EZFlash sent GBAtemp a sample of their new EZFlash Omega Definitive edition to test. A full review is coming later but for now a first impressions.
For those unfamiliar then the EZFlash Omega Definitive edition is EZFlash's latest GBA flash cart. EZFlash were among the top makers of GBA flash carts during the GBA era and have been making them (as well as flash carts for the DS and more recently original gameboy) ever since.
They came back with a brand new design the other year in the EZFlash Omega (GBAtemp review), aiming to be the be and end all of GBA flash carts. However it seems there was more that could be done and thus we are here today with a sequel.
Most GBA flash carts can run just about anything that fits on the cart itself and it is likely only save related issues that will get in the way, the few hardware related issues tending to have patches.
The Omega, and now the definitive edition thereof, sports a pretty impressive list of features that not all other flash carts will have and also support some things that the lesser carts might need patches for. A GBA flash cart no longer needing a Windows program or custom piece of hardware is nothing special today, and naturally the Omega Definitive edition needs only something that can write to the microSD card. The price tag is similarly impressive for a GBA flash cart in the modern era (still less than many would have paid in the GBA era itself) and many places charge around $100 USD/70 Euros, if not more by the time shipping and handling are taken care of. Its main competition being the original Omega, other GBA flash carts (you can play just about everything with just about anything that is not a Supercard) and in the battle for the top slot then the Everdrive X5 (GBAtemp review).
Extra features include
https://www.ezflash.cn/product/ez-flash-omega-definitive-edition/ said:Using Ferroelectric RAM to keep save, absolutely safe
Dual working mode
Rumble function for GBA game and NDS game
Support GBA-DS Link Transfer
Support DS Web Browser
Support DS RAM Expansion Pack
Power Save design
Button Battery replaceable
Support 512Mb GBA movie rom
Support hacked GBA game with rumble
Support GBC rumble game via embedded Goomba emulator
FeRAM became popular in later batches of original GBA carts and replaced the need for batteries in SRAM type saves. GBA flash carts often carried on with SRAM and batteries and the issues with such things. The Omega Definitive edition does have a battery but it is to handle the onboard clock for those games that need it (more on that shortly). This is a difference to the original Omega and in fact returns to the older style of flash cart where the save is written to the main storage when next powered on, though as there is no concern of a battery dying in the meantime (or battery being dead and thus having to remember to power off and back on to save) then that should eliminate a worry there.
Dual working mode. Unlike some older GBA slot flash carts this is not a DS loader as some had speculated but refers to a small switch on the side of the Omega DE. You have A mode which is your classic flash cart with menu, and B mode which boots the cart as a first ROM from the NOR. Aimed at being used with DS games that read usually earlier entries in their franchise in the GBA slot to unlock extras, to grab saves List 1 of such things, List 2 and the like. There are also DS homebrew programs, the official DS browser and the rumble function (more on that a bit later too). It should be noted that you should not switch between modes without powering back on to write the save to the proper location else you might lose the save by it being overwritten with the NOR game's new save. Functionally this would also serve as something of an autoboot a specific ROM type mode if that is the sort of thing you want. The DS link function was tested and saw the Advance Wars 2 extras appear in an original Advance Wars Dual Strike cart (picture down below).
Power save. The original Omega, though updates improved it a fair bit, was noted as consuming a notable amount of power over original GBA games and some other flash carts. Has not been tested yet in this, though it ran fine with an ageing DS lite battery for hours during this initial impressions.
512 GBA Movie ROM. Conventional wisdom has it that the maximum size for a GBA ROM is 32 megabytes/256 megabits. Every commercial actual game is this (the largest most encounter, and sometimes trouble ROM for flash carts, tending to be Mother 3. It works just fine by the way) but later in the GBA lifetime Nintendo started allowing video carts to be made. Some of these exceeded this maximum (technical explanation) and allowed you to watch various cartoons on the go. The most notable for many being the full length films of Shrek 1 and Shrek 2. If you feel the need to watch Shrek 1 on a 240x160 pixels GBA screen in about 14 frames per second (generous estimate there) and the kind of compression that allows it to run on a 16.78MHz ARM7TDMI processor with 288Kilobytes of RAM all stored in less than 64 megabytes then it is indeed a feature no previous flash cart, and in fact very few GBA emulators, will be able to match. It was also tested in this impressions and confirmed as working. Write times to the NOR section, which these large ROMs require, are several minutes (on par with what you might expect from anything else EZFlash have done with a NOR section) for the 512Mbit video ROM but once there it is there until you delete it. Whether it can be used to extend file sizes for something like pogoshell or indeed some other GBA homebrew that could benefit from it remains to be seen.
There are also some stylish RGB LEDs that can be made to flash when the SD card is being written or simply pulse (called breathe in the menus) during runtime if you are into that sort of thing. They are actually fairly bright as these things go, though using the screen as a light (assuming you are not on an original GBA) is a better plan if you were thinking of doing that.
Rumble is a feature in very few original GBA carts (a few more DS ones). Though the EZTeam have released a version of Goomba (a gameboy/gameboy color emulator for the GBA) with support for rumble to use with GB/GBC games that have it, and they have released a guide to allow you to hack in support for yourself. As far as ROM hacking goes it is on the more advanced side of things, though the sort of thing we usually suggest for people to do as a learning hack when starting out doing assembly hacks. Read the guide and replies on the thread for more but the short version is you have to hook whatever you want to cause a change and branch it to a (provided) code fragment that triggers the rumble, or in terms of said good projects for learning to hack it is a combination then of "hardcode a cheat", "find some extra space" (which is usually trivial), and "my first hacker added subroutine". The Final Fight patch from the thread linked was tested, works even in clean mode. There is a rumble you can feel on a DS lite, nothing like a console controller rumble but something. If you like that sort of thing then it is another feature.
Basic features said:GBA game copy and play, no client needed
Fast patch engine, instant game load speed, additional manual patch engine to support modified rom
Real time clock
256Mb PSRAM suppot all games, instant load
512Mb Norflash, keep your favorite games
GB/GBC/NES game copy and play, compatible based on emulator
System on chip level recovery mode, prevent upgrade dead
Support FAT32/EXFAT， 4GB-128GB SD card
Firmware and kernel both are upgradable
Cursory tests have been done thus far. Some already covered in the descriptions above.
The Omega DE menu is pretty nice as these things go with a few choice features like the ability to load pictures corresponding to the game highlighted, a rather less confusing system than some older carts. Fairly obvious selections.
The kernel downloads and the product page both feature PDF versions of a pretty comprehensive setup and usage guide that is not your usual Engrish guide.
Real time clock was tested. Appears to work well. Several versions of Pokemon games with a clock were started, set and swapped around between. All kept their respective settings in doing so.
NES and GB/GBC were tested briefly. Seem to work as well as can be expected (the NES is higher resolution than the GBA so you get cropped tiles in pocketnes). Exit to menu options from the NES emulator and GB/GBC also work nicely.
Savestates were briefly tested. They are always going to be tricky to do in hardware and will never be what you might be used to with emulators, and you will usually want to make sure you go to a fairly calm part of the game, or expect to have to force a graphics change (enter a new room, level, menu...). Still they functioned fine in the very limited sample tested, as did the savestates in the onboard GB/GBC and NES emulators.
Some homebrew was tested. Appeared to work fine. More extensive testing of trickier homebrew and header related fun (though this did include the ever tricky audio player advance by Neimod) will have to be done.
Fit and finish is generally quite nice, especially compared to some of the later EZ4 models. Slides together and is held with tabs in three places and a self tapping screw. The case on our sample has a small nick in the pin side but that appears to be a damaged in handling thing rather than a design failure and made no problems at all in operation, nor will it be seen in it. Soldering examined closely when taking numbers from chips and was absolutely fine. Being a sample we can't rule out being sent a hand selected example though.
Case is only available in grey so far, and owing to the new switch is not going to fit one of the older replacement cases without modification. Full size GBA cart as well so will not be flush with DS lite (see pictures).
Tested mostly in the DS lite pictured but also tried in a GBA SP, original DS and original GBA. No clone hardware or seriously hardware modified examples of GBA devices were available for this. Not even the hint of a contact issue in any tests. All tests done with current public kernel and a freshly formatted 32 gigabyte UHS class 1 microSD from Lexar.
short sample of Shrek playing
Hardware numbers for chips for those that want them
Battery is a CR1025. A commonly available cell.
The FRAM chip.
8 pin chip on SD card side
Z (stylised so something of a logo) gb1929
https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/xilinx-inc/XC6SLX9-2FTG256C/2339917 is very similar.
FPGA = field programmable gate array. Quite powerful chips that can replicate whatever they are programmed to be (assuming you have enough on there). Undoubtedly the brains of the operation here.
Presumably the NOR chip.
8 pin chip
EZFlash.cn product page
EZFlash.cn dealer list
EZFlash Download section
Guide to making your own rumble
Omega Definitive Edition Announcement thread (there are other threads covering things).
Thoughts and discussions? Any particular tests you would like to see conducted with this? Power consumption will be happening soon and added to this thread as well as the final review.
The final review will be after all the truly hard tests are done (many of the showstoppers though were already tried where it passed with flying colours) but initial impressions are the EZTeam have once again made something very very special, something that will probably end up being the thing by which all else is measured and something you can live out your GBA hardware dreams with.