- Introduction -
The AceKard 2 is probably one of the most popular flash carts on the market. Some people even claim that it has become the new R4 in terms of popularity. It is marketed as a cheap and reliable flash cart, and since its release, it has provided just that. Although it is clearly superior in terms of speed, ease of use and compatibility, the AceKard 2 had issues with the casing and physical design.
Both the AceKard 2 and the AceKard 2i have similar boxes too.
The AceKard 2i is pretty much the same cart in terms of software, but it has changed physically and of course, it works in the new Nintendo DSi. It took some huge strides to improve itself, and at a few dollars more than the original, it might be worth getting even if you don’t have a DSi.
Not sure if this should be a purchase for only DSi owners. It's worth getting for a DS Lite too.
The AceKard 2 (and the AceKard 2i) has gotten praise from most of their users. Its success can be seen by the out of stock signs everywhere, but much of it is not attributed to the official team, but by the makers of the unofficial firmware AKAIO (AceKard All-in-One). Thanks to Normmatt and Smiths (and of course the other people named in the credits), the AceKard 2 and AceKard 2i are the most frequently updated carts out. In this review, I will be using their firmware, not the official one, and I suggest to anyone else reading to do the same.
- Design -
The AceKard 2i comes in the same box as the AceKard 2 except with a sticker on the front that says “DSi Compatible”. It is a cheap cardboard box that is really simplistic looking, and it did the job of keeping the cart safe. In it is another cardboard box that has a few notches cut and is bent inwards to hold the AceKard 2i. The packaging is cheap, really cheap, but then again the AceKard 2i is one of the cheapest flash carts available for the DSi.
DSi compatible sticker looks out of place in the packaging don't you think?
My review sample didn’t come with a MicroSD reader, which is a bit disappointing. I’m not quite sure if they ship with readers, but I know that the old AceKard 2 shipped with and without readers depending on how much you paid.
The new AceKard 2i really impressed me. I remember there were several revisions to the original AceKard 2 because of complaints, defects, etc. But they never really hit it dead on. Even the latest version seems to be flimsy at best. The AceKard 2i is different. They finally made the swap. The improvements to the physical cartridge that is the AceKard 2i is just light-years ahead of the AceKard 2.
The AceKard 2i may look similar in a picture, but you can tell that it is much better just by holding it.
It isn’t held together by the clips I hate anymore, instead it is glued shut. This is an improvement because clips tend to break off and leave the cart even weaker. I would have preferred a screw, but glue is just fine. The cart also doesn’t have any chips sticking out. I know that it is also true for the newest batches of AceKard 2. The problem with a protruding chip is that it tends to scrape against the side of the slot 1, and sometimes the sticker wears out or the cart gets damaged. Lastly the spring-loaded MicroSD slot seems to have tightened up a little, returning back to how it felt on the original AceKard 2 that I tested. It is nice to see these problems addressed and rectified.
No more clips probably means that there will be a lot less people complaining about the cart dying in a few months.
The problems that still remain with the AceKard 2i are only the exposed contacts and the sticker. The exposed contacts are a problem because the “teeth” are meant to separate each of the connectors. Jiggling the cart inside the slot could restart the DS or mess up the game. It isn’t a problem since the AceKard 2i fits nicely, but I’ve always questioned the need to remove them. It seems to be the trend now for flash carts; to remove the teeth, one that doesn’t have much of an effect. The sticker is also one of those issues that aren’t really a problem, but more of an annoyance. They are still using these super thin silver stickers. There are just so many problems with it. Let me begin by saying they scratch easily, in fact, they came looking scratched and used because they rubbed against the cardboard. They attract finger prints and dirt. They look used and beat up after a very short time. The sticker is also thin, so it rips and tears easily. If the AceKard 2i had a chip sticking out (the very first few batches did), then I’d imagine the sticker would be seriously damaged because of the slot 1. It isn’t a problem in the sense that it would ever impair usage, in fact I could tear off the whole sticker and it wouldn’t do anything, but it is just a little annoying to see the cart look so old and abused.
No teeth and crappy stickers are the only complaints, that's not bad at all.
- Software –
Let’s begin by explaining the AceKard 2i system. For simplicity’s sake, there are 2 major “parts”. The first would be the menu, everything from the downloaded; akmenu4.nds and the contents of the _ak2 or _aio folder excluding one folder inside of that constitutes as the menu. These would be the skins, the buttons, the plugins, the features, etc. The other “part” would be the loader. The loader is responsible for rom compatibility. It is a common mistake to update the menu and not the loader since they are split apart. Since the loader is probably the thing you are looking to update, make sure you remember. They go into the loader folder of the _ak2 or _aio folder (depending if you are using the official or unofficial firmware).
Since these are two independent parts, they get updated at different intervals. The menu doesn’t often get updated in either firmwares (but AKAIO updates it more often), while loaders are updated much more frequently. The AKAIO team updates the loader faster than any other flash cart in most cases which is why the AceKard 2 and now the AceKard 2i is sometimes considered the cream of the crop for compatibility. While all carts support all games, and update within a day or two, the AceKard 2i is often able to play the game with a loader update much sooner.
Thank the guys working on AKAIO for the AceKard 2i's success.
I talked briefly about the AKAIO firmware in comparison to the official. As already mentioned, the menu rarely gets updated; in fact I don’t even remember the last time the official team provided a menu update. We get the notion that official is always better, but in this case it isn’t. The AKAIO team has updated their menu much more often to include new features and optimizations, while keeping the same look and feel. It is quite an achievement to say the least; the firmware is something you’d expect the official team to put out. No, it goes far beyond that, it is actually faster than the official. The list of added features just goes on and on. The most notable would be improvements to the cheats, online updating, and multi-saves.
AKAIO installs just as easily as the official AceKard firmware, it is just located on a different site. So remember, if you are using an AceKard 2i or an AceKard 2, go with AKAIO.
- Use -
The AceKard 2i has a menu that is identical to the old AceKard 2. At the top there is the date, time and even a calendar. These things can change from skin to skin, and this isn’t an R4 or CycloDS Evolution. When I say skin, the AceKard 2i really gets skinned, these things can be moved around, the style can be changed, things can be added or moved away, and the look and feel can be completely different to what you see in this review. I am using the Zelda skin that comes with the firmware for this review.
It's nice that I can see the time and date.
First time booting, you see 2 icons, which is the very root of the AceKard 2i. You can choose to enter the MicroSD card or boot the slot 2 card. Chances are you won’t see this again, so click into the MicroSD card to access your files, and it will remember the location of the last booted file and start up there. You can always go up a directory by clicking B, and go all the way up back to the root to choose slot 2 card.
Not the absolutely most useful menu, but you can create a shortcut.
The very top of the screen has a little arrow which is equivalent to clicking B; going up a directory. It also tells you where you are browsing right now. To the far right, there is a little sun icon, it is for adjusting brightness on DS Lite consoles, it is useless on a DSi. Bottom of the screen is a start button and a little grey icon that says S1. The S1 icon blinks blue when the AceKard 2i is doing some sort of loading or processing. The start button allows you to access the features of the AceKard 2i. All of the features are tucked away to keep the system looking clean.
Loading screens are extremely short, it took me 3 shots with a friend before I got this picture.
Once you click the start button, you see the list of options that would have made the menu a cluttered mess. Copy, cut, paste, delete are self explanatory. You can move files around and manage them on the AceKard 2i. In fact if you set up the AceKard 2i to do it, they can trim roms after you cut and paste them. I thought it was kind of cool, but it is utterly useless because it is a bit slow, and served its purpose best on the AceKard RPG.
It was only a useful feature when you had two separate types of memory, now it isn't particularly useful.
The next option is System Options. When you click into it, there are whole lists of options, not enough to fit into one screen. Laugh if you will, but when I didn’t notice that the top could move, so I thought for quite a while that there were only 4 options. Don’t make the same mistake I did, look through them, there’s system settings, interface settings, file system settings, default patch options, and plug-in settings. I’m not going to list what you can and can’t do here because there’s a lot. Most of it, you will never touch.
Remember that tapping the arrows on the side of the System Options gives you access to more menus.
The properties button shows the information about the current file selected. If it is a game, it will also lead you into individual game settings if you are looking at a rom. Cheats gives access to cheats while the more button gives you more options. There is a 3in1/FAS1 button that deals with the settings with those two devices. If you don’t know, the AceKard 2i works well with the EZ Flash 3 in 1, but DSi users won’t have a slot 2, so I’m not going to discuss it here. Help gives you a list of the button commands.
The coolest feature available on the AceKard 2i is the WiFi Update button. When you click into it you get to choose to update your cheat database, the savelist and the loader, all through the internet. It isn’t fast, but it sure beats remembering where the AKAIO homepage is.
It is really cool to be able to update through the internet on the cart itself.
Now the center of bottom screen shows you what you want to see, a list of games. You can change how they are displayed by clicking select, whether you just a list of files (10 files on screen) or include their icons (4 files on screen). With the icons, you can choose to view file names or the actual data within the rom.
The list function is kind of unappealing.
The beautiful part of the AceKard 2i is that it scrolls really fast with the D-Pad, almost too fast. You can choose scrolling speeds, but they are all really smooth. The problem is that if you have a small memory card, you will zip through the game. Since I do tests with hundreds of games at once, this was nice to surf through to the bottom rather quickly. I guess the best scrolling occurs with a stylus. It is very responsive and can slow down or speed up. Sliding from the top of the screen to the bottom, you go through 20-25 games with the speed set to fast. If you have only 20-25 games, scrolling with the stylus is a real joy, with one stroke you get to any of your games, but with an 8GB MicroSDHC, it gets annoying because you have to keep stroking it. I prefer the D-Pad for this scenario.
The scrolling is really responsive, you can slow down or speed up, etc.
When you hover over a game and click Y, you get access to the properties (also found in the start menu). There’s several buttons. X turns the game into a shortcut. This means that the very root of your menu, where there was a MicroSD and Slot 2 option, you will also have one more; a shortcut to the game of your choice. You can only have one at a time. Click Y turns on the individual rom settings. These settings can be set globally from the start menu, but individually you may choose to turn cheats on, download play or maybe soft reset. There is also an option to use a different loader. AKAIO supports multiple loaders. If they happen to stop updating it, you can still use the AKAIO menu but the official loaders.
The cheat button disappears when there aren't any cheats listed for a game.
Then there is the cheat button, which you have to select with the stylus. It gives you a list of the cheats found for the game, if there aren’t any, then the button would be absent (remember that you can update cheats with the WiFi updater). Quite simple to use, you just click the cheats you want to turn on and click select to save what you decided on. You can shut off the properties menu with a click of the A button, and you are back to the sleek, simplistic looking menu. Click A to boot with all the settings in place or just tap the icon to boot.
I find it a little annoying that the notes for certain cheats are squished into a single line when the whole top screen is wide open.
- Functionality -
As far as I can tell, the AceKard 2i is one of the best carts for compatibility. I think I already stated earlier that it is the cream of the crop because loaders are updated frequently and quickly. There weren’t any issues with any of the games booting, lag hasn’t been an issue since I’ve switched to class 6 MicroSDHC cards and features seem very stable.
Astrology is a bad game, but it works on the AceKard 2i.
The AceKard 2i has fairly limited features in game, pretty much isolated to cheats and soft reset only, which means that it is a very stable cart. Sometimes I hear people talking about how games freeze only to find out they have a billion things turned on, this doesn’t happen on the AceKard 2i because there aren’t all that many features. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing, since you can always turn things off for other carts, but if you don’t have any intention of using slow-motion or something, the AceKard 2i might be good to have.
The AceKard 2i also has a good DLDI driver, so it supports all recent homebrew. I’m not going to go into detail, but old homebrew that don’t support DLDI may be problematic for slot 1 carts across the board, especially those compile already for slot 2 cartridges. Again AceKard 2i’s homebrew support is as good as you’re going to get on the DSi.
The AceKard 2i's support for homebrew is limited to DS mode. It cannot access any of the DSi features.
The selling point of the AceKard 2i is that it works with the Nintendo DSi. It makes you wonder, will the DSi ever update its firmware to block out flash cartridges, and if it does, how will these carts counter? Well the AceKard 2i managed to change its bootloader in the past with an update. It allowed the users to run the AceKard 2i on DSi handhelds with other European languages. It can update, but it requires you to turn on the AceKard 2i, meaning you need a working console to update it. This might be a hassle if you only have a DSi and have a tendency to update before checking the forums, but if you have a DS Lite in your possession, that can be used to boot AceKard 2i cartridges and update regardless of what happens. The best solutions offered on the market right now is the option to connect via USB port on the computer, so if your DSi isn’t able to boot the cart, you can still update, but the AceKard 2i is able to update, and you can always borrow a DS Lite handheld.
Something people often forget is that this cart works on the DS Lite as well.
While this may seem like a deal breaker for some of you, I find that it isn’t too much of an issue. The companies going through the hassle of putting USB support might be going overboard. It isn’t necessary because we aren’t even sure the DSi is going to be updated with a flash cart killer, or that we would need it more than once. We don’t even know if updating the bootloader will help against these updates. I’ve heard of people basing their entire decision on this factor alone, and I think it is rather foolish to make a decision based on this. As long as it has a semi-working method to combat DSi updates, it should be enough for peace of mind.
- Conclusion -
The AceKard 2i is probably the budget cart to get for all your kids, friends and even yourself. It sets out to boot games in a fast and stylish fashion, and it accomplishes the task well. I think the AceKard 2i lives up to the huge popularity of the AceKard 2, and unless you are thinking about flash carts with more advanced features, this should be enough for the average user.
The AceKard 2i does a lot of good things. The cart is surprisingly fast for a DSi flash cart, and it has a lot of nice display options. The popularity means that you will find a huge array of resources (which means a lot of cool skins) and support. The AceKard 2i is simple and has all the features tucked away but still accessible and the menu is often touted as the best looking menu around. It can even update online, so you don’t have to skip through millions of posts on a forum to find the updates.
Just buy the memory card and the AceKard 2i and load it up.
On the other hand, the AceKard 2i’s success is from an unofficial firmware. However dedicated they are now, it is troubling that so much of the cart relies on an unofficial firmware. The cart is also fairly basic. You won’t get to use Real Time Save or Real Time Guide or any of the cool features offered in some of the competitors’ flash carts.
Overall, I think the AceKard 2i is targeted to the general user. It should be perfect for those looking for a simplistic cart because it is reliable and focuses on getting you into the games you want to play.
The AceKard 2i is a good cart for the DSi, especially if you are a casual user.
- Score -
Design – 4.5/5
Software – 5/5
Use – 4.5/5
Functionality – 19/20
Tilt – 4.5/5
Overall – 37.5/40