Ewin 512mbit + Passme Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Opium, Nov 23, 2005.

Nov 23, 2005

Ewin 512mbit + Passme Review by Opium at 7:50 AM (22,670 Views / 0 Likes) 0 replies

  1. Opium
    OP

    Former Staff Opium PogoShell it to me ™

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    Ewin 512 + Passme Review

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    Introduction:

    Out of the deep and murky depths of the Chinese flashcart market emerges a device that not many people would have heard of. The Ewin 512mbit and Ewin Passme are relatively unknown in the English speaking world. However that certainly does not mean you should shrug the Ewin off as a cheap and flimsy flashcart that’ll last you a couple of weeks before it breaks down, spits out its battery and waves a little white flag. If you thought that you’d be deadly wrong.
    When I received the Ewin courtesy of EuropeFlash I was surprised by the level of quality in the build of the cartridge, linker and packaging. The Ewin comes in a very sturdy red box that looks great and certainly protects its contents. The lid is attached with a small magnet and flips open to reveal the Ewin cartridge, linker (with USB cable) and surprisingly enough a very official looking mini-CD holding the drivers and burning software. This just goes to show the lengths at which the Ewin has gone to present itself. I haven’t received a CD with a flash kit since the Flash 2 Advance, years ago. The Ewin boasts its own DS rom patching/burning program with fair compatibility, and of course GBA games run flawlessly.
    I'd like to thank EuropeFlash for providing this Flashkit for review.
    So how does the Ewin and its Passme stand up to the market leading flashcarts of today?

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    Features:

    -512mbit size
    -embedded GBA boot-loader (does not eat into the 512mbit space)
    -Real Time Clock
    -Soft Reset
    -GBA saves are protected when files are erased
    -Plays commercial DS roms
    -The Ewin Passme is a commercial Passme solution

    Hardware:

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    The cartridge is the same size as an original GBA cartridge and is very sturdy. It doesn’t feel flimsy in the slightest. It fits well in both the GBA and DS. The Ewin cartridge features 512mbit of uncompressed FLASH memory with the usual assortment of features (a rechargeable battery and Real-Time Clock support).
    The Ewin writer is almost identical to the EZ-Writer II that comes with the EZ-Flash 3, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. The only difference with the Ewin set is that it uses a clear plastic compared to the orange of the EZ-Flash 3
    With the Ewin Passme you can make use of the DS functionality of the Ewin (although any Passme/flashme would work fine). For those that don’t know, a Passme is a device used to allow the DS to bypass encryption and boot DS code from the GBA slot. A Passme device or Flashme is needed to run homebrew code and commercial rom code on the DS. Surprisingly the Ewin company does not follow with the current trends and attempt to fashion a new name for its own Passme device (eg: Superpass, Passkey and EZpass) instead the Ewin Passme is simply called ‘Passme’. Its design is remarkably similar to the Passkey, something I’m not too happy about for the simple fact that you can’t sit the DS down on a flat surface while playing. The Superpass may be bulkier but it doesn’t attempt to hide its bulk beneath the DS, you can sit the DS down on a desk while playing games such as Nintendogs and Meteos. Aside from this fact the Ewin Passme is solidly built and fits snugly into the DS. It doesn’t offer any additional features like an ‘on/off’ switch that the Passkey offers; it is simply a barebones commercial Passme solution.

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    Software:

    There are three different software programs available for the Ewin. The Ewin Client (I was using version 0.76a) is used to read the burn GBA roms. Ewin4DS is used to patch and burn DS roms to the Ewin and EFormat is used to format the Ewin cartridge.
    The Ewin client is fairly straightforward and simple to use. With the Ewin cartridge inserted into the Ewin Writer just click the ‘Add’ button. From there select the rom you wish to load and you will be greeting a screen showing additional options such as: Rom Trimming, Soft Reset Patch and Intro Remove. This screen will also show the header information of the rom.

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    For GBA usage there is a multi-boot loader that is based off Pogoshell (a GBA rom and save managing ‘file manager’). The Ewin loader looks and feels identical to Pogoshell except for the one minor difference. There is an iPod style ‘click’ noise when selecting folders and files. Unfortunately this noise is irritating, but thankfully you won’t be flipping through folders constantly. The loader is placed on a section of memory detached from the 512mbit memory of the flashcart, so it won’t eat into any of your precious rom space, certainly a nice feature. The loader itself is embedded and I haven’t seen any way of updating the loader in the Ewin Client software which is both a good and bad thing. It’s a bad thing because you can’t update the loader with any new features (such as getting rid of the annoying ‘click’ noise) but it is also a good thing as your GBA save files will stay on the cartridge regardless of whether you format the cartridge or burn a DS rom onto it etc. The only way to delete a save file is to select the file in the Ewin Client and then click delete. Save files can be exported and imported as .sav files and also as the Ewin propriety file .esa. GBA save management works like a charm, I have not experienced the loss of any GBA save files at all.
    One of the most important features of the today’s flashcarts is DS functionality. The Ewin has its own program called Ewin4DS (a small 32kb download) for patching and burning DS roms to the Ewin. With this small program the Ewin enters into territory breached by the Neoflash, SuperCard, G6-Flash, M3 Adapter, EZ-Flash and EFA-Linker cartridges. The program is extremely simple, which unfortunately also reflects how simple the DS functionality of the Ewin is as well. The Ewin does not have a multi-boot loader for DS roms. You are only able to store one DS rom at a time. Burning a DS rom will also erase all files on the cartridge aside from the GBA boot loader (no longer selectable when you have a DS rom on the cartridge) and GBA save files (which are stored on the same space as the boot loader). You can either use the Ewin cartridge for various GBA roms or for a single DS rom. With the Ewin4DS software you can backup your DS save file onto your computer. Just make sure you remember to backup your save file if you wish to burn a different DS rom to the cartridge as they are unfortunately not handled the same as the GBA save files which are backed up to the separate GBA loader space automatically. Ewin4DS will automatically patch the DS rom file you load and burn it to your Ewin cartridge.

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    Performance:

    From testing the Ewin over the last few weeks I started to realize one thing about its performance. Although a very solid cartridge one can’t help but describe the Ewin as ‘yesterday’s technology today’.

    GBA

    As a GBA cartridge the Ewin performs similar to an EZ-Flash 2. All GBA roms I tested worked perfectly (unlike what you’d see on the Supercard), save management is a breeze and a definite plus. However things like an unconfigurable boot-loader that is identical to Pogoshell (something I haven’t used since the my early Flash 2 Advance days in 2003) and the lack of more current GBA rom features such as compression and a fast U-Disk based medium and burn times (like the EZ-Flash 3 and G6-Flash 3) reveal the Ewin as old technology. While the Ewin can certainly hold it’s own against some of the flashcarts on the market such as the X-Rom and EZ-Flash 2 it is certainly not destined to become a market leader among today’s technology shown by the EZ-Flash 3, G6-Flash 3, EFA-Linker 2, SuperCard and M3 Adapter.
    The burning speed of the Ewin isn’t very spectacular; it performs slower than the EFA-Linker 1 and X-Rom, and against the ‘EZ-Disk’ based EZ-Flash 3 it doesn’t even compare.

    These are the times taken to write GBA rom files to the Ewin:

    64mbit: 2 mins

    128mbit: 5 mins [X-Rom: 3 mins] [EFA-Linker 1: 1 min 50 secs] [EZ-Flash 3: 1 mins]

    Still, burn speeds aren’t terribly important if you’re willing to sit them out. But it certainly makes filling up the cartridge and swapping games less practical. As a GBA flashcart I would recommend the Ewin as a firm and well functioning choice. All GBA roms I’ve tested worked perfectly with no visible problems and save files did not disappear randomly as the Ewin employs a Save Management System (SMS) that automatically backs up your save files so they can never be lost randomly.

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    DS

    I’m sure many people will be eager to know how well the DS features of the Ewin perform. For this review I have been using Ewin4DS version 3.30a. I’m happy to say that the DS software is constantly being updated, support for the DS rom ‘Mario Kart DS’ was added days before the official M3 and G6 support was. Although the homepage of the Ewin is solely in Chinese you can download English software for the Ewin from EuropeFlash’s website here.
    The Ewin definitely outperforms any GBA flashcart using NDSpatcher 0.1 or Loadme. The DS rom compatibility is on par with that of the Supercard. Although DS compatibility is well below that of the G6-Flash 3 it is certainly a good start for a cartridge designed for GBA use. Once or twice I found transcription errors in DS roms that froze the game. The remedy for this is the re-burn the said game. These were just random glitches when writing the rom to the flashcart and this only happened once or twice. One of my main concerns for the DS functionality of the Ewin is that there is no multi-boot loader for DS games. You are only able to play one DS game at a time and you are not able to mix and match by having some GBA games and one DS rom on the cartridge. Burning a DS rom erases the entire contents of the cart, so you are forced to either use the Ewin for its GBA mode or its DS mode. With the slow burning speeds this limits the practicality of the Ewin.

    The write times for DS roms are as follows:

    128mbit: 3 mins

    256mbit: 6 mins

    512mbit: 14 mins (make yourself some coffee in the meantime!)

    An Ewin compatibility list for DS roms can be found here.

    While having its obvious drawbacks it can’t be overlooked that the Ewin, designed as a GBA flashcart does manage to play DS roms with fairly good compatibility. Want to play Advance Wars DS? How about Nintendogs or Castlevania? Or Sonic Rush? Go ahead, they all work and save to the Ewin cartridge.
    There is not much to say about the Ewin Passme. It works without a hitch. If you have Flashme installed on your DS you won’t even need to continue using the Passme, but that’s up to your own personal preferences. I just wish the Ewin Passme was designed more like the SuperPass as not being able to have the DS unit sit on a flat surface while playing certain games bothers me.

    Conclusion:


    The Ewin is a solid flashcart; the cartridge holds together nicely and is presented as a quality product. However its shortcomings distinguish the Ewin from its competitors. Is there enough DS support here to warrant buying an Ewin over the much cheaper Supercard or even a G6-Flash 3? Probably not. As a GBA flashcart it works flawlessly although it has slow burn speeds. The Pogoshell boot-loader also leaves a little to be desired. There seems to be a disadvantage to each advantage. The DS functionality is there but it’s not quite up there yet. Hopfully with future software updates the DS support will be upgraded to make way for a DS boot-loader. Still, the Ewin seems to be a solid GBA flashcart with a little extra on the side.

    Pros/Cons:


    + Solidly built
    + Plays Commercial DS roms
    + GBA games work flawlessly
    + Great GBA save management
    + Embedded GBA boot-loader that doesn’t take up part of the 512mbit space

    - DS rom compatibility isn’t up there with the G6 and M3
    - Slow burn speeds
    - No multi-boot loader for DS games
    - Only 512mbit in size, this limits it’s use for DS roms

    Overall:


    6/10


    Links:


    http://www.51gba.com - The Official Ewin Website (Chinese)
    http://www.europeflash.net - Flashcart Dealer
    http://www.europeflash.net/compatible.htm - Ewin DS Compatibility List
    http://www.europeflash.net/download.htm - English Ewin Software Download
    Software download at Shop.01media.com
    Buy at Shop.01media.com for 85€ !



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