Elink Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Opium, Dec 8, 2007.

Dec 8, 2007

Elink Review by Opium at 3:12 AM (24,158 Views / 0 Likes) 1 replies

  1. Opium
    OP

    Former Staff Opium PogoShell it to me ™

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    GBAtemp.net review of the...

    Elink [​IMG]

    aka: Elink, Elink 512Mbit
    Manufactured by: GBAElink

    Review written by Opium - 9th December 2007

    Review Contents & Index:
    • Introduction
      - Official feature list
    • Packaging and Contents
      - Box Contents
    • Cart & Linker Design
    • Setting Up & Using
      - Installation & Connection
      - Elink Software
      - GUI (OS)
    • Additional Features
      - Soft Reset
      - Cheat Support
      - Music & MP3 Support
      - Movie Support
      - L+R+SELECT
    • Performance
    • Conclusion
    Introduction
    The Elink is one of the most recent forays back into the golden years of the Game Boy Advance. While most developers are working on their DS offerings the Elink is a standalone cart that tries to provide gamers, who may have missed out on the GBA years, a chance to catch up. This relatively new cart has the advantage of time and knowledge of the GBA scene up its sleeve. So does it take advantage of that or does it degenerate into a cart no better than something made four years ago? Read on to find out.

    Many thanks to the Elink Team for providing this review sample. Now let’s check out the official feature list.

    Official Feature List:
    • Works with the GBA/GBASP/GBM/NDS/NDSL/iDS/iDSL
    • Built-in USB writer with a transfer speed from 140KB/s-200K/s
    • Supports GBA linkage games for NDS
    • Cheat function
    • SMS function which allows you to store 32+ save games
    • Add or replace games
    • High Quality FLASH chip ensures that games run at high speed
    • Power saving / Translucent game menu / Multi-language interface / etc...

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    Packaging and Contents
    First impressions are always very important and the Elink doesn’t disappoint. It arrived in a matte black box with silver lettering which looked very professional and even business-like. Upon opening the box you will find an installation CD with the software and drivers which is always very nice to see. Further inside the box you’ll find the cart and linker itself along with a very handy set of instructions to use your new flash card.

    The box also has a picture to remind you that the cart will work on all current Nintendo handhelds and also a handy picture of six features the cart claims to have; Music & MP3, Movie, Game, Book, SMS and USB (more on that later).

    Box Contents
    • Elink
    • USB cable
    • Installation CD
    • Instructions
    Overall the packaging is very nice and will certainly keep the cart safe during shipping. It’s great to see an installation CD and instructions included as all too often they are left out, which is a hindrance to first time flash card buyers.

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    Cart & Linker Design
    I’m happy to say the card has a very solid build quality and it fits snugly into both the DS and GBA. It doesn’t scrape or stick in the slot. They’ve had years to perfect the GBA flash card mould and it’s shown in this card. The plastic is strong, durable and the PCB doesn’t rattle.

    There is a mini USB connection in the very top of the cart which is used to write to it. The Elink needs to be inserted into a DS or GBA and be powered on before you write to it, akin to the old EZFA. This is a little annoying as even the EFA-Linker from back in 2004, which also featured a mini USB port, could be written to without the need to be inserted and set up inside a DS or GBA; Just plug the cable in and connect to the PC.

    The linker design is certainly archaic. One of the great features about GBA flash carts was that you could dump your own games with the included writer ala EZ-flash and Ewin. You won’t be able to do that with the Elink, which is a shame.

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    Setting Up & Using
    Installation & Connection

    Sorry Mac and Linux users, this cart is Windows only. The included installation CD includes the writing software and USB drivers. The software will install just fine but the drivers require you to manually install them through your device manager or the auto detect when connecting the USB cable. For those that aren’t too computer literate this may be a little confusing at first, here’s how to go about it:

    1. After installing the software, connect the USB cable to both your PC and the flash cart. A ‘new device found’ box should appear after a short wait.

    2. It will ask you to either search the internet to find the drivers or allow you to search for them yourself. Select that you will search for them yourself.

    3. In search choose to select the directory and point it to the ‘ELINKDRV’ folder inside of the software folder you installed earlier.

    4. With any luck the drivers should install without a hitch. Select yes to any certificates.

    You’ll now be almost ready to start writing files to the Elink.

    Elink Software

    Do you see piece of paper included in the box with instructions on how to write files to the cart? Good, throw it into the nearest bin.

    The instructions will tell you to insert the cart into your DS/GBA and turn it on before starting up the software. That doesn’t work. In order to get the Elink to enter USB mode you need to start up the PC side software first then turn on your DS/GBA (on a DS you should start GBA mode). After a second or two the GUI screen will change to a ‘USB online’ screen. If you don’t have that screen you can’t write files to the cart.

    I originally thought my Elink was broken until I fiddled around with it and discovered that the instructions were a shambles and I tried things out of order instead.

    The software has a lot of peculiarities and none of them good. The instructions explicitly state that the Elink should be connected a USB port attached to your PC motherboard rather than a front port or USB hub to ‘ensure the steady and rapid burning’. So I tested this out. I connected the Elink to my front USB port only to find I could not write more than one GBA file to the cart without the software suffering a failure and terminating. Most strange, especially when all my previous GBA linkers have worked fine from front mounted USB ports. After moving to a rear USB port and being asked to go through the driver install process again I started up the software again and magically it allowed me to burn more than one GBA file at a time.

    I was also originally annoyed that my files didn’t keep their original file names on the Elink and instead took on a jumble of pre determined ROM release names, none of them the correct name. My backed up copy of Mario Kart Super Circuit (English) was renamed ‘0071 – Mario Kart Advance’, ‘Pokemon Emerald’ became ‘1986 – Pocket Monsters Emerald’ and ‘Super Mario Advance 2’ strangely became ‘SUPER MARIOBAA2E’. This was both frustrating and annoying; however I luckily found the option to rename files before they were written to the cart which was tucked away under ‘cheats’. Why it was hiding under ‘cheats’ I don’t think I’ll ever understand.

    It’s important to note that while the Elink is written to via USB, do not mistake it for a USB storage device. That is, you cannot simply view it in explorer and drag & drop files onto it. Annoyingly you must write and delete files in order. So for example, if you had seven games on your cart you would have to delete all seven games just to go back and delete the first one. You do have the feature to ‘replace’ games at the beginning. But if your game is bigger than the one currently written it won’t work. This is something I haven’t seen in years. This is made more frustrating because the cart software is rather unwieldy and takes a while to copy files across, unlike the G6 Flash which worked as a USB storage device with fast copy times.

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    GUI (OS)

    There really isn’t much to say about the GUI because there really isn’t much of a GUI. A simple but nicely presented list of the GBA files on the cart is all you’ll get.

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    Additional Features
    Soft Reset

    I’m pleased to say soft reset works great. Every game I’ve tried to run reset back to the Elink menu without a hitch. Simply hit L+R+A+B. This gets a definite thumbs up from me as the ability to quickly jump between games and other features is something no cart should be without.

    Cheat Support

    The Elink software comes pre-packed with a bunch of CHT cheat files for quite a substantial amount of games. Unfortunately these files aren’t written to the cart to be enabled and disabled whenever you wish. They are instead patched into the GBA ROM itself when written to the cart.

    Music & MP3 Support (as advertised on the side of the box)

    There is none

    Movie Support

    The cake is a lie!

    L+R+SELECT

    ‘Game by Press Key L + R + SELECT, is opened or closed the ordinary’ is written on the instructions. I still haven’t figured out what this could mean. Instead I’m left to guess. I had thought it was the ability to enable or disable cheats while in game but that proved false as my cheats remained on regardless of what I pressed.

    This cart unfortunately does not feature a real-time clock, which is disappointing to see.

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    Performance

    All tests were conducted with software v3.73c.

    So how does the Elink stack-up when it comes down to the actual performance of the cart?
    Well as far as write times go they are very slow when you think about how we’ve been spoilt with fast write times on the G6 Flash and EZ-Flash III. Here’s the time it takes to write from the PC to the cart:

    32Mbit – 31 seconds
    128mbit – 1 minute 51 seconds

    Thankfully every game I’ve tried loaded and ran just fine. There were no slowdowns or hitches in actually running games. The only time there were any graphical hiccups was sometimes when cheats were applied to a game. Using invincibility in Super Mario Advance 4 for example made Mario move with only one frame of animation.

    Soft reset worked perfectly for every game tested, I found no games that were incompatible in my testing period. Simply hit L+R+A+B and you’ll be booted back to the Elink menu. One of the nice features is that when soft resetting the save file kept in the battery is written to the cart. This means that if the cart’s battery were ever to run dry you would still be able to keep your save by simply soft resetting once you are done playing.

    However, not all is good. The quirky software I talked about earlier and frustrating linker design really hamper the experience. The Elink is really lacking in any notable features that put it higher than any GBA cart made in the last three years. The cheats are pre-patched to the ROM and are unable to be enabled or disabled, and often times the cheat list would be written in strange computer scrawl and be completely unreadable, which I’m assuming is a leftover of this cart’s very obvious Chinese origins.

    The Elink also does not feature any real-time clock what-so-ever, which is a real shame as far as ease of use and compatibility goes. You’d think that a cart that is completely GBA focused would include a real-time clock, but obviously not.

    The save management system is also annoying as you cannot view any of the saves on the cart. You can backup all the saves with an easy one button press via the Elink software which is really appreciate however, but as far as managing and viewing what’s on the cart goes it falls far short. The Elink boasts it can store 32+ save games on the cart at any one time yet it would work so much better if it adopted a save system like the EZ-Flash III which placed and kept every save game inside a separate ‘save’ folder. This folder could be viewed, backed up and written to with ease. With the Elink the saves are invisible and therefore difficult to manage.

    The software has a very easy built-in Ebook and GB/C (via Goomba) support, which is simple to manage and definitely appreciated. But these are features every GBA cart can use.

    The music, mp3 and video support shown on the side of the box are completely non-existent. The software will only let you write .GBA files to the cart and the software package comes with no conversion software.

    The fact that you cannot delete files out of order on the cart is downright annoying and is not something you had to put up with later on in the GBA flash cart scene. Quite simply put, when I was using the Elink I felt like I was transported back three or four years to when GBA carts were cumbersome and feature lacking.

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    Conclusion

    The Elink hasn’t brought us back to the glory days of the GBA scene, it has instead backpedalled us to the early days of GBA flash carts. Remember those days in 2003 and earlier when flash carts were unwieldy, feature lacking, slow and everything was a hassle to get working? The Elink is of a modern build but not a modern design. The software and linker design are quirky in that old-timey way and definitely do not stand up to today’s standards or even the standards set years ago. The cart doesn’t even feature a real-time clock. One of the main points the Elink team try to drive home about this cart is that it is cheap and affordable. Yet for only a slightly higher price you could buy an EZ-Flash III. Originally released three years ago it has double the storage space, can backup your original games, has a real-time clock and with a true U-Disk design it is feature packed with things like ROM compression, a brilliant save system and fast write times. Some aspects of the Elink may be simple to use and the price of the cart low enough that it might be attractive to a more casual audience, but from knowing how far GBA flash carts have come I simply cannot recommend the Elink. In my eyes the Elink is an unneeded cart on the market. But if anyone did want to bring people back to the GBA glory days I’d at least hope they’d bring with them the lessons and features of all the carts that lay before it.

    Pros:
    + Good build quality
    + Soft reset
    + Installation CD included

    Cons:
    - Archaic linker design
    - Linker doesn't like front mounted USB ports
    - Quirky and buggy software
    - Very dated save management system
    - No real-time clock
    - Can't delete games out of order (instead only replace them)
    - No advanced features like ROM compression
    - Cheats can't be disabled once selected
    - Windows only

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    External Links:
    - Elink Website

    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 me know via e-mail - opium [@at@] GBAtemp [.dot.] net
     
  2. Costello

    Administrator Costello Headmaster

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