What's the best DS homebrew hardware?
August 26, 2008 9:23 AM   Subscribe

What is the easiest and best homebrew hardware for the Nintendo DS?

I am looking to start playing some games (Monkey Island on the DS?! Awesome!) and use some other homebrew apps (colors sounds cool, and maybe ebooks if that's possible?) and was wondering what is the best way to go about it. Cost is not an issue, so do I go with: R4DS, G6, DS-Xtreme or something else that I'm missing? I've seen this, this, and this previously, but I'm looking for updated suggestions and recommendations for my homebrewing experience. Oh, I've also checked out this forum, but didn't find too much there. Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by Grither to Technology (29 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and I live in the US (NYC, to be precise), and would also appreciate any info on how/where to get the hardware as well. Thanks!
posted by Grither at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2008

I like my r4.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2008

Seconding the r4.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:43 AM on August 26, 2008

I'm also very happy with the R4.
posted by goo at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2008

I think your can just go back to those threads and revisit sites to get updated info.
most of them have forums and updated software lists.

as for hardware, I would check craigslist. - http://newyork.craigslist.org/search/sss?query=r4%20ds

i'm more than happy with my R4 although I had to shim the case to get it to load everytime.
posted by Frasermoo at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2008


However, it's worth noting that it does seem to drain power fast. Specifically, it seems to me that when I close the lid, it may keep active or something. So I don't leave the R4 in there all the time, which is too bad.

In general though, it's been a really great tool. Now I don't write homebrew code because I'm lazy and have no time, not because I don't know how to get code onto the DS. That's progress!
posted by freebird at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2008

R4DS was the latest-greatest a year or two ago, but now the internet community seems to have moved on to a new card.

I've had an R4 for a while (actually we have 2) and I've been very happy with how well it works and how useful it is. It has done everything I ask/need it to do, I have recomended it to my friends, and even gave one as a gift.

I think most people just buy them online.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:50 AM on August 26, 2008

The CycloDS is also excellent, although I've seen the same increased power usage as freebird.

From what I've heard, it's more solidly built as well - R4s have a tiny spring that tends to break. CycloDS also supports SDHC, so you can add a 4GB+ flash card.

It's about a year since I researched any of this, though, so there may be a new and improved R4 by now.
posted by Turbo-B at 9:55 AM on August 26, 2008

The CycloDS Evolution is what I have and I'm pretty happy with it. The included MicroSD reader died but I have more of those anyway.
posted by chairface at 9:56 AM on August 26, 2008

I love my R4. Every bit of homebrew I've run has been specifically tested on the R4, and it seems to be a benchmark for homebrew readiness.

But one thing you might not be aware of; counterfeit homebrew hardware. This is especially common with the R4.

Wikipedia article on counterfeit passthrough cards
Unofficial R4DS formum regarding counterfeit cards
posted by lekvar at 10:10 AM on August 26, 2008

R4 or M3. You can find M3s on the streets in NYC.
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! And paisley henosis, you didn't say what the new card was? Though the more I read it looks like the R4 might be the way to go, though I like the looks of the CycloDS, too. Have either of you had anything that didn't work with the CycloDS? (chairface and Turbo-B)
posted by Grither at 10:28 AM on August 26, 2008

I'd like to 74th the R4.

They are getting harder to find though as Nintendo is crushing the homebrew people with lawsuits.
posted by Ponderance at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2008

I like the CycloDS. It is a bit spendier than some other choices, but I thought it was worth it. I haven't had anything not work with it, but I haven't installed a lot besides painting and sound applications.
posted by O9scar at 11:06 AM on August 26, 2008

R4 here. And I don't have battery problems because I turn it on and off all the time, and I left mine unplugged, on, and closed for about 8 hours once and it still was on when I grabbed it again.
posted by deezil at 11:26 AM on August 26, 2008

I have an M3 Real and I like it a lot. It came with a RAM add-on and and a rumble add-on for the GBA slot which is cool too. I got it online.
posted by papayaninja at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2008

I'm sorry, I don't know. I remember a while back (maybe last summer, but maybe more recently) GBATemp had a new front page post every few days about some flashcart that was coming out soon. Then it finally came out, and they did a huge thing about how great it was, and gave a few of them away.

I already had an R4, and no desire to spend money on anything else, so I didn't pay a whole lot of attention, and it was so long ago, now, that I am having a hard time finding it. Actually, I meant to take that part out of my post, since I couldn't remember or find out anything more substantive, but clearly I didn't.

Anyway, (in an effort to actually get something helpful into this post) one thing that I really like about the R4 is that the company who makes it stands behind it. When something comes up that doesn't work well on the R4, they put out an update to fix it very quickly, I've seen this happen same-day, but if not within a few days certainly. And they do it without breaking any old usability, which is even better. I haven't heard of any company being so fast or thorough.

And just F.Y.I, the M3 simply is the exact same card, but soldered slightly differently, and with different firmware.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:44 AM on August 26, 2008

If it's just for homebrew, it really doesn't matter that much. Most features are more for the pirate crowd anyway. From where I sit, you should just decide if you want MicroSD or onboard memory. If the former, M3 or R4 (or iTouch DS, I guess), if the latter, CyclosDS.

As paisley henosis mentioned, the M3 and the R4 are basically the same thing except for differences in soldering and firmware. To that end, however, the M3 just got a brand new, gorgeous firmware (Sakura) and the R4 has been largely abandoned by its developers excluding the occasional bug fix, so I think the M3 is the clear winner.

But, again, if just for homebrew, get whatever is cheapest and easiest to attain.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have both an r4 and a Cyclo. The OS that comes with the Cyclo is leagues better than what I have on my r4. It's possible that there is awesome new/3rd party r4 OS available, but bone stock, the Cyclo is much nicer to use. I can't speak to compatibility beyond the fact that I just copied everything but the OS from r4 to cyclo with no observed problems to date. The company that makes Cyclo also apparently has native English speaking support staff.
posted by thedaniel at 12:48 PM on August 26, 2008

I've got the CycloDS and it's easy as pie to grab homebrew stuff, put it on a microsd card with the included usb adapter, and load it up. I've not tried any of the others, but I've no complaints about it. Plug and play all the way.
posted by Durhey at 2:14 PM on August 26, 2008

I have a CycloDS and it's worked perfectly. Nothing I couldn't run, no problems saving or anything like that, and being able to buy bigger microSD cards is handy.

As a side note, if you want to play GBA games or use the DS internet browser, or have rumble, you need a slot-2 card as well. I have the EZ Flash V 3-in-1 and it works great with the CycloDS.
posted by Rinku at 3:23 PM on August 26, 2008

nthing the R4

as for it draining battery quicker, i think it depends on what is running at the time. i've had homebrew apps keep the ds active, whereas most of the regular ds roms don't - "verified" this using games with timers. homebrew - timer increases, actual game - timer pauses...
posted by sary at 7:57 PM on August 26, 2008

I have the R4. No comparisons with other firmwares, but a couple complaints:

Standby *definitely* burns battery waaaay faster than a regular GBA game.
Standby seems to lock up software on me after waking about 50% of the time.
Can't save game wherever I want by dumping memory (of course, I don't know if any other firmwares permit this).
Minor: default
Minor: default firmware shell skin is super ugly.

IMHO, the standby problem is huge -- the coolest thing about the DS is you can flip it open and play it for 30 seconds, and then shut it and come back to it a day later. Since I can't trust my DS to let me play after I flip it back open (either because of the lockup, or because of the power problem), I am limited to particular pieces of software that have frequent and multiple save points and turning it off every time I'm done playing (where with licensed carts I'd usually just slap it closed and i'd have a week or so to start playing again). This is annoying, but hey, it's grey-market, so you kind of have to suck it up.

I have the latest firmware, have tried with soft-reset on and off, and my r4 cart appears genuine, so I'm not sure if it is a lemon or these are common problems. If I were buying another one, I'd do some research into alternatives to see if anyone had put out something that addressed these issues.
posted by fishfucker at 10:36 PM on August 26, 2008

oh, and I often have the issue with the DS not recognizing the r4 about 30% of the time when powering on, but that's easily fixed by popping either the cart or the microsd in and out (and very common, apparently).
posted by fishfucker at 10:38 PM on August 26, 2008

Best answer: Do not get an R4. If you are concerned with the longetivity of your card, I have to highly recommend against this card. The team has stopped production of the card. Be it from the impending lawsuits, the move to better hardware, or what have you. But they will not be releasing any more compatability and/or feature updates to the R4's firmware.

I have an M3 Real and i'm very happy with it. I'm using a hacked english firmware called Sakura that is currently only released in Japan. The team has stated that they're working on an english release. However, the regular M3 real firmware is great too.

If not that, get a Cyclo DS. It's the most expensive cart on the market, but has the most features (real time save, among other things). The team also speaks pretty fluent english and reaches out to their community.

But really, check out all the reviews at GBATemp. They're the #1 resource online for information about all these types of things.

If you live on the east coast, buy from realhotstuff. West coast, get it from dealwoot. Oh, I see you're from NYC. Get it from realhotstuff. Their warehouse is in NJ. It'll get to you within a few days.

Good luck!
posted by saxamo at 10:30 AM on August 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oops, and in response to all the comments about power consumption...it'll happen. Nearly all flash carts use up more power than a regular game. It's a fact of life. I got a Nyko Charger Grip to help with this. It makes your DS clunky, but it's SO MUCH more comfortable to hold (look ma, no hand cramps!) and increases the longevity of the battery.
posted by saxamo at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Am I the only one with a DSTT? Works great for me.
posted by underwater at 10:13 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help everyone! I am going to go with the CycloDS and I think I'll probably get that Charger Grip as well, nice find saxamo!
posted by Grither at 8:02 AM on August 28, 2008

underwater : nope you're not the only one with a dstt. I really like mine; it works with no problems and depending on the site, was $5-15 cheaper than the competition.
posted by nobeagle at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2008

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