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Thread: iSmart MM

  1. #1

    Default iSmart MM

    Special thanks to RealHotStuff.com for providing the sample used in this review:



    - Introduction -



    The iSmart MM, which is short for iSmart Multimedia, follows closely after the release of the iSmart Premium.* Both carts are designed by the iSmart team and are cheaper variations of highly successful carts in the market.* The team is very new, but has earned some valuable experience with the iSmart Premium.


    In the iSmart Premium review, we found the cart was almost identical to the EZ Flash Vi, and for this particular review, it is clear that the iSmart MM is closely tied to the Supercard DS TWO and the iPlayer.




    Side by side, it is hard to tell the difference between the shells of the two carts asides from sticker and color choice.




    - Design -



    The iSmart MM ships in one of the smallest boxes I’ve seen lately.* It’s not pretty to look at and is a minimalistic mash-up of black, blue and red.* I’m not exactly fond of the design, but inside the package is a foam insert that held the iSmart MM and the accompanying MicroSD reader safely in its grasp.




    The box isn't the most appealing, but it does have a nice foam insert.


    The iSmart MM cartridge uses the same casing as the iPlayer and the Supercard DS TWO.* In looks they are absolutely identical asides from the choice of color.* The cartridge is still held together with one screw on the back and there are several teeth covering the contacts, but it isn’t the full set.* There is a spring-loaded slot at the top for the MicroSD which isn’t too tight or loose.* And the sticker on the iSmart MM is glossy and feels a little thick.




    The casing is identical, but the stickers aren't.


    Most importantly, there are chips sticking out in the front.* There are three chips sticking out of the front of the iSmart MM, just like the Supercard DS TWO, but the size and shape differs.* These chips make the cartridge a little thicker than original Nintendo cartridges, and as a result, the ejection mechanism on the DS slot 1 isn’t as smooth.* In fact, the iSmart MM tugs at the walls of my DSi console, and I have to pull it out.




    I was hoping to get a shot of the thickness difference, but it is a very tiny bump that's hard to catch with a camera.


    It should also be pointed out that the cartridge bears similarities to the Supercard DS TWO and the iPlayer even on the PCB.* Though in use, I wouldn’t have hesitated to state that the iSmart MM is very similar, if not identical to the Supercard DS TWO, mbmax of the iSmart forums has found that the iSmart MM PCB is much closer to that of the iPlayer than the Supercard DS TWO.* The iPlayer and iSmart MM are both using chips that are very slightly inferior to that of the Supercard DS TWO.* In practice however, no difference can be seen.




    The Supercard DS TWO does come out on top.


    The package also includes a metal MicroSD reader emblazoned with the iSmartDS logo.* It is the same reader that shipped with the early R4 carts, the EZ Flash Vi’s and a slew of other R4 clones.* It is reasonably reliable for a freebie and relatively fast.* I have absolutely no complaints; it’ll come in handy for those of you without MicroSD readers, though I recommend getting another one in the long run.



    - Software



    The iSmart MM hasn’t had too many updates.* Actually, they are far and few from what we can see right now.* The team doesn’t seem to be hitting any major problems with game compatibility which could very well explain the lack of updates.* Just like the Supercard DS TWO, the iSmart MM has been on a relatively smooth ride, and haven’t required very many updates.* The iSmart team did put out relatively frequent updates on their previous product, which suggests that the iSmart MM simply doesn’t need frequent updates because of the onboard anti-AP system.




    The back of the box does claim "no patches needed for anti-piracy built-in games".




    Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the iSmart MM has any software that can be downloaded for it either.* The iSmart Premium had some skinning software, but because the iSmart MM skins are just a combination of 68 .bmp images, it doesn’t exactly need a whole lot of software to manipulate.* I would have liked to see some sort of program that at least organizes it for you, but perhaps that will come later on, just as the iSmart Premium software was not offered at launch.



    It is also worth noting that the iSmart MM is fully updateable just like the Supercard DS TWO to counter updates for the Nintendo DSi and DSi XL.* The iSmart MM doesn’t come with extra cables or a USB adaptor, instead, the update is triggered when the update file is on the MicroSD and the iSmart MM is receiving power from the DSi or DSi XL.* Even stuck on the dreaded error screen, the iSmart MM will continue to update itself.* Though the easier and probably preferred method is just running the file with your DS Lite and following the guided steps.





    Quick video demonstrating the update process for the iSmart MM.




    - Use -



    This video review should show you how the menu works a little better than the text below.


    When the iSmart MM is booted up, the cart launches into the plugins menu which looks similar to the Nintendo DSi menu.* Essentially you have a bunch of icons that you can scroll left and right.* With a bit of fiddling, you can set various homebrew games and applications as plugins, but right out of the box, the default options include the “Nintendo DS Games”, “GBA Emulator” and “movie”.* These three plugins will direct you to three different menus that will allow you to access the major features of the iSmart MM.




    We are seeing this horizontal list of icons on quite a few carts now.




    If you clicked into the “Nintendo DS Games” option, you will see the date and time at the top (depending on your skin setup) and a list of games at the bottom.* The default setting gives square icons arranged in a rectangle rather than a list.* By clicking select, you get a numbered list, but no icons.* The very top of the bottom screen gives you the location on your SD card, such as which sub folder you are on, the ability to move up a directory, etc.




    I'm not too fond of either display settings, but the icons are preferable.



    At the bottom, there are several icons to show loading, brightness and your current version.* The iSmart icon at the bottom (or the start button) gives you the menu options.* The menu options give you the choice of which skin to use, the brightness level (for DS Lite) and the language.* Furthermore, the GBA icon tells the iSmart MM what to do with a slot 2 device, such as treating it as a rumble pack or linking the device to a DS game.* Unfortunately I didn’t have a DS Lite to test these options.




    I would have liked to see some of the options offered on the Supercard DS TWO though.




    Going back to the list of games, it is a simple matter of navigating with the directional pad or the stylus, and clicking A (or tapping) to boot a game.* If you click X when hovering on top a game, you are given a few more options for the individual game.* The first option is multi-save.* You can move the number up and down from 0 to 3, giving you 4 total saves.* Moving to 3 would simply create a save file with the number 3, and you can select which one to use in game by scrolling to the respective number.* For example, you can keep playing with save #3, and then swap to save #2 if you want to try something crazy.* The next option is cheats, simply turn it on or off, and then customize the cheats by clicking Y.* You will then get a list of cheats that you can toggle on or off.* Of course, you need to download a database of cheats first.* You can do so by downloading the precompiled usrcheat.dat files on the internet and dumping them into the _ismart folder.* Lastly there is the “mode”.* This is how the iSmart MM boots your games, and it can be set to patch or clean.* Patch mode is set by default, and this is the option you should use for pretty much all games except the newest latest game that doesn’t work on the cart.* Under clean mode, it disables all the various options that you can use and tries to run the game as close to how a retail cartridge does as possible, the result is higher compatibility.




    The individual game features are more or less found in the in game menu rather than this one.




    After you boot the game, you can hold L+R+Start+Select to bring an in game menu.* The first section of the menu shows three options.* The first is to return to the iSmart MM main menu, the next is to adjust brightness (on the DS Lite) and the last option is just to exit the in game menu (which can also be achieved by clicking B).* Underneath these three icons are 6 separate options. *Option 1 is titled Game Guide and gives you the option to browse text files and read through them in the middle of your game.* This is useful for FAQs, walkthroughs and things like that.* It is important to note though that the readability of these files is great, and the scrolling is fast, but for those of you familiar with txt FAQs, they often have maps and pictures created with spacing letters and symbols.* The Game Guide feature does break this spacing and ruins these features of a guide.* The next option is the cheats.* It looks just like the previous cheat menu, and you didn’t even have to enable it before the game.* Just select the cheats you want and back out of the menu.* You can toggle them on and off during a game, but depending on the cheat, you might get corruption and glitches.* Options 3 and 4 are basically the real time save feature offered on other carts.* The beauty of the iSmart MM is that it gives you four slots to fiddle with the saves.* Saving takes a couple of seconds, and loading takes a couple of seconds.* Option 5 is the slow motion feature.* Basically it slows down the game to run at various speeds.* It isn’t exactly accurate, and varies quite widely from game to game.




    As you can see, this is almost a complete copy of the list of features found in the Supercard DS TWO.




    The last option is called Free Cheat.* Free Cheat lets you create cheats for the game yourself rather than downloading it.* It is a rather basic tool that will help you with things like infinite lives and max health, but is unlikely to yield anything more advanced than that.* It is exactly the same as the one found on the Supercard DS TWO.* It is rather tricky to work if you don’t know what you are doing, but the gist of it is that you search for a specific value, such as the number of lives or amount of health, then you change that value by dying or getting hurt, and you search again.* You refine the list of addresses until you get a relatively short list of probably under 6 or 7 addresses.* Then you can modify the value of those addresses to the number of lives or the amount of health you want.* This is more or less the basis for all cheats.* It isn’t too handy if you downloaded a good database of cheats, but it is a nice feature to have.




    Free cheat is fun to play with, you might learn something about using other cheat generators too.




    Now that we have finished off the Nintendo DS Games menu, we move on to the GBA Emulator.* This emulator looks like it is based off of DarkChen’s original GBA emulator made for the iPlayer.* Upon boot, you can choose to find new games or choose from a list of recently played games.* It takes a second to load up and on the top screen the game starts running and the bottom is black.* Of course, you’d just play through the game normally, but if you wanted to access some extra features, you click X, and the bottom screen will show a menu.* There are three major options, and these are just restarting the game, going back to the menu or closing the menu.* But on top of those three icons is a list of 6 other options.* The first, and probably most important, is “Video & Audio”.* In this section, you get a few options like Frame Skip and Sound Switch which will make your game stutter a bit or lose the audio, but will make the game run closer to regular speed.* The next option is Save State, which is much like the real time save offered for the DS games.* There are a whopping 32 slots for save files.* The next is Cheats, which will let you load the GBA .cht files.* Under Tools, you get to map your buttons, have a rapid fire button (repeatedly pressing A or B) and you can also take screenshots.* In Others, you get to change language options as well as view some information such as versions and capacity.* The last option is just to exit back into the iSmart MM menu.




    As you can see, there's quite a list of features.




    The very last plugin is the movie plugin, which is used not only for video files but for music as well.* As a music player, this plugin is decent but hardly comparable to homebrew such as MoonShell.* It’ll play your songs, loop, shuffle, repeat them, etc.* There’s volume adjustment, pausing, skipping tracks and so on, but the controls seem to be streamlined for their video player rather than a music player.* You can also close the lid and keep the music going, the controls would then be the L and R buttons.* There seems to be also a bit of lag sometimes.* But again, the menu seems to be made for the video player instead as the options to shuffle and repeat are hidden in the options rather than right in the front.




    I would have liked to see some difference between the music and video players.




    As a video player however, it works a lot better.* The bottom screen has a seek bar to skip back and forth, there’s also the play and pause button.* You can skip and go to the previous track and also adjust the volume at the bottom.* There’s also a little button at the bottom to bring out the settings.* The settings include the use of subtitles, brightness, backlight timer and also display settings.* The display settings pretty much lets you choose to keep the original aspect ratio or to stretch and fit to the screen.* There is also a setting here for Play Mode, which is probably more for music rather than video.* It allows you to choose the order in which files are played, more or less random or in order, repeat, play once, etc.




    Pretty much all the standard features are included.




    - Functionality -



    With the firmware and looks almost identical to the Supercard DS TWO, how well does the iSmart MM work?* There are subtle differences that show the Supercard DS TWO’s superior capabilities, but the main worry is how support will be down the road, but as it stands right now, the iSmart MM performs very closely to the Supercard DS TWO.



    To begin with the obvious, DS game compatibility is perfect.* It has run every single game I threw at it so far, and it doesn’t seem to be troubled by the problematic ones either.* The in-game features are also relatively stable.* I’ve used the soft reset, real time guide and real-time save hundreds of times now, and it crashed many three or four times.* That being said, it doesn’t seem to be tied to a specific game, it is just an odd bug here and there.* It is a little odd though that compared to the Supercard DS TWO, the real time save just isn’t quite as good.* After using real time save, it is a common bug to get some sort of audio glitch, generally this is cleared after entering another dungeon, moving to a menu, pausing, etc.* It isn’t a huge issue; I just found that after repeated use of the iSmart MM, it seems that it has the tendency to glitch up more often than the Supercard DS TWO.




    Real time save just feels a little glitchier than on the Supercard DS TWO.




    The next group of games are the GBA games.* The iSmart MM runs them decently, just like the Supercard DS TWO.* In this aspect, I think it is fair to say that the two carts perform identically.* Please note that for this review, I have used the game_config.txt file patch to increase compatibility.* The GBA emulator is based off GPSP, and thus can use GPSP’s configurations to maximize compatibility.* In my side by side tests, they seem to trip up in different places, but games that didn’t play smoothly on the Supercard DS TWO wouldn’t play well on the iSmart MM and vice versa.* In terms of compatibility, you can expect that most games will run, but anything remotely demanding requires frame skip or has some minor glitching.* This would account for probably a good 40% of the games on the console.* Thus playability of the games varies from person to person, depending on how tolerant they are to frame skip and glitches.* Needless to say, there is variation in how many problems occur and the frequency of the glitches, so some games are more playable than others.* Personally I would say roughly 80% of the games on the GBA are playable, but what are left are all the big titles.* The ones that push the system to the limits are generally the popular games, those of us hoping that Golden Sun lies in the 80%, it isn’t.* If you were planning to purchase the iSmart MM for GBA, or even the Supercard DS TWO for that matter, you should keep that in mind.




    Mario Tennis Power Tour is one of those games that I don't think anyone would call it playable.




    The movie player on the iSmart MM works just like the Supercard DS TWO and the iPlayer. *It is advertised to support RMVB, RM, AVI, FLV, MPG, WMV, MOV and 3GP at a resolution of 640x480.* All of those formats will work more or less with the iSmart MM provided you stick with that resolution or lower.* So if you were hoping to play some 1080p HD files, you’re out of luck.* I found that MOV and FLV are sort of already maxing out the device at 640x480, with minor stutters here and there depending on the encoding, FLV may not even be deemed playable.* One the other hand, RMVB, RM, AVI, MPG, WMV all run fantastic with the given resolution or lower, while pushing any higher is going to push the barriers.* The best formats are AVI and RMVB in my testing, and while it doesn’t support anything close to HD, you can go higher than the recommended 640x480.* Any higher, and it will start to stutter or hit audio sync issues.* It is also important to consider the MicroSD you are using.* Cheaper MicroSD cards did affect performance quite drastically, so the majority of my tests were done with 2GB Kingston MicroSD cards that were made in Japan.* If you were hoping that the iSmart MM will replace a true portable media player, you will be sorely disappointed, but as a nice additional feature, the iSmart MM’s video player is quite handy.* Unfortunately, as everyone is slowly moving towards HD video files, the use of the video player will slowly diminish, but there’s still a good amount of standard definition video files in my hard drive, and it is nice to watch a few old episodes of various cartoons from time to time.




    The quality of the video is actually quite good.



    - Conclusion -



    The iSmart MM and the Supercard DS TWO both offer a staggering amount of features and a high quality polish for under $40.* It is just amazing how far it has come from the past when carts were over a hundred dollars a piece and you had to cross your fingers before you start every game hoping it’d work.* While the market is dominated with carts that are in the $15 range, I can’t help but stress how much better the experience with the high end carts are.* With anti-AP systems, extra features, high amount of polish, I think the top-tier carts are still well worth their price tags.




    The two carts are similar enough so that you can't really go wrong with either.




    The iSmart MM is extremely similar to the Supercard DS TWO.* It is a couple of dollars cheaper, but there is a list of reasons to get the Supercard DS TWO instead.* The first and foremost is the teams behind the carts, the Supercard team is well established and has been supporting their carts for as long as I can remember, while the iSmart team is brand new.* Then there are the very subtle differences in performance, we see that the iSmart MM doesn’t perform quite as well as the Supercard DS TWO on a few items.* It also lacks a few of the plugins that are available on the Supercard DS TWO like the eReader software and the SNES emulation.* Though this review has picked apart all of the minor details, make no mistake, the iSmart MM can easily be placed side by side with the Supercard DS TWO which makes the cheaper price all the more attractive.




    There are only three plugins by default. The Supercard DS TWO comes with an eReader and an SNES emulator, which could be quite important for many users.




    At the moment I would recommend the Supercard DS TWO over the iSmart MM.* For just a couple of dollars, you get stuff like the SNES emulator, slightly better performance and most importantly, updates from one of the best brands in the market.* However, my opinion could easily waver if the iSmart MM’s price changes.* If the iSmart MM drops another couple of dollars, I think that the iSmart MM performs well enough to deserve your purchase.




    Yes the iSmart MM has a feature set close to the Supercard DS TWO, but the differences that exist is definitely worth more than the $2-3 discount the iSmart MM offers.




    The iSmart MM has great compatibility, it has most of the major features of the Supercard DS TWO, and it is cheaper.* There is no reason not to get it asides from the existence of the Supercard DS TWO.* And even then, if the iSmart MM is sufficiently cheaper, it would be a great substitute for a Supercard DS TWO.* No doubt you should keep your eyes on the price of this cart as I know that I’m not the only one to think that this would be a great deal if it was just a tad cheaper.




    As it is right now, I can't recommend the iSmart MM over the Supercard DS TWO. It doesn't have to be a lot cheaper than the Supercard DS TWO, it just has to be a little cheaper than the Supercard DS TWO to make it a good purchase.




    - Score -



    Design 4.5/5

    Software 5/5

    Use 5/5

    Functionality 18.5/20

    Tilt 5/5



    Overall 38/40


    Get your own iSmart MM at RealHotStuff today!

    RealHotStuff


  2. #2
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    Nice review. You should have also wrote that you are able to use the Supercard DStwo update files for DS games on the iSmart MM. I guess the free cheat feature isn't exclusive to the Supercard Team yet.

  3. #3
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    The iSmart MM is a good cart, I think it lacks an identity

    most user see the iSmart preium as a EZ Flash wannabe
    same with the iSmart MM people see it as a dstwo wannabe
    this is the reaction I got from my review at a romsite forum

    I think it's this kind of reaction that hurts iSmart, and will effect it's sale
    I don't know too many people outside the group of reviewers and testers, that bought an iSmart.

    it is a good cart though
    Last edited by RoMee; 01-10-2011 at 02:59 PM.

  4. #4

    Default

    I guess that's one way of putting it. For me I feel that most carts fill a gap and meet certain needs, whether it is price, features, quality, etc. The iSmart MM doesn't fill any void because it is so similar, it is trying to wrestle the spot from the Supercard, but it doesn't bring anything new to the table, nor does it have enough of a following to do so. It is almost a dominated option at this point where the Supercard DS TWO does everything better.

    Again I have to stress that I think it WOULD fill a bit of a gap if they lowered the price just a little bit since a $2 discount hardly justifies the various small cuts here and there. A cheap alternative to the Supercard DS TWO is still being sought after since the EX4i fails so hard and the iSmart MM looks to be the perfect device for that job.

  5. #5
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    I think if it was priced at around $25-$29, it'll be a perfect alternative to the dstwo

  6. #6

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    I think that range would be the sweet spot, but I guess we have to know how much it costs to produce one of these things to find why the EX4i and iSmart MM are priced so close to the Supercard. It's sort of odd, on one hand we have the EX4i and iSmart MM both trying to compete with the Supercard at almost the same price, probably inferring that the price we see is close to the price of production giving the team a very small contribution margin per cart, but at the same time, I always assumed these carts were dirt cheap to manufacture. I mean, R4's can be pumped out for under a dollar, while I think an overly generous estimate for the extra chip would be $10 tops.

  7. #7

    Default Nice job...

    hi PV,

    how much do you think this flashcart worth ?

  8. #8

    Default

    I would say anywhere from $5-$10 cheaper than the DS TWO is a very good price to charge.

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by PharaohsVizier View Post
    I would say anywhere from $5-$10 cheaper than the DS TWO is a very good price to charge.
    The price is nice.

  10. Default

    The dstwo CPU is an Ingenic 4740 at 360Mhz, the iSMM is an Ingenic 4730 at 336Mhz like on the iPlayer. That's why the GBA emulator is the one of the iPlayer because this flashcart is completly based on the iPlayer hardware.

    BTW, i have compared both flashcarts to see how they drain the battery of my DSi and here are my results :

    my DSi was set with full brigthness, sound level 3, wifi ON.

    - original Mario Kart cart = 4h10
    - iSMM playing my Mario Kart dump = 3h19
    - DStwo playing my Mario Kart dump = 2h54
    Not much reviewers (none ?) has mentioned that fact.
    Last edited by mbmax; 02-20-2011 at 02:23 PM.

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