The Acekard 2i uses a different plastic shell to both the Acekard RPG and original Acekard 2. It is no longer held together by tabs or screws, rather, it is a glued-shut plastic casing that feels very tough, very durable, and looks very much like an authentic DS game pak. It even has the little plastic tabs that separate the gold finger contacts again.
With the Acekard 2i, the Acekard team have started using the Actel chips again (a component inside the cart for those of you less tech-headed!), which actually rises out from the cart a little bit, resulting in a slight bump underneath the carts label. While this is by no means a problem to anyone, as it fits in the DSi's slot-1 just fine without any rubbing, it's just an aesthetic thing.
The micro SD card slot on the Acekard 2i is spring loaded. Whether you think that's a good or bad thing is your decision to make. Some people don't like spring loaded slots, as they are sometimes prone to breaking, whereas some people prefer the ease of use they provide.
The Acekard 2i shell is currently only available in black (matching an original DS game pak colour) and is not user removable. So unless you've got mad skills, if you try to pry this thing apart to spray paint it; you're going to end up with a broken shell as it is glued shut.
The Acekard 2i, like most other modern slot-1 flash kits is a piece of cake to get up and running. As long as you have access to an internet enabled computer, micro SD or SDHC card and card reader you're good to go.
As the instructions will tell you, you need to head on over to the Acekard website and download the latest loader files. These are basically the carts operating system. Without them the cart will not work.
Download the latest version and extract the files to the root of the micro SD card. You'll now have the following on the root of your micro SD card:
Now you can begin copying your homebrew, ROMs and images/movies/etc. to your card. Feel free to set these up in folders to keep things tidy, as the Acekard 2i reads and displays directories fine within its OS.
If we explore the __ak2 folder a little bit more, you'll find a few directories containing files that you can play around with and add to.
The 'cheats' folder contains the files that contain the cheat codes for games. These are in both .dat and .xml format. If you download new cheat packs of the net, you'll have to replace one of these files. The globalsettings.ini contains system settings that can be adjusted to suit your preferences. But unless you're an advanced user, you may want to leave these as they are and adjust any settings from within the Acekard 2i GUI. If you've upgraded to a Nintendo DSi and have purchased an Acekard 2i, and would like to carry across your previous gave game files from another flash cart. Save game files sit alongside the ROM file with the same filename, and a '.sav' extension.
Stick your Acekard 2i and micro SD together and insert the cart into your DSi,.. or, if you like; insert it whilst the DSi is turned on! The DSi allows cart hot-swapping. What an age we live in, eh?
In the sexy new Wii-esque menu you'll see the Acekard logo appear on screen as a DS game pak. Hit 'A' or tap the icon to boot the cart. Your DSi is now a lean-mean homebrew playing machine!
After approximately 2 seconds the screens should flash and the main Acekard menu should appear, if it doesn't, and you're alerted with an error of any kind, try ejecting the AK2i and re-inserting the micro SD card. Also, make sure you copied across the loader files properly, as explained in this review.
The Acekard 2i uses the same menu as the Acekard RPG and Acekard 2.
The top screen displays the time, date and mini-calendar. The bottom screen gives you two options - micro SD card and GBA slot. ...Wait, what? GBA Slot? Apparently the team have not yet realised that there is no GBA slot on the DSi. Hopefully in future the team will be able to give us the option to remove this from the menu, or perform some sort of hardware detection and remove the option automatically. But it's no big deal. Tap the Micro SD card option to view the contents of your card. Folders are listed first, and after that, the ROMs within the root/parent folder. To move back one directory, press 'B' or tap the arrow in the top right corner.
ROMs are shown with their internal icon by their side. By default .NDS files are listed by filename which I'm not a fan of. It means you must give all your ROMs a sensible name so you know what they are. You can change this option in the settings so that the internal name is shown, which I find much nicer. You can also hit select to go to a text-only listing where the icons are hidden; this shows many more files on screen meaning you have to scroll around less.
The entire OS can be controlled by either the touch-screen or the buttons. The touch screen sensitivity is just right and perfectly accurate.
Speed-wise, the loader is fairly impressive. It boots up in good time, and navigating around is simple and quick. The loader reads the contents of your SD card as you navigate. Eg. When you navigate, the loader will read the contents of each folder you enter individually. It does not keep the file structure resident in memory. So, if you have a large number of files on your SD card, then the loader may slow down when trawling through your folders. This can be frustrating when there is a slight pause when loading a directory, as you may think you have mis-tapped and decide to tap the screen again, all the while the loader lists the folder as normal, and you accidentally tap on a ROM which launches it, forcing you to reboot the Acekard loader.
The 'System Options' screen lets you configure some of the important settings that allow you to customise your Acekard 2i how you like it. From here you can change the system theme, OS language; which file extensions are shown and/or hidden; and the ability to trim (remove excess dummy data) from ROMs while copying/pasting from within the OS.
The 'Brightness' setting does not work on the DSi. Nor does the light bulb icon in the top right of the main screen. This feature is still intended for the original DS or DS Lite, and has not been updated to work on the Nintendo DSi. Hopefully this is something the team will address in future versions of the loader (or an AK2i specific loader), along with the other options we have found that still remain from the AK2/RPG.
The 'Advanced' button within 'System Options' let's you configure a few more remaining settings. From here you can choose to show/hide files when browsing the file structure that you have marked as 'hidden' on the SD card. You can also configure the Acekard 2i to show ROMs using their internal name rather than the filename, and also adjust the screen scrolling speed when using the stylus to navigate.
The one remaining option is 'Properties' which is a handy little feature. It pops up a small window on screen that shows information on the currently selected item. For example, if you have a ROM highlighted, and hit 'Properties'; it will show you the full (3 line) internal name, modification date and file size, along with the ROM icon. You can also configure individual settings per ROM from here, such as cheat/download play/soft-reset support, configure the save slot (6 available slots), and set a shortcut to the ROM on the main loader screen.
The Acekard 2i writes saves directly to the SD card during gameplay in RAW format. That means you do not need to reboot the system for the save file to be updated.
The Acekard 2i supports all currently known save types and uses an auto-detection method, meaning there is no need to manually select a save type.