M3i Zero (p)review! Special thanks to the M3team 14th of July 2009
Here it is, the first answer by the M3 team to the new DSi's incompatibility with the majority of the current flashcarts. In order to circumvent the problem the M3 team has decided to use an approach we all know from the past and/or modchips: sell the cart without the full firmware on it, to afterwards let users themselves flash the unit into working order. That way the cart can be sold without containing any copyrighted material.
To be fair, it seems to work. Although it does require one extra step, it is only required once and is fairly easy.
I've just received the sample and am still working on the full review, however I've taken most of the hardware pictures already so I'd thought I'd share them with you:
As you can see the M3 team has decided to once again to go with the standard boxing type, which includes the plastic seen below.
The M3 team does however supply your microSD card reader (M3 branded ;)!), of which I'm not the biggest fan, a case for the M3i Zero and a microSD card and the flasher cable.
A bit more about the update cable: Unlike what I've seen suggested by some online, it isn't a miniUSB cable. I would have liked to have seen one too, but instead this relatively inflexible and small +/- cable is used. So one still needs to take out the microSD card reader, the socket side however does have 4 leads, but you can see that better in the PCB shots down below. Flashing took a few seconds but you can see that process clearly in the official video by the M3 team so I won't go into that too much.
The cart itself doesn't hold too many surprises. It roughly looks like the M3DS real, however it is side loading (yaay!). It has the chip (hole) under the sticker, uses the side clips, has no pin guides and feels thin & flexible (the latter not being bad).
However when opening, my sample had a screw at the top right of the cart. So when opening yours, keep it in mind. Mine also seemed to have a bit of glue on the top left corner (which really seemed to have helped keeping both halves attached, as you can see in a picture further down)...
When inserting the M3i Zero in my DS phat I sometimes got one header, sometimes another. Not sure what the cause (or if it will be in the final / commercial launch product) but fun to note none the less.
As you can see, the side loading mechanism keeps the SD cart rather high and requires quite long nails (or some more creative pushing). It is however spring loaded (which I find nice). It doesn't feel particularly tight by itself and is functional.
This could be my sample of course, but mine seems to be crooked. When you look at this picture you can see the left of the cart sticking out higher than the right. Now this isn't a big deal and doesn't matter a bit functionally, but I wouldn't have expected this from the M3 team ;).
Once the M3i Zero is selected in the DS' menu you can either have the M3 Sakura menu boot up or the classic M3 menu. All functions, including the RTS in NDS games and DLDI patching of homebrew worked fine. The only thing I didn't test so far is GBA backups which I will do once I get my hands on my DSL again.
All in all I think the M3 team has made a fairly solid product for the DSi user that would like the features of the M3DS real on his/her DSi. The upgradability is nice (though a mini-USB b connection would have been nice, or the M3i zero acting like a microSD card reader) and might allow it to be sold easier, but the rest of the hardware is slightly less up to the M3 standards in my opinion (though still okay and functional). Naturally though (seeing as the same software works on the M3i Zero as on the M3DS real) we can likely see good support for this cart and it starts relatively mature which is also why one would go for this/a M3 product.
Well that's my quick post of the pictures I have so far together with a few first impressions. I hope to finish writing the review in a few days so please come back and have a good read ;)!
-Simon van de Berg