Objective Comparison of 3DS Mode Flashcarts, CFW, and HB Loader

Discussion in '3DS - Flashcards & Custom Firmwares' started by Korin, Feb 4, 2015.

  1. Korin
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    Korin GBAtemp Regular

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    The goal of this thread is to break down and compare the features of various system modifications which allow the playing of ROMs, CIAs, and homebrew. Hopefully this thread will be able to answer the question "Which method should I use?".

    Methods Covered in this Thread:
    Gateway 3DS (Flashcart)
    Sky3DS (Flashcart)
    Palantine CFW
    Ninjhax
    RegionThree

    Gateway 3DS

    Compatible Consoles and Firmware Versions:
    Works on 2DS, 3DS & 3DS XL (Firmware 4.1-9.2)
    With EmuNand, supports firmware 9.5

    Current Benefits of Gateway:
    Downgrading sysnand (Can even be used without owning a Gateway)
    Restoring NAND
    EmuNand
    Homebrew Access
    CIA installation through DevMenu (Huge number of possibilities)
    Active development with more features promised in the future
    Gateway Blue Card allows loading of DS ROMs
    Cubic Ninja (Ninjhax) can be run through Gateway

    Current Downsides of Gateway:
    Does not work above 9.2
    N3DS Support is not yet released
    Possibly still contains Brick Code
    EmuNand not accessible without Gateway Card

    EmuNand 9.5+ Currently not possible on N3DS, may be in the future.
    Promised Future Features:
    The updates aren't magically instant, and not all promised features are currently supported, although this could change at any point.
    • Cheats
    • New 3DS Support (Not yet public)
    • GBA support
    Overall Verdict:
    The Gateway 3DS card has the most features of any method. As it is, if you have a 3DS (Not N3DS) within the compatible firmware range, this is my personal recommendation. Even if you do not own a Gateway card, some of the features could prove useful to you.

    Sky3DS

    Compatible Consoles and Firmware Versions:
    Works on 2DS, 3DS, 3DS XL, N3DS, N3DS XL (All Firmware Versions)
    No EmuNand support

    Current Benefits of Sky:
    Sky works on all current Sysnand Versions and N3DS
    Partial Region Free Support thanks to Smealum (Unofficial, through RegionThree)
    After the initial blunder, not limited to just 10 games ever
    No potential to brick a console (To the best of my knowledge)
    Ninjhax through Cubic Ninja ROM (only if you are on FW 9.2 or lower)
    "Sky3DS can use Powersaves to backup/restore/modify savedata with appropriate header from retail card. Tested w CARD2 game"- Thiakhoa

    Downsides of Sky:
    No EmuNand
    No CIAs
    No Official Region Free capability
    *Not Officially on my list* Takes ages to switch ROMs when you have a bunch

    Overall Verdict:
    If you own a N3DS, currently Sky3DS is your only option. Additionally, for younger children this is a much easier card to use with far fewer risks involved. If you prefer the relative simplicity for yourself and do not care about the other features a Gateway can offer this is the card for you.

    Palantine's 4.x Only CFW (Link)

    Compatible Consoles and Firmware Versions:
    Works on 3DS and 3DS XL (4.1-4.5 ONLY)

    Current Benefits of Palantine's CFW:
    Free
    Ability to install CIA files

    Current Downsides of Palantine's CFW:
    Relatively complicated to install
    Does not boot consistently
    Relatively low compatibility with newer games
    Not Open Source
    No access to EmuNand

    Overall Verdict:
    If you don't want to spend any money, you don't want any of the features a Gateway offers, you don't need to play any newer game, and you don't have a N3DS this is the option for you. I'm not trying to belittle the achievement of creating a CFW for the 3DS scene and opening up a free alternative to flashcarts, but I don't recommend it as the primary option for users who have the funds for a flashcart.

    Ninjhax by Smealum (Link)

    Compatible Consoles and Firmware Versions:
    Works on 3DS, 3DS XL or 2DS (4.0.0-7 and 9.2.0-20) (NOTE : New 3DSes have to be on at least 9.0 to run ninjhax)

    Current Benefits of Ninjhax:
    Ability to run Homebrew Games and applications without CFW or flashcart
    Free
    Open Source

    Current Downsides of Ninjhax:
    Smealum will disembowel you if you call it "Ninjahax"
    Will never be compatible with >9.2 Firmware
    Cannot be used to install CIAs or play ROMs
    Cubic Ninja is a relatively uncommon game, and the release of Ninjhax drastically increased the price.
    No access to EmuNand

    Overall Verdict:
    Ninjhax was a revolutionary release for the 3DS scene, and it has caused the scene to explode (In a good way). If you have Cubic Ninja (Or a way to run a Cubic Ninja backup) ninjhax is a great way to access the homebrew games and applications lovingly put together by the community.

    Regionthree by Smealum (Link)

    Compatible Consoles and Firmware Versions:
    Works on 3DS, 3DSXL, 2DS (4.0-9.4)*MAY WORK ON 9.5*
    Bypasses mandatory gamecard firmware updates

    Current Benefits of Regionthree:
    Allows you to play games which are not from your console's region
    Free
    Open Source

    Current Downsides of Regionthree:
    Cannot be used to install CIAs or play ROMs
    No access to EmuNand
    Requires internet connection (Can be done from a local server)

    Overall Verdict:
    Pretty cool way to play games from outside your region if you don't own a N3DS.

    PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING:
    I do not want to see Gateway vs. Sky3DS arguments in the comments. If you want to add your own OBJECTIVE comments on the merits or drawbacks of a card feel free to do so, but do not use this thread as a platform to flame other members for their choice in flashcard. I also do not want to see a debate about piracy, this is not the place for that.

    I did not include clone cards because as far as I know they hold no benefits over the cards they clone. I did not include unreleased flashcarts because there is no way to know for certain how well they will work or if they will ever be released. If you know of any reason why I should include a clone card or have a highly reputable source for features of an unreleased flashcart feel free to let me know and I'll add them.

    I am not against changing, adding, or removing items on this post.

    TL;DR - Buying games is the best option, and if you like a game you should buy it to support the developers.

    Further Reading: http://wiki.gbatemp.net/wiki/3DS_Flashcart_Comparison
     
    ronildo66, pelago, zfreeman and 11 others like this.
  2. thorasgar

    thorasgar Checkout my evil Soon-in-atorâ„¢

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    Good work. Thank you.
     
  3. nop90

    nop90 GBAtemp Maniac

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    Nice and useful comparison for newby.

    Thanks
     
  4. zergslayer69

    zergslayer69 GBAtemp Fan

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    Curious on the sky game switch, how long does it take to switch per game? Does an ultra fast chip help speed it up? And when you put in the sky does it always show the first game on the list or whichever one you last played?
     
  5. Korin
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    Korin GBAtemp Regular

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    From anecdotal evidence I have read on these forums, apparently a better micro SD card will affect how quickly the Sky3DS switches ROMs.
     
  6. Sammy_Lee

    Sammy_Lee Advanced Member

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    It takes 8 - 9 sec. to switch a Game with the Sky and it will show the last Game that was played.
     
  7. zergslayer69

    zergslayer69 GBAtemp Fan

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    Wow 8-9 seconds, that's really slow. If we use the Samsung extreme pro chips could we get that down to 5 or less? Or is it going to be around 8-9 regardless?
     
  8. DjoeN

    DjoeN Captain Haddock!

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    Somewhere in this potatoland!

    I use a 32GB class 10 Sandisk Ultra microsdhc and it only takes about 4-5 seconds to switch a game (mostly around 4 seconds)
     
  9. BaNaNa01011

    BaNaNa01011 Member

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    Thanks for this thread. This is the first I've heard of Gateway planning to support GBA/cheats. Does anyone have any links confirming this? Google yields nothing
     
  10. Thomas12345

    Thomas12345 GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Thank you for this! i especially like how you remained very objective and don't sugar coat anything
     
  11. thorasgar
    This message by thorasgar has been removed from public view by Veho, Feb 6, 2015, Reason: Flamebait.
    Feb 6, 2015
  12. thaikhoa

    thaikhoa GBAtemp Maniac

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    Sky3DS can use Powersaves to backup/restore/modify savedata with appropriate header from retail card. Tested w CARD2 game.
     
  13. Korin
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    Korin GBAtemp Regular

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    Really? I'll add that to the OP.
     
  14. SomecallmeBerto

    SomecallmeBerto The Anti-Hero

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    Nice list TC
     
  15. thaikhoa

    thaikhoa GBAtemp Maniac

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    Yes, definitely :D
     
  16. DaFixer

    DaFixer Dare to be stupid

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    In my mencave ;)
    Nice, thanks for you work ;)
     
  17. RJ Sly 95

    RJ Sly 95 GBAtemp Regular

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    You *can* use emunand with CFW, even though you would need a DS flashcart. Other than that, great work!
     
  18. dfsa3fdvc1

    dfsa3fdvc1 GBAtemp Regular

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    If you can, you should include game compatibility. Not trying to be a fanboy but IIRC aren't there some games that Sky3DS can't run?
     
  19. tony_2018

    tony_2018 GBAtemp Psycho!

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    Should be noted that users of sky3ds will have to purchase PowerSave device to do this.

    I assumed it could play all roms. This is news to me.
     
  20. dfsa3fdvc1

    dfsa3fdvc1 GBAtemp Regular

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    Yeah, I might be wrong. I remember reading another comparison between Sky and GW and he said something like that.... Maybe he was implying the lack of CIAs or something.
     
  21. Xenon Hacks

    Xenon Hacks GBAtemp Guru

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    Also doesnt region three bypass cart updates aswell?