Max Media Dock Review
Written by Brakken
In this review I'll be covering Datel's latest development for the Nintendo DS ' the Max Media Dock'.
Datel's Max Media Dock is a small device which fits into the GBA slot on your Nintendo DS' and/or
Nintendo DS Lite' and acts as an interface between your console and a standard Compact Flash card
which is housed inside the Max Media Dock. The purpose of this product is to allow it's users to
use a vast array of multimedia files and homebrew on their console ' including music, pictures,
text and video.
Compact Flash Card Interface
USB v2.0 Interface
Stylus Controlled Graphic User Interface
Launch Homebrew Applications, Games, etc
Watch/Listen/View Multimedia Files
Comes in Empty, 1GB and 2GB Flavors
Max Media Dock
Max Media Player'
USB Male (Large) to Male (Mini-B) Cable
Preparation / Setup
Depending on which version of the Max Media Dock you've purchased you may have to open it up and insert
a Compact Flash card. Due to the fact I'll be reviewing the 2GB version I didn't have to open it up as
it already included a Datel branded 2GB High Speed Compact Flash card.
Of course I still wanted to check it out so I removed the two screws from the top of the unit and then
pulled on the plastic housing for the card and it came right off. Next I simply removed the top half of
the plastic housing and there was the card in all its Datel branded glory. If you're going to be opening
the plastic housing I would recommend lifting up the front (near the compact flash connectors) as the back
has two small plastic pegs that if forced I could see being easily broken.
Once I was content to see the Compact Flash card sitting there I reassembled the Max Media Dock and then
grabbed the included cable and plugged it into an empty USB slot on my computer. Windows XP recognized it
as a 'USB v2.0 Mass Storage Device' and then assigned it a drive letter.
The first thing I did was to check out the free space on the device. There was only 3,997,696 KB used
with a whopping 2,054,946 KB free! Next I went to check out what was taking up the four megabytes
of space and found a few directories. In the root of the card was a simple text file telling me the
device was 'version 1.0' and that I can find updates on www.codejunkies.com.
The Max Media Dock fits snug into the GBA slot and the Compact Flash card holder wraps around the back
of the Nintendo DS. It's not heavy nor does it get in the way of your hands. If you're one of those overly
picky people who don't like anything sticking out of your Nintendo DS you're out of luck, but I think the
thing looks slick when connected.
The directories which reside on the card are Games, Shell, Music and Movies. Located in the \Games
directory was another text file which listed two websites where you could go and locate Nintendo DS
homebrew files at.
Both the Music and Movie directories were empty, but the \Shell directory had some interesting files
in it. For starters it had the backdrop for the Max Media Dock's interface. It's a simple BMP file
which can be replaced allowing you to customize the look and feel of the onscreen GUI. For reference
the BMP is 256x192 pixels, 71dpi and 8 bits. If you're going to be creating your own make sure you
save it in the same format otherwise it won't work.
The directory also contained a small .mp3 file which is loaded up when the Max Media Dock starts. This
file can be replaced with anything you would like, but to keep yourself sane I would stick to a short
audio clip. The last file of interest was the 'global.ini' file which includes a bunch of configuration
settings for both the Max Media Dock along with MoonShell (we'll get to MoonShell in a minute). Let's
go over the options you can mess with.
This simply defines the folder that will appear after the Max Media Dock starts up. Say if you wanted
it to go to the games folder you would put in //Games so each time you started the device you could go
straight to the games directory on the Compact Flash card.
This will toggle which screen the File Selection is displayed on. I would leave it as is so you can
make use of the Stylus (0=Touch screen, 1=Top screen)
This Enable Shoulder Buttons option will let you enable or disabled the use of the top left and right
trigger buttons while in MoonShell. Again, I'd leave this set at its default value as the buttons come
in handy while in MoonShell. The only use I could see with turning them off is if you're going to be
carrying your Nintendo DS around in your pocket as this can lead to either buttons being pressed thus
skipping the current song you're listening to and/or restarting it. (0=Only when open, 1=Flexible,
This setting basically tells your Nintendo DS what to do when the current song you're listening to
ends. Very handy depending on your situation and the length of the audio file you're listening to.
(0=Stop, 1=Repeat, 2=NormalLoop, 3=NormalPowerOff, 4=ShuffleLoop, 5=ShufflePowerOff, 6=PowerOff)
This sets the default volume. I'm not too sure why they didn't let you set it with a normal number as
all you can pick is 100% or 400%. The sound at 400% is too loud and gets distorted. I prefer it to be
set at 160% and you must do this manually once you've started to play a song in
MoonShell. (16=100%, 64=400%)
This option will tell the Max Media Dock to display the current time either in Military
or Civilian format.
This sets the maximum number of files that will be displayed per each directory. I would leave
it set to 256 and just organize your files into subdirectories for easier navigation.
This is the button repeat time in milliseconds. I actually shorted the time a bit because it
took too long to double click (with the stylus) on the icons. (1=16msec, 30=500msec, 60=1sec)
This sets the specified number in seconds for the screen to dim. This is very handy as it will
drastically cut down on the power consumption when you're listening to music. Although it's set
a bit low for text so I would adjust it to at least 45 seconds unless you're some super fast reader.
These options are for either showing or hiding the various windows that come up when you start MoonShell.
This will either play or not play the 'startup jingle' (0=Off, 1=On)
The DS bricker program 'Trojan.DSBrickA/B' can render your system useless. MoonShell can check the
file to ensure it's safe to run. It takes a few seconds to scan the file, however it is not
recommended to disable this feature. (0=Do not scan, 1=Scan)
Whew! That's a lot of options, but it's nice to see you can configure and customize the Max Media
Dock to your liking. If in doubt just don't mess with the file as everything still works okay
without changing anything.
Next I set off to look for an update for the System Software (like it says to do in the readme.txt)
and found a newer version. For reference I'll be using v1.01 of the Max Media Dock System Software.
Once I had downloaded this updated version I simply placed it onto the root of the Compact Flash
card and then set off to fill it up with some multimedia files.
The second thing I downloaded was an unofficial and unsupported program called 'Maximum Overload v1.0'
which was created by two hackers who go by the names Mushroomb & Kingpin. Using their Maximum
Overload v1.0 application you can create patch (.pat) files so you can load legitimate backups
of your original games using the Max Media Dock.
Once I had downloaded the program I used it to create patches for the ten games I own and then
transferred the .pat, .nds and 'Max Overload v1_0.nds' files to the Compact Flash card under
the Games directory.
Next I rounded up some text, mp3, dpg and homebrew and copied them over to the card. Even though
the device depends on the slower Compact Flash cards it got a good transfer speed at an average
of 869,410KB per second.
After everything was transferred over to the Max Media Dock I took the Max Media Player and
inserted it into the Nintendo DS slot and then plugged the Max Media Dock into the GBA slot.
You need to plug the Max Media Player (which is essentially a relabeled Max Media Launcher)
into the Nintendo DS slot as it will redirect the code coming from the Max Media Dock (GBA slot)
to the Nintendo DS slot allowing you to run it.
Once I turned on the system I was greeted by the Datel logo and then the Max Media Dock loaded
the new version of the System Software and I was presented with the Datel logo again.
Don't worry ' the boot process only took around six seconds.
After the Datel logo vanished a menu came up allowing me to browse the contents of the Compact
Flash card using the stylus. It's a basic interface with a bunch of animated icons which represent
the folders and files on the card.
The first thing I wanted to test out was the Max Media Player's Music Player. So I double tapped
the Music folder and was presented with a list of songs. I click on one of DJ Tiesto's MP3 files
and it started to play. I was brought to a media player that could be controlled with the stylus
which featured all of your every day controls such as stop, pause, next, random, repeat, etc. The
sound quality was crisp and clear and the bass was tolerable. I would recommend if you're going to
be listening to some music that features some deep bass to use a pair of headphones as the
Nintendo DS's built in speakers just don't make the grade.
Next I moved on to the Movies, Pictures and Text folders. Sadly as per the date of this review the
Max Media Dock depends on MoonShell to view these types of files. Of course this isn't a totally
bad thing as MoonShell is the most commonly used and well refined media player for the Nintendo
DS, but it leaves a lot to be desired as one would expect a better solution coming from Datel.
Luckily, Datel has stated they will be updating the device to natively support the media files
so we'll just have to wait and see what pops up in the future.
At any rate MoonShell is indeed a work of art and works flawlessly on the Max Media Dock. I loaded
up some music videos (System of Down B.Y.O.B, Blood Hound Gang - Fire Water Burn and Ludacris &
Mystikal - Move Bitch) and they all played back perfectly. MoonShell plays back it's own DPG format
files so if you want to watch your videos you'll have to convert them first using MoonShell's
encoding software. In the system directory on the Compact Flash card is a link to MoonShell's
homepage (in the readme file) so you just go there to grab the conversion tools.
Once I was done with the video files I read a few pages of The Terminator eBook and looked at a
few photos of my various computer and console mods. Everything worked out fine. I don't really
mind using MoonShell and since this device is actually sold in retail stores such as Best Buy
most users wont even know that it depends on a 3rd party application to do it's work with.
Next on my things to test was the Max Media Dock's ability to run homebrew and backups. I started
testing it with a bunch of homebrew and only two out of twenty applications didn't boot. The Max
Media Dock will only boot .nds files so you're out of luck if the homebrew you wish to boot is
a .gba.nds. Luckily, most homebrew files are now being released as just a normal .nds file so
you won't have to worry much about this.
Now it was time to test backup images. Please remember that Datel didn't design the Max Media
Dock to play backups nor created and/or support the software that allows you to do so. Right
now I'd say the software is in a beta state and hopefully is improved upon in the near future.
Once you load the .nds file you're presented with an onscreen menu with a list of your backups
to choose from. It's got a nice interface for sure. I tested the ten games I personally own
and three out of the ten didn't work or would freeze when trying to reload them after saving
your game. One bonus is that with the games that did work there was no slowdown present even
with FMV sequences.
The patching software creates .sav file for each game you play that has EEPROM (save data) in
it and places it on the Compact Flash card so you wont loose your saves ' that is if the game
actually boots to begin with. I'd take this as a bonus since the device wasn't design to boot
backups in the first place. If you're looking for a device to solely boot backups at this point
in time I would consider purchasing something else that was designed to do this with.
In conclusion I'd say that the Max Media Dock does what it's advertised to do and does it
well. With its sleek built in GUI, use of MoonShell, high storage capacity and long battery
life (7-9 hours) you can't go wrong if you're looking for a way to play your multimedia files
on the go with your Nintendo DS.
- Bulky Size
- Depends on MoonShell
- Must Unscrew to insert CF Card
+ Quality Hardware
+ Sleek Graphical User Interface
+ Launch Homebrew
+ Media Playback Options
+ Future Software Updates Planned