G6-Flash 3rd Generation Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Opium, Dec 6, 2005.

Dec 6, 2005

G6-Flash 3rd Generation Review by Opium at 12:07 AM (28,542 Views / 0 Likes) 0 replies

  1. Opium
    OP

    Former Staff Opium PogoShell it to me ™

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    G6-Flash 3rd Generation Review

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    Introduction:

    GBA flashcarts and emulation sure have come a long way. From the old Visoly, Flash 2 Advance and EZ-Flash days to the EFA-Linker 2, Flash 2 Advance Ultra and EZ-Flash 3 era of carts. The dawn of the Nintendo DS has heralded the beginning of the DS bandwagon that every flashcart maker seems to be clambering onto. The G6-Flash 3rd Generation is aimed primarily at this DS market, offering people the best DS rom compatibility and its own patching system for ‘Clean Dump’ roms. While it is certainly an amazing flashcart those hoping that the G6 is the definitive flashcart for their DS and GBA uses will be sadly disappointed.
    I’d like to thank Kick Trading for providing this flashkit for review and for their continued support of GBAtemp. The G6-Flash and other GBA flashcarts are available for purchase from their website at very competitive prices.
    The G6 comes packaged in a very unique tin that houses the cartridge, writer and software CD. With the full software install file weighing in at 71MB in size, an included software CD is a godsend. The Passkey comes packaged in its own little cardboard box much like you’d expect to see on any store shelf.

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    Features:

    - 1Gbit, 2Gbit and 4Gbit sizes
    - The best DS rom compatibility
    - GBA Save support for DS roms
    - Dual core DS and GBA multi-boot loader
    - Fast U-Disk based write times
    - Plug and write USB writer (no drivers)

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    Hardware:

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    You can definitely tell that the G6 flashcart is designed for DS use as its silver design is exactly the same colour as the ‘Titanium’ coloured DS. It fits seamlessly in the GBA slot and looks the part in the DS with its silver colouring.
    Although the cartridge is very sturdy there seems to be a major design flaw that I’m not particularly impressed with. The black button on the cartridge (which is used to run certain GST patched roms) is poorly design as it sticks out and it gets pressed in when you leave your DS sitting somewhere. Now you may ask what the big problem is, it’s only a tiny button after all right? Unfortunately having this button depressed drains the G6’s battery. Some people have found that after a month of owning their G6 their battery ran dry and would no longer work. Resulting in them having to open up the flashcart and replace the battery manually. It makes the mind boggle why the team behind the G6 didn’t just make the button flatter so it didn’t get pressed in accidentally when sitting your DS down. In any case I’ve taken a small nail file to mine, to remove this problem. The button’s sole purpose is to play certain GST patched roms (used by the Neoflash) that would usually be incompatible. With the G6’s own format for DS rom patching (DoFAT) this button has become obsolete. I’ve never had to use the button and it’s a real shame to see it there on the cartridge making a nuisance of itself.
    The G6 Writer is small compared to other writer’s I’ve used. It connects via USB, with the G6 cartridge plugging directly into it. When plugged in a blue LED light starts flashing to let you know it’s doing something. The great thing about the G6 writer is that it needs no drivers when using Windows XP. With the G6 cartridge inserted it acts just like any other USB storage device. You can copy over and store any files you like quickly and easily, which is certainly a nice feature. What I would like to see included with the writer is a USB extension cable because when the cartridge is inserted it’ll force out any other USB device you have plugged in because of its odd size that takes up the surrounding USB plugs. The writer only ‘just’ fits into one of the front USB ports of my computer; the cartridge hits the casing and stops the writer from being inserted fully so it sticks out at a bit of an odd angle. It’s a pity they didn’t include an extension cable.
    The Passkey is the G6/M3 brand Passme device, and like the Ewin passme is designed to curve under the DS system. Out of the three Passme devices I’ve tried (Superpass/Ewin Passme/Passkey) this one fits best into the DS slot. There’s no scraping sound or any resistance, it fits as well as an original DS game card would. The build quality is particularly good; it even includes an ‘on/off’ switch which no other Passme device does. Nevertheless I am annoyed by the design of the Passkey. The Passkey, like the Ewin Passme, curves underneath the DS so that you can’t set the DS down on a flat surface. First the little black button and now the Passkey? I’d just like the simple feature of being able to sit my DS down in its full upright position, without having to fiddle around with the tray table. Flat surface. The DS sits on it. Not too hard? I attempted to sit the DS down with the passkey and original game inserted, it felt rather brittle as if the Passkey and game were about to snap off at any moment. Luckily I use Flashme so I have no need for the Passkey. If you don’t use Flashme for whatever reason you’ll either be sitting your DS down upside down or taking the time to remove the Passkey before leaving it to rest.

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    Software:

    There are a number of programs that come with the G6 to make use of all its features. The G6 Manager is the general use patching and writing program for both GBA and DS roms. A G6 GBA Media pack is available which installs programs needed to convert movies and music for playback on the G6. Also the newly developed G6 DS Media pack that allows you to convert movies specifically for the larger DS screen is available.

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    The layout of the G6 Manager is simple and easy to use, there is nothing tricky about it what so ever. There are two tabs, one for GBA and one for DS. Select which one you want to work with and add your roms, backup you’re save files, whatever it is that you want. When you add a rom you’ll be presented with a number of options such as patching method, trimming etc. Usually you can just leave these settings on default with no problems. In a future version of the software I’d like to see an indicator telling me how full the G6 cart is, because at the moment it’s mainly guess work as to how much space is left after your roms have been trimmed and placed on the cart. Of course you don’t have to use the G6-Manager for things like homebrew applications. Just simply drop and drag the files you want onto the U-Disk of the G6 which will turn up like any other USB storage device.

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    The G6 has two different boot-loaders, one for DS and one for GBA. When inserted into a DS it will boot directly to the G6 DS boot-loader which is positioned on the bottom screen complete with touch screen control. There’s nothing too elegant about the menu used. It’s quick and simple to get your favourite games booted up in seconds, which is all that should matter. You have the options of browsing your DS games stored on the cartridge, accessing the U-Disk of the cartridge directly or using the embedded media functions (movies/music/e-books). You can not run GBA games from the DS boot-menu. To switch to the GBA boot-menu you simply press START. This dual boot up core system is great in theory, however when switching from the DS boot-loader to the GBA boot-loader the backlight for both screens remains on, even though the other screen is never used! To get out of this you must boot the DS up without the passkey switched on or inserted (or by holding SELECT if using Flashme) and touch the ‘Start GBA game’ from the DS menu. What is the point of having a switch between function by pressing START when the second backlight will remain unnecessarily on? This is just the first sign of bad GBA support with the G6. It’s made quite clear with the constant updates to the software and firmware that the G6 is a DS focused cartridge with little to no software updates for GBA components.
    Out of the media pack for both GBA and DS the movie converter is the most useful addition. The converting software is easy to use and the picture quality is great on its best setting. If you want to take a few music videos or even cartoon episodes with you on the go it’s certainly possible but you’ll want a 2Gbit or 4Gbit sized G6. One music video I converted on medium settings had an output file of 30MB. This is basically a quarter of your space if you’re using a 1Gbit G6 like me. Sound quality is fair but I wouldn’t recommend using the music converter software in the stead of an MP3 player. Music quality is fuzzy and nothing to rave home about. All these media features of the G6 also apply to the M3 Adapter. If you are looking for something to play small movie files you’ll probably want to go with the M3 Adapter due to the larger (and cheaper) memory capacity of CF/SD cards.

    Performance:


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    The best DS rom compatibility on the market. Cart sizes up to 4Gbit. A dual boot up core for both DS and GBA functions. Simple and seamless G6 Manager Software. Media programs to convert movie and music files. Blazing fast U-Disk based write times. Sounds like a flashcart made in heaven right? Not quite. Read on.

    GBA

    I’ll start with one of the worst aspects of the G6 Flash, the GBA functionality. As I said in the introduction, those hoping the G6 is the definitive flashcart incorporating both DS and GBA features will be sadly disappointed.
    I tested 16 GBA games at complete random and used default settings in the G6 Manager (Real Time Save, no compression) and my results were certainly not very comforting.

    Working:

    Donkey Kong Country 3
    Megaman zero 3
    Need For Speed Underground 2 (but some strange thin lines appeared at the top and bottom of the screen)
    Mario Party Advance
    Urbz: Sims in the City
    Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition
    F-Zero Climax
    Banjo Pilot
    Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones
    Tony Hawk's Underground 2

    Not working:

    Mario tennis
    Wario land 4
    GTA Advance
    Top Gun
    Boktai 2
    Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

    Ten games worked and six didn’t (due to either white screens, or major graphics glitches). Now, if I take off real time save all sixteen of these games will work. I'm surprised that the G6 Manager would include real time save as a default setting when compatibility is so low. Unfortunately real time save continues to make a nusience of itself in a way I've never seen before or any other flashcart. If you write a GBA rom without real-time save the GBA boot-loader will attempt to patch the rom for you. When you boot up the said GBA game it'll load into the working memory of the G6 then a small message will pop up saying "Would you like to apply real time patch?", with the cursor highlighted over yes. If you select yes the boot-loader will actually patch the rom for you. This message appears everytime you boot up the game, so if you try to start the game too fast and accidently select 'yes' (as it is automatically highlighted) then your rom could potentially not work anymore. I would have thought that if you deselected real time save when you wrote the rom the flashcart you purposely didn't want that feature enabled. It's rather annoying to be greeted by this message each time when you already told the G6 Manager you didn't want to enable the feature.

    I’m rather worried that such an expensive flashcart has such problems with GBA roms. But perhaps I’m overreacting; maybe you don’t want a G6 for its GBA uses at all. You simply want to run DS games. If that is the case then the G6’s GBA performance has no bearing on you. However for the price of the G6 I would have hoped that it performed leaps and bounds above other flashcarts on the market.
    Due to the G6’s U-Disk medium write speeds are some of the fastest on the market. Write speeds for GBA games are listed below:

    Writing Time without Compression –

    128mbit – 25 secs
    256mbit – 60 secs

    Writing Time with Compression –

    128mbit – 1 min 10 secs
    256mbit – 2 mins 25 secs

    The G6 like the EZ-Flash 3 allows you to compress your GBA roms so that they take up less space on the cartridge. This would be a rather attractive feature for the G6 if it wasn’t so completely useless! The drawback of using the U-Disk medium is that there are small (and not so small) load times when starting up GBA roms. When not using compression the load times are quick (a few seconds faster than the EZ-Flash 3 even) but the rom compression feature is rendered absolutely useless by the appalling load times. Just check below:

    Load Time without Compression –

    128mbit – 18 secs
    256mbit – 32 secs

    Load Time with Compression –

    128mbit – 6 mins 30 secs
    256mbit – ????? (The G6 already stole 6 minutes of my life; I wasn’t wasting any more time)

    Do you really want to wait over six minutes to boot a rom every time you want to play it? If your answer is no, never use the compression feature of the G6. Compression is a worthy addition to the EZ-Flash 3 as it has bearable load times. It enables you to cram those last few roms onto the cartridge. Yet the G6 manages to null this useful addition with its horrendous load times.
    The bottom line, don’t buy a G6 for its GBA uses.

    DS

    I’m happy to say that nearly all DS roms work perfectly on the G6. At the time of writing the only fully non-working DS rom is Pokemon Dash, and the only rom not saving correctly is Animal Crossing. The G6 has without a doubt the best DS rom compatibility on the market, which is definitely the best thing by far it has going for itself. DS roms are patched with the G6’s own propriety patching method known as ‘DoFAT’. The roms will boot up in a second or two when selected and will all run at normal speeds with no slowdowns what so ever (unlike the slightly longer loading times experienced on the SuperCard). Saved games are saved directly to the G6 cartridge so your original game inserted into the Passkey isn’t tampered with.
    Disappointingly the DS save management system isn’t one of the G6’s strong points. The G6 uses a messy and overly complicated save system that can lead to the loss of save files (which happened to me a few times). You’ll be surprised how annoyed you get when you boot up a rom to find that hours of playtime simply disappeared.

    How the save system works

    Each DS game has three save files associated with it. One default and two backup save files are created when writing a DS game to the cartridge. When you select a game to play you can choose between these three files. Normally you would select default and the game will boot and you play and save like normal. When saving the game the save file is written into a temporary memory space. If you boot up the DS and boot the same game it will load correctly, however the problem arises when you boot another DS game and save. This will overwrite the save file already in the temporary space, so your previous save file will disappear. There is a way around this, and that is where the other two backup save files come in handy. After playing a DS rom reboot the DS and highlight the rom you were just playing. Instead of booting it press SELECT. This’ll bring up a little menu where you are able to backup the default save file to either of the G6’s backup save files.

    From what I’ve pieced together this is how the system works, but truth be told I’ve found it rather more complex and confusing. Booting other games without using the backup feature has worked for me before (when I didn’t know how the backup feature worked). Problems arose when I copied the save files from the cartridge to the computer. When I decided to play a rom again and wrote the rom and save files back to the cartridge I’d find the save file either disappeared completely or I’d lost a few hours of playtime in the save. It’s also quite common to forget to backup your save file and be at risk of losing it. Even one time I managed to accidentally boot a backup save when I’d been using the default file to save my game. Somehow it erased the default file and I lost many hours of playtime. If this whole system sounds confusing or unnecessarily complicated to you don’t worry, you are not alone. Questions constantly arise when using the G6. Should I boot games from the backup save or continue using the default save? Do I have to copy all three save files to my computer? To the G6 Company I ask a simple question: Why isn’t there just one save file that is backed up onto the cartridge automatically? The SuperCard does it. There is no hassle, no strange system of backing up saves by pressing SELECT, and no worries about save files being deleted or overwritten. Just one simple save file on your CF/SD cart. Better yet a save system much like what the EZ-Flash 3 uses for GBA games should be implemented. All your saves stay on the cartridge regardless of whether you erase the rom associated with it or not (with the G6, if you erase a game the save files are automatically erased with it). Then when you wish to play the game again you simply copy the game onto the cartridge again and boot it up and your save is automatically there. Also with the EZ-Flash 3 as soon as you boot up the GBA/DS the save file for the game previously played is written to the EZ-Disk’s memory automatically. The user never has to do anything or select between three different files. All in all the G6’s save management system is rather bad, sure if you can figure it out and remember to backup your saves correctly then you should have no problems. But as it stands it is an unnecessarily complicated and inefficient system.

    On another note, write speeds for DS roms are even faster than they are for GBA roms. This time includes the patching and trimming of the roms as well:

    Writing Time

    128mbit – 16 secs
    256mbit – 40 secs
    512mbit – 1 min 10 secs

    The write times are amazing for a ‘conventional’ flashcart (i.e. not a CF/SD based M3/SuperCard). The G6 Manager software trims as well as patches your roms for you which I find rather handy. No more having to dig out GBATA or heaven forbid a HEX editor to trim DS roms. However the compression feature isn’t available for DS roms.

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    Conclusion:


    I’m in two minds about the G6-Flash. On the one hand it sports the best DS rom compatibility on the market, a multi-boot loader, blazing fast write times and GBA save support. Yet I still feel that there is a huge area for improvement. GBA rom support is unquestionably bad and I don’t even know what they were thinking with those appalling load times when using compression. On the DS side of things the save management system is clunky and tedious and something really should be done to create an easier, simpler system. The little black button on the cartridge and the Passkey design continue to be my bane. Why oh why do they design things so that I can’t sit my DS down on a flat surface anymore? I’m not usually a picky person but on this issue I am because it’s something so elementary. Yet all in all, despite these drawbacks it’s unquestionable that the DS rom support is amazing. DS games run flawlessly with the exception of two games. If playing DS games is what you want the G6 is the best around, just make sure you are aware of its drawbacks as well. Software updates come each month to improve compatibility, so you know that the G6 is well supported. However other aspects of the G6 don’t seem to receive updates which leave it a very lopsided cartridge. Considering both the positive and negative aspects of the G6-Flash 3rd Generation you should be able to discover whether this is the flashcart for you.

    Pros/Cons:


    + The best for DS rom compatibility
    + Multi-boot DS loader
    + G6 U-Disk acts like a USB storage device (no drivers needed)
    + Fast write times
    + Simple and seamless G6 Manager Software
    + Movie converting software (great for music videos on the go)

    - Bad GBA functionality
    - Clunky DS save management system
    - The little black button that drains the G6 battery
    - Passkey design
    - Lack of USB extension cable
    - The price


    Re-evaluation:


    As of 25th September 2007

    The G6-Flash 3rd Generation is now obsolete. If you are looking for a similar GBA flashcart check out the updated version, G6 Lite.

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    Links:


    http://www.g6flash.com - Official G6-Flash Website
    http://www.handheldsources.com - Official G6-Flash Software Download Site
    http://www.kicktrading.ca - Kick Trading, Canadian seller of the G6-Flash and other flashcarts
    http://www.afdac.org - AFDAC, French seller of the G6 flash and other GBA flashcarts (added by costello)

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