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NeoFlash MK3 Review

Written by Brakken
May 2006

Introduction

Ever since I published my review of NeoFlash's first coding competition which exposed their business methods I have been on bad terms with the company. Due to the fact I publicly exposed their dubious money making scheme their staff hasn't liked me one bit. As a direct result of my review the NeoFlash Team has denied all of my requests for products for review. So it took a while, but I've finally managed to obtain their flagship MK3 2006 512Mbit Nintendo DS development/backup unit for the Nintendo DS. The MK3 512Mbit is the top of the line when it comes to the MK3 series produced by NeoFlash.

The 512Mbit stands for the amount of flash built into the MK3 unit where you can store a single image inside of. There are two other versions of the MK3 ' a 128Mbit and a 256Mbit. When I first approached the NeoFlash team for a sample of their best product I was turned down, but thanks to [email protected] I've been able to obtain their bad boy. Is the product worth the money or is it plagued with compatibility issues and bugs like their previous Nintendo DS endeavors? Read on to find out.

Features

512Mbit Flash
2Mbit SRAM (Save)
16Mbit Flash (NeoKey)
Boots Clean Images
Boot from SD/MMC Card
Boot from MK3
Boot from Compatible GBA Flashcard
High-Speed 8k Cache System
SD/MMC A.I. Power Protection System
Lithium Ion Cell Battery (Auto Rechargeable)

Contents

MK3 512Mbit
NeoKey
USB Slim Loader IV
SD Card (128MB)
SD/MMC USB v2.0 Reader
Software & Driver CD

Installation

The first thing I did was set off to explore the Software and Driver Mini CD that came with the product. The disc contains a lot of information pertaining to the operation and usage of the NeoFlash MK3 along with documentation for the Neo Power Kit software, drivers for Windows based machines and a compilation of their NeoFlash coding competition entries. I was completely in the dark on how to use the MK3, but after reading the quick start guide included on the disc I had a better feel for what I needed to do to get the MK3 up and running.

In a nutshell the MK3 depends on either the SD/MMC Card or NeoKey to boot from. On either of these devices you will need to place the latest version of their Menu System software before you can turn the MK3 on and get working results. So I loaded up NeoFlash's website and found the latest version of the Menu System along with the Neo Power Kit software. I first installed the Neo Power Kit software. One thing I didn't like was I was unable to pick the installation directory as it wanted to place the software on the root of my C:\ drive.

Once this was installed I set off the flash the NeoKey with the latest Menu System software. I am not going to be trying to run the Menu System software from the SD card because CelShader who also reviewed the MK3 recently had his destroyed by trying this. So to play it safe I decided against trying. So I plugged the NeoKey into the USB Slim Loader IV and then plugged it into an empty USB slot. My computer detected the device and installed the drivers for it. So far so good!

I went to run the Neo Power Kit, but the installation software didn't install a Start Menu folder and/or link to it so I manually browsed to the directory and ran it. The program loaded up, but then froze. So I unplugged the USB Slim Loader and ran the app again. This time it came up, but when I plugged back in the USB Slim Loader it could not detect it. So I unplugged it and put it back in three more times until it finally recognized that it was plugged in.

Next I picked the Menu System software and put it on the NeoKey, but after during flashing the software got to 100.3% percent and froze. So I killed the application and went through the whole lets plug in the USB Slim Loader three times in a row until it can find it and then the Neo Power Kit showed that no space was used up on the NeoKey. I said screw it and plugged the NeoKey into my Nintendo DS anyway to see if it had flashed it.

Usage

So once I had the MK3 with the Kingston SD card and original game inserted into it plugged into my Nintendo along with the NeoKey in the GBA slot I powered it on. As I guessed it booted up the Menu System software. So basically the Neo Power Kit is some helluva buggy software.

On the main menu there are four very small icons ' MMC, Neo, MK3 and NDS. Having no clue on what NDS stood for I clicked on it and it brought me into a screen which asked me to remove and reinsert the Nintendo DS cart. So I did this and then it brought me back to the main menu. So I went back to NDS and this time it displayed the name of the Nintendo DS cart along with a small icon and asked if I wanted to back it up to the SD card. I then pressed 'A' to write it and it started to back it up, but failed at around 10%.

I was guessing possibly the backup option wasn't quite finished so I went to try another option on the main menu. This time I picked MMC which brought up a list of the files I had already placed on the SD card. One of them was MoonShell so I tried to load this and got two white screens. I was trying to run homebrew because NeoFlash themselves says that backups wont boot from the SD card. I figured why not try this out and after trying 10 different backups none of them worked. However, the MK3 did create a .sav file for each backup which it wrote to the SD card.

Next I tried to return to the main menu and the MK3 Menu Software crashed. So I turned it back on and went back to the SD card. Next I tried to flash a 512Mbit backup to the MK3's internal flash and it said there wasn't enough space. I then tried to go back to the main menu and it crashed again.

After rebooting I went to the MK3 option and it said that there was 512Mbit free. So I went back to the SD card and tried to flash a 512Mbit image again. I got the same error. So I moved on and tried to flash a 256Mbit image and it started to flash, but failed. I tried three other images until I started to wonder if there was something wrong with the SD card.

I plugged the card into my computer and made sure it worked and then plugged it into another company's backup unit and it worked fine. So I figured why not try another brand of SD card? I grabbed a Ritek and tried to dump a game. This time it dumped the game. So the MK3 was incompatible with the brand of SD card it comes packaged in with. That's really great.

So, I started my tests over and tried to run 10 images from the SD card. Each one didn't work. I did however notice that sometimes the MK3 would show an icon for the game image (or homebrew), but it would randomly show them (another bug). I tried running MoonShell again and this time it booted. Finally, something that worked!

I went back to try to flash a 512Mbit image to the MK3 and still got the same 'not enough space error'. Again, I double checked the free space and it said 512Mbit. So I tried to flash a 256Mbit game to the MK3 and it worked. The flashing process was a real letdown as it takes around 9 minutes to flash the MK3 with a 256Mbit image.

In total I flashed the MK3 with 10 different images and only three of the ten booted. I guess all the fuss I've heard about the MK3's lack of compatibility was true. Not only did 3 of them work, but it took me 25 tries to write the 10 images as it would error a bunch as I was trying to write them. I ended up spending close to 3 hours just trying to test 10 images.

There was one more option that needed testing which was the Neo option. Using this option you can boot NDS images from the GBA slot if they are flashed on a compatible card. Compatible cards include the XG2005 line of flashcarts along with the NeoFlash carts. Sadly, I was unable to test this feature due to the fact I didn't have a compatible cart, but after checking various compatibility lists including CelShader's I was pretty glad I didn't have one as the MK3 has the worst compatibility when it comes to running images compared to another other backup unit on the market.

What even puzzled me more then the lack of compatibility is why NeoFlash would include a bunch of GBA emulators on the disc as the MK3 is unable to run GBA homebrew and/or games.

Conclusion

So ' Where to start!?! The MK3 doesn't even work with the SD card brand it comes with! You can't load files directly from the SD card! Its software is super buggy! It has crap for compatibility! The Menu System crashes all the time! It doesn't even let me use the full 512Mbit! It takes hours just to test a handful of games that less then 60% worked! Should I continue?

In conclusion I would stay as far away from the MK3 as possible. It's pure crap. There's no way around it. I'm totally disgusted with its software and don't even believed I wasted time reviewing it. If this is the 'best' NeoFlash has to offer I hate to see their lower end products in action.

Positives

+ The Box It Comes In
+ Good for Starting a Fire with?

Negatives

- Buggy Software
- Buggy Operating System
- Lack of Compatibility
- Unworking Features
- Too Many Too List!

 


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