M3 Perfect SD Review
The M3 Perfect is a device that will let you watch videos, play music, read books, look at pictures
or boot homebrew, demos, applications and backups on your Nintendo DS portable video game console.
It's an all around solid solution and is reasonably priced at under $100. Both M3 units (they come
in Compact Flash and Secure Digital flavors) are rock-hard pieces of hardware with a well refined
original Operating System that has been seamlessly integrated around your console to give you the
ultimate multi-media experience on the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance.
Boot NDS Homebrew/Backups
Boot GBA Homebrew/Backups
Direct Boot of NDS Homebrew
200 Saves per Game/Application
Real Time Clock (RTC)
Save Game Retention
In Game Rest
Built in GameBoy Emulator
Built in Sega Master System Emulator
Built in PC Engine Emulator
Built in NES Emulator
No Slowdown in GBA Games
Real Time Save (RTS) in GBA Games
Integrated Crystal Media Engine
Very Long Running (Battery) Time
Supports Nintendo DS v1-v4 Firmware
Supports GBA, GBA SP, GBA Micro
Supports GameCube GBA Player
M3 Perfect SD Adapter
Passkey v2 Programmer
Software Disc (Mini-CD)
First what you will need to do is to convert some media so the M3SD can read it. I will go over that
process below. Once you have your media file(s) ready you simply plug your SD card into the M3 and then
put the M3 into the GBA cartridge slot. If you're going to be using a Nintendo DS you will put the M3
in the GBA cartridge slot along with putting an original cartridge into the PassKey v2.0 and then
plugging that into the Nintendo DS cartridge slot.
One of the first things I noticed when I opened the M3SD box is that the unit is much smaller then the CF
version. The M3CF hangs about an inch out of your console whereas the M3SD only hangs out around half
an inch. If you can use the FlashMe firmware you can actually fit your console into your pocket with
ease, but if you have to stick with the PassKey v2.0 you won't be able to.
If the size doesn't matter to you then the speed of the media should! Both M3 units depend on removable
memory cards (hence the Compact Flash and Secure Digital versions) to store your media on. Secure Digital
cards are relatively cheap and feature a quicker loading time then Compact Flash cards do. They are also a
lot smaller in size.
A great thing about the design is the fact you don't need to take the M3SD out of your console to remove
the SD card. The SD card pops out with ease and wont fall out as it's held in with a spring loading
mechanism. Additionally, the M3SD fits firmly into all of the consoles I tested, but not too much where
you need to use great force to remove it as some competitors solutions do.
Like all other comparable products the M3SD also needs a way to boot on your Nintendo DS so it comes with
what is called a PassKey v2.0. This device fits snugly into the back of your console in the NDS cartridge
slot and requires any original game plugged into it. This is required to 'pass' the code from the GBA slot
(where the M3SD plugs into) to the Nintendo DS slot.
The good part about the PassKey v2.0 is that it works on newer Nintendo DS systems that the older PassKey
would not. Once you have the PassKey v2.0 up and running you can flash (reprogram) your Nintendo DS system
with a new firmware named 'FlashMe' and do not need to use the PassKey v2.0 anymore (well, if you own an
original v1 ' v3 Nintendo DS as all the newer ones will require the use of the PassKey v2.0.) Moreover,
the PassKey v2.0 is software upgradeable so if Nintendo releases a new version of their console in theory
you could upgrade it to be able to work with the new system.
The M3SD comes with a pre-installed OS that has been perfectly tweaked for it and is ready to go the
minute you open the box. What aren't ready are the media files you will wish to use. The M3SD comes
with a Mini-CD which includes the media and game conversion software. Additionally, it comes with some
other tools which I will cover later.
Although the Mini-CD contains the Media Converter and Game Manager software you will most likely want to
hit up M3's webpage as I did to grab the latest version of these tools along with an updated Operating
System binary and the PassKey v2.0 software. Once I download both of these packages I unzipped and
installed both the Game Manger and Crystal Movie Converter software.
Media Converter Usage
The M3SD uses the same software Crystal Media Converter software package that the M3CF uses. Once
installed, you can run either its DVD, Video, Picture and/or Audio converters to get your media
prepped for the M3SD. You can basically convert any type of media that you can decode on your
computer ' be it DiVX, XViD, MPEG2, MP3, JPEG and so forth. This is a good thing as you won't
have to be bothered with pre-converting any media to fit its requirements.
Each media converter tool has a basic interface where you select the media file(s) you wish to convert,
their destination location (most likely your SD card) and a few options and then to Convert/Exit commands.
I'd make sure to remember to set it to output onto your SD card if you're going to be converting a small
amount of media. If you're going to be converting long movies I would save them on your hard drive so you
can use the SD card while they convert as it's an extremely time consuming process.
Audio Conversion / Playback
When converting audio files you are presented with four basic conversion options which will drastically
increase or decrease the size and quality of your media. You can choose to covert it into 8.1 Stereo,
16.1 Mono, 32.1 Mono and/or 61.1 Mono. Stereo is your best bet if you can spare the extra space it takes
to store the files and if not I would use the 16.1 Mono. The difference is that the Stereo will take the
left and right sound tracks while the Mono will only take one of the tracks leaving you with lower quality
sound, but saves you a little disk space.
My test MP3 for this review is the Orchestrated version of the Opening Theme music for Final
Fantasy 3/6 (encoded in MPEG 1.0 Layer 3 at 128kbit/44100Hz Joint Stereo). Basically, this means
it's an average quality audio file. I converted the song using all four formats and here are my
FF VI - Opening Theme (Orchestrated).mp3
||Perfect Crisp Clear Sound
||Perfect Crisp Clear Sound
||Slightly Grainy Sound, Distorted Bass
||Lots of Noise, Very Grainy with Terrible Bass
As you can the Stereo produced the best results. The song had both the left and right speakers producing
the separate tracks and it sounded really good, clean, crisp and clear. The bass was excellent, but the
only downside was the music volume was a little low.
The 16.1 Mono was the second best and was also clear as can be and the volume was pretty good compared
to the 8.1. The latter two were of course smaller in size, but they were noisy, had distorted bass and
aren't even worth playing. What amazed me was the difference between the playback of these files on the M3SD compared to the CF version. Due to quicker access times and a refined design of the M3SD it blew
the CF version out of the water. When I tried the 8.1 song on the CF version it was on par with the 32.1
version. The 8.1 actually sounded better then the original MP3 file played back in Moonshell v0.9
(I'll get to Moonshell later in this review).
Video Conversion / Playback
Next I moved on to test the video playback. I had my hopes up as the audio was far superior to the
CF version. I now used a homemade music video named 'Final Fantasy VIII ' Kryptonite', which featured
full motion video (FMV) from the Final Fantasy VIII game going along with the 3 Doors Down Kryptonite
song. Once again I was presented with some converting options which were High Quality, Standard or
High Compression. For sake of the review I ordered them in High, Standard and Low. Below is the
comparison table between the original file and the output files I made using all three conversion
Final Fantasy VIII - Kryptonite.mpg
Song Length - 3:55
I was amazed with the superiority of the High Quality conversion settings. It was almost as perfect as
the original, but had a tiny bit of pixilation in the video. The sound was as crisp and clear as it
could be The standard quality was alright, but had more pixilation and a little bit of noise in the
sound. The low setting was also okay, but had heavy pixilation and the sound wasn't up to par.
What really impressed me was that the standard quality video was a lot better then the High Quality
played on the M3CF and totally blew away any other device that has tried to use the M3 Team's media
playback engine. The M3 team actually owns the rights to the software which was used in the GBAMP
and has been ripped from it and now comes with other various GBA/NDS backup units. Although other
companies ripped it they all did a piss poor job of integrating it with their systems. I tested the
same media on the same SD card in that smaller/blue NDS backup unit and it totally sucked.
Image and Text Viewing
I then tested converting some images and reading some text files and both worked out great. The image
quality was first-rate and the text reader works well. You can bookmark your location and change the
font type and size at your will. Regrettably, you cannot control it with the stylus. Wow, did the M3
Team really improve upon the initial CF version!
DVD Conversion / Playback
Lethal Weapon 2
416,197,250 bytes - 8.1 Sound
397,231,760 bytes - 16.1 Sound
Lastly, I converted an entire DVD using High Quality using both 8.1 and 16.1 audio formats. The quality
wasn't up to par with the normal video converter, but I imagine this is due to the space saved when
converting. It was still good enough to watch, but is a lot lower then the PSP produces. The only issue
was the 8.1 files (it produces multiple files per movie) had a really low volume whereas the 16.1 was
just right. I'd recommend converting your DVD's using the 16.1 sound. All in all it's not bad considering
the Nintendo DS wasn't designed for playing movies.
Note that the DVD converter is only intended for VOB (DVD Media) files and you will use the normal movie
converter for DIVX, AVI, XVID, MPEG2, etc.
The Moonshell Media Player
Alternatively to using the M3SD's built in media player you can use the third party Moonshell application.
Moonshell will let you listen to various audio formats such as MP3, OGM and S3M. One advantage over the
built in media player is that you do not need to pre-convert the audio files. You can simply put them on
your SD card and then play them. Moreover, you can read text files and view JPEG images. Luckily, you can
control the text viewer with the stylus, but currently cannot bookmark your location. The only downfall
using Moonshell as your audio player is that the quality isn't as good as the Crystal Engine, but this
could change in the future.
Game Manager Usage
Now lets take a look at the DS Game Manager software and how well the M3SD could playback homebrew and
backups. Both the M3 units use the same software, but when you start it you select which version you
are going to use. Once this is done you are presented with a basic interface.
You've got the file system on the left, which games are in the directory you pick on the right, a language
selection (English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean) drop down menu and the NDS/GBA manipulation tools
To write or convert a NDS image into something the M3 can read you simply select the directory you wish
it to be put into and then pick 'Write NDS'. After this you select the file(s) you would wish to write
and pick okay. Next you'll have a few options at your disposal.
You can pick to trim the image which will cut off the filler (garbage) data (if any) that had been
appended to the file to make it fit on the memory chips used in the original cartridge.
As of the v3.0 Game Manager you can also enable In Game Reset (IGR) which will allow you to reset your
Nintendo DS back into the M3's Menu System without having to turn the power off. You can toggle this
option off and on.
There are three boot modes to choose from; fast boot, normal and direct. Using the fast boot your image
will instantly load with only a 2-3 second delay. Normal will load the entire image and direct will
directly copy the image to your SD card. Both the normal and direct copy will load the entire game
into the M3SD's RAM which has a maximum of 32 Megabytes. I'd stick with the fast boot as the majority
of images used will boot using this method, but some will require you to use the other options as
these images will refuse to function without doing so. Luckily, there are many compatibility charts
online so you will know what options you will need to pick before converting.
Next, you can choose from 1x or 4x DMA mode. Games that use streaming video and need faster access can
be set to 4x while games that don't can be left at 1x. This option will set the speed the image is
accessed at. Additionally, you can choose to have the options you pick to be applied to all the images
you are converting.
Game Boy Advanced
The other conversion option from the main interface is Write GBA which of course will write your Game
Boy Advanced image(s) to your SD card. Once you pick this and the file(s) you wish to write you'll be
given similar options that will handle the way the image(s) are loaded and/or function.
The first option is to load an IPS file. IPS files are patches that can alter the game play. Most IPS
patches are 'trainers' which let you cheat in the game, but some actually change/add levels, graphics,
sounds or translate the game into another language.
You can also enable the Real Time Save (RTS) feature which will dump your entire game state to the SD
card and let you save wherever you are in the game. Even with the RTS enabled I experienced no slowdown
in GBA games that plagues other GBA/NDS solutions. Although, I did not encounter any slowdown I did come
across some GBA images that did not boot when RTS was enabled. Once I unchecked RTS these images
Lastly, you can choose to SoftPatch the image(s) or Hardware patch them using two different settings.
These options are for some picky images that wont boot, but for the most part you can stick with
Once I had both types of images converted I set off to try them out in an original Nintendo DS and they
all loaded in mere seconds, booted fine and played great. No slowdown, no choppy video, no distorted
sound. I could find nothing to complain about!
When it came time to save the game all you do is save as normal and then shut off your Nintendo DS or
Game Boy Advanced. The save data (SRAM) is stored in the M3's internal RAM until you start your
console back up again. There is no need to quickly restart your console and you can let it sit for
weeks if need be before turning it back on as the M3's internal battery will keep the data there.
One cool thing about batteries is they can be replaced when they run out.
Some people complain about having to turn their M3 unit back on for it to save the SRAM, but wouldn't
you have to turn it back on to play another game anyway? You sure would so it really doesn't matter
when the SRAM gets saved as just as long as it does get saved!
Another really great feature of the M3 is the battery life you get out of the Nintendo DS. Under hard
core conditions you can get around 8-10 hours of music, video or gameplay out of your console without
having to recharge it. No competitor's solution even comes close to those figures.
Usage ' PassKey v2.0
If you're the owner of a newer Nintendo DS (if your console isn't colored gray then you most likely are)
then you will have to boot differently then I did above with the normal Nintendo DS. When booting on the
newer consoles you have to pre-program your PassKey v2.0 with code to boot the particular game you wish
to play. This is actually an annoyance as it adds and extra step to the entire process, but it is
currently the only solution available. Please note that no extra steps are required to boot homebrew
and/or GBA images on the newer Nintendo DS systems as the PassKey v2.0 flashing is only required for
Nintendo DS backups.
Programming the PassKey v2.0
Say you want to play a backup of a particular game you will first have to program the PassKey v2.0
with the correct bootcode for that game. To do this you will download the PassKey programmer from the
M3's website and then run the K2-RAM-##.gba (## = current version) file in GBA mode. Now, you will be
given a list of bootcodes to choose from. You will need to pick the correct bootcode for the game you
wish to play. The bootcode can be located on the original game's front label. Simply locate the bootcode,
select it and press 'A' to program it. Now, you will reset your Nintendo DS, load the correct image
and it will boot!
Updating the PassKey v2.0
Using the PassKey programmer you can update the PassKey v2.0 to support new games. First, you boot your
Nintendo DS with the PassKey v2.0 in the Nintendo DS slot and the M3 in the GBA slot. Next, you
press 'start' to enter into GBA mode and then run the K2-HW-##.gba file. (## = Current Version). After
this the flashing program will run and ask you to plug in the programmer and PassKey v2.0 into the GBA
slot. So while the program is still running you do what it asks and then press 'select' to program your
PassKey v2.0. It's a pretty straight forward operation. The only downside to this process is that you
will have to wait for the M3 Team to release new PassKey versions and cannot create them yourself.
What about legacy consoles?
There is no need to worry if you're only going to be using the M3SD on the Game Boy Advanced or Game
Boy SP consoles as each one booted and played media and game files just fine. The only thing you loose
is the ability to use any of the Nintendo DS's features (which should be pretty self explanatory.)
Additionally, it boots fine using the GameCube's GBA Player which means you can enjoy all of your GBA
backups, NES, SMS/GG, PC Engine and Game Boy Mono/Color games on your big screen TV!
I'm not sure why other people who have reviewed the M3SD completely forgot about using and built in
Emulators, but here I am to present the results of my tests. Emulators, of course will let you play
(or emulate) other console games! The M3 Game Manager software will let you convert Game Boy Mono,
Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, PC Engine and NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) games for
playing on your Nintendo DS or Game Boy Advanced.
To convert the games you simply pick Write GBA and then select the file(s) you wish to convert and
let it go. The only downside to the actual conversion process is that for each game your convert the
M3 Game Manager creates a 1 megabyte SRAM file for it which if you're using a small SD card will
take up much needed space. An easy fix is to get a larger card. Once you have the games converted
you boot up your console, go into GBA Mode by pressing Start (Nintendo DS users only) and then
select the game you wish to play.
First I tried out some Game Boy Mono games. Each played at full speed, with good sound and control.
With the exception of the SMS/GG emulator all of the others have a menu you can access by holding
L+R which will let you configure various options and most importantly let you do a RTS. Sadly, you
have to do a RTS with your Game Boy Mono games as if you save normally it will not be backed up.
Next on the list is the Sega Master System / Game Gear emulator. The emulator itself starts in
European mode so it is only compatible with images from that country. The speed is decent, but
the sound lacks clarity. SRAM saving is also missing (or not working) in this emulator so you
wont be able to save your progress.
Now I booted up some PC Engine images. Like the SMS/GG emulator this one is stuck on a certain
Country so you can only play Japanese games and there is no way to switch this. Luckily, SRAM
and RTS both work fine, but it's a bit hard to play any of these games if you do not read Japanese.
Lastly, I tried out the NES emulator. The speed is perfect, but the sound has minor crackling
noises in it, but not enough to bother you as you get used to it rather quickly. Both the SRAM
and RTS work fine so you save/load properly.
In conclusion you need to understand that the M3 Team did not create any of these emulators, but
simply incorporated them into their game manager. All of these emulators can be found on their
respective WebPages and you can manually create the GBA images and add them just as you would a
GBA game. I would suggest doing this for the NES using PocketNES and for the Game Boy Mono
Due to the functionality, seamless integration of the operating system, vast amount of options,
battery life (8-10 hours) and compatibility the M3 SD blows all of the rest (including it's CF
counterpart) out of the water. Other units come out with a feature list, but with empty promises
not made while the M3 SD delivers the goods and then some. If you're in the market for a solid
Nintendo DS multimedia/develop/backup unit I would not let this one pass you by.
- Proper English Readme's
- Price Per Unit
- Physical Demensions
- No Stylus Support while Reading
- No Auto-Matic PassKey Programming
+ Ease of Operation
+ Vast amount of Features
+ Battery Life
+ Use of external media
+ Hardware Quality
+ Seemless OS Intergration
+ Upgradable & Excellent Support