The GBA Is Dead, Long Live The GBA!

Again? Yes, again. But this time it’s different.
Update 8/6/12: For your chance to win a brand new K1 GBA fresh off the production line, please check this post!
You’d be forgiven for rolling over and going back to sleep, but before you switch off bear this in mind – the clone I’m about to review is touted as being the closest to a real GBA that anyone has ever developed. And that is supposed to include full compatibility with GBA games, full compatibility with homebrew, multiplayer via a link cable and VGA TV output. How is this possible with an emulator, you might ask. Well the guys in charge of developing this machine (who will be referred to as the K-Team from now on) are claiming that simply, it isn’t an emulator.

Specifics on the hardware are somewhat thin on the ground, but the K-Team claim that the SoC is fully backwards compatible with that of the GBA. It can operate at up to 150Mhz but is scaled right back to somewhere around 16Mhz for GBA gaming. This means that it should not only play nice with the vast GBA library, but will also be capable of other tasks like emulation and mp3 playback once the CPU has been ramped up to a more suitable speed.

The team first began work on a GBA emulator device but decided that the results could never be satisfactory in an emulated environment. This led them to begin work on a reverse engineered GBA in around 2008, the result of which I have in my hands for review.

I have been sent 2 engineering samples to review, but before we begin let me make a couple of things known. These are samples, therefore the build quality and the software side of things are unfinished and I won’t be reviewing these. It is clear from looking at them that they have been assembled inside some old shells, only for the purpose of making them useful to review. The finished products will of course be housed inside shiny new cases and it is likely that the software will have been tweaked by that time too. In fact I’ve received 2 firmware updates since beginning this review, meaning I’ve had to come back and edit out my notes documenting the bugs that were first apparent :-)

Let’s get on with it. I received 2 samples, both slightly different from one another. The blue machine is perhaps the less exciting of the two as it functions only as GBA usually would. This means that it will play official and pirated cartridges, and it’ll work with some (but not all) GBA flash carts. This version of the machine is intended for less wealthy parts of the world and areas where branded electronics sell for a massive premium despite their age. It’ll allow kids to play titles from a golden era of gaming without paying through the nose for the privilege. These are on sale in some Russian online stores already, check here for example.



The grey machine is the more complex of the two, it can function exactly as the blue machine does but also has many extra features. The grey machine comes with a K-Card, which functions in a similar way to a standard flash cart. It’s a cartridge with the GBA aesthetic save for a small cut out slot on the outer edge that houses a micro SD card. Your firmware and ROMs are dropped onto your Micro SD which clicks inside the cartridge and away you go. This machine has additional DRAM to which the ROM is temporarily loaded when you select it from the menu. If you’re using a standard GBA cartridge then the DRAM is not used, and your save games are saved back to the cart as usual.

Usual emulator devices use a CPU LCD interface which is typically not capable of displaying anything higher than around 48 FPS, the interface inside both of these machines is serial RGB capable of displaying the full 60 FPS of the original GBA.

My review will focus more heavily on the grey machine as I test some of the more demanding ROMs on it and check out its other features, so let’s get started.

User Interface

As previously mentioned the UI has recently been improved with a couple of firmware updates. The photos show the newest firmware in action. The menu is divided into three sections for List, Options and Help. The list heading contains the browser for games, including those for other systems that will be emulated instead of run natively. To start a game you just highlight it and hit A. Doing the same on an MP3 file loads up the audio player. MP3 playback is a basic but functional extra feature that actually works quite well.

If you scoot over to the Option heading using R you can set the language, display mode, file filter and sleep setup. Holding the brightness button (*) and hitting down scales the image from 320×240 to 320×212 which mimics the aspect ratio of the original GBA screen. It squashes the image by 14 pixels at the top and 14 pixels at the bottom which results in a 3:2 image. It’s worth noting that this feature was initially buggy but a timely firmware update was provided to fix this issue.

Moving over to the Help heading displays a list of the button combinations you can use to change settings while you’re playing. Scrolling to the second page shows a list of compatible file extensions, including those for emulation and image viewing.

I noticed that my ROMs aren’t showing up in alphabetical order in the list, they’re displayed in a seemingly random order, but I have word that this is to be fixed in the next firmware update. Overall the UI feels snappy, it’s perfectly intuitive once you’ve remembered a few button combinations and does the job fine.

Compatibility

This is the important bit I guess, and I’m happy to report that everything I’ve tried so far has worked perfectly. I’ve loaded a selection of ROMs that I know to be problematic in most emulators and not encountered any issues. Games tested are as follows.

Chicken Little
Earthworm Jim
Golden Sun
Mario Golf
Mario Kart (used to test multiplayer).
Mario Power Tennis
Payback
Sigma Star Saga
Teen Titans
Teen Titans 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

I was planning on breaking it down ROM by ROM, but honestly there is little point. Obviously I haven’t played all of these through to completion, but with the testing I’ve done there hasn’t been a problem. All save types have thus far worked perfectly. The save files are stored in DRAM which is cleared when powering down, a swift tap of * + START backs up the save to SD which is automatically loaded next time the game runs.

I slung 5 homebrew games on there too. AGB Elite, Bullet GBA, Blast Arena Advance, AGB Rogue and Lords of Midnight. I am happy to report that although my testing wasn’t extensive, they worked flawlessly too. I’m not particularly au fait with the GBA homebrew scene so if there’s something you’d like me to test just shout up with a link to the download.

Multiplayer link up with an official GBA worked just as expected. I tested it with a Mario Kart ROM on the K-Card and nothing in the official GBA. I also linked the grey K-card clone to the cartless blue clone and that also worked flawlessly. Nice

Extras

Included in the firmware are some ‘experimental’ emulators for some old consoles and handhelds. I say experimental because these are still in development, and with the handful of games I tested performance was average. Most Game Boy games seem to work pretty well, with the Sega and PC Engine games causing the biggest issues. Included emulators for the system are NES, PC Engine, Game Gear, Master System, Game Boy and Game Boy Color.

The system is also capable of outputting to a TV in VGA 640×480. It came bundled with a hacked together Composite cable providing video and mono audio out. The TV cable plugs into the charging port. You can toggle between LCD and TV with * + Left, and switch between NTSC and PAL with * + Right. This is another function that initially wasn’t supported at all, was later supported but buggy and now works perfectly. The unit can be charged with an official GBA charger and takes the same battery as the official GBA SP. The speaker is louder than that of a real GBA SP and I’d be inclined to say that it’s marginally better too. Though the LCD will be tailored depending on each manufacturers requirements, it may be worth noting that the screen in my sample was very nice. Viewing angles are better than that of a GBA SP and the screen is way brighter and very crisp despite scaling the 240×160 image to the 320×240 display.

Conclusion

This is without doubt the best attempt at a fully functioning clone that I’ve seen. If the minor bugs in the firmware can be ironed out (and I’m confident they will be, I’m on firmware v3 so far which has killed the majority of noticeable ones) and perhaps the UI neatened up a bit then the device will be pretty much a perfect GBA clone. Hopefully it will put an end to the endless supply of GBA emulator devices once and for all.

The following is some promotional material outlining the advantages of K-Team solution over a run of the mill emulator.

The non-DRAM version meant for playing cartridges only is currently available in Russian stores, but the DRAM enabled version is yet to surface. I believe it to be in its final stages of development so would expect to see it in the coming months. I have been told to expect not just the SP form factor but also other variations including different screen sizes, depending on what the manufacturer wants – so keep your eyes peeled.

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Posted on December 11, 2011, in Game Boy Advance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 169 Comments.

  1. Interesting! I remember when the first GBA emulator consoles came out, lots of people were initially convinced they were hardware clones (even though they blatantly weren’t) – its nice to see someone actually developing a proper hardware clone with all these added features. Does it play GB/GBC carts by any chance? If it does I’ll be all over this thing.

    • I must admit I was duped by the early versions as well, but I’ve learned since then :-)
      This version doesn’t have the GB/GBC hardware inside it, so it’s GBA only for now.

    • As explained earlier, the GB & GBC cartridge was omitted at early stage of the development since we thought most of the GB & GBC game titles have their GBA resembled. But you can still play GB & GBC ROMs using the built-in emulators. Sorry about that, maybe in next version. We hope young kids can get the same thrill as we did before. For older men/women, this is just another journey to remember. For the team, we kind of enjoyed the fun developing this stuff. But trust me, it’s really tough to achieve what you have seen now. We believe it’s the one and only and there probably won’t be another.. We hope manufacturers can come out more models using this solution. You can voice your request to DX or other web stores you used to shop. Let them know you don’t want those emulators, you just want the Hardware version, the K Solution. :-)

      • But we need to be able to point DX to somewhere they can get the device. Either a manufacturers product page, a seller on Taobao or a contact for yourselves. Be sure to let us know because I’d like nothing more than to see this little bundle of joy for sale in DX!

  2. Yay, finally! Actually, this one looks really great… any idea what the price may be like?
    Also, would you mind trying out Pokemon Emerald? Not even my NDS with Slot2 EZFlash can run it properly, because of missing RTC support.

  3. Please do not forget to tell us about the price, and where to buy when its ready :)

  4. Shame about the non-existent native GBC/GB support.
    I’ve been waiting forever to get a ‘pure’ GBA flash cart for a decent price without finding any, so I guess this is it.

    Guess I’ll wait a little while to see if the GBC & GB emulator works satisfactory, then I’ll just go ahead and buy it :)

    And I’m *hoping* you’ll do a more thorough review testing all the available emulators once it’s out.

    • I have video footage but Microsoft removed support for the movie files my camera takes (thanks MS!), so I can’t edit it anymore. I tried a thousand other video converters but the ouputted file is always gibberish. Grrrr.

      It looks like maxzhou88 is kindly posting some videos for us though, so maybe he’ll cover the emulators in a future video.

  5. What happens when you put the cart it comes with in a real GBA?

    • K-Cart is only for K-Team devices. Original/Real GBA will simply ignore it. Nothing will happen when you put the K-Cart into a real GBA.

  6. I just got a 3ds but I have to say I’m way more psyched about this console. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing. I GBC clone with a bright screen with the same resolution wold be a dream. The one problem I have with emulated retro gaming is the look of the old games on high res screens.

    • The GBC and GB are just a matter of market demand. The technology we developed can cover those. So maybe in the next year or two, you will see it come true. Our next move is to prepare documents so people can develop something on the platform. Need some time to prepare those necessary documents. Before that, we surely need to push out more real products to let people know and buy these devices. Once there’s web stores, we will post here.

  7. Any news on a release date? It appears they’re selling it on Taobao (http://igame32.taobao.com/) but I can’t find any mention of an english release (dealextreme, etc…)

  8. Interested in this as well. Can we replace the battery with a bigger one? How much it lasts? The original lasted around 20 hours, if i read it right…

    How are the buttons compared to the original? Are they the same quality and feel? Can they be swapped with the original, if not (DIY)?

    When can we order one (i’m from eastern europe)?

    ps: i would love this version in the GBA format as well (the 1st one, the one that came with AA batteries). It was much more ergonomical and personally i think it looked better.

  9. The battery space is limited/fixed. Unless you can find better Li-On battery, you won’t find it possible to replace it. You can take off the battery to see if you can make it, though. The machine (original SP form factor) is on http://igame32.taobao.com/ now. But we need more time to find WW distributors to carry it to other area. There will be more form factors coming out this year. And a new white, clean (Dingoo A320-like) candy-bar form factor will be released in May or June period of time.

    • Does the battery has the same specs as the original GBA SP one? And what’s the battery life compared to the original? If there’s no emulation done, then it should be pretty close, right? Though the LCD is a different one.

      And btw, about the LCD, wasn’t it possible keep the original 3:2 aspect in all menus (including games) and make a slightly larger bezel to cover the resulting 14 top and bottom unused pixels?

      Will the new candy bar form factor gba clone have the same screen size as this one? Any chance it will be bigger (4″, for example)?

    • I would love the original GBA form factor, personally. Cases are cheap, so i might even be able to make my own if that doesn’t eventuate.

  10. I would like this, if I could afford it. However, I would like to point out that most emulators that run on other handhelds, like the iPhone or the DS will have bad compatibility. One GBA emulator on the PC have excellent compatability, though it’s link capability is being worked on, so this product currently has that one the GBA emulator for pc, as well as being more portable.

    However, because the pc GBA emulator is having it’s link ability worked on, it will sooner or later have it working, and will be able to link to others over LAN or even the internet, which will then take that trophy from K-Team.

    So right now, K-Team’s GBA clone has many things over every gba emulator, but only will have one thing over the PC gba emulator in the near future. Kudos to the team though. I certainly would want this to be able to play my gba games in a more portable environment with all the capabilities possible, like the Real Time Clock for the GBA pokemon games.

  11. How are roms added to the K-Card? Are they added by dragging and dropping into a file manager, or is there some kind of program that adds the roms to the cart?

    I ask because I run Linux, not Windows. And this is a concern for me. The programs from GBA flashcarts like the M3/G6 Lite luckily work in Linux under Wine. So if this cart does use a program to add the roms(which hopefully it’s drag n’ drop) then I’m hoping it’s going to be functional under Wine.

    Any info about this? If Linux users will definitely be able to get the roms onto the K-Card then you will definitely have a customer with me.

    Thanks.

  12. Oh crap, my answer was sitting right there in the article and that read from beginning to start. Sometimes I’m blind though.

    Anyways, I appreciate you answering my foolish question. I’m even more excited for this to get released now. Hopefully we can get sites like Amazon to carry it, instead of some obscure sites out in the middle or nowhere.

  13. I ordered 2 from taobao. Taobao is selling the K-card solution. I’ll definetely get this reviewed when I have it.

  14. it’s about the equivalent of £45 you have to pay a percentage to the agent you’re using to buy fthrough Taobao I’m expecting to pay around £55

  15. DX would be better. But it still, they’re very far from me, and in some cases they take up to two weeks just to ship your order.

    Maybe I’ll find out who to talk to on Amazon to carry these(since I saw they carry other clones). Or maybe I’ll get a hold of the guys at RealHotStuff.

  16. A few questions about compatibility and functionality:

    What’s the load time like, especially for large games? With the EZ-Flash IV, you have to load games like Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories into NOR memory before playing them, which is really slow.

    Speaking of KH:CoM, does it choke on the intro video (as most knockoffs and emulators do)?

    From selecting the rom to the moment the rom boots, how long does it take a 32MB (256mbit) game to load?

    In Metroid Fusion, do the enemies pixelate when killed as they normally do (something a lot of knockoffs have trouble with)?

    Do the Famicom Mini/Classic NES GBA releases run properly?

    Does the sleep function work properly in games which used it? (Metroid Fusion has this, as do the Classic NES games – it would basically put the system into a power-save standby mode. EZIV has trouble with it for some reason.)

    Regarding GBC compatibility, how well does Shantae run? Does Warlocked seem to have all its sounds (Including the digitized voice saying “Warlocked!” at the start screen)?

    The images shown in your review show a 4GB microSD card. Does it support larger capacities?

    • K1 has two sleep mode: GBA game’s sleep function and K1 system (* + R hotkey and any key to wake up except RL)

      TF card has no size requirements, in addition, FAT16 and FAT32 can be used

  17. Hi

    I tested everything except the sleep modes because i’m not sure what you mean.

    Anyway.

    Kingdom hearts Chain of Memories –

    Loads in a couple of seconds, surely no longer than the original GBA. The intro animation plays full speed, and wow – I’ve never played this game before. Those graphics were really pushing the GBA to it’s maximum capabilities weren’t they.

    All 32MB games I tested worked fine and loaded in a couple of seconds, maybe less.

    Metroid Fusion –

    Yes, the enemies pixelate. Weird, I think that’s the only bug I’ve found so far. If you hadn’t have said it were a glitch I’d have thought that’s what they were supposed to do when you killed them.

    NES Classics –

    I tested Xevious, Zelda II and Excitebike. Happy to report all worked fine.

    GBC Emulation –

    Shantae runs but is very slow. I didn’t hear any voice on the title screen of Warlocked, and it also ran slowly. Playable though, unlike Shantae.

    Memory Card –

    I’m afraid I have nothing bigger in 4GB size to test it with. K-Team must answer that one. Maybe they can shed light on the Metroid pixelation too.

    Thanks for the input, seems like the answers were mostly favourable.

    • The pixelation in Metroid Fusion is correct, not a glitch. It’s just a minor thing that a lot of emulators don’t do correctly – they just make the enemy disappear.

      The sleep mode in Metroid Fusion can be turned on by pressing the L-trigger button while in the map screen. If it works correctly, the system should appear to turn itself off.

  18. Based on the performance of Shantae and Warlocked, I’m betting the built-in GBC emulator is based on Goomba, so it will probably have similar GB/GBC compatibility.

    If the K1 is a full clone of GBA hardware, it should still have the GBC Z80 processor. The only trick would be convincing it to load a game from the K-Cart in GBC mode.

  19. it doesn’t have the GBC or GB hardware inside it, only the GBA. it only clones the GBA hardware, not the previous 2.

  20. I must buy it!!! I MUST!! :D But from where?!?! :S I hope it doesn’t cost much :P Cause here in Greece we’ve got problems… :/

  21. By the way i found this but don’t understand a sh_t [sorry for the curse word...] http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=15002396780&cm_cat=50040897

  22. K-team. Is it your team who actually program for your device or is the SDK available to the people that sell your SOC. alot of chinese devices are programmed differently depending on the vendor selling them. Does this mean certain rebrands of your device could feature different emulators than others?

    • @Dexter: We haven’t been able to release anything like SDK to manufacturers but we wish we could if we have enough resource to prepare the documents and development board. Will that interest you guys if someone sell the boards to you ? :-)
      Yes, different manufacturers will have different UI and form factors, depending on their major interests on the market. We don’t produce end products.

      Is there enough hobbyist GBA programmers out there now ?

      • The GBA hobbyist scene is still strong. If you check a source like http://pdroms.de/news/gameboyadvance/ you’ll see that there are still frequent additions to the database. Also, there is excellent documentation and tools available.

        I think a lot of people moved on to the DS because it was easier to set up a development environment (due to more convenient hardware; basically all you needed was a flashcard).

      • Yep. We did noticed that website. If you noticed, the original review posted here had a page to address that website. Maybe we should find a way to approach all the GBA programmers out there. Thanks for the info, anyway.

  23. Got mine today.

    It’s pretty good but it’s not the perfect clone it has been made out to be.

    In “Gunstar Super Heroes”, Moon 1, Area 3 is nothing more than an unplayable garbled mess of flickering and scrolling sprites. Tested it on multiple dumps of both the English and Japanese versions; same problem every time.

    Kinda pissed I went through so much hassle to get my hands on this thing just to find out it is basically on par with any other emulator.

    At least the build quality is solid.

    • You should’ve asked me to test it first :-( maybe with the verdict something could have been done about it before mass production too.
      Everything I’ve tested on it, and everything I’ve been asked to test (including notoriously problematic ROMs for emulators) has worked perfectly. I can’t test every GBA game in the library, I’d still be at it!

      But to say it’s on a par with ‘any other emulator’ is wrong. It’s a lot better.

      • Not blaming you, I had no reason to expect you to to extensively test it.

        I just feel kinda let down by the device itself. It’s going to eat at my brain every time I play it, even if it’s running without incident. “It’s imperfect, you should have just have bought a real GBA SP and a flash cart…”

        But really that’s my issue and I’m not seeking to lay blame at anyone’s feet.

        Gunstar Super Heroes has a fair amount of scale and transformation effects so I figure it’s probably pushing the unit a fair bit. I’m tempted to test some advanced demoscenes on it and see how it fairs.

        Anyway I only really posted to inform perspective buyers that it isn’t quite perfect so they don’t get hit with the same disappointment.

      • For reference this is the area in question as it should look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQZ4SAipFVM

        I don’t own a camera sadly so I’ll try to explain how it looks on here.

        While the player, chickens and enemies are still visible (albeit behind the flickering mess) and maintain their correct positions the platforms are invisible and the grassy texture just covers the screen, constantly flickering and scrolling.

      • Maybe it is a software problem.
        Let’s wait for K-Team, maybe they can fix it.

    • if the PID is 00610601(maxzhou88’s game lpayers version), then firmware can be update.

      • That is indeed the PID.

        Seeing as I bought it from you via an agent I would have been surprised if it was anything else.

        How exactly do I go about updating the firmware?

        Also as a side note: I’m not sure if this is a flaw with your design or if I just got a defective unit but the power switch is a bit dodgy. Sometimes the slightest bump can shut off the unit even if the switch is still clearly in the on position. Not a major issue but enough of a nuisance to be worth mentioning. Might want to look into that.

    • Good Job, Pal. You really got us ! ;-)
      The bad news is : Yes, the issue has been confirmed. We had a design bug on the rotation effect.
      The good news is you will soon get a firmware patch to fix it if your PID is 00610601. That’s the only (so far) type among others you can update the code through TF card.
      Wait for maxzhou88’s update on this issue.

      As for your comment: “it is basically on par with any other emulator”. We surely DO NO agree !

      Try harder & have fun !

      • Glad I could be of help in refining the design.

        Good to know it’s fixable :D

        I apologise for the emulator comment, I was in something of a bad mood that day.

        You’ve done a good job to come this far and teething problems are to be expected.

      • Err, this is awkward, just noticed another bug that may be related.

        This scene ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=xW4GyjnMqPE#t=541s ) looks different on the clone; all the sky is a dull grey with a slight cloudy texture. Don’t know if this is related.

      • @Guy: That’s the same issue in the same game actually. Don’t worry. The next firmware update from maxzhou88 will fix them all. Luck you chose Maxzhou88’s clone machine which is upgradable. :-)

        Don’t worry about your comment. Just keep biting us. We kind of like it. :-)

      • [quote]Luck you chose Maxzhou88′s clone machine which is upgradable. :-)[/quote]
        Do you sell not upgradeable ones too?
        How many different SoCs are you producing?

      • Most sellers or manufacturers do not want to provide after service. Plus, re-flashing the device will possibly turn the device into a brick unless they provide a way to prevent this to happen.
        As far as we know, maxzhou88 is the only one who provide such service for his machine. That’s why you need to check the PID to make sure your K1-based machine is upgradable. The PID is the Product ID used to differentiate one seller from another. Since the form factors are all the same among all sellers, PID is the only way we can figure out to make things clear.

        Believe us, K1 is very flexible but the sellers/manufacturers are not.

  24. I am sorry to hear that the unit doesn’t have perfect compatibility. To the website owner: could you possibly cross-check the Gunstar Super Heroes issue and upload a video of how it runs on an original GBA vs the hardware clone?

    I was really looking forward to those units as I wanted to get into GBA programming, and it seemed more convenient to get one of those as compared to hunting down a GBA and a flash cart. (I keep my fingers crossed that eventually all problems will be resolved an this clone will perfectly replace a GBA.)

  25. There always a big amount of GBA fans in Vietnam! Keep up your good work and shall be catch the console in Vietnam! Cheers!

    • Thanks for the info. We do believe in the GBA popularity and that’s why we jump into the development of the hardware. If you wish, you can suggest how to promote the GBA programming. Maybe we can provide the hardware and let developers help developing more new games on it.

  26. You didn’t test Super Mario Advance 4? That game seems to have the most savetype trouble with everything I’ve seen.

  27. found a new bug… on rayman advance half the music doesn’t play. only the higher parts play.

    • Sure you are going to be “our” official beta tester ;-p
      BTW, did you update the firmware? Did it fix your previous problems with Gunstar Super Heroes?

    • Oh, well, I got it from maxzhou88 link (http://hi.baidu.com/maxzhou88/home): on the page, there is “GBA hardware clone Firmware Update, [...]” http://kteam.ys168.com/
      On there, click on [01] (something in Chinese) and download the rar (something in Chinese)K_FW(PID00610601-PSN120104).rar 1,236KB
      On the page for the rar, click the left button and download the archive.
      The google-translation of the comment sounds like this:
      [1] Copy K_FW.BIN in the root of the SD
      [2] Press and hold the SELECT button to boot, will appear the following prompt:

      New firmware loaded.
      B: Abort & test, firmware
      START: Update firmware to SPI

      [3] To start the flashing of the machine, press the START button and the prompt shows be as follows:

      Updating the SPI …
      K_FW.BIN

      [4] Once you see OK, new boot firmware upgrade is completed

      Updating the SPI …
      K_FW.BIN OK

      Please turn off the power.

      Assure the battery is charged or that the charger is linked to the unit: if you fail, you can repeat as many time as you want, because the unit can’t brick (or so should be written in the comment, but I can’t read Chinese ;-p)
      Good luck!

    • @Dexter, would you identify in what situation that bug occurs ? Or a video link showing us the bug will be OK. We can look into the problem.. We are highly interested in knowing any bug in K1. We need to polish it until it goes perfect. If we could not fix it in K1, maybe we can fix it in K2…

  28. I wasn’t getting satisfactory battery life so as a test I’ve switched the batteries between my old reliable to see if there’s any difference. I’ll be sure to report what I get.

    • The built-in Li-On Battery is not in good quality especially when it was from China. The capacity 700mAh or 650mAH usually meets only 500maH or even less.

      • K team. Is there anyway you can underclock the menu so it runs at the same,processor speed as the gba games. My battery can be dying on the menu the LCD screen fades etc. but, when I start up a gba game it goes back to a green LED battery status and the screen is fine. I havent noticed more game bugs too. Is there anyway you can implement a save state and/or screenshot function? This would help people report bugs. Im guessing at the K-team menu the processor runs maximum speed? Are there any GBA functions that also use the full processor? I hope im easy ro understand.

      • Underclocking can cause other problem. We are fixing the LCD display issue in low-battery now. The low-Battery detection is not too good now so as you see in your playing. The other issue is the low quality backlight power supply of the LCM. We know the manufacturers are revising the PCB to add DC2DC for better displaying quality.

        Save state is already there. Check the HELP page : “*+START” will force the save state back up to TF card. But this is NOT so-called “real-time save” in emulators. It’s only the original GBA game save implemented in the game you played. If you are using cartridge, it will saved back to cartridge as original but if you play it from TF card, the save state was stored in DRAM and need you to go back to menu (automatically saved back to TF) or perform above hot-key operation to do it.
        Screenshot sounds a good idea, we will try to do it in future update.

        Finally, game CPU is running at lowest clock, the “supervising CPU” is waken up periodically to check some other things like hot-key or housekeeping stuffs. In that way, the supervising CPU is not power consuming at all. We have tried to implement clock stepping already and still improving it.

        BTW, can you hint what the sound problem is in Rayman Advanced ? We don’t issues as we tested it.

      • Play Rayman Advance on an EMU or using an actual cart and you will hear much more music that what is playing on the K1 GBA. There is an entire “lower” channel of music that plays a melody that the K1 currently isn’t producing. Only the “higher” pitched audio track is playing and the drums. You can simply load level 1 on an EMU and let the audio play, there is no need to play any further to hear this issue.

        I’ve tested with a unit from K1GBA.com running the latest firmware dated 120614.

  29. Will there be a firmware update that can read battery power better and maybe turn the unit off when the battery reaches a certain point? I’m worried that the LCD fading and flickering could damage the screen. I understand the save file system but I wouldn’t call that a save state. Save states allow the game to save at any point which would allow you to pick up on any bugs.

    In Rayman levels 2-3 of world 1 only the high music plays. The low music doesn’t. Is there no way us first unit buyers can solve the LCD problem other than what I mentioned above?

    In golden Sun the Tolbi ship has a sprite of a carpet that hovers above the people and makes it difficult to see what you need to do to progress in the game. I will upload a save later on.

    • @Dexter, the flickering at low battery can not damage the screen. When blinking, just re-charge your battery. It’s up to users choice to turn off or just ignore it and keep playing.

      Only emulator can potentially do real-time save because everything is on the DRAM and they can dump it out (just like MS-Windows system). The real GBA can not be savd, neither do K1. Sorry.

      We will check Rayman at Level2-3. Thanks for the info. As for the replacement, We are afraid you need to check with Maxzhou88 to see if he/she can do that because he/she is the real seller. Maybe he can offer something better if you can help testing further. :-)

      For Golden Sun The Tolbi, please do provide us more info. Again, we would love to see K1 evolve to a better one.

      • Maybe you could help me with maxzhou about this. Im a thorough tester and I do it by completing games to completion. Ive tested for quite a few Iphone apps and I used to be a,tester for the N64 emulator Daedalusx64.

        I really like the device it does a good job of being a replacement to my GBA. Battery issues and the LCD,problem really let it down though. I think the most Ive got out of it so far is about 3 hours. I even had the battery indicate red after a full chargw. The LCD flickered/faded. After a reboot it was okay though. Very strange.

      • ” I think the most Ive got out of it so far is about 3 hours”

        Did you try with an original GBA SP battery? If i understood correctly, it should fit.

      • “When blinking, just re-charge your battery. It’s up to users choice to turn off or just ignore it and keep playing.”

        Will this be fixed in the next hardware revision that’s due to come out in June (?)?

      • K-team I just tried to post a savestate but had a problem Ive found another fun bug in Vale cave Golden Sun. Have you got an email address I can contact you on? Mine is,Dpatten91@gmail.com drop me a message.

    • A few bugs of my own to add to the list:

      * Not specifically a bug, but probably linked to the next item: Games which are 32 megabytes in size (Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night, etc.) apparently load differently. The “Loading” text does not appear in the menu, and it takes longer for the game to start.

      * The “Return to Menu” shortcut (*+L) does not work in 32 megabyte games.

      * In Kingdom Hearts: CoM, during battle, when a special card drops, its largest shadow is rendered as a black rectangle. It should be a greyish ellipse.

      * In Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, the map screen background pulses in time with the “You are here” indicator. It should be solid black.

      * In the built-in GBC emulator, the “Double Speed” speed hack is faster when set to “Half-speed”: Is this a typo?

      • Stupid question: are you using the latest firmware?
        If not, follow the instructions here http://obscurehandhelds.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/the-gba-is-dead-long-live-the-gba/#comment-788
        P.S. I still do not have a k-gba: I’m waiting for dx to stock it.

      • @DB:

        Unless it’s been updated in the last two days, then yes, I’m using the latest firmware.

      • The GBC EMU seems to be a mixture of Goomba Color (maintained by Dwedit) and Goomba Paletted (by Kuwanger). Here is info from the readme about that menu option.

        “Goomba Color now has some speed hacks available to try to speed up games. Leave speedhacks off if the game’s speed does not improve.

        Double Speed: Controls whether the emulated GBC runs in double speed mode or not.

        There are two modes for this option:

        Full – Emulates the GBC at full double speed. While games are getting all the CPU time they need, the emulator may not be able to keep up, so games may run half as fast. This is the default mode.

        Half Speed – GBC’s processor stays at half-speed. Some games will reach realtime speed, other games may be starved for the CPU and run half as fast. This setting may cause some games to crash.”

        Hope that helps!
        -Another World

  30. The battery life is more or less the same with both batteries.. I think now that K-team has the solution out, things like battery life and other hardware bugs should be addressed. I know this would be difficult due to the chinese manufacture process, but K-team would be able to suggest to sellers what the best solution is.

    I still have real confidence in this product but as fun as it is to find little bugs in games, There really doesn’t seem to be that many. Finding them is also hindered by the battery life which doesn’t allow you to play for very long.

    Maybe just finding a bigger MaH battery is the way to go? Maxzhou, can you help?

    The lack of save states really isn’t a problem if the game allows you to save anywhere (most games do) so linking to bugs is quite easy.

    Ideally I could get the same 10 hour battery life out of this handheld that I did with my old SP. Hopefully we can get there soon.

    • Thx for the reply, the short battery life is strange, given that the hardware should be a clone (with the exception of the LCD).

      Btw, i see that you did a lot of emu testing on other platforms. Could you tell me how good is the GBA emulation on the PSP, compared to this or the original gba hardware?

      • The PSP and dingoo emulators are great. The coders are awesome. The thing is though, they arent and wont be perfect. The GBA has many processors and hardware for handling certain tasks. When you enulate something you are telling your computer or your psp to act like a gba. the psp knows what it needs to do. But it’ll struggle sometimes because it isnt the real thing. Games like kingdom hearts and payback dont work. K,team team have remade the GBA. All the proccessors are there but a few functions are missing causing the odd graphical bug. Kteam just needs to tell the,proccessor how they need to work.

      • The major power consumption will come from the new LCM with backlight. Original GBA SP has only 240×160 pixel while your K1 clone uses modern 320×240 TFT LCD so K1 will eat more power. That’s to say, K1-based clone can NOT reach the same battery life like original . 10-hr is just impossible but 5-6 hrs is achievable as many users in China has tested. We have tried to dig out every bit of the hardware but we must have missed something. In case you found anything unusual or buggy, just let us know. If we can reproduce it, we can fix it in most cases.

        Dexter, if you dare/could, just connect a bigger battery (Any smartphone/Li-On battery will work) to the battery connectors. Watch for the +/- pins of it. If you use rechargable NiH battery (1.2-1.4V usually), you will need to stack 3 of them (in series) to reach 4.2 volts to make it work.

  31. I just bought a K1 from Maxzhou88’s Taobao. I’d like to know from anyone who ordered this in the US how long it takes to arrive from an agent.

  32. Sorry for commenting twice in a row. Anyway, I’d like to know if the K-Team clones from Maxzhou88 use the GB Station Light cases, or just use GBA SP cases. From his videos, I see a GB Station Light case. Anyone who’s received this product, please respond.

    • Never mind. If you had no idea what I meant, from Maxzhou88’s videos, it appeared that at least the bezel was from a GB Station light, a portable famiclone. However, a video review proved my fears incorrect.

      • The bezel is just a fit-in-place stuff. The shell is NOT GB station Light. It’s indeed the SP shell.

  33. This is fantastic! I really hope dealextreme start selling it.

    I have a few questions for K Team if they dont mind:-

    – Would you ever consider replacing the custom Nintendo charging port with a mini or micro USB port for charging? Perhaps it could even be used for data transfer for the microSD card as well?

    – If the above seems possible, it would be great to then have a dedicated 3.5mm headphone port, so no adaptor would be necessary.

    – Would HDMI output perhaps be possible (Or VGA) rather than Composite video and Mono sound? (Perhaps using a mini/micro HDMI port if space is an issue)

    It would be amazing if the above three features could be added to a future version.

    I would also love to eventually see this in an original GBA form factor, which I find much more comfortable than the SP form factor for long play sessions.

    • +1 for those great ideas

    • 1. Look at the new model they are building now : http://tieba.baidu.com/p/1345631953. It’s mini USB port. Original charging connector will be gone then.
      2. Data transfer is doable but no one will do that because a TF card reader is cheaper than building a USB port on the device.
      3. 3.5mm headphone port is there too.
      4. GBA resolution is only 240×160. HDMI is just too overkilling in terms of the technical specification. AV cable is always the best for such grade of device. You need to think about the people who don’t afford to own LCD TV.
      5. chec the new form factor. It’s Stereo sound with 3.5mm jack

      • Okay time for a little update on my part. I have completed 1 huge GBA RPG (Golden Sun) and only encountered a tiny graphical glitch. Im not telling anyone what it is. Its very small and I dont think anyoneW will notice it :p Ive completed the game 100% and everything is fine. Its great seeing the game in such sharpness.

      • Thanks K Team for the reply – the new model looks great :) Is the screen the same size as GBA SP? and when is it planned to be released?

        I also have a few more questions/responses though if you dont mind:-

        ————————————————————-

        You said “Data transfer is doable but no one will do that because a TF card reader is cheaper than building a USB port on the device.”

        However, if a mini USB port is already being used for charging on the new model, could you connect up the data pins as well to allow data transfer without removing the TF card?

        ————————————————————-

        You also said “GBA resolution is only 240×160. HDMI is just too overkilling in terms of the technical specification. AV cable is always the best for such grade of device. You need to think about the people who don’t afford to own LCD TV.”

        I understand that you have to keep the ‘lowest common denominator’ in mind when designing this handheld, so composite video and mono audio makes sense. However, composite video suffers from dithering, blurring, colour bleeding, and artifacting.There is also no way to get a progressive scan signal from composite video, since that would require either a VGA, Component video, or HDMI connection.

        Would it perhaps be possible to use a 2.5mm jack for composite video and mono audio as used on some other handhelds, and then have a seperate dedicated HDMI port? I realise that the GBA resolution is low at 240×160, but if you multiply it by three you get 720×480 which is DVD resolution, and then you can allow the TV to scale it up to 4:3 or 16:9 depending on user preference (GBA aspect ratio is 3:2 which is in between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios) Maybe you could even offer some scaling/filtering options?

        If that still seems unlikely, are there any RGBHV signals on the PCB that could be tapped into to hack in a VGA output? Perhaps with some easy to solder vias/pads?

        ————————————————————-

        …and as a final note I still think it would be nice to one day have a new version that maintains the GBA SP (Or original GBA) form factor but with a mini/micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone port instead of Nintendo’s custom port ;)

      • [quote]…and as a final note I still think it would be nice to one day have a new version that maintains the GBA SP (Or original GBA) form factor but with a mini/micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone port instead of Nintendo’s custom port ;)[/quote]
        I remember reading on maxzhou88’s site that he/she created a k-team solution with original gba form factor, but it did not sell at all.
        His/her case producers said, from experience, that the gba sp form factor sells way more, so he/she went with the form factor that we all know.
        Afaik, this solution too is not selling so well, because in China at the same price you can buy a console with emulators, mp3 reading capability and much more, and it is hard to convince buyers that this solution performs better than an emulator…
        Let’s hope maxzhou88 did not decide to abandon the project since a bit of time has passed from his/her last post here…

  34. I’m really looking forward to this piece of hardware. The new model looks really good!

    Dexter,
    have you confirmed that this tiny graphical glitch doesn’t also appear on the original GBA? (I’m genuinely curious, and not trying to dispute your observation.)

    • Actually if you read up a fwlew posts I tell you the glitch. The glitch is NOT on the original GBA. Im working on a flashcard vs kteam comparison and a little Advertisement for the K1. Im also going to start a new RPG. Stay tuned.

      • Fantastic! Thanks for the update. I’m just getting more and more excited about this piece of hardware. :)

  35. Men! You guys worked so hard to reborn this great system! Testing the device is now one of my goals to achieve. I’m a high-ranked member from NintendoVN (Vietnam) and for sure I tell you guys that the unit’s gonna be sold out really fast if it’s in Vietnam! Does Kteam have any plan on getting this on Dealextreme, cause it kicks Dingoo and other Emulators asses!

    You guys rock!

    P/s: SP model is good enough! Closing lid is way safer!

    • Thanks. I believe you will be seeing the devices in Vietnan very soon. Asking for a real hardware clone, refusing emulators. That’s all you need to ask the sellers. Go bury the GBA emulators. :-)

  36. Just got my K1 today, and have a glitch to report. Something’s wierd about the sound channels, and on Super Mario Advance 4, the music is replaced by static. Dunno about other games, however.

    • If possible, please record a video clip or upload sav file, if necessary. We will check it. I believe you’re using TF crad with ROMs, not a real cartridge, right ?

      You can use Mediafire to upload the mentioned video and files and post the link here. many thanks!

    • It’s strange that we didn’t find the same glitch on our in-house devices which should be the same one. Please check your PID and PSN number at the end of HELP page. And we will dig out what went wrong. That should not happen at all. So, in any case, it is fixable. Maybe just a firmware issue.

    • How much cost a shipping from Taobao agent to you, and which service they use, airmail or something else ?

      • You have the choice for shipping. They usually charge about 10% plus shipping costs…

      • I thought there was a reply here that said a Chinese store would soon be stocking this in the next couple of weeks?

        If not is there any other way to purchase this without using a Taobao agent?

  37. Where can i buy this? Email me? [ johnwhite@hotmail.gr ]

  38. Hi to all. I recieved my toy)) Some glitch report for K-Team.
    Doom 2 hangs on try to save game…
    Can you make option to display without scaling 240×160 on center screen.
    To others, I can make vodeo review, do you need it? You can write list of games…

    • We hear you!
      240×160 mode will be made into future firmware update. As for the Doom2 problem, we didn’t find it here though. Maybe it is a ROM problem, try another ROM file…

  39. Got mine a few days ago as well, the only thing that doesn’t function is The Wireless adapter in Pokemon. Normal linking works though – both through the k card and through the actually carts.

    • We don’t have wireless adapter to test so it is possible that it will not work. But it could be some little glitch in timing or something else that can be easily fixed if we can get the real thing to test. It’s really hard to get these old stuffs now..

      • It’s no big deal to be honest. As far as I know the wireless only works with about 10 games… So its probably not worth the effort to get it working! I was just letting others know!

  40. Firmware Update is here finally : http://kteam.ys168.com/

    Keep holding SELECT while Power-On your device. Follow the instruction then.

    Please test the games after the update to see if the glitch gone.

    • Hi K-Team, in case maxzhou88 decided not to update your solution anymore, would it be possible for you to give us updates instead?
      Thanks. Bye.

      • This http://kteam.ys168.com/ is maxzhou88’s official firmware download site

        maxzhou88’s Baidu Post Bar:
        http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kw=maxzhou88&ie=gbk&sc=hao123#

        maxzhou88’s K1 official BBS:
        http://www.kxemu.com/

        maxzhou88’s K1 QQ group:
        196222982

      • maxzhou88, the main problem is that they are all in Chinese: if you post in an international site, you should open some English sections…
        BTW, I got worried because you did not visit this site for 1 month or so, so I thought that you decided not to support it anymore…
        You know, many sellers say that they will support their products and then disappear the very next day.

      • Maybe we need someplace that can host the file or a fixed place to post update… Please advise.

      • My suggestion? Use gbatemp.net: maxzhou88 is registered there, he could ask mods to open a section for your solution and create a main topic (sticking it) where he describe it in general.
        He could fill a topic with FAQs, for example where to buy, how to buy, how much does it cost to use zanmark et similia, what colors are available, etc.
        Then he could always open a new topic where users can post about bugged games, issues they found, etc.
        It would be matter of minutes, and for files, gbatemp does have a sister site for hosting files and that is filetrip.net: in here http://filetrip.net/gba-downloads/other-gba-files/ for example a user uploaded latest update of you solution.
        Believe me, some users (as me) do not but it due to lack of a English community, create it and I will feel secure and have a place where to eventually report bugs and such.
        But this can be possible only if maxzhou88 decided to do this, but as you can see he yet has his Chines blog, subsection and file hosting site, and using another site would be double work for him.
        Otherwise you could register at gbatemp and do all this by yourself: some mods and reviewers have replied to http://gbatemp.net/topic/318723-a-game-boy-advance-11-clone-with-extras/page__st__0 so they know about your solution and I don’t think they would not open a subsection for it.
        BTW, this is my suggestion, if other users on here have some other ideas they could always suggest about them.

      • I think this is a good idea. There is already a following for the device on that website. Without setting up a whole new site dedicated to this device I think gbatemp is the best choice.

      • @K-Team, what did you do with our suggestions about an official section on gbatemp for your solution?
        Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you:
        1) I believe that you used VHDL: isn’t it possible to implement in it a RTC for pokèmon games?
        2) I remember reading that the gb/gbc is easily emulated: can’t you write it in VHDL too?
        Thanks. Regards.

      • I thought the RTC already worked fine in the Pokemon games? It was mentioned here:-
        http://obscurehandhelds.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/the-gba-is-dead-long-live-the-gba/#comment-548

      • On here it is said the opposite http://gbatemp.net/topic/318723-a-game-boy-advance-11-clone-with-extras/page__view__findpost__p__4218121
        Maybe the game does not alert about the missing RTC but does not update the time…
        I don’t know what to say…

      • Well I dont know then :/
        Maybe the RTC works fine, but the in game time/clock needs to be set again after the GBA SP has been power cycled? (Turned off and on)
        Perhaps someone here could test the Pokemon games again and confirm for certain if the RTC actually works correctly?

      • The RTC hardware was not in current PCB. So cartridge with RTC built-in is working but ROM in TF is not working. K1 itself does support RTC for ROM in TF. If you do care, wait for the new models with RTC built-in.

  41. The new Firmware (2012-04-28 PSN120428) has fixed the “Gunstar Super Heroes” bugs(Rotation and background
    )

  42. where can we buy this….i really really really want to get this…!

  43. maxzhou88 or K-Team – I just wondered if the current GBA SP model now has the revised PCB with DC2DC added for better picture quality?
    http://obscurehandhelds.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/the-gba-is-dead-long-live-the-gba/#comment-800
    “The other issue is the low quality backlight power supply of the LCM. We know the manufacturers are revising the PCB to add DC2DC for better displaying quality.”

  44. K-Team,
    could you please set up an English website and give some links to where you can buy this? Also, please give more details about the hardware shell. I thought the GBA would be in a shell similar to a smartphone, but now they seem to be housed in SP shells.

    Have you contacte the guys behind gbatemp or DCemu yet?I am sure a ton of people would love to get one of those GBA clones, if they only knew about it. I’ll probably get two.

  45. FellTortoise

    From the Taoboa shop through the Zarmark seller, what colors can I order?

    From what I gleaned, people have bought black(Onyx) and blue(Cobalt)units. I am keen on getting the blue unit, but that is only the choice between the colors I know exist.

    Also, what other, eh, “remarks” can I add to the order? I assume color is the only facet I have control over?

  46. Hi to all,

    The owners of the device, can you check the following thing.

    First, go to sleep mode, after a return to the game.

    Will the sound level too high?

    With my device, after returning from sleep mode the sound becomes hoarse.

  47. Where do you buy it? What should I be googling for? I’m in the USA if that makes a difference.

  48. Still not available in the U.S.? My gameboy’s completely done for and the wait is killing me!

  49. Hmm, interesting. The lack of a link port is the one major flaw in any DS system and the lack of GBA support on the DSi is even worse. The whole point of buying a GB Micro is the screen, so if your screen is a suped-up version of the GBA SP’s LCD screen, that’s a wonderful alternative.

    It would be funny to see in a decade (say 2022), a DS hardware clone with the link port for GBA games and Infrared port for GBC games. The emulator for the GB Color could use some kind of passthrough to the IR port. Just because something is a clone, doesn’t mean it can’t actually be better than the original!

  50. Hello, if I buy one K1-GBA right now and I choose the black color will you send that color? I saw this message on the page “Note: The first stock of K1 GBA SP is not included the Black Color. But this color will be restocked in these coming days. We will update its real stock everyday.”, So I want to be sure I will receive the black color, also if I ordered from Mexico how much time will it take to arrive ? Thanks

    • Thank you for your order, my friend. We apologize that we only have the stocks for the silver one. But we will restock the rest two colors in these days. We will remind you and send out your order at that time. Which shipping way you selected? It will be about 15-20 business days for you to get it if you select flat shipping. For EMS, it is fast- about 7 business days to get it. By the way, you can email us: konegba@gmail.com for any help. Thanks.

  51. dontkillme999

    hey,
    if you get k1 gba and ne one comes out can you trade your old k1 gba for the new one?

  52. Sorry you can’t. If you buy from K1gba.com, we can replace you once you find any problem on the products. Thanks.

  53. I’ve run into my first issue. The Mother 3 English Fan Translation has a few issues. The first is that it is impossible to get back to the in-game menu (*+L). The second issue is some sound problems right after the game starts to load, after picking your characters names and pressing “YES” to confirm your choices.

    I know this is a hack so perhaps this isn’t something that will ever be fully supported by the system, but the hack was designed and tested on actual hardware. Meaning that it should be supported.

    My K1 unit is PID 00610603 unit sold by K1GBA.com. Would it be possible for this to be fixed in a firmware update?

    Thank you!!

  54. Does it really work well with Pokemon Emerald? Cause it needs a real time clock in order to work and I think it doesn ‘t have it. (I read this in another review). Can someone inform me for sure please? Thanks!

    • My prototype had an RTC of sorts, but they ditched it in the final design. Wait for the K101 (also mentioned on this blog – use the search bar on the left) because that will have real RTC inside it.

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