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

Korin

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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

List of Features from Gateway Website said:
  • Multi-rom support
  • In Menu OSD title selection
  • exFat & Fat32 support
  • NAND based rom support
  • Game cart backup
  • On board diagnostics
  • EmuNand
  • Clean Boot region free system
  • Back up system Nand

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.
Gateway Website said:
We will not be able to support emunand 9.5 or higher for a while on the New 3DS. This is only an issue for the New 3DS, the old 3DS and 2DS will never have this issue. This is not a definitive barrier, but we feel it necessary to inform our users that while we are still working on releasing our New 3ds support, we will not be able to provide support yet for 9.5 emunand or higher for New 3DS on release.

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

List of Features from Sky3DS Website said:
  • Plug & Play, easy to use, Multi-rom support.
  • Support any 3DS system version(including the newest V9.5.0-22J).
  • Support all New3DS/3DSLL, 3DS/XL, 2DS consoles(US,EU,JP).
  • Support online game and eShop access.
  • Compatible with any MicroSD 2GB,4GB,8GB,16GB,32GB,64GB,128GB SDHC/SDXC card.

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)

Smealum said:
ninjhax is a piece of software that allows you to run unsigned code on your 3DS. In practice, this means being able to run homebrew applications such as games, tools and emulators! To see it in action, look no further.
For information on the inner workings of ninjhax, you can find a full technical writeup here.
You can also find the full source code here.

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
 

zergslayer69

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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?
 

Korin

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

zergslayer69

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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?
 

DjoeN

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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?


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)
 

BaNaNa01011

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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
 

thaikhoa

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

dfsa3fdvc1

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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?
 

tony_2018

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Really? I'll add that to the OP.


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

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?

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

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