EZ-Flash 3 Review By Opium Introduction: This is the official GBATemp review of EZ-Flash 3 flash cartridge. I’d like to thank e2city for supplying this flash cartridge for review. E2city has been very kind and accommodating, I’m sure if you search around the internet you will find nothing but praise for this dealer, you don’t need to hear it from my mouth. The EZ-Flash 3 started off rough and frayed at the edges when it came to software support, many games did not work and the interface was unnecessarily complicated with a high learning curve. However it must be noted that many flashcarts start off the same way. With the release of EZ-Flash Manager 2.0 (the software used by the EZ-Flash 3) and subsequent versions, the compatibility issues were resolved and the interface cleaned up. Simply put the EZ-Flash 3 boasts the biggest range of features in any gba flashcart to date and the software updates really pull these features together into a nice package. As seen in the photos the EZ-Flash 3 arrives in a wooden box similar to the EZFA and inside you receive the cartridge, the EZ-Writer, and a USB connection cable. Features: • 1gbit in size • An extra 256mbit of space separate from the 1gbit • Rom compression (this is the only cartridge on the market to include this feature) • Supports all known save types • Real-Time Clock • Powerstar design (uses considerably less battery power than other flashcarts) • Instant Save Feature (make a save state at any point in a game) • Cheat Function • Ability to randomly delete roms The Cartridge: If someone had one of these cartridges in their gba or ds it would definitely stand out as the cartridge is see-through orange in colour. It has a very stylish appearance as you can see in the photographs and I have no problems with the cart’s cosmetic design, it fits snugly in any gba/sp/ds. The EZ-Flash 3 cart is the most accomplished of the current gba flashcarts in terms of available features. First let me explain an important part of how the EZ-Flash 3 cart works in regard to rom compression: Understanding the EZ-Flash 3 Cartridge – There are a few different sections to the EZ-Flash 3 cartridge that need to be understood: 1. The 1gbit NAND Flash -This section (128 Mega Bytes) of the cartridge is only for storage, no roms actually run from this part but instead they are stored on this section. 8MB of this space is kept in reserve for saves and what not. The 1gbit section is also known as the EZ-Disk. It operates like a hard drive basically, allowing you to put on or remove files as you will. 2. 128mbit PSRAM –This is a hidden part of the cartridge where roms are decompressed to when selected. This is separate from the 1gbit of space. For a 128mbit rom it takes about 5-30 seconds to load the rom. It takes less time for smaller roms. Due to this section only being 128mbit in size no game over 128mbit in size will run, however this is where the section below proves useful. 3. 256mbit Flash – An extra 256mbit of space on the cartridge that you may put any roms you wish on (rom compression is not available for this section; however it does not take time to load the rom). Think of this space as an extra EZ-Flash 2 cartridge conveniently placed inside of the EZ-Flash 3. This space was included so that you could run roms that are 256mbit in size on the cartridge, however it’s not limited to just a 256mbit rom, you may put a range of smaller roms on this section as well. 4. 32mbit Flashrom - This space is used purely for the boot loader so that it does not take up space on the 1gbit section. The rom compression feature allows you to squeeze as many gba roms into the EZ-Flash 3 cartridge as possible. If 1gbit of space was not enough, you can compress roms to get even more out of the available space. How much space will it actually save me you ask? Well here are some examples: Test rom 1 Original size: 16.3 Mbytes (128mbit) Size when compressed on cart: 9.4 Mbytes Test rom 2 Original size: 16.7 Mbytes (128mbit) Size when compressed on cart: 5.4 Mbytes Test rom 3 Original size: 8.1 Mbytes (64mbit) Size when compressed on cart: 6.4 Mbytes Test Rom 4 Original size: 8.1 Mbytes (64mbit) Size when compressed on cart: 5.1 Mbytes As you can see the results show significant reduction in size. Nearly every file can be compressed considerably. I’ve had 21 gba games fit on the EZ-Flash 3 cart at one stage and many of which were 128mbit sized games. The rom compression is simply an amazing feature with only one drawback, the fact that it requires several seconds to decompress the rom before it runs. However I’ve found this amount of time (4-30 seconds) really doesn’t seem to matter when playing roms for everyday use. I’m not going to ask for that 15 seconds of my life back, it’s perfectly bearable The ‘Powerstar’ design of the cart means that the cartridge will use less power than most other flash carts. For example the EZFA will last about 6 hours on a full GBA SP battery charge; however the EZ-Flash 3 will last close to 10 hours as any other original gba cartridge would. The EZ-Flash 3 supports all known saver types and games that utilize a Real-Time Clock. No save patching is needed for games, other than games that are currently incompatible with the EZ-Flash 3 (usually only one or two obscure games, every other game works fine). Every game I’ve tried with version 2.0 of the EZ-Manager software has worked so no worries about not getting any of your favourite games to work. The cartridge also supports an instant save feature allowing you to save your games at any point with the key combination of L+R+Select+B and loading the save is done by L+R+Select+A. The Software: The official flashing software used by the EZ-Flash 3 is called EZ-Manager. When the cart first came out the software was cluttered, unnecessarily complicated and had more bugs than a cockroach farm. Sure some if it worked alright, but it was just too much of a frustration to use. This may have been the case when the EZ-Flash 3 first came out but I can thankfully say this is not the case now. With the release of EZ-Manager 2.0 the program got a major facelift. With this shiny new simple to use look the EZ-Flash 3 propelled itself forward. Games worked better than ever, the loader was updated and a new feature was added to the EZ-Flash 3. With the 2.0 release the Instant Save feature was added, promised to us by the EZ-Flash 3 crew and delivered to us. These sorts of features have to do with the software of the cart (eg: updateable loader file) so new features like Instant Save are able to be added to the cartridge’s impressive list of features as time goes on. One such new feature is that you can now play multiple 256mbit sized roms on the EZ-Flash 3 cart. With this feature you can place 256mbit sized roms on the 1gbit section and when you go to play them they copy over to the 256mbit section of the EZ-Flash. This will take roughly 4-8 minutes as it is just like flashing the 256mbit section. The rom will remain on the 256mbit section for easy assessability until you select a different 256mbit rom on the 1gbit section. When using the EZ-Manager to get a rom on to the cart you first select which section of the cart you would like to put the rom onto (256mbit or 1gbit) then simply drag and drop, it couldn’t be easier. When you drop it onto the 1gbit section you have a number of options in front of you As seen in the image below the options available for most roms (I say most roms because some roms do not support soft reset and/or instant save) are: Compression, Soft Reset, Instant Save, the ability to fiddle with the saver options and cheat support. One thing to note is that if a rom supports either soft reset or instant save (most do) you can only select one, either you can enable soft reset (Start+Select+A+B combination to reset the rom) or enable Instant Save. They can not both be enabled. The EZ-Manager still has a few little bugs but no show stoppers. I’ve found that occasionally after using the EZ-Manager I will find an artefact listed among the roms. However this usually goes away if I take out the cart and insert it again. It is also possible for the progress bar showing how much of the rom has been written to become ‘stuck’. Fortunately this does not happen often and overall I am pleased with the constant advancements of the software even if there are still one or two little bugs. The EZ-Loader (mini operating system on the EZ-Flash 3 cartridge) is the most impressive loader I have seen on any of the four flash kits that I own. Think of it as an inbuilt pogoshell but better (providing you know what pogoshell is). The loader takes up 32mbit of space by itself; however there is 32mbit of space set aside for it. Here’s a list of the different options on the loader designated by different icons on the loader desktop: My GBA: Access the files stored on the EZ-Flash 3 cart Txt Saver: Continue from where you were reading in a text file EZWord: Teaches Chinese people English Mines: A built in minesweeper game Settings: Options to change the time or language Help: View a text file giving you tips on how the EZ-Flash 3 works (both Chinese and English) All your save files go into a folder on the 1gbit section (also known as EZ-Disk) called ‘Saver’; so all your saves are organised for you. You have only to load what roms you want onto the cart with the EZ-Manager (you can even create directories) and the saves for the games will collect together in the saver folder where you if choose to you can backup the saves individually onto your PC using the EZ-Manager. Or you can just leave them on the EZ-Flash cartridge; they will not disappear unless you format the cartridge or manually delete them. The EZ-Flash 3 can hold basically an infinite amount of save files so you will never have to worry about them. The EZ-Loader doesn’t just run games, it can run .txt, .jpg, .png, .bmp and .html files without the need for a converter which is very handy for using your cart for multipurpose functions. Lastly one important thing to note about the EZ-Loader is that it is skinable. There is a program released by the EZ-Flash crew called EZPDA Rombuilder which is fairly straight forward to use. This gives you the ability to give your EZ-Flash 3 cart your own custom style. Performance: All these great features would mean naught if they didn’t all work together correctly and perform well. So how well does the EZ-Flash 3 implement its features? Quite well actually. There are still a few tiny bugs and a handful of roms do not work with all the features such as some roms not working with the instant save feature or stuffing up if compression is used on the rom. However you can get around these things by not using compression on that one odd rom that doesn’t work with it or not using instant save on another peculiar rom. While I have experienced some of these little problems it should be noted that every rom I have used on the cart after the 2.0 software release I have gotten to work. Remember to use clean dumps, for example roms that have not previously had save patches applied to them or been tampered with using various programs. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can only have a maximum of eight characters for the file name of a rom. Don't fret though, you don't need to go out and rename all your roms, when you add a rom using the EZ-Manager it uses the header of the rom as it's file name which will automatically shorten if it is too long. You may also rename the file once it is on the cart. Instant save seems to be the most unstable feature at the moment (it was only recently implemented) so hopefully in future releases it will become more stable. Now let’s get down to some of the hard figures concerning flashing times and compression. Flashing times (on EZ-Disk): 64mbit rom – 40 Seconds 128mbit rom – 60 Seconds Compression (time it takes for the EZ-Manager to compress the rom before it is flashed onto the cart) 64mbit rom – 30 Seconds 128mbit rom – 50 Seconds Decompression (time taken on cart to decompress a rom with compression before it runs) 64mbit – 8 Seconds 128mbit – 25 seconds If you look at all the other flashcarts on the market these flashing times are simply phenomenal. All thanks to the EZ-Disk. If you select the compression option it takes additional time to compress the rom first before flashing but compression isn’t compulsory. As stated earlier in the review the compression feature is simply amazing, the amount of space it saves you will allow you to cram that last little rom onto your cart, there is so much room that you will never want to use another cartridge ever again. Let me just point out how satisfying it is to have your DS with a DS game in one slot and the EZ-Flash 3 in the other slot. To know that you not only have that DS game at your disposal but a whole host of gba games as well (20 or so games; some people have managed to fit 35!). The EZ-Flash 3 flashes well first time every time, you can depend upon it and with these new features and software updates on the horizon it will become even more a must have device. The loading times when decompressing a rom are certainly bearable, after using the EZ-Flash 3 for a number of months now I hardly notice the loading times, I’ve just accepted them. For the amount of features that you get in exchange for waiting a few seconds before your game begins the EZ-Flash crew are to be commended. Plus it’s not like you have nothing to amuse you while it loads, you can watch the percentage of how much is loaded go up (wait, perhaps I shouldn’t admit that that actually keeps me entertained). Conclusion: I own a Flash 2 Advance, EZ-Flash 1, EZF-Advance and an EZ-Flash 3. My Flash 2 Advance no longer works properly (the battery has died), my EZ-Flash 1 I gave to my elder brother along with my original gba and my EZF-Advance sits on my shelf. If you were to see me playing my Nintendo DS you will notice an orange coloured gba cartridge in the bottom of it. Does that paint a picture for you? I’ve found that after the initial bugs and problems that plagued the start of the EZ-Flash 3’s life it has shaped into a dependable flash cart loaded with more features than any other gba flashcart on the market. With the EZ-Flash crew following through on its promised features the future for the EZ-Flash 3 certainly looks bright. The EZ-Flash 3 is easy to use, is loaded with impressive features and can hold an amazing amount of roms. Quite simply I’d recommend the EZ-Flash 3 as the best cartridge on the market to date. Pros: + 1 gbit + 256mbit of space + Excellent rom compression feature + Uses less power than most other flashcarts + Instant save feature + Cheat feature + Supports all saves + Amazing loader (plus it’s skinable) + Simple, easy to use flashing software (constantly being updated) Cons: - load times to decompress roms - A handful of roms don’t work with certain features - A few small bugs in the software still Overall 9/10 Links: You can buy the EZ-Flash III at SHOP.01media.com - just click here. Official EZ-Flash site: http://www.ezflash.cn/indexe.asp Unofficial EZ-Flash III forum (USA): http://ezflash.sosuke.com Once again thank you e2city for supplying this flashkit for review, and thank you everyone else for reading this review.