G6 Lite 4Gb Review You can buy a G6 Lite on GameYeeeah! Editor's Notes: The following review covers the G6 Lite as a gaming flash kit. It doesn’t touch on the PDA or multimedia functions of the device. If people are interested I will write up a part two, but for now I feel it prudent to get the gaming information out as fast as possible so that people can begin making informed choices. As with all NDS flash kits currently on the market, to use the G6 Lite in NDS mode you must have a compatible PassMe/NoPass device, or your NDS must be flashed with the "FlashMe" BIOS. It is assumed throughout this review that you have the necessary equipment/modification to use this kit outside of GBA mode. All roms used in this review are "NoIntro" versions, except for the NDS roms, which follow the "PocketHeaven" list. Introduction The G6 Lite (G6/L) has been one of the most hotly anticipated NDS flash kits for quite some time - as it is the first kit to fit fully flush with the NDS Lite (NDS/L) GBA slot. The G6 team trumps even Nintendo, who by design intended GBA carts to stick out of the NDS/L! The only other cart currently on the market that comes anywhere close to being flush with the NDS/L is the EZ-Flash IV Lite (EZ4/L), but it still sticks out a scant 0.8mm. That may not matter to some, as the EZ4/L has the bonus of removable microSD media, but for those whom style and parts matching together is an issue, that 0.8mm is the difference between a sale and no sale. So, enter the G6/L. Not only does it fit flush with the NDS/L, it promises to bring the fastest, most compatible NDS/GBA flash kit on the market to the table. The contents of my G6 Lite package. Packaging The G6/L arrives in a simple small white box, with "G6 Flash 3rd Generation", the Crystal Engine logo, and "4 in 1 Multi Media Card for NDS & GBA(SP)" emblazoned on the front, with icons for "Game", "Movie", "Music" & "True U Disk". There's a web address in the bottom left-hand corner (www.g6flash.com), and finally a logo that promises "Rechargable Battery Design". Anyone familiar with the G6/M3 line of products will be familar with the "Crystal Engine" portion, as it's what powers the M3, G6 & GBAMP (GBA Movie Player) products movie playing capabilities. The back of the box has a picture of the Flash Card & the USB Disk Burner. The Flash Card is not a picture of the G6/L, but of the GBA cart sized casing. There are three boxes labeled "1G", "2G" & "4G", which are checked off according to which version you receive. This review is looking at the 4Gb version. The back of the box also contains a huge feature list, which I will reproduce here to see if the actual functionality of the cart matches with the claims on the box: (Capitalization/Spelling/etc copied from the box.) - With True U disk Functions (G6 Flash 3-True U disk) With super high capacity (1Gb/2Gb/4Gb). Can copy data from U disk to PC rapidly and conveniently, or vice versa. - With the U disk Read/Write Speed The fastest R/W speed Flash cart in the world, only take 2 seconds for downloading 32M game, take 4-5 seconds for downloading 64M game, take 8-10 seconds for downloading 128M game from PC to Flash Card. - With the Movie & Music Player Feature (G6Flash3=Multi Media Player) G6 Flash3 can be used on the GBA for playing movies and music conveniently. - With the game picture interface. It's very clear to operate unlike other Flash carts can just be read the games' names on the GBA(SP) interface. - User can read e-book, e-account, movie, enjoy music, look up dictionary and play various games directly (FC, NES, SNES, GB, GBC, PCE, Sega-MS, GG and more) and partial Arcade Game. - All G6 Flash3 series include 1G, 2G and 4G will be able to use a new method of control. - Compatible to 1M FLASH and 512K FLASH, 4K EEPROM, 64K EEPROM, SRAM, G6 can virtually play the latest released games at real-time. - GOLDEN FINGER(CHEAT) employs the IPS system that prevails in the world, Our unique Auto IPS feature completely avoids computer crash. - Instant Save Function, high compatible for most games, no patch file or data base is necessary. Exclusive Secret Code, what you see is what you get, helps you easily pass levels. - Creative Save Manager System (SMS) enables the player to easily save files, each game assigns its own saver, virtually avoiding data loss. - It employs ASIC architecture, with extremely low power comsumption Can exclusively use special power protection IC for avoiding data loss when it is power on/off. - It has RTC (Real-Time Clock) IC inside, completely supporting RTC game without adding patches. - Real Time Save support - ASIC design, 6-layer high-density circuit board, brand IC parts and a series of strict testing guarantees its product quality and stability. - File/Rom can be deleted in random order. - PDA GUI & Nice Boot Menu - Loader does not take up space in Rom (uses additional 16Mbit Flash Memory) - Support Compression - The highest compatible Dual Soft Reset - Additional 16M Flash Memory Quite the formidable list of features to claim on the back of the box - they won't be easy to live up to, nor would they be easy for competing products to match either! Upon opening the box, there is a very nice round silver tin on the inside with "G6 Flash 3rd" stenciled on the top. Neatly packed inside some form-fitting foam is the G6/L cartridge, the USB burner that the cartridge plugs into, and an empty standard sized GBA cartridge to transfer the innards of the G6/L into if you want to use it in a regular GBA or NDS. The cartridge and empty case that I received were both white; at the time of ordering, it was not possible to choose a colour, nor were there other coloured casings included in the package. I understand that other colours are and will be available, but the colour choice I received will have no bearing on my score of the cart. Make sure when ordering the cart that you ask about colour choices if one is not presented to you, and if you would like something other than white. However, there are no instructions, manuals, discs or software included of any kind. What you see is what you get, so the package is certainly not friendly to the folks who have either never had a flash kit, or who aren't familiar with the various types of flash kits on the market. It's a shame that considering the quality of the rest of the packaging that even a mini CD with the PC-side software couldn't have been included. Update: Apparently my kit shipped without a disc, other people have reported receiving a miniCD that contains the G6 PC software (v. 4), the loader, movie conversion software, maintenance utilities, Moonshell for G6 & a manual. The manual is not up-to-date for the G6/L, but all of the utilities and software were current as of the G6/L launch. The PC software & loader have since been updated, but such is the way of the internet. Since the kits appear to come standard with a disc, I won’t dock any points, but I do note my own disappointment at not getting one. Overall, the packaging is very nice, and creates a good feeling towards the cart inside. Some competing flash kits come in very cheap packaging, and the effort put into presentation of the G6/L certainly does not go unnoticed. The included storage tin is a nice bonus, but the lack of any documentation or software leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Considering the huge list of features on the box, I don't look forward to overcoming the language barrier in discovering how they all work - if they work at all/as claimed. The G6 Lite stacks up against some of the competition. The G6 Lite is compatible with all of those NoPass devices. Functionality - Getting Started After taking everything out of the tin, I took a few minutes to consider what I should do first - head over to the website and download the necessary software, or simply plug it into my computer, drag and drop some files, and see what happened. Feeling rather adventurous, I took the second option. Right off the bat, I really felt the lack of an included USB cable - the USB burner needs to be plugged straight into a USB port just like a regular USB flash drive. Considering the thickness of the unit when the G6/L cartridge is plugged into it, a lot of users may find this to be a huge inconvenience. Access to a USB port on the front of your computer case, the side of your monitor or even your keyboard will be the easiest way to use the G6/L USB burner outside of pulling out a USB extension cable. After experimenting with different USB ports, the burner is compatible with both USB 1.1 & 2.0 ports. Obviously when connected to a proper 2.0 high-speed compatible port the data transfer will be faster. After connecting it to the side of my monitor, Windows popped up with the usual 'New Hardware Found', 'USB disk', and after a few seconds the new hardware was installed and ready to use. I browsed over to it, and there were already some folders set up on the device: \BACKING \EMU \GBA \NDS \PDA \pdaDS I browsed over to the NDS folder, and dumped a variety of clean roms into it. I disconnected the burner, put the G6/L into my NDS/L and booted up to see what would happen. I was quickly greeted with the G6 menu on the bottom screen, showing me all of the roms available that I had just placed there. However as expected, none of them worked. There was clearly a space for the game icon on the left hand side, and none of the icons showed up – I assumed this was because I hadn’t run them through the patching software. (I later discovered that yes, that was indeed the case.) The positive first impression that I got was from the menu being on the bottom screen - it's stylus compatible, meaning that all of the features of the menu can be accessed via the touch screen instead of with the D-Pad! After my quick initial run, I went over to the website and downloaded the full installation package, which is a 42MB file compressed with RAR. Apparently the size of the download is so large because it includes thousands of screen shots. Upon extracting the file I found this was true - the file G6_GRAPH.BIN is 49.4MB. Without it, the full install of the G6 software is only an extra 16.8MB.After I extracted the software, I was presented with three folders: \Extension \loader \PC software Along with English & Chinese versions of 'G6 installation guide.txt'. The file was actually easy to understand, especially taking into account the levels of broken English typically found with these products. The \PC software folder contained a single setup file executable, while the \loader folder had Chinese & English versions of the loader - 'g6loader.sys' & 'g6verify.sys' coupled with 'G6 Loader (date).txt' which explains how to update the loader. The \Extension folder contained \BACKING, \EMU & \PDA - and they were the same versions as the ones already contained on the G6/L by default, so I left them alone. I installed the PC software with a few clicks, and followed the included instructions for updating my loader to the latest version. Both operations took a few seconds, and worked exactly as described. With the software installed and the loader up-to-date, I felt much better about the lack of documentation/software in the box. I personally like to download the drivers/software from the internet, since it ensures that I will be getting the most up to date version, but instructions on the use of the products various features still would have been a small blessing. Overall, getting up and running with the G6/L was very easy. It works right out of the box, albeit at a much lower loader version than is downloadable from the website. The software install is a breeze, and updating the loader is a simple matter of following the instructions. Absolutely no drivers are required on your computer, as the USB burner is a plug-and-play mass storage device. The only inconveniences are the lack of an included USB cable for those users who don't have accessible USB ports for such a fat device, and the lack of an included manual to discover what to do after the product is removed from the box. Functionality - Software The PC software for writing games to the cart shares a very similar interface to that of the M3 software, for those that have had the chance to use it. It is a custom skinned application that does not follow with the Windows theme you are using. It has an oversized close button in the top right-hand corner, and no menu options. There are three tabs, "GBA", "NDS" & "CONFIG". When you start it, it will ask you every single time what drive your USB burner is referenced as. Even though every time I plug it in it's the same drive letter, the dialog cannot be skipped. The unskippable dialog. Yes, I was watching Gilmore Girls while writing this review, and yes I own all the boxsets. Laugh it up! Tab 1 - "GBA" The GBA tab has three windows, five buttons, a small screenshot area, the drive path of the USB burner, as well as the total amount of space and free space on the G6/L. The top window lists the GBA roms currently on the G6/L - their long file name, size in megabits, and whether or not they were transferred with real time save support and/or compression. The bottom two windows are for the save games - one window for the actual save files, and another for the real time save files. Contents are only shown in those windows when you click on a rom in the top window. The top left area also shows a screenshot from the currently selected game as well! Button - "Write" This button allows you to write a GBA, GG (Sega Game Gear), SMS (Sega Master System), NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), PCE (NEC Turbografx 16/PC Engine), GB (Game Boy) or ZIP (compressed file) to your G6/L. If the file selected is not a GBA file, but one of the other compatible types, it will be written to the cart correctly with a .gba extension. If the file selected is a GBA file, two screenshots from the selected game will be shown at the bottom of the dialog. After the game is chosen, some options will be presented: Tab - "Main": "Enable Real Time" - This allows the real time save (i.e. save anywhere, anytime) option while playing. It is accessed in-game by pressing "A", "B", "L" & "R" at the same time. "Enable Compress" - This compresses the game on the G6/L. More time will be needed to run the game if this option is selected. "Same method for all games" - Saves the options you have selected as default. Tab - "ROM Patch": "Software" "Hareware+Software" "Hareware" * Yes, it's obviously supposed to be "hardware", but I left it in for comedy. These options are not documented, and the default selection ("Hareware+Software") did not cause any problems for me during testing. Tab - "CheatCode(CHT)": The software comes with thousands of predefined CHT files which you can use to cheat in your GBA game like an Action Replay. There is a disclaimer to disable this option if your game did not run as expected. Tab - "IPS Patch": If you need to patch a rom for any reason, such as with a trainer or a translation patch, it can be done here by simply selecting the IPS patch. After a few seconds, the selected rom will be written, and a "Write OK" dialog will be presented. The roms that have been written to the cart will be listed in the top window, and you can add as many roms as there is available free space. Button - "Read" The read button allows saved games & real time saves to be transferred back to the PC. It only becomes available (i.e. 'clickable') when there are saved games available to transfer. Simply click on the desired game in the top window, and then select the saved game or real time save to transfer from the appropriate bottom window. When the desired save is chosen, click the "Read" button. A dialog will be presented asking where you would like to save the file on the PC. After the save has been transferred, a dialog will be presented with a "Read Ok" message. The ‘main’ saved game will have a .0 extension – this is the one that the G6 will save to and read from by default. By copying it to your PC and renaming the extension from .0 to .sav, you can write it to an M3 using the M3 software, and it is also usable with the Supercard as well. Just a little bit of extra convenience for anyone with different flash carts in their possession. Button - "Delete" This button is used to deliver pizza to your place of residence. No really, it's used to delete roms from the G6/L. As flash kits have advanced since the early GBA days, you can add and delete files in random order. In other words, you can delete whatever files you want, without having to worry about accidentally deleting anything else. This button cannot be used to delete save game files or real time save files. Button - "Config" This button really isn't labelled properly at all. It allows you to change the "Startup Picture" and the "WallPaper" image that are displayed on the Game Boy Advance/SP/Micro or NDS while in GBA mode. The software package comes with a number of default options, but the image sizes are shown, so it wouldn't be particularly hard to create your own. Simply choosing a new image will write it to the cart - there are no options or confirmation dialogs. Button - "Help" Pressing this button brings up a text file with help on various elements of the software interface, help on the G6 Loader and help on the both the NDS and GBA save systems. The English, while broken, is actually fairly cohesive and understandable. Tab 2 - "NDS" The NDS tab is slightly less complicated than the GBA tab, in that there is one less window to manage, and there is no screenshot area. There are two windows, five buttons, the drive path of the USB burner, as well as the total amount of space and free space on the G6/L. The top window lists the NDS roms that are currently on the G6/L - the long file name, Chinese Name and size in megabits. The bottom window shows the save games for the currently selected rom. Button - "Write" This is where the meat and potatoes is - writing NDS roms to the cart. Upon pressing it and choosing a rom (either zipped or uncompressed .nds), the following options are presented: Tab - "Main": "Software Reset" - This allows you to press a certain button combination ("L", "R", "X", "Y", "B" & "A" at the same time) to reset back to the G6 menu and choose a different game to play without powering the DS off and on. "Same method for all games" - Saves the options you have selected as default. Tab - "Read Method": "DoFAT" - This is the default option, and is the equivalent to "4x" on the M3. It supercharges the load time. I have to be honest at this particular point in time and say that I don't know how or what the software is patching/writing to achieve this feat, but nonetheless, this gives roms the absolute fastest load time possible. "Normal" - This loads roms slightly slower than 'doFAT'. Again, I am not entirely sure what this mode is patching/writing exactly, but I know that the roms load slightly slower. I imagine this mode is in here for compatibility sake, as not every rom may be compatible with 'doFAT' mode. "Directly Copy" - This will copy the rom to the G6/L without any optimizations or patches. In my experience, this is the least compatible mode, and I was left scratching my head a few times as to why it's even an option. After all, if I wanted to directly copy over any games, the G6/L functions as a USB drive when plugged into a PC - I could simply drag and drop without need for the G6 software at all. Tab - "Rom Trim": "Trim Rom" - This will trim the rom when it is copied to the G6/L, provided that it is trimmable. Trimming means that any unnecessary data at the end of a rom will be cut out to reduce the file size. Some roms may not function correctly when trimmed, so .. "No Trim Rom" - This is the default option, and will obviously not trim the rom you write to the cart. If you have any trouble trimming a particular rom to save space, use this option. Tab 3 - "Config" There are three setting in this tab. You may change the language between English, Chinese, Japanese & Korean, and you may choose the default folders for the software to look for GBA roms and NDS roms. The software is very straightforward, and I didn't experience any problems at all with everything at the default settings. Soft reset in NDS mode and Real Time Save in GBA mode both worked as expected with every game that I tried. The only game that I encountered with an issue was Rockman ZX (NDS) - it wouldn't save. However the following day the G6 team updated the PC software, and the game now saves as expected. I did not test every game in the catalog, but from the random sampling I took (300 GBA & 150 NDS), compatibility was at 100%. Random experiments with other supported games, "NES", "SMS", "GG", "GB" & "PCE", all worked fine. The G6 software builds a proper GBA compatible file that combines the appropriate emulator with the chosen game. More than one rom can be chosen in the file dialog, but each one will be written as a separate file - to build multiple games into one file, you will have to download the appropriate emulator and build the file yourself. The major annoyance with the built in emulator capability is that the roms the G6 software builds are not named correctly - each and every game you copy to the G6/L will have the exact same name. For example, every single GB game showed up as "GOOMBA EDIY". Not particularly helpful. Hopefully in a future build of the software, the correct name will show up to make choosing the games much easier. The back of the box claims that writing times are.. 32M – 2 seconds 64M – 4-5 seconds 128M – 8-10 seconds Those times are accurate, if not a little conservative. Writing to this cart is just plain fast. Forgetting the original G6, most flash carts with internal memory have much slower write speeds than this. Depending on your removable media, you may get equal write speeds, but for a cart with internal memory, it’s very impressive. The entire 512MB can be filled up in less than 60 seconds. Simply put, everything works as expected with the G6 software. There is no learning curve - plug the G6/L into the USB burner, plug the USB burner into your PC, load up the software, and choose the games to copy over to it. There are not very many options to choose from which makes the process accessible even to the newest members of the flash kit community. The major complaint is that the "biggest" options from both the GBA & NDS tabs are completely undocumented. ("ROM Patch" from the GBA tab & "Read Method" from the NDS tab.) Some better documentation on what those options do specifically would be a great help, although it's hard to argue that point when everything works just fine without changing any settings whatsoever. Functionality – Game Play With all of the testing of the software and writing various roms to the G6/L, it would all be for naught without discussing how well the games actually play when all is said and done. The good news is that everything runs at full speed - there are no slowdowns! The nefarious Castlevania intro video upon which removable media flash carts are judged runs just the way it does on the commercial cartridge. When using the ‘doFat’ option writing NDS games to the G6/L, all games I tried loaded in 5 seconds or less. Using the ‘Normal’ option, it took slightly longer, but barely noticeable. Game Boy Advance games all loaded about the same time as ‘Normal’ NDS games. The emulated games all loaded instantly, as did the smaller GBA & NDS games. There is a also a Real Time Clock included for all the Pokemon fans out there, and there is an extra 16Mbit of memory on-board to house the NDS/GBA loaders - so you get the full 4Gbit of space to dedicate to your gaming pleasures. The G6/L has a unique save management system that will be music to many users ears after dealing with carts such as the M3 over a long period of time. The G6/L actually saves directly to the cart, without storing them temporarily in memory to be written the next time the NDS/L is powered on1 The G6/L automatically generates three save files per game, with extensions .0, .1 & .2. By default it will save and load from “.0”, but pressing ‘Select’ on the selected rom will pop up a menu where you can choose which file you would like to use. It names the save files after the name of the rom, so there is never any worry about playing multiple game and losing a save. There is also no need to plug a commercial NDS game into the NDS/L to facilitate saving either. The G6/L truly takes care of everything in the background, completely transparent to the player. Saves can be backed up to the PC via the G6 software as discussed earlier, or simply copied directly using your favourite file manager. As mentioned above, the saves are compatible with the M3 & SuperCard. The GBA real time save system works the same way – three files are automatically generated, with extensions .is0, .is1 & .is2. (Instant Save, clever!) If you “Enable Real Time” when copying GBA games, you have access to an in-game menu that will allow you to utilize these files for saving and loading at any time! It is important to note that the save files and real time save files are automatically generated when you copy roms to the G6/L. It generates three files, and there is no option to generate less or more. You can delete the excess files if you don’t want them on the cart, but it does generate three files for every GBA & NDS game you copy. Make sure you keep the .0 files to ensure proper saving and loading. The cart, due to it's ASIC design, consumes a very minute supply of power. In fact, if you remove your NoPass device or you have flashed your NDS/L, the amount of playtime with the G6 Lite equals that of a commercial cartridge. There will be no worries over cutting your play sessions short due to your battery running out early! This is qute an achievement, as all other NDS flash kits that I've experienced cut the battery life down by amount. I would like to have more time to test the battery life, but as of the writing of this review, I have absolutely no complaints or anything negative to report. Functionality – “Homebrew” The ubiquitous term for “everything that’s not piracy”, or “I’m really buying my flash kit to run everything other than commercial games”. I tease, I tease. Most homebrew works just fine with the G6/L. There’s a version of Moonshell available for playing MP3s and watching videos, and major projects such as ScummVM and most emulators work successfully. Any projects that cause problems are likely to be ones that don’t yet recognize or support the G6/L file system. All homebrew games that I tried worked without a problem, as I expected. So if you really are out to play something other than the latest commercial release, the G6/L certainly won’t dampen the excitement. Conclusion – Gaming The G6 Lite is one serious piece of kit for gaming on the NDS/L. Aesthetically, it sports the same glossy finish, and is the exact same size as the GBA dustcover. Functionally, it plays all NDS & GBA games at full speed with no slowdowns, saves directly to the cart, and offers extra backup saves & real time saves on the GBA side to boot. It offers the ability to transfer GB, NES, SMS, GG & PCE games directly from the PC software by combining them with the appropriate emulator and building the rom for you. The menu in NDS mode can be operated using the stylus, and the fact that it pulls out the game icon from the rom and displays it in the menu is a nice touch. The write speed while writing games and the read speed while loading them is amazing. The loading speed comes close to forgetting that you don’t have a commercial cart in the NDS slot, and that’s no mean feat. The kit lives up to the lofty expectations that it sets out on the back of the box by delivering a plug and play, no learning curve solution to jumping right in and playing roms on your NDS/L. On the negative side, my kit didn’t come with software or a manual, which unfortunately has left a few options left undocumented for this review. It arrived with my choice of colour, as long as I wanted white. There is still no firm word about whether future versions of the kit will ship with different coloured casing choices, or whether or not different coloured kits will be sold separately, if at all. When writing emulated games to the cart, the G6 gives them all the same name, which really hampers the ability to choose which game you want to play when loading them. This may not be an issue for some people, but as someone who really enjoys a fair number of old Game Boy titles, to not be able to tell them apart almost makes the function useless. Thankfully I can simply use the emulator of my choice and build my own compatible roms, but it would be nice to see a future update of the G6 software address that issue. The USB burner is a very fat device that might cause issues for someone without much free space around an available USB port, so an extension cable may be required – and the G6/L does not ship with one. The final negative, which is really me grasping at straws – is to comment on the size of the cart. 4Gb (gigabits) which equates to 512MB (megabytes). As I finish writing the gaming portion of my review, there are currently 6 NDS, 5 GBA & 14 GB games on the cart – each with their own save games, and I still have 0.32 of 0.49 gigabytes free according to the G6 software. The size of the cart will be detrimental to someone using their NDS/L as a video/MP3 player – but for the gamer it’s enough room and then some. I give the cart a solid 9/10 based on gaming functionality alone – because it isn’t perfect, yet the total package considering the aesthetically pleasing ‘flush’ form factor right down to the compatibility, automatic save management and speed, it’s a clear winner. The G6 Lite next to the NDS Lite GBA dust cover. Clearly we can see what is superior in this picture. The G6 Lite next to transflash. Ok, you get it by now..it's small. A view of the G6 Lite in the enamel navy NDS Lite. A view of the G6 Lite in the enamel navy NDS Lite. A view of the G6 Lite in the enamel navy NDS Lite.