycled through from the "System Options" window. I can only read English, but it appears that all 8 languages are integrated into every menu. Game names and cheats will be displayed in the language they were transferred over.

    Soft Reset
    Works with all games tested. Press A+B+L+R+Down to go back to the game list.

    Skinning
    As mentioned earlier in the review, the acekard has very in depth skinning. ~25 images, many items can be moved around, recolored, text strings can be altered.

    Also, acekard 2 and RPG skins are interchangeable.

    Cheat Support
    Pressing 'X' with a ROM highlighted will open up the cheat window, and load cheats for that game. Before the cheats will appear however, they must be built from one of the cheat databases you have in your "cheats" folder. Here's the process broken down:

    1: Have .XML or .dat file in the "cheats" folder.
    2: Open the cheat window with the game you want to use.
    3: Click "DB Select" and cycle to the database you want to use.
    4. Hit "Rebuild". A "GAMENAME.cc" file will be created.

    From then on whenever you open the cheat menu, the cheats from the "GAMENAME.cc" file will be loaded. Whats a tad annoying though is that you have to do this for each game (steps 2 and 4), and every time you want to update the cheats. Once you have your cheats loaded, check/uncheck the ones you want active with the 'X' button. This is the only menu where the stylus cannot be used.

    [​IMG]


    Conclusion

    To sum up this whole review, the acekard 2 is an acekard RPG - without the built-in memory or open-source firmware. The interface is by far the best of any cart available. Fast, responsive, 25 image skinning, many settings tweak able through "glabalsettings.ini", after using it for a couple minutes you'd think it was the winner of this flashcart race hands down. Thats not necessarily the case. Its still lacking quite a few features touted by its competition, such as real-time save, in-game guide, slow-motion, and integrated expansion cart support. However, if those features aren't a requisite in your purchase, the acekard 2 is definitely a winner.

    Pros
    + Fantastic looking skins
    + Many non-skin aspects of the interface are customizable
    + Allows file operations from within GUI
    + MicroSDHC compatible
    + 100% ROM compatibility
    + 100% Download Play compatibility
    + Soft Reset works 100%
    + Auto-DLDI patching
    + PassMe functionality
    + Cheat system works
    + Very fast and responsive menus
    + 8 languages supported

    Cons
    - Have to compile cheat file for each game
    - Sturdiness is so-so


    [​IMG]
    External Links:
    - acekard Website
    - GBAtemp Download Center

    [​IMG]Purchase your Acekard from our official partner store!
    Thanks for reading our review, if you are interested in purchasing this product and wish to support the GBAtemp community or simply to reward the reviewer for their amazing work, please buy it from ShopTemp.com, GBAtemp's official partner and recommended online store! The benefits will be reversed to GBAtemp, which helps keep the site alive, support the costs for running the website, and allows the community to receive awesome prizes for competitions!

    In addition, ShopTemp offers a Premium Update & Flashing Service which allows you to get rid of all the hassle of setting up your flashcart: flashing the firmware, finding the right system files, and if you order a microSD card they will also fill your card with loads of awesome homebrew applications and games.

    ShopTemp is a reliable web shop selling flashcarts and electronics. They have amazing prices, among the most competitive on the market! They offer 100% free shipping worldwide so you won't have to pay extra. Customer service is top-quality and you get all the answers you need. You even get to use the dedicated ShopTemp Discussions Forum on GBAtemp for any further questions you may have! Wait no more, visit ShopTemp.com and get your flashcart immediately!

    This review was written for GBAtemp.net ONLY. The article and all included photos are property of GBAtemp.net
    If you see this review on any other site please let the admin know via e-mail - shaunj66 [@at@] GBAtemp [.dot.] net
     

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