AceKard Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by shaunj66, Nov 23, 2006.

Nov 23, 2006

AceKard Review by shaunj66 at 2:17 PM (57,177 Views / 0 Likes) 1 replies

  1. shaunj66

    Administrator shaunj66 Administrator

    Oct 24, 2002
    South England
    United Kingdom review of the...

    AceKard [​IMG]

    Manufactured by: AceKard

    (aka. AceKard, Ace kard, Acecard, Ace card)

    By shaunj66 & Costello - 23rd November 2006


    Welcome to the review of the AceKard; a new contender in the ever growing range of slot 1 DS flash kits. Of course a slot 1 device runs entirely from the DS slot in your Nintendo DS and requires no additional hardware, so your GBA slot is left empty.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The AceKard was originally announced on GBAtemp not long ago. A prototype version showed up about 2 months ago, which got many members excited. Unfortunately, the AceKard is currently (as of 24th November 06) only available in China and Chinese import stores. But I've been told by the manufacturer directly that an English version is under way and will be officially announced soon.

    Luckily, we've managed to get hold of the English client software and firmware for the AceKard for this review. So the software and firmware you see in this review should be similar to the final English version.

    So, the AceKard is a slot 1 device; fits flush in the DS slot and supports micro SD (or "transflash") memory cards up to 2GB (that's 2 gigabytes or 16 gigabits) in size!

    Let's review the manufacturers feature list for the AceKard:

    AceKard Official Features List:
    • Ultimatly Perfect FlashCard of slot1 for DS.
    • Same size as genuine DS card.
    • Flashme/Passme is NOT required.Plug-and-Play
    • Low electricity consuming,appoximating genuine DS card’s.
    • Support CleanRom directly.
    • Compatible all DS games.
    • Support link slot2.
    • Support MoonShell.
      Flashcard in slot2 can be started directly by AceKard. Infinity Capacity!
    • Use high speed TF card.Put more games as you will.
    • NO any latency when playing game.
      Perfect Save System.
    • Use original flash chip.Never lose your save.
    • Use other flashcard’s save files directly.
      DIY interface
    • Tiny boot core.
    • The menu program is in TF card.And can be updated anytime easily.
    • You can DIY boot core and GUI in Windows.
    Quite a few promises there. Mainly "Compatible all DS games"! Let's get on with the review to see if these promises are fulfilled!

    Packaging and Contents

    As I mentioned in the Introduction, the English version of the AceKard is not yet available, so we will be reviewing the Chinese version.

    The AceKard comes packaged in a small smooth cardboard box. The art on the box is pretty basic at best. Oddly, the picture of the card on the front of the box looks nothing like the actual card - the real one is white for a start.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The box has a brief description of features on the sides and front. And the cart itself is held in place by another cardboard tray to stop it sliding about in transit.

    Box Contents
    • 1x AceKard
    • Instruction manual (Chinese only)
    • Mini CD-ROM
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    It's nice to see an instruction manual and CD-ROM included with a flash kit. A lot of other manufacturers don't bother with it these days, but does it make you wonder whether this product is so difficult to use that it warrants that manual?

    The mini CD-ROM contains the AceKard client software. But you're best of heading over to the official AceKard website and downloading the latest version of the software which will no doubt be newer than what will be on the CD-ROM.

    Unpacking the AceKard

    The AceKard Itself

    The AceKard is original DS cart sized, that means that it's going to fit into your DS like a regular game with no stick-out. Unfortunately, the AceKard is currently only available in white casing.

    I don't think the company behind this cart put too much time and effort into the art, especially after seeing the bland packaging, the label on the cart itself is rather uninspiring which you can see for yourself.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    They've managed to fit a spring loaded micro SD (TF) slot on board the AceKard. The micro SD card clicks into place and is held in securely. To remove it, just push down until you hear a click, and it will eject.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The AceKard team must have had some troubles making everything on the PCB fit inside the plastic casing, because there is no casing covering the micro SD slot on the back of the cart, so the slot is actually exposed. Strangely though, there is a small indent in the upper plastic on the rear of the card, which leads me to believe that they actually intended to cover the slot and plastic with a thin label to make it look a bit more aesthetically pleasing. Whether or not this was left off intentionally for some reason or just forgotten; I do not know.

    Unfortunately there's another problem with the AceKards build quality. Underneath the label on the front of the card is a large chip that sticks out, that you can feel if you run your thumb over the cart. Because of this, the AceKard is thicker than a regular DS game cart, which you can immediately tell when inserting it into your DS slot. The card rubs against the DS slot as you insert and eject it, and you need to use a bit more force when pulling it out. It doesn't feel "loose" like a regular DS game cart, and does rub against the slot.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This shouldn't really alarm you as I highly doubt this could break the DS slot, but it is noticeable. It could perhaps damage the label on the front of the AceKard over time, if your DS slot gets grubby, then the dirt could rub off very easily onto the cart/label, or the label could even start peeling off the AceKard if a corner gets rolled up.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The actual build quality and strength of the AceKard is good, the plastic is strong and clean. There is no excess plastic anywhere, and the plastic running across the contacts are clean and strong. Generally the cart looks good, and the spring loaded micro SD slot is a nice addition.

    In keeping up the tradition, here's some photos of the AceKard ripped open for all to see!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    A closer look at the AceKard

    The AceKard File System (AKFS)

    The AceKard uses its own file system, the "AceKard File System" (AKFS), while the ordinary slot-1 solutions use FAT or FAT32.
    The use of a proprietary file system has its pro and its cons. Let's examine the pros and cons of the AKFS.

    • Faster read speeds
    • Operating systems do not natively support AKFS, external software is required
    • The AKFS manager software is only supported by Windows
    • File fragmentation is not possible (see the article after the review to understand the problems that it generates)
    • Files can not be moved
    • The AKFS does not support folders, all files are placed at the root
    • The AKFS does not include information on files (date of creation/modification, attributes, ...)
    As you can see, there's only one real advantage brought by the AKFS: the read speeds.
    Why are these read speeds so important? For DS game compatibility?
    This doesn't seem like a pertinent explanation seeing as there are already several slot-1 solutions using removable media (DSLink, NinjaDS, X9...).
    This question remains, as of today, unanswered.

    Using the AceKard

    Because the AceKard uses its own proprietary file system as mentioned above, this means that getting files onto the micro SD is not as easy as dragging and dropping. You're going to need to format your micro SD card to use the AKFS, and once that is done, Windows won't be able to read the cards contents. So you have to use the AceKard client software, which is the only software that can read the file system at present.

    AceKard Software:

    So first, get the latest copy of the client software, which at this time is only available for Windows based PCs. No the software does NOT run successfully in Linux under 'Wine'. You need a PC with Windows installed to use the AceKard software.

    Open up the software and you'll be greeted with the following interface:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The left pane is your local files and folders on your PC, and on the right is the memory card that is inserted into your PC (the software will autodetect removable media - if you have more than one you can select the correct one in the drop down menu).

    You'll be told that the memory card is not an AKFS device and that you need to format it before using. In the Tools menu select 'Format SD Card'.

    You need to select your micro SD card brand and model. Here are the available options as of software version 1.01:
    • Kingmax Micro SD 256MB
    • Kingmax Micro SD 512MB
    • AData Micro SD 512MB
    • PNY Micro SD 256MB
    • PNY Micro SD 512MB
    • PNY Micro SD 1GB
    • Kingston Micro SD 256MB
    • Kingston Micro SD 1GB
    • Sandisk Micro SD 512MB
    • Sandisk Micro SD 1GB
    • Sandisk Micro SD 2GB
    • Sandisk Ultra II Micro SD 1GB
    • Apacer Micro SD 256MB
    • Apacer Micro SD 512MB
    • Other micro SD Card
    Each card has a different speed rating, with 3 being the fastest and 30 being the slowest. We are using a Sandisk Ultra II Micro SD 1GB in our review which is rated at speed 7.

    Apparently you can select "Other micro SD card" and choose different speed settings within the software, but whether this works flawlessly or not is unknown.

    Once your micro SD card is formatted correctly, you will see "Free Space = *" in the right hand pane. Then you can begin copying ROMs over.

    The AceKard software comes with a savelist.bin file. This file contains save type information for all known Nintendo DS games to the date the software was released. Example: Whether or not the game uses a 64Kbit EEPROM save type, or 2Mbit save type etc... What does this mean to you?

    The AceKard software and GUI is unable to auto-detect the save type of a ROM. This means that if the save list doesn't contain save type information about your game, or the game has been released after the version of your AceKard software has been, then the software/GUI won't be able to determine the save type. The list is not manually updatable, and you'll have to rely on software updates from the AceKard team for information on the newest ROMs to be added to the database.

    Does this mean there's no way of playing newly released games? No. You can manually set the save type for each ROM within the AceKard GUI/OS, but we'll cover that in more detail when we get to the GUI/OS part of this review. For now let's just concentrate on the AceKard client software.

    When you format your micro SD card to the AKFS, the savelist.bin file will be copied across to the hidden portion of the partition so the GUI is able to detect the save types of games. When you download a newer version of the software and/or savelist.bin, you needn't format your micro SD card again, there is an option to update the savelist to SD card within the 'Tools' Menu of the software. (note: the savelist.bin file must be in the same directory as the AceKard software).

    So let's copy some ROMs over to the micro SD card...

    Simply select a ROM or a selection of ROMs in the left hand pane (it has to be uncompressed .nds - the client doesn't support .zip files), and then click the transfer ">>" button or drag them across to the right pane. The software will immediately begin copying the ROMs to the micro SD card.

    On my computer using a USB 2.0 card reader the transfer speed is approximately 4.5MB/s, which is very fast. Here are some ROM transfer times:
    • 256Mb/32MB = 7 seconds
    • 512Mb/64MB = 14 seconds
    • 1024Mb/128MB = 26 seconds
    Using these window panes, you can copy files back and forth to your micro SD card. Any file type can be copied across, (eg. MP3's for Moonshell/homebrew etc...) but only .NDS files will be detected within the GUI.

    Unfortunately, the client does NOT trim ROMs (removing dummy data to make the resulting file size smaller), when copying ROMs. So you'll have to trim them manually or use an external tool before copying them in the client.


    If you want to backup save games once they are created on the micro SD card, you can copy them across to your PC by dragging them from the right to the left pane, or just click the download " Install Moonshell"

    This will copy all necessary Moonshell files to your micro SD card. These files are included with AceKard software updates, and the Moonshell is a special version designed for use with the AKFS. More info in the 'Additional Features' section of this review.

    Unfortunately, the AceKard software, while it is simplistic enough in its looks, it does present a lot of problems and bugs. We've encountered quite a few errors when using the software. The first, and the most annoying problem is that when deleting a ROM from the card, the client will create a new file at exactly the same size listed as Free Space, if you try to delete this file, the AceKard client will randomly (it doesn't happen every time) format the entire card and everything will be lost.
    Also, the use of the AKFS means you can't create directories/folders on the SD card to organise your files. All your ROMs will be displayed on the main screen and will be displayed in the order you copied them to the card, not alphabetically. This means the AceKard menu can get messy.

    The client is also quite unstable, sometimes it will hang when you insert or remove the micro SD card, and we've received quite a few random error messages when using features in the software that come and go as they please. There seems to be nothing that specifically causes these errors.

    Hopefully we'll see enough software update from the AceKard team to smooth out the problems in their client.


    Using the AceKard software

    AceKard GUI (OS)

    The AceKard GUI will only boot on your DS when you have the micro SD card inserted. This is because the actual GUI menu system part of the firmware is stored on the micro SD card as explained above. If you boot the AceKard without a SD card inserted, you'll be prompted to turn off the DS and re-insert the SD card.

    When you do have the micro SD inserted, and boot the AceKard, a small loading screen will appear (the same one that checks for the card) and then you'll be taken to the main GUI within seconds.

    The GUI is nice, yet basic. But unfortunately it's NOT touch sensitive. You have to use the buttons to use it. And as far as we can tell, it can't be customised (eg. custom wallpapers).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On the touch screen, you have a list of ROMs on the cart, that are shown by their actual filename and extension, and are numbered numerically (for some reason) on the left. In the top left corner is the current speed your micro SD card is set to (see the AceKard software section for more on that); in the top right corner, as you highlight different ROMs it will show you the save type that is used for that game (more on that in a minute); and at the bottom of the screen is a message that tells you to press start for help.

    On the top screen, as you highlight each ROM, the games embedded icon will be displayed (extracted automatically from each ROM on the fly), along with the internal name of the ROM (all 3 lines). Both English and Japanese character sets are supported here, though sometimes some Japanese characters are substituted with a large white square, why I'm not sure? And also special accented characters such as "á, é, í, ó, ú" etc.. aren't displayed so you're left with a name that says "Pokmon" instead of "Pokémon".
    The ROM icon that is displayed can also have transparency issues, they some colours in the icon will appear transparent and will show the colour of the AceKard wallpaper behind it.

    You can change the micro SD read speed on the fly within the AceKard OS by holding select and pressing left or right to choose a number, this is a temporary setting and isn't saved. So next time you restart, the speed you chose/kept in the client software will be applied.

    This speed setting could be useful, but can cause glitches in game if your card doesn't support the speed. I tried upping the speed when the Castlevania intro lagged on my default speed (7), but it caused graphic glitching side effects.

    The save type per game is displayed in the top right and be manually set on any game by highlighting and pressing 'Y'. This is completely necessary when you're trying to play a game that has been released after your client software or updated savelist has been, because the software is unable to automatically detect save types and pulls the save type data from a database (covered in the software portion of the review).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    So you're going to need to know the EXACT save type of a game that isn't in the database or it will NOT save correctly. And no, you can't just choose the largest save type and it will work, because most (if not all games) will try to format save data before running, and if they encounter a save file that is larger than it expected it will produce an error such as "unable to format save data" or "save data corrupt, please restart".

    This is really quite an annoying thing to have to do. Save types of newer games cannot be found out easily, so you'll either be left to guess and perform trial and error, or wait until someone on the net finds out the save type and updates ROM Wiki's or release lists, or wait until the AceKard team release a software update with an updated savelist.

    If you choose to boot a ROM without setting the save type, you won't be allowed, and will be prompted to set it. You can choose to boot a ROM without saving by pressing 'B', but of course, save data will not be kept.

    Apart from that, there's not much left to the GUI. You can boot a slot 2 device by pressing 'X' and open up a help screen by pressing 'Start'.

    Using the AceKard

    AceKard Performance

    Now it's time to really test this card. Let's see how the performance and compatibility compares to the other kits on the market.

    We'll start off with ROM compatibility. We're going to try a large amount of ROM backups to see how each one performs individually.

    We are using firmware version 1.04 on the AceKard, and ROMs have been copied across using client 1.01. The micro SD is a "Sandisk Ultra II micro SD 1GB" formatted via the client software to the AKFS.
    • 42 All Time Classics / Club House Games
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Advance Wars DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works. Save type needs to be entered manually (2 mbits).
    • Akumajou Dracula: Gallery of Labyrinth
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Animal Crossing
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Asphalt Urban GT
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Asphalt Urban GT 2
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Unknown save type (2 mbits).
    • Big Brain Academy
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Bomberman
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Bomberman Land Touch
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Brain Age
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Brain Boost Beta Wave
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Castlevania
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Slowdown in intro (due to slow microSD card? tbc)
    • Chicken Little 2 Ace In Action
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Cooking Mama
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Eigo ga Nigate na Otona no DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Eragon
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Unknown save type (4k).
    • Final Fantasy 3
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Unknown save type (64k)
    • Happy Feet
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Jump Ultimate Stars
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work. Unknown save type (512k?).
    • Kirby Power Paintbrush
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Kirby Squeak Squad
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Konductra
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Unknown save type.
    • Mario and Luigi Partners in Time
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Mario Hoops 3-on-3
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Mario Kart DS
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Mario vs Donkey Kong
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Mech Assault
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Megaman ZX
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Meteos
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Metroid Prime Hunters
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Metroid Pinball
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Music stutters a bit (due to slow microSD?). Download play works.
    • Monster Bomber
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • New Super Mario Bros
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Nintendogs
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Phoenix Wright - Justice for All
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Ping Pals
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Pokémon Dash
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Pokémon Diamond
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Blue
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Puyo Pop Forever
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Rayman DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Resident Evil DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Rockman Exe 5
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Slowdown during into (due to slow microSD?)
    • Rub Rabbits
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Sonic Rush
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works. OS uses wrong save type (2mb instead of 64k).
    • Snowboard Kids SBK
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Super Mario 64x4
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Tetris DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    • Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Ultimate Spiderman
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Viewtiful Joe
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine.
    • Yoshi Touch'n'Go
      - PROBLEMS: Plays and saves fine. Download play doesn't work.
    • Yoshi Island DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Unknown save type.
    • Zoo Keeper
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Download play works.
    As you can see, all games we tested did actually run on the AceKard. We haven't encountered a game that doesn't boot yet. That's a very impressive result.

    But unfortunately, there are slowdowns in game such as the intro to the first Castlevania, the music in Metroid Prime Pinball and the intro to Rockman Exe 5 are some of the slowdowns we encountered. And this is using an "ultra II" Sandisk card.
    We tried changing the read speed of the micro SD card from the preset value of 7 to the fastest being 3, but some files failed to even load on the AceKard at this setting so we lowered it to 4 and 5 but encountered graphical glitches in games, which seemed like the card was running at an unstable speed. Speed 6 still had the lag, so we reverted back to speed 7.

    As you can see some games we tested (mostly newer games) needed their save types manually set. This required us to look on the release list to see the save type. Some games also defaulted to the incorrect save type, most likely due to an error in the AceKard clients save list.

    As you can see in the above list, we've also tested download play (single player between 2 DS units using only one game pak/flash cart). We all know that an unflashed DS console can successfully send download play games to flashed DS's because of the removal of encryption checks.

    Some games DO work with DS download play when sending to an unflashed DS, but the majority of games don't work. So the chance of future download play working I'd say would be 50/50. Some games perhaps don't use encryption in the download play...

    Save games are handled in the same way as other flash kits. During game play, save games are held in temporary flash memory onboard the AceKard. Once the DS is shut off, the next time it is turned back on and the AceKard OS is booted, the save game in the flash will be backed up to a real file on the micro SD card.
    Saves are written in RAW format, so this means you can use your own save games from other cards/devices that use raw save format such as the Supercard.
    The onboard flash can support game save types of up to 4 megabits (512KB).

    And sleep mode, when closing the screens together on the DS during gameplay works and it resumes just fine when tested on the AceKard.

    Battery Life:

    For battery tests, we used a fully charged Nintendo DS Lite. Here are the results:

    - Screens at 4th (maximum) brightness setting
    - 100% sound volume
    - Metroid Prime Hunters looping the intro movie continuously
    - Sandisk Ultra II 1GB micro SD (formatted with AKFS)

    Play time until the unit shut off due to dead battery: 4 hours and 15 minutes

    Additional Features of the AceKard

    The AceKard doesn't really boast any other additional features, all multimedia playback is handled by the renowned Moonshell homebrew. Unfortunately this is a modified version made to run on the AceKard because of the AceKard's proprietary file system (AKFS), so whether this support will be included into regular Moonshell updates or not is yet to be known.

    That being said, the AceKard client software at least makes life a bit easier for you. There's an option in the tools menu to install Moonshell onto your micro SD automatically. And Moonshell files are included in the AceKard software packages.

    If you want to know how to use Moonshell then just do a Google search, there's plenty of guides out there that should cover all aspects of the software.

    One feature the AceKard does have is a PassMe mode. This allows you to boot a slot 2 flash kit that's inserted into your GBA slot straight from the AceKard menu. Just hit 'X' on your DS, and a screen will popup asking for confirmation to boot the slot 2 device.
    I have tested this feature on the following flash kits, so here are the results:
    • M3 Standard SD - Pass
    • M3 Micro (Lite) - Pass
    • Supercard Standard SD - Pass
    • Supercard Lite - Pass
    • Supercard Rumble - Pass
    • eWin 2 Series - Pass
    • EZ Flash IV Lite series - Pass
    There is a weird bug, if you're using a DS system that has FlashMe installed and you have both the AceKard and a slot 2 flash kit inserted, when holding down 'select' on your DS to boot to DS slot via FlashMe, once the AceKard GUI is loaded, the slot 2 device automatically boots. This looks to be a bug in the AceKards OS.

    That being said, if you do have FlashMe installed and still want to use the PassMe feature, just simply wait until the AceKard GUI is booted properly before inserting the slot 2 device then it works fine.

    Homebrew on the AceKard

    Due to the fact that the AceKard uses its own file system (AKFS), we didn't have high hopes for homebrew on the AceKard. Nevertheless, we've tested the following popular homebrew apps and have compiled our results.

    All homebrew is the latest stable version and has been downloaded straight off the official websites, and copied straight to the AceKard using the client software (only possible way) and installed using the recommended methods.
    • BeUp 0.3 - PROBLEMS - Freezes after sending a message.
    • DSorganize - FAIL - Freezes while "initializing FAT".
    • Moonshell - FAIL - Only the custom AceKard version included with the AceKard client software will function due to the AKFS.
    • NDS Mail 0.47 - FAIL - Freezes randomly.
    • NESDS - FAIL - AceKard OS freezes during loading at 80%.
    • Picodrive DS - FAIL - Doesn't support the file system - no files detected.
    • SnemulDS - FAIL - Doesn't support the file system - no files detected, can't initialise FAT.
    • SnezziDS- FAIL - AceKard OS freezes during loading at 0%.
    • Doom DS - FAIL - Doesn't support AKFS.
    • Scummm VM DS - FAIL - Doesn't support AKFS.
    • OMalone DS - PASS - Doesn't require file system access.
    As you can see, homebrew on the AceKard that requires file system access, due to the AKFS is a resounding failure.

    Homebrew that doesn't require file system access, such as simple games like OMalone DS should work fine as they will function like a normal commercial ROM backup.

    I think the only way we're going to see more homebrew supported on the AceKard is if the AceKard team release enough information on the AKFS for homebrew developers to write in support to their apps.


    The AceKard had a big promise to live up to - the claim by the developers that it will run any game so far released, and any future games. That's a very bold statement to make. Fortunately for them, from what we've tested so far; they're actually right. All games we've tested so far do boot and are playable.

    Now with a result like that, you would think that this is all that matters and that the AceKard is then the ultimate flash cart. Sadly it's not. Even with an ultra II Sandisk micro SD card, there is slowdown in some games, for example the Castlevania intro video. That's not the only quibble we have...

    The biggest problem with the AceKard is its proprietary file system, the AKFS. Because of this, you have to use a PC running Windows to use their client software that is currently very buggy and lacking in functionality. You can't create folders, or organise games. And there are limitations when deleting games, in that you can only write a game of equal size to that which you deleted back into that space.
    The AKFS is also a problem for homebrew, (except the included modified Moonshell in the client software), because the homebrew simply can't access the file system and therefore won't work.

    The fact that the AceKard does not automatically detect save types is an annoying problem. The team does provide a save list file with the client software that will autoset the save type of any game that has been released prior to the date which the client software was released. But any future games you want to play, you'll have to find out and set the save type manually within the AceKard OS until the AceKard team release an update.

    The AceKard also lacks any kind of customisation, you can't even change the wallpaper in the GUI - a feature that's been in flash kits for years now.

    That being said, if you can overlook these problems and don't mind having to set or check the save type on each ROM you play, or don't mind waiting for software updates; then the AceKard could be a good choice for you if you have one of the recommended micro SD cards.
    The AceKard's ROM compatibility is great from what we've tested personally and does play every game we've thrown at it. Just don't expect the AceKard to do much more than that.

    + Perfect ROM compatibility (100% so far from what we've personally tested)
    + Supports clean ROMs
    + Uses micro SD memory (currently up to 2GB)
    + Fits flush in your Nintendo DS
    + Ultra fast ~4MB/s write speeds
    + Supports DS sleep mode
    + Can be bought fairly cheap

    - Proprietary AceKard file system causes more problems than it solves
    - Need to use buggy client software (Windows only) to transfer ROMs
    - Doesn't auto detect game save types - need to wait for software updates to play the latest games or set the size manually (requires research)
    - Some slowdowns occur in games even using an Ultra II Sandisk - the AceKard requires specific micro SD cards for best compatibility results
    - Low download play (single cart multiplayer) support
    - Poor build design means it's a tight fit in your DS slot
    - GUI is not customisable
    - Lack of extra features
    - Very low homebrew compatibility


    Affiliated sites
    Purchase this cart from our affiliated shops:


    External Links:
    - Official AceKard Website

    This review was made for ONLY. If you see it on any other site please
    let me know via e-mail - shaunj66 [@at@] GBAtemp [.dot.] net
  2. Costello

    Administrator Costello Headmaster

    Oct 24, 2002
    The AceKard File System (AKFS)

    The Acekard uses its own file system, the "AceKard File System" (AKFS), while the ordinary slot-1 solutions use FAT or FAT32.
    I will try to explain the purpose of this file system, why it was implemented, and the consequences it implies.

    The following article is not perfectly accurate and tries to explain the basics of file systems and fragmentation.
    I suggest you also read the Wikipedia articles about fragmentation, file systems, FAT, and so forth.

    The characteristics of the AceKard File System
    To understand this part you will need to understand the meaning of sequential access and random access.
    Let's say we have a file, and the content of this file is the following:
    gbatemp reviews are informative, aren't they?
    - Reading the file sequentially means reading the file from the beginning to the end.
    With this type of access, you can not read the end before the beginning. If you want to read the end, you have to read all the file first.

    - Reading the file with a random access means you can "jump" directly to wherever you want in the file, and read it, then come back, etc.
    So you could read the end before the beginning, and so forth. But these "jumps" unfortunately take a little time. Actually, the further you "jump", the longer it takes. If you jump from the beginning to the end (in this example, jumping from "gbatemp" to " they"), it is longer than if you just skip one word (jumping from "gbatemp" to "are").

    So, if you understand what I have just explained, you should realize that sequential access is faster because there is no "jump".
    But a real sequential access is not conceivable on a media card!
    If the game you want to play is stored at the end of the card, you don't want the DS to go through all the data stored before this game!
    The "Jumps" are then necessary, so we can not use sequential access.

    The good thing is, there is another way to improve read speeds: by getting as close as possible to a sequential read.
    The way I'm talking about is to disallow file fragmenting on the card.

    What is file fragmenting, and what is the point?
    When a file is fragmented, it means there are several fragments of data on different locations in the card.

    An example would be to consider that we have a card that supports 8 blocks. My game is 3 blocks big.
    - Situation 1: before I write the game to the card, the card has 100% free space as I just formated it:

    - After writing the game to the card, the layout will be:

    However, if my card already has data on it, let's say, with this layout:

    There are 3 free blocks, but they are not consecutive. This is why we have to separate the data in fragments:
    The Mario game is splitted into two fragments, one made of 1 block which goes in the first free block, and the other fragment made of 2 consecutive blocks, which are written in the 2 consecutive free blocks.

    With the data being fragmented, there will be many long "jumps" to access the data in the different fragments (jumping from one block at the beginning of the cart, to another block at the end of the cart, for example).
    Hence why when the files are stored in consecutive blocks, the speed is faster.

    What's the point?

    The AKFS does not let you fragment the files, so as to maintain maximum read speed.
    However, not allowing file fragmenting generates different sorts of problems such as this one:

    Unfortunately, the AKFS doesn't (yet?) allow you to move files, meaning that you can't group the free space to make one only consecutive free space.
    So, you will have to manage the card space yourself when you first write games.
    My advice is to put big files at the beginning. The smaller files should go at the end of the card.
    Also, try to group the games that you know you're going to delete.

    There is one question that I would like to ask the Acekard team:
    Why is such a speed necessary?
    There are other existing solutions that use FAT16/FAT32 file systems, and they do not have speed issues (DSLink, NinjaDS, X9...).
    This fact makes the whole AKFS look obsolete and unnecessary...

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