Neo-Max Review V 0.2

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Luse, Dec 20, 2005.

Dec 20, 2005

Neo-Max Review V 0.2 by Luse at 1:19 AM (20,546 Views / 0 Likes) 1 replies

  1. Luse
    OP

    Banned Luse Now with more MOOSE!!!

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    Please read review in post below

    Please note that this product is out-dated and is no longer in production or available. This review is for archive purposes only
     
  2. Sinkhead

    Former Staff Sinkhead yay p1ngpong.

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    Neo-Max Review
    V 0.2

    Introduction:

    I’d like to point out right now that this review will go through revisions and updates, as it’s going to have to be a work in progress which is fitting seeing as the MK2/MK3 and the Neo-Max are all just that. When more stable, better software for these products come up expect to see this review updated. When this review is updated, the Version number will change, for future refference I started at V 0.1


    Update V0.2 is at the bottom of this review, it has been updated and accounted for.

    The Neoflash team, a name that ranks among the forerunners of the DS flashcard scene, as they were the first to release a working kit to a hungry group of savvy pirates, and homebrew fiends. For more information on the first Neoflash DS kit, check out Shaun’s review here.​
    While the Neoflash team seem to be as infamous as they are famous, due to various circumstances, they seem to have set out to try and rebuild their image. Just as they were the first on the scene with a rom patcher that only worked on there product, now they are the first to deliver the promise of clean roms.​
    The Neo-Max is supposed to be the new, bigger, better, version of the old Neoflash Kit, updated, redesigned, reworked, and tweaked to some kind of super perfection. This is supposed to be the “more bang for your buck” package, that comes with everything you need for your NDS needs and it’s time to see how this turned out. ​

    Features:

    * Includes Mini High-Speed USB Slim Loader III
    * Includes USB Pen Driver for SD/MMC card, plug and play (no driver needed)
    * First built-in inner High-Speed 8K cache system
    * First built-in changeable battery system for NEO cart
    * First built-in battery voltage indicate system
    * First built-in SD/MMC A.I. power protection system
    * Built-in mobile Li-Ion cell battery, no need to maintain, auto rechargeable
    * Built-in PDA style GBA/NDS menu, can use NDS touch screen for total control
    * Built-in SMS2 system, can edit and backup/restore the game save file to SD/MMC
    * Built-in 2M REAL hardware save system, simulates 100% of the EEPROM/Flash chip
    * Built-in 16M Menu Flash, can use GBA cart or SD/MMC to upgrade the new MK core
    * Built-in 32M big buffer area, can run very complex APP software
    * Built-in 64M NOR flash, can use for store files and SMS
    * Built-in NeoFAT system, support multi-files, can load file from SD/MMC directly
    * Built-in power save function, the idle module will auto enter sleep mode​
    My set includes:
    NEO-Max 512M+128M Zip flash cart x1
    USB Slim Loader III x1
    MK3(64M+32M Zip) x1
    SD Card (1Gb~32Gb) x1
    SD/MMC USB PEN x1
    1632 Cell Batteries x3
    USB Extension Cable x1
    Driver CD x1​

    The Lowdown:

    [​IMG]

    First thing your going to notice is the Matrix box design. Ok so it’s cheesy, it screams “ I want you to think I’m cool”, but it really is sort of fitting. It is named the “Neo”-max after all, and it has a chance to be “the one” due to the MK3 cart included, as silly as that might sound.

    [​IMG]

    If you look past that you find a heavy cardboard box that is built a lot better then some of their previous kits, and when you open it up you notice that the lip of the top of the box has a magnet that keeps it closed. Everything’s packed inside of it rather snugly, but perhaps too snug. To remove the USB card reader, and the USB slim loader III I had to pull out the felt laced plastic insert and push from underneath it to get them loose.

    [​IMG]

    Once you have all the bits and pieces out of the box, it’s time to inspect them.

    [​IMG]

    Let’s start with the Neo-Max 512Mb+128 Zip GBA cart.

    [​IMG]

    On the top of the cart is a small battery bay, that is removable so that you can replace the battery’s without taking the cart apart. You pull out by clasping two tiny tabs of plastic with your fingernails and squeezing them in, and then pulling the bay out.

    Now this probably worked well in theory, and I’ve seen other carts with a similar idea, but what happened with me was as soon as one side was ok, there was no room for my fingernail on the other side.

    It took me a good 10 minutes of fiddling around with this, just to put the battery in the cart. So, I managed to do it eventually, I wish I could say it was easier to pull it out, but that’s the other problem. Pulling the battery bay out is just as much a pain in the ass, and I don’t see this changing as even once your fingernails are in place and your ready to pull out, it just stays there.

    Yes sir, that’s a good feature to put on the back of the box, the first battery bay for a Neoflash cart. I really wish I could have just unscrewed the damn thing, popped the battery in and went upon my merry way.

    Other then that, the cart seems to be similar to most of the other Neoflash carts, only this one comes with a shiny sticker “Matrix” design like the box that says “Neo-Max”.

    [​IMG]

    Next up we have the USB Slim Loader III, and while I like the idea of having a GBA cart loader that doesn’t need a GBA to flash the cart, I really hate this thing.

    The USB cord, that in pictures looks like a good idea, is fit so tight into it’s slot that you have to pry the damn thing loose, and when you put the Neo-Max cart into the loader, the fit is so tight that I feel I’m going to break either it or the cart every time I use it. Because it’s a hard plastic, and not a woman, I fear it will never loosen up over time, and it’s just a matter of that same time before something breaks.

    [​IMG]

    To get this working you need a driver, and it’s the only piece of software on the disc that came in the package worth a damn, everything else has already been updated so rather then waste time playing with any of the rest of the disc, lets just leave it at that shall we…

    [​IMG]

    We move on to the SD/MMC/RS-MMC/T-Flash USB 2.0 card reader/writer (say that ten times fast), and once again the “it’s too damn tight” feature kicks in. The little cap on the end of this really doesn’t want to come off. The second time I tried pulling off the cap I had to use a pair of pliers to rip the cap off, so it’s a good thing I took all the pictures before I did this. This doesn’t require any drivers but at this time I’m unsure if it, or the generic SD card that comes in the kit is the culprit behind one of my personal pet peeves with this entire thing.

    [​IMG]

    For some reason, when ever I load a rom onto the SD card, even if it’s the exact same rom, the time it takes to load varies. I’m going to use Phoenix Wright as an example, the first time I put in on the SD card it took 3 minutes. The second time I put the exact same rom on it took around 1. The third time after 5 minutes of waiting for it to load, I got an error message I have seen atleast 20 times in testing this kit out.

    Now, while this error message is a constant nagging problem, for some reason every single rom still flashed to the SD card, and still worked in the DS, but it still wants to tell me it’s not there, or that it didn’t flash. The complete random nature of the loading times, and the utter lack of logic to it all makes me clueless as to what the problem really is, but I’d wager it might be the software.

    So what’s left?

    [​IMG]

    There’s a USB expansion cable I didn’t need so I left it untouched.

    [​IMG]

    I used one of the three battery’s for the GBA cart and it works so far.

    That’s everything touched upon then, so lets move on…

    What?

    I forgot the MK3?

    Ok, fine.

    [​IMG]

    The MK3 is pretty much exactly like the MK2 (for more information on the MK2 check Darkforce’s review here, it pretty much sums up the MK3 in it‘s current state as well so be sure to read his review if your considering a purchase) , as can be seen from this list from the Neoflash site:

    MagicKey2 / MagicKey3 Main Feature:
    1.Boot from ANY Flash cart.
    2.Included 8Kb high-speed inner buffer, can use command to read/write it.
    3.Included 2M SRAM for NDS game save ( 100% hardware save, support EEPROM and Serial Flash directly ), and can compress the game save then backup to 16M menu flash later ( SMS function ).
    4.Included 16M Flash for menu, can store the MK2 / MK3 boot menu program, and can backup / restore the NDS SMS file
    5.Support SD and MMC card directly, maximum memory size up to 16Gb ~ 32Gb.
    6.Included Li-Ion battery, lifetime over 5 years, can keep the game save data around 3~7 days, for temporary using only, must backup the save data to menu flash later for a long time safe backup.
    7.Battery voltage display, can show NDS working voltage and MK2 / MK3 Li-Ion battery voltage.
    8.Support software reset, it'll help to make the multi-files loader.
    9.Support memory bank swap, very easy to use offset to swap the memory bank.
    10.Support power saving mode, some hardware module can enter sleeping mode when it don't run, and can use command to call them wake up.
    11*.Included 256M / 512M Flash, for run PD rom and APP rom through MK2/MK3 and not need SD/MMC support.
    12*.Included 64M / 128M Zip RAM, for decompress the data and run directly, also can use for a huge size high-speed working buffer, for example the Linux / EMU / PDA ...

    The only difference between the MK2 and the MK3 are the last two numbers (11 and 12 for you slow people)

    So that’s that right, that’s all you need to know?

    [​IMG]

    Well the Neo-Max MK3 is the most neutered MK3 money can buy. While the stand alone MK3 comes in two sizes, the first being 256m + 64m zip and the second being 512m + 128m zip. The Neo-Max kit comes with 64M + 32M zip…

    What this is supposed to do is give you even more space to store games, menus and applications, this is the feature that is touted to kill the need to boot from a GBA cart. This is where the “the one” reference I made earlier comes into play, as this would also theoretically kill the loading and slow down issues the MK2/MK3 now suffer from, but this also is where the Neo-Max falls flat on it’s face.

    What good is the 64m +32m zip in the Neo-Max MK3?

    [​IMG]

    The thing is right now, this isn’t an issue simply because this feature isn’t even working yet, but the point is that if you care about loading roms without a GBA cart, or loading roms directly from the MK3’s extra memory your shit outta luck with the Neo-Max MK3, it‘s not going to be able to handle all the games, and that is the most important part of any flash kit.

    So while it’s nice to sit back and talk about the future of the MK2 + MK3, and about how cool it is to play clean roms, the future of the Neo-Max really isn’t as bright. You can buy 4 different types of the Neo-Max kit, and the only difference is the size of the generic SD card that comes with it. The MK3 is neutered in all the kits.

    One day I hope to do a full on proper review of this kit, of the MK3, and of all the endless possibilities touted for it. And when that day comes I’ll be one happy camper, but with what seems like beta software, and what looks like a huge lack of support for most things most other flash carts can do there is little for me to do or say.

    Let me touch upon the compatibility of the MK3, no matter what size it is, right now only a little more then 50% of the DS roms list works, and even when you get say Jump Super Stars loaded up and working, your looking at about 10 to 15 seconds of loading times in-between each different menu screen. It can take minutes to just go through a few of the rounds. Something like Phoenix Wright on the other hand, which is just a text based game barely has any loading at all, but does have hiccups that pause the dialogue.

    Now you can use the GST patcher to make a few more games work, and while that takes away from one of the main selling points of “clean roms working”, I do think that’s where the Neoflash team gets it’s 80% compatibility numbers from. In the end that still just adding more work to what should be a simple process, and storing multiple copies of the same roms patched and unpatched is a waste of space on your hard drive.

    I could talk more about the Neo-Max specific software, I managed to get a GBA game to run, but I couldn’t get it to run a DS game at all, I had to use the Neo flash power kit for the MK2/MK3 to get that done, which goes to show how much of a beta kit these products all feel like. I hope with the next batch of software alot of these issues will be clear up, but I doubt it will all be fixed and working with the next release, it may take many software revisions.

    One last thing to add to this, right before posting this up I pulled out the kit to play some Phoneix Wright, it being a simple text adventure game, the loading issues are not much of a problem. It took 20 seconds to load to the Capcom screen and shortly after that it crashed. So I put it away, and decided to buy the game instead.

    I also had a bit of fun with my nephew showing him the kit, and watching him try to get the Neo-Max into the USB Slim Loader III, watching him struggle with it made me laugh, but also showed me I'm not really being too harsh.​

    Conclusion:

    To sum all this up, if I had paid for this kit myself, I’d be chopping team Neoflash’s horse into bits and putting it’s head in their bed’s. Considering they never got the MK1 and original Neoflash kit up to snuff with the other carts on the market, they have shown, by making new carts and kits that they didn’t really learn much the first time.

    As my Grandmother used to say before I stuffed her into a trunk and threw her into a river, “Fool me once, shame on you…Fool me twice, shame on me…”

    Now don’t get me wrong, some of you might feel alot of this is harsh, but it's not all gloom and doom.

    I do believe that the MK3 has the potential to kick all the other DS kits to the curb and spit on their carcass, but the one in the Neo-Max kit will never live up to the full blown MK3 you can only buy separately, and for twice the price as a M3 and passme, this kit’s got nothing going for it.

    There is also the GST patcher that can be used right now to increase compatibility with some of the clean roms that don‘t work, but that isn’t supposed to be a feature of this kit, that’s just an aside. The biggest problem right now is that I can’t just use one piece of software to play everything, I have to use many different things in order to get any use of the cart, and that’s frankly a pain in the ass that should have been sorted out before the product hit the shops.

    Even when the software is up to snuff, and this review is updated to reflect that, I do believe that if you think the MK3 is a good idea, and that it’s a future you’d like to support you will really want the full blown 512m+ 128m zip version, and skip both the MK2 and the Neo-Max all together.

    When and if the software allows for these carts to be fully utilized it will simply be “the one” to buy, but all I can say now is wait for that to happen, or wait for someone else to do it better.


    + It supports clean roms
    + It convinced me that Phoenix Wright was worth buying
    + The possibility of what the MK3 could do in the future looks solid

    - The future is not now
    - This kit is over-priced and under-powered
    - Flashcarts should not encourage you to actually buy games
    - Loading roms on to the SD card with the provided equipment is a bit hit or miss, very inconsistent
    - SD card loading to the DS is slow, I almost thought I was playing my PSP
    - Having to use different programs to get DS or GBA support to work
    - Game compatibility isn’t great, most of the games worth playing don’t work​

    Overall:



    N/A ​



    Until software becomes available that allows for all the real features of the MK3 and Neo-Max to function, there is no point in having a score yet...​

    Links:


    http://www.neoflash.com Official Neo-Max Website
    http://www.neoflash.com/forum/index.php/board,19.0.html Official Neo Software Download Site
    http://shop.01media.com/ Shop01 Media, European seller of the Neo-Max and other flashcarts​

    Shout outs:


    I’d like to thank Shop01 for supplying this kit for review, Shaun and Costello for answering questions before I got the kit, and some afterwards, Speechles for doing what he does best over on irc, as well as Darkforce who I conferred with on the MK2/MK3 issues and functions. Most importantly you guys on GBAtemp who took the time to read this.​


    UPDATE V 0.2

    Well a day after I finished my review the third version of the Neo-Max software was released, and so it‘s time for the first update.

    The Neo-Max V1.1A software has the following additions made to it:

    1 Upgrade the X2USB.DLL again
    2 Make gba loader and nds loader separate,more easy to make the new plugin.
    3 Add the application - calendar
    4 Improved the buring stability?
    5 The current version just support NEO-MAX 512M+128M cart, more cart will be sport in next version.

    At first glance, I’m not really sure what was added. A calendar application, and the separation of GBA and NDS. Number 4 seems more like a question being asked of us rather then a solution to burning problems.

    So I downloaded this new software put the GBA cart into the USB slim III and reformatted the card, noticed that yes indeed the GBA and NDS loaders look separate, then I put the SD into the USB card reader and tried to put Phoenix Wright onto the SD using the Neo-Max program, to see if it would work. It told me that the game was too big and that the max file size was 256 and that I should load it directly.

    [​IMG]

    It also seem vigilant to know if I was ok with this, as the next pop up simply was:

    [​IMG]

    I assume that means to put the file directly on the SD card, so I do it the way I did before, 5 minutes later I get the error screen I see all the time, only this time I made sure to screen cap it.

    [​IMG]

    Yet again the file did transfer over fully on to the SD card, but it just doesn’t want me to know that it‘s there.

    So I hook all the stuff up to the DS. GBA cart in GBA slot, MK3 with DS game and SD card into DS slot, and turn on the power.

    The Screen loads to the same windows interface that the previous version did, and I click on the NDS games button. This time I see an black space that should be Phoenix Wright, but it’s solid black. I click on it and it tells me that the game is too large and that I should write it directly to the flash cart.

    So shaking my head, I turned it all off, removed the SD card and the GBA cart, and turned on the Neo-Max V1.1A software again. I take Phoenix Wright off the SD card and directly write it to the GBA cart. After 17 minutes when it said it was written I once again hooked everything back up and turned on my DS.

    I was greeted by two white screens. I let it stay like that for 10 minutes, thinking “ Hey, it might be loading” before I turned it off.

    So far a lot of time spent doing nothing, but I didn’t give up yet.

    When I hooked the Slim Loader back up to my computer and loaded up the Neo-Max program again, it told me I had to format the card. So writing Phoenix Wright either didn’t work, or it overwrote something, or it disappeared, but whatever, the program wanted the card formatted again.

    I format the card and then go through the entire process I did before, only this time I get Dig Dug loaded to the SD card through the Neo-Max program. Progress at last.

    I hooked everything back up to the DS, and turned it on, the Neo-Max menu shows up, and it asks me if I want to back up my save. Scratching my head at that, I ignored that option and went into the DS section again to load up Dig Dig DS. Again the black image was there showing what might be a menu selection , but it didn’t show anything. I selected it anyway and it asked if I wanted to boot he game. I hit the A button and a bar at the bottom of the screen started filling up. I took that as a loading bar.

    I waited until the blue bar was full, and waited some more. After another 10 minutes went by, and nothing seemed to be happening anymore I once again turned off the DS.

    I sighed as I put the Neo-Max away to wait for the next update. I feel I should mention that the calendar feature worked, so it wasn’t all for naught. ​



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