Hardware Review: Everdrive GBA Mini from Krikzz

Now that Krikzz and crew are back up and running again, I decided it was high time to seek them out about a product review. They mentioned that they were set up in a new location and that they had products being listed on their site. I asked them if they would be able to send over an Everdrive GBA Mini and they obliged (as well as another item I’ll do next week). Today I’ve got the review and I promise that you will not be disappointed!

Description:

Ever dream of having your whole library of Game Boy Advance games in a single cartridge? The EverDrive GBA Mini allows you to load your game back-ups (commonly known as ROMs) on a microSD card, put the SD card into the EverDrive GBA Mini, put the EverDrive GBA Mini into a Game Boy Advance compatible device and have your list of games at your finger tips.

Features:

  • Small design! Will fit flush in all your GBA handhelds.
  • High compatibility. Almost 100% compatibility with GBA game library.
  • All save types supported, no ROM patching required.
  • Fast Loading (most games load within 1 – 2 seconds).
  • 256Mbit PSRAM (32MByte) ROM memory.
  • 1Mbit SRAM (128KByte) save memory.
  • Real-time clock support.
  • Low power consumption.
  • SD, SDHC and SDXC cards are supported. Tested with micro-SD cards up to 64GB.
  • FAT32 support.
  • Supported with GameCube GBA Player, Super Retro Advance adapter and other GBA accessories.
  • NES, GB and GBC games support (emulation mode).

Unboxing Video:

Pros:

  • X5? Those who have followed the word of God Krikzz, already know what I mean when I say X5. Traditionally, there are a few variants of any given flashcart from Krikzz. The fancier the feature set is, the higher the number. X3, X5, and X7 are all numbers that have been used before. So…is this an X5? Yes, it is. However, you’ll notice that the name is the Everdrive GBA Mini. The reason that the X5 moniker is now gone is because it was too confusing.
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    As I just mentioned, if there is an X5, that traditionally meant that there is also an X3 at the very least. So by using X5, it lead buyers to think that there was an X3 and an X7 version running amok that they couldn’t find. Maybe an X3 is more affordable with less features. Maybe there’s an X7 out there with even more features that the discerning buyer wanted. But no, there is not any other version than this one. So now it’s simply titled Everdrive GBA Mini.
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    There was a previously different version of the X5, though. This one is a renamed version of the second iteration of the X5. That became the X5 mini and the main difference is that this has a lower profile shell. So the Everdrive GBA mini features the same body type as the second run of X5, which is the size of a standard GBA cart. The first run had a taller body,something like Drill Dozer.

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  • Build Quality. Now let’s take some time to talk about how everything fits beautifully in the form factor. Better yet, let’s talk about the fantastic build quality (as if you didn’t already know) of the Everdrive GBA Mini. First off, the plastic used feels at least as good as the ABS plastic that Nintendo uses on their own cartridges. I always remind people that I can’t speak to the longevity of the products. But they’ve consistently survived my harshest testing. This includes sitting with it in my back pocket, dropping from shoulder height to concrete f;oor, dropping down a flight of stairs, and squeezing them as hard as I can in my palm!
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    But there’s more than just plastic involved in this little cutie! Taking a walk around the product here, you’ll see a microSD card slot right on top (more on that soon). The type of card slot that Krikzz utilizes is the kind that you can click the SD card down into. This enables us to have the microSD card sit inside of it and the top of it sits flush with the top of the Everdrive. If it were a slot that had to slide it in and pull it out, the SD card would have to stick out a few millimeters and really rely on 2 fat ass fingertips to pull it out. Krikzz made the smarter choice and hopefully, you won’t need to eject the microSD card too often. But if/when new homebrew for the GBA comes out, it’s nice to have the option of simplicity.
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    Inside the cartridge, you’ll find too much to mess with, of course. But you will see a few key things that are pretty great. The first of which is the quality of the contacts on the board. The contacts, solder points, through holes, and Everdrive logo on the back are all gold-plated. The biggest item of those being the contacts as that ensures the best possible connection between the Everdrive GBA Mini and the device it’s being used on. The other key takeaway here is the built-in battery. You can definitely swap it out, we’ll be coming back to that later on. All in all, there’s so much to trust in this concise and well-tested cartridge.
  • Placement. There are flashcarts aplenty out in the wide world. Every single flashcart, I swear, has a different placement of the SD card slot and/or has a different SD card sizes. I understand that each cartridge is different with different features. But with Krikzz’ family of Everdrive flashcarts, very little has changed over the years. First off, it’s great that the flashcarts, even the largest ones, changed over to microSD. Then it comes down to the SD card slot on the top. This is vital! I threw a fit in a previous flashcart review that the SD card slot was on the inside edge of the cartridge. This matters when it comes to handheld cartridges because you cannot get to the SD card with ease. All handheld carts are slotted into the handheld so as to stay out of the way, but this then hides the SD card. Maybe the idea is to hide that it’s a flashcart?
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    But with Krikzz’ design, we now consistently have the ability to take the microSD card in and out. Versus having to pull out an entire cartridge and put more stress on the contacts inside the handheld. You know, the ones that only have so much use in them before they die? You may be wondering why I care, but after reviewing so many flashcarts over the years, I assure you, this specific feature matters.

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  • Simplicity. There is so much to love about this miniature cartridge. But one that most Everdrive fanatics look forward to is that it takes practically zero effort to get going. If you’re wondering just how simple it is, I’ll give you a full tutorial right here. Step 1. Buy the dang Everdrive GBA Mini. Step 2. Format your microSD card to fat32. Step 3. Drag your legally obtained GBA ROMs to the microSD card. Step 4. Download the most up-to-date OS. Step 5. Extract the GBASYS folder out of the zip file you just downloaded. Step 6. Put that onto the root of your microSD. Step 7. Safely eject your microSD. Step 8. Insert your microSD card into the Everdrive GBA Mini. Step 9. Insert Everdrive into GBA. Step 10. Turn on GBA and enjoy the fast loading of games!

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  • Extra Features. One of the fun bits about this cartridge is the extra abilities hidden within that just need unlocking. If you’re wondering if you can get more use out of this cartridge than just GBA games, worry not! The Everdrive GBA Mini can also run additional game files. If you buy it, you’ll be looking at games for the Game Boy, Game Boy Colo, NES, Neo Geo Pocket, Master System, and Game Gear. It’s just as easy to get these games running as it is to get GBA games set up. I won’t be giving tutorials on these in this review, mind you. That would drag on for far too long. However, you just need to get Goomba, PocketNES, NGPadvance, and SMSAdvance respectively.
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    Personally, I only cared about having all GB, GBC, and GBA on my ultimate modded GBA, so I stuck with that. But Krikzz’ own readme says you can do it, so yeah, you can frickin’ do it. One final note, if you’re wondering if the ROMs in these emulators load as fast as GBA games do, they do. Fast loading seems to apply across the board thanks to the hardware being utilized in the Everdrive GBA Mini.
  • MicroSD Compatibility. The GBA Mini ran every type of microSD card that I could throw at it. I have a few different brands lying about, so I tested them all. SanDisk, Micro Center, Kingston, PNY, and Inland. They all worked without issue. The only thing that I couldn’t test was capacity limitations. The largest microSD card that I had available was 64GB and it worked like a dandy once I formatted it to be Fat32. The smallest one I had available to test is 4GB, since I know that some people would rather not waste a giant card. Unfortunately for me, the only ones I had were 32GB and 64GB. But if you have any of these brands from 4GB to 64GB lying around, you won’t have to go out and buy a different one just for the Everdrive GBA Mini.

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  • Hardware. The Everdrive GBA Mini can run on an assortment of devices. I tested every device that I own that can run a GBA cart and I’m happy to share the results with you all. It works in the original taco-shaped GBA. Both of the models of GBA SPs also support the GBA Mini. If you watched my unboxing video, you’ll see that it also fits beautifully in the Game Boy Micro. It works wonders in both the original Phat DS and the DS Lite.
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    I then tested it in the Game Boy Player on the Gamecube and it works great. And finally, I tested it in my consolized Game Boy Advanced (GBHD Advance review coming soon). It was inevitably going to work in the GBHD Advance because it’s just the guts of a GBA, but you never know if the fit of the slot was going to be warped due to the GBHD’s 3D print or something. Anyway, I digress, it works in everything!

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  • Size. I saved this topic for it’s own “pro”. Heck, I showed it off at the end of my unboxing video. I want to give Krikzz a high five for managing this feat of electrical engineering. He mastered getting everything that this Everdrive can do into a cartridge that is under two inches tall. I’m fully aware that there are other GBA flashcarts out there. I’m also more than aware that they have been this size as well. For their price points, they accomplish what they set out to do. But Krikzz has a flashcart that is so feature-rich and structurally sound and it fits every device we talked about. Not only does it fit accurately, but it sits flush, just as an OEM cartridge does. Nintendo, hire this guy and pay him more money than anyone else.

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  • Colors. There is the frosted, clear transparent shell currently available from Krikzz’s websites. There is other colors from Krikzz and StoneAgeGamer, but they appear to be sold out. And when I say there are more colors, there are plenty to choose from once they’re back in stock. On Krikzz’s webiste there is the classic GBA cartridge grey color. On the StoneAgeGamer site, there are those colors and more. There are also sticker variants to choose from. We have pictures throughout the article showing what I mean. Now, if you don’t care which color you have, and you just need one, the clear is available right now. Hurry up and scroll to the bottom and buy it. If you’re someone who needs a certain look, just keep going back to the sellers until there are more in stock.

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  • Serviceable. I truly love that the Everdrive GBA Mini is simple and serviceable. There’s not much to it, but if you need to get into the cartridge for any reason, it’s simple to do. First off, Krikzz has removed the need to have a hex bit to open the cartridge up. Other shells do this, usually the larger shells like that of the N8 Pro Fami. This cartridge, however, has a Phillips screw head that can be removed with a 00 tip. Once you’re inside, you can update the cr1220 battery. This is likely the only reason that you will ever open it and likely the reason he made the screw simpler to remove. You shouldn’t have to replace the battery more than once every 3-5 years, depending on the frequency of use. That comes down to how often you have saves being used. The same goes for games with real-time clock functionality.

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  • Cost. If you buy from Krikzz directly on his sites, this cartridge clocks in at $104. He sells his products as a cart only (no clamshell) if your heart desires at that price point. This is what I would personally do, as I don’t necessarily have a need for the extras that Stone Age Gamer has. But if you’re interested in the cool stuff they provide, you can get the cartridge, a case, printed manual, an EverDrive-GBA sticker, Stone Age Gamer sticker, and a 2-year Warranty for $135. They all have their benefits and it’s really just up to you and what you’re looking for.
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    If you’re thinking that $104 is just too much money for what you get, I’d have to wholeheartedly disagree. However, just put it in terms for yourself. One rare game can cost much more than $104 and that’s just one game. Inexpensive GBA games, after about twenty of them, cost more than $104. Now imaging toting those around and swapping them out when you want to play different games. The value here is the ability to play your library in one cartridge and get way more features. Oh, and to do it for less than a cartridge that is cheaper than a game being sold by a game flipper.

Cons:

  • Enhanced Games. Do you want to play certain games that come in a taller shell? Games that might have light sensors, vibration, or an accelerometer? Well, unless there is a way to patch out their dependency on that hardware, you’re not going to be able to play those games on this flash cart. This means theres no compatibility with Yoshi Topsy Turvy or Drill Dozer and others. I would love to see the next iteration of the GBA Mini include an accelerometer, a light sensor, and a small vibration mechanism to cover the rest of the specialty games. People might be okay with paying up to $150 for the extra features. Imagine having the option of the GBA Mini to play 98% of games for $104 and a GBA Mini X7 to play everything for $150. I think that this would be a lucrative idea for Krikzz. It’s possible that I may be on an island with this.

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  • Save States. Unfortunately for all of us, there are not currently save states supported. This is not without exception of course. If you’re playing GB and GBC games on your GBA Mini using Goomba, there is a save state functionality. This makes sense of course considering flash carts for the GB and GBC have save states. There is still saving, naturally. This is by way of the games’ hardcoded save functionality using the built-in battery.

Final Thoughts:

There’s a lot to be said about this amazingly small and powerful device…besides it being small and powerful. It not only alleviates the need to carry handfuls of carts with you and swap them out but so much more. If you’re looking to also expand your abilities, there are emulators that you can add to it. And while save states still aren’t available at this moment, you can still use the game’s built in save functions because the Everdrive GBA Mini supports it with a battery that is easy to replace too.
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There is nothing better that you can spend your $104 than a device that gets you practically everything you want in your GBA and also benefits a business that is needing your support now more than ever. Even if you’re reading this years down the road and the Ukrainian people are safe and happy again, you should still buy this product from Krikzz. Because it’s just that fantastic.

Purchase Links:

Krikzz

Everdrive.ME

Stone Age Gamer

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