iTouch DS review! Special thanks to the M3team 21st of April 2008
UPDATE - firmware 1.8
Recently I've downloaded firmware version 1.8 for the iTouch and checked it out. I've found that what I've written below is still accurate. However the menu system is now multi-language. You can change the language via the iFav menu into: English, Italian, Dutch, French, Spanish, Korean, German, Portugese and Thai(?). You do however have to reset your NDS manually after chaging the language which is rather silly ;).
A while ago the M3 team announced they would be releasing a budget based card, designed to compete (no not directly with their own product) with well known cards such as the CycloDS and TopToyDS. The iTouch DS card is the card is their new "budget" line (no prices known yet). Though not officially released under their own brand (no mention of the M3 team is anywhere on the boxing or on the iTouch website) it IS their product. For those who do not know, the M3 team is known from the G6DS real, M3DS real, M3DS simply (and R4DS) and of course their GBA slot series.
The official specifications / feature set of the iTouch DS:
- Plug and play feature for it is easy to use.
- 100% Game compatibility.
- Automatically detect and generate game save file.
- Built in cheat engine.
- Fully customizable skin interface.
- Supports both the Micro SDHC and MicroSD. (Capacity over 4GB)
- Supports homebrew applications.
- Supports software reset function.
- Supports Multi-Language.
- Supports Download Play.
- Single-chip solution, highest level of stability & lowest power consumption..
- Support Multi-Language: English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Thai Language.
Though a short list there are a few remarkable items such as: Download play support (not 100% claimed), automatic save type detection, 100% game compatibility and SDHC support. Naturally running homebrew applications (DLDI autopatching), though slightly less remarkable, is also very nice as is a customizable skin. Now on with the review (in this review I am using a Europe/USA unit with FW beta 1.1 installed). Let us see if the M3 team have truly made a proper budget cart!
The boxing, contents: iTouch DS cart + microSD cardreader.
To be honest, I kind of like the boxart :). It's one piece with a pretty nice design (but that is personal). The box is also quite small (around the size of the SuperKey box). Something I would normally feel to be improper by
the M3 team, however in this case by keeping the box small costs are lower but more importantly so are shipping costs. This package easily fits in an envelope that goes in your mailbox. As for the internals, though I am not a fan of the plastic
shell/piece in general, it is a proper fit for the iTouch DS. For the microSD card reader however it is strangely too big. The hole on the top is however the proper size for a nintendo DS lite extention pack (hmm.. maybe an expansion pack on the way?).
As for the microSD card reader quality, it is of general design and quality. According to the unit it is USB 2.0 high speed compliant though which (if true) would be kind of nice. For those interested in it's internals:
microSD cardreader internals.
The iTouch DS compared to a retail (mario Kart DS) nintendo DS cartridge.
The unit is mainly held together by clips on the side similar to those of the G6/M3DS real.
Here there are a few similarities with the G6DS real and the M3DS real. As with those units the iTouch DS is also held together via clips on the side of the case. Also, eventhough a different main chip is used (see the bottom of the page for PCB shots) there is also a hole in the top part of the cart (covered by the sticker) where you can feel the main chip sticking out.
Another similarity is that here too the guidance pins from the original cartridges is no longer there. Although this might not cause many problems I personally really feel that those two cents of plastic should be added.
General build quality is okay, but not great. The microSD slot, for those wondering, is springloaded (something I prefer). It is however a very tight fit when inserting or removing your microSD card. After a while it gets better but it still isn't smooth. As for the side clips, they produce the same problems (though worse) as with the M3/G6DS real:
making it harder to insert / remove the iTouch DS because the spring/locking mechanism of the DS latches on to them. Aside from that the card is quite alright though, having slight scratch marks of the connection pins as many of my flashcarts have after a few dozen inserts/removals.
The iTouch DS inserted in my NDSL.
As you can see, the fit of the cart is quite nice and (aside from the latches) looks quite sleek. Again though due to the latches/clips on the side of the cart removing it requires a slightly harder pull then normal (even in my relatively wide DS phat's slot).
The M3DS real inside the DS slot of my DSL. A slightly sticky fit but other then that working nicely.
The iTouch DS, as the M3DS real, automatically boots to it's main menu. I personally dislike this behavior and would have liked it if it would have been given as an option rather then an automatic setting. For one because currently the menu is not able to change the brightness levels of the NDSL screen which I often do playing in the evening. You cannot completely operate the system via the touch screen (you can't scroll other then with the R/L buttons and you cannot edit settings in the iGame menu without using buttons, see below) but the iFav system (see below aswell) does work well with just the touchscreen. The main menu is divided in 3 options: iCard, iFav and iGame.
Left: top screen. Right: bottom screen.
iCard is a general file browser which you need to use when starting NDS homebrew (not in the iFav menu) (homebrew CANNOT be started from the iGame menu). It also allows you to set up links in the iFav menu. There is currently one quite annoying bug however which doesn't allow the iCard menu to display more then 99 files (which also includes save files). Meaning you need to keep watch on how many files are in your folders. Naturally though this could be fixed in later FW versions.
Left: top screen. Right: bottom screen.
iFav is your favorites menu. It directly links to your favorite (home- and nonhomebrew) games/applications. It uses a purely icon driven system rather then filenames, however the filenames (and paths) are displayed on the top screen. This part of the menu works well and can be easily accessed via the touchscreen which is quite nice. A good point of the iFav system is that when you launch a homebrew or non homebrew game/app it remembers the settings you made (which means you can start homebrew which can't be done via the iGame menu, but more importantly it also autoloads any cheat settings you made on retail games).
Left: top screen. Right: bottom screen.
iGame is the game loading part of the iTouch system. It doesn't start DS homebrew however so creating a good directory structure is advised (as it does show homebrew). This menu also has a problem with displaying over 99 files which can be annoying. Via the iGame menu you can also edit the cheat options, but more on those later. It also allows you to edit other settings which mainly involves a soft-reset key and what patch method to use: Normal or Download Play. The latter naturally patches so that Download Play support isn't broken (so often) when starting a game.
Everything I have tested so far works with the iTouch DS (I have yet to test for the Moogle Screen of Death though). There is however slight slowdown with my (relatively slow) kingston 2GB card in the known slowdown games: Tony Hawk american skateland and Castlevania DoS. However with the latter it wasn't so much slowdown... I could better describe it as improper video and audio decoding: creating glitches in both video (green/purple/* colored fields on screen) and audio (screeches), but not slowing down the video. For more see/edit the wiki.
Cheat system / Settings menu
The cheat system is very similar to that of other carts around, though strangely enough it has slowdown features that isn't mentioned on the packaging.
Left: top screen. Right: bottom screen.
The cheat menu can be accessed by selecting the logo next to the filename in the iGame menu (by hitting the > key and hitting A). It will take some time for the settings menu to load however (it was the case with my microSD card) which can be annoying. In this menu the top screen will show what game you are editing the settings for (icon + filename), the cheatfile that is used and in the bottom left the meaning of the button that is highlighted on the bottom screen at that time. The bottom screen is where you can change the settings (from left to right, top to bottom): The used cheatfile, selected cheats, if you have the cheat switch enabled (not enabled, enabled, always on), soft-reset key enabled/disabled, slowdown/slowmotion key enabled/disabled, slowmotion level, backing up save files, patching method (normal or download play). The system is very strait forward.
When cheats are available you can select them as described above, you will be greeted with an easy menu very similar to many other cheat systems such as that of the other M3 products:
The cheat selection menu, as a comparison that of the M3/G6DS real.
Cheats and etc. are remebered settings even when games are started from the iFav menu which is really nice.
One of the features mentioned is a skinnable firm/software system. As you may have noticed from some of my screenshots (look at the backgrounds) it is indeed true that the system is quite easily skinnable (images are saved in standard bmp format). It is however not possible (at this time) to change the position of buttons or other features of the menu. The general looks of the system is however quite nice with several fading in and fading out effects and the default skin is already quite nice, but that is of course very personal.
There we are, the end of the review. "Already?" You ask. Yes already. The cart does what it promised to be able to do by the M3 team. It plays backups and homebrew while providing an easy (though still in beta) menu and adding cheat/soft-reset/download play functionality. There simply isn't more to cover :).
Playing backups works quite well and the system is, especially after reading the manual on the iTouch website, quite intuitive. Especially the iFav menu works quite well as it can be quickly accessed and works with the touchscreen. Cheat systems work easy and settings (though less speedy to access and not possible via the touchscreen) are made easily.
Though there are some slowdowns with my microSD card the cart generally performs well when it comes to speed. I could only notice slowdowns/errors in Castlevania DoS and TonyHawks American skateland (slightly slower at some points).
Build quality of this cart is pretty nice though not perfect. The microSD card slot is rather tight though it gets after using it a while. The clip/latching system used for the two parts of the shell inhibit normal removing of the cart which although not a big problem is still annoying. And lets not forget the lack of the pin guides on the DS connections. These items gives it a slightly lower rating then the M3/G6DS real units: a 7.
In the end, this could be quite a nice cart and I could see it following the R4/M3DS simply even. The formula is very similar, a simple, quick-learning curve unit with generally proper built quality. And due to the lack of extra's it COULD become cheaper even then the immensely popular series. The question of course remains however if it came a little too late, personally I think not. The better looks of the menu system gives it an edge over the R4/M3DS simply series as does the smaller boxing (cheaper shipping), but naturally that is personal taste. As for the other cards currently available the same old argument comes up again, price price price. Sadly no price is available at the moment as no store carries the iTouch DS yet.
|Overall rating for the iTouch DSslot-1 media (adapter) unit|
(out of 10)
Boxart, manual and product appeal
Hardware design, durability and features
Overall Homebrew and NDS game
(if applies) compatibility score
What this products future looks like
(Built in) extra features of the NDS media (adapter) card
|microSD (SDHC)Skinnable firmwareCheat systemmore, see list at the beginning of the review
The insides of the iTouch DS (opening is mainly done by lifting clips from the sides however the top left of the card is connected to the sticker with a bit of glue, take care when opening)
This is the Europe / USA version.
I hope you have all enjoyed my review and found it useful.
-Simon van de Berg