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Xantiums Xs Review Of The Smartxx Chip

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    He Who Posts Alot...

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Posted 28 February 2004 - 08:59 PM

Xantiums SmartXX review
>> I received a sample of the SmartXX last week ... here's the review of this new modchip:

Official SmartXX website:

What's in the package:
* The SmartXX modchip
* A headerpin
* Packed in static bag

Pictures (final design):

user posted image

user posted image

user posted image


Install the Modchip:
The SmartXX modchip can be installed with all known LPC solder install methods: with headerpin, with wires (connected to the quicksolder pads) and quicksolder (alias X1-style). The SmartXX has solderpads for alternative 5v /3.3v and ground for Xbox v1.5.
The SmartXX also comes with a ‘jumper’ so you can easily solder the d0-wire (and eject-wire if you need it) on the back of the board if you use the headerpin install. Make sure to remove/desolder this ‘jumper’ (very easy) if you install using the quicksolder install … to make sure it doesn’t touch any motherboard components.
The eject-wire is optional. This is only required if you want to be able to boot the onboard bios or HW-default-bios. To use the ‘quickboot’ feature in SmartXX-OS(info) the eject-wire should NOT be soldered. More info about this later.
I will not go deeper into each install method. All known/popular install methods are available, so everyone should be happy :-)
At this moment there’s no solderless solution of the SmartXX. But SmartXX has plans to release an addon in the future.

First I would like to say reviewing the new generation of modchips is not always easy as the most important part isn't the hardware anymore, but the software. Software can be upgraded at any time with new and better features ... so this review is only valid for the day it has been written.
The SmartXX I had was a production final model. I used SmartXX-OS build 3202, xbox v1.1 and headerpin install for this review.

The SmartXX modchip has 6 hardware dip-switches on the modchip. You can solder wires to make some or all of these switches external. 1 switch is used to choose headerpin or quicksolder/wires install. The other 5 switches are used to indicate a specific bank and thus select the "HW-default-bios" (2 modes are special: one for the SmartXX-OS (all OFF), the other for the backup/recovery mode (you can use that if your original SmartXX-OS is corrupted)).
If you solder the optional eject-wire, the xbox will boot the "HW-default-bios" (selected by 5 switches) if you press the power button and the onboard bios (modchip desactivated) if you press the eject-button.
If you don't solder the eject-wire ... the Xbox will always boot the "HW-default-bios". Thus if all switches are on "OFF" it will boot the SmartXX-OS for both power and eject-button unless you select a "quickboot" bios (will be explained later), that will still allow you to 'directly' boot another bios using the eject-button.

The SmartXX is a 4th generation modchip, meaning it has its own Operation System, called SmartXX-OS, that allows to control your modchip and several xbox features.
So let's take a look at the features it has:

* Network support: the SmartXX-OS has network support (with given fix IP or DHCP). At this time it allows you to access a webbased interface with several of the modchips features now accesible on your PC. (PC must be correctly connected with Xbox of course). But network support could also allow FTP, SSH and more in the future

*Booting selected bios or boot to linux: there are a lot of ways to do this
- select from menu in SmartXX-OS
- select from menu in webbased interface on your PC
- auto-boot from SmartXX-OS a chosen default bios (can be changed) after a given timeout (can be changed)
- direct boot to selected bios (using swictches on modchip) using the power-button.
- If eject-wire is soldered you can boot to onboard bios (modchip disabled) with the eject-button.
- quickboot with selected bios (can be chosen in the SmartXX-OS settings menu) using the eject-button (eject-wire must NOT be soldered). This feature is not 100% the same as the direct boot above ... it will start booting up the SmartXX-OS but it will detect you pressed eject and directly boot the default-quickboot bios (you won't even notice SmartXS-OS is booting).

* EEprom tools: you can change your video-mode, game region mode and reset the DVD region. It can also display your HW password. They have also reserved some space on the flashchip to keep a backup of your EEprom and you can ofcourse restore from that backup if needed.The EEprom settings can also be viewed via the webserver.

* There's a menu for LCD settings. I could not try it as I don't have an LCD screen yet. The options are: on/off, Blacklight-level, LinesCharacters and delay time Factor.

* Bios/Bank menu: It allows you to flash/erase bioses and select the multi-bios mode
- The bios-mode menus are protected so you can't flash them accidentally. You have to hold the L+R trigger if you want to be able to select this menu. The bios-mode are divided in 2x2MB (called "Low 2MB" and "Mid 2MB" ... "High" is probably reserved if an addon memory would ever be required). On the "Low 2MB" 512KB is unavailable because it's reserved for the SmartXX-OS.
Options for the "Low 2MB": 6*256KB, 3*512KB, 2*512KB/2*256KB, 1*512KB/4*256KB, 1*1024KB/1*512KB, 1*1024KB/2*256KB, 2*256KB/1MB Linux
Options for the "Mid 2MB": 4*512KB, 1*1024KB/2*512KB, 2*512KB/1*1024KB, 2*1024KB, 1*2048, 2MB Linux
- Each bank can be erased separately
- Each bank can be flashed separately ... directly on xbox from HDD or CD/DVD or via a webbased interface on your PC (if your xbox is network-connected with PC). Most of the bioses will automaticly get named, if SmartXX-OS doesn't know the bios you flashed you can always manually (re)name the bios.
- To update the SmartXX-OS just select ANY bios bank and update it with the SmartXX-OS update file. It will detect it's an update and ask for confirmation if it should update your current OS.

* HDD tools: the hdd menu includes some really nice features (this menu is also protected, you have to press L+R to be able to access it):
- Clone HDD 1:1 allows you to clone a HDD directly. Just connect a 2nd HDD on the ID-cable (instead of the DVD-ROM) and clone your HDD.
- You can also format F, E and the cache drives (no support for a G-drive/part7 yet ... but I guess it could be added).
- Copy C-partition separately.
- You can also easily lock and unlock your drive here.

* Settings menu:
- 128MB ram support can be enabled in SmartXX-OS for Linux users.
- Extended Memoty Tester: this feature will allow you to test each of the 16MB chips you soldered to add an extra 64MB in the Xbox. If there's a problem you can know exactly which chip has the problem.
- Default bios: the bios that will by default be selected in the bios menu and also the bios that will auto-boot after the time-out.
- Quickboot: the bios that will boot if you boot your Xbox with the eject-button and eject-wire isnt't soldered.
- Timeout boot: time after which the SmartXX-OS will boot default bios if no button is pressed (0= never auto-boot).
- Shutdown Time: time after which SmartXX-OS will shut down the Xbox if no activity is detected (0= never shut down).
- Language: language of SmartXX-OS ... can be english and german, more languages will be added later.
- WrapAround: ON/OFF

The SmartXX has also a multicolor status led that can help the user while installating the modchip. I don't have an exact meaning for each status yet ... but I guess it will be included once the full manuals are released.

The SmartXX also has several possible port extentions with 4 x multipurpose I/Os and 7 multipurpose outputs pads. The advantage is that it can use different standards/systems (SPI, I2C, parallel or other bus systems), the disadvantage is that these are solderpads and no easy plug/connector.
These ports could for example allow to connect an extra flash or a LCD screen. XBMC is adding support for the SmartXX LCD screen right now. I could not try this as I don't have sush a LCD screen yet.

The retail price is around 50 EUR (~62USD at time of writing). Not the cheapest modchip on the market, but you get a huge 4mb flashchip and it includes the SmartXX-OS software and all future upgrades.

+ Legal software control
+ Huge 4MB bioschip
+ Network support
+ You can flash all your banks separately directly in SmartXX-OS (HD/CD/DVD) or even via a webbased interface.
+ EEPROM control/backup in SmartXX-OS
+ Cool HDD features (lock, unlock, clone 1:1, format)
+ Muti-bios with lots of possibilities to split the 3.5MB available space
+ SmartXX-OS can easily be upgraded, new features can easily be added
+ Failsafe, you can always boot to SmartXX-OS to reflash your bios (there’s a recovery boot)
+ Lots of ways to select the bios you want to boot.
+ All solder install methods are available
+ With the dipswicthes on the modchip you can always hardboot the bios/bank you want to boot.
+ Several communication ports standards are possible for future HW upgrades.

- No english manuals (yet) about how to use SmartXX-OS or explaining its features ... they are working on this though.
- No solderless install method at this moment
- Expansion ports are solderpads, no plug.
- Big official resellers outside germany?

You can always find this review back on http://www.xbox-scen...are/smartxx.php
(February 27 23:31 GMT+1)



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Posted 09 December 2004 - 04:26 AM

SmartXX v2 LE/SE Hardware Review
>> There still many reviews that I have to write and I have been working hard on this the last few days to catch-up with the delays. Here's the one I owe you for a longest ... the SmartXX v2 PCB SE pack including the recently released v1.6 recovery PCB.

Official Website:: http://www.smartxx.com
Where to buy::
USA and Canada: BMMods.com, Extreme-Mods.com, Divineo.com
Europe: FreakWare.com, Divineo.co.uk
Rest-Of-World: Divineo.cn

With some delay (blame me), here's the chip/hardware review of the SmartXX v2 Special Edition Pack. A separated overview/review of the latest SmartXX OS software will be done later.

Here a pictures of the 'simple' SmartXX v2 package. It includes the chip itself of course, a headerpin, a pre-stripped wire (for D0/Lframe) and a SmartXX case sticker all packed in an anti-static bag.

The sample we received from freakware is the Limited Edition Halloween edition, with the orange PCB color. The 'normal' Special Edition Pack contains exactly the same but with a blue PCB color (like the chip in the image above). The Limited Edition Halloween edition is no longer in production, but the 'normal' Special Edition still is.

This package includes: a SmartXX v2 PCB modchip, a Xebian(info) (Debian for Xbox) pressed CD, a SmartXX case-sticker, a "xbox v1.6 Recovery PCB", a headerpin (not on image above, but it's in the pack) and an USB-adapter allowing you to easily connect USB devices like keyboard, mouse and others.

The Modchip
Hardware Feature List:
* Ultra Highspeed SysCon
* 4MB Hardware protected flash rom (max. 8MB)
* Emergency recovery switch
* Quicksolder Install & PIN-Header Install
* GND / 3.3 & 5 Volt solderpads
* LED (1x blue and 1x red) for Status / Programmable
* Direct Bootup Config (Emergency Recovery)
* External Switch Connector Port
* X-Display Support
* Dual-side X-Display contrast control
* Highspeed Transporter IO BUS 4 Port !
* Highspeed transport IO bus ( LCD/I2C/SPI/LPC) Port
* Works on any XBox ( v1.0-v1.6 )

The SmartXX v2 PCB comes with a few 'optimizations' compared to the original v1 PCB.
* The LCD contrast pot is now accesible from both the front and back of the PCB. So even if you install your modchip using the headerpin method you can easily access the LCD contrast pot.
* The 6 dip-switches have been replaced by 1 switch on PCB v2. This has probably been done as cost-saving ... 5 of the dip switched where never really used by end-users, so it has been replaced by 1 normal switch. This switch allows you to change between the normal mode and the emergency recovery mode (if you main SmartXX OS flash is broken for any reason).
* The green led became blue. The red led is still red.
* On the backside of the PCB there is now a new SmartXX logo.
The PCB is still of the same high quality as the original v1 PCB, thick/solid PCB and all ICs are very cleanly installed. The ICs themselves haven't changed, the controller is still a highspeed QuickLogic chip and the flash is a 4MB MX chip (some early v1 chips were AMD afaik).
It's also clear SmartXX thrusts their own quality as they offer 1 year of warranty if you buy your chip from one of the 'SmartXX Warranty Centers'.

The USB-adapter

This is the USB adapter that is now delivered with the SmartXX SE/LE package. It fits nicely in the Xbox controller ports. It has a design looking a lot like the design of the connector on the official controllers ... thus matches nicely with the look of the Xbox console. There's also a blue led on the adapter that allows you to check the status of the USB connection.
This USB adapter will allow you to connect any type of PC USB-peripherals with your Xbox. It's very useful for Xbox Linux distros that have support for several USB devices (keyboard and mouse being the most important and useful for Linux), but also some homebrew Xbox applications have support for a PC keyboard or even mouse.

The Xebian CD

This is the CD that comes with the SmartXX LE/SE package. The CD is not burned but pressed which should make it readable even in the worst Xbox DVD-drives.
As the name of the CD says ... it includes Xebian (the Debian Linux distro for Xbox), but it will also contain all the installation guides and manuals and other info found on the smartxx website. You'll also find 2 pdf files to print out a SmartXX or Xebian DVD-cover for the CD.

The v1.6-recovery PCB

This is the recovery PCB for Xbox v1.6/v1.6b that has recently been added to the SmartXX LE/SE pack.
It allows you to easily repair the missing data points on the Xbox v1.6/v1.6b LPC. Just place the PCB on the back of the Xbox motherboard so the LPC holes matches with the holes on the recovery PCB ... and you can directly repair (solder) the missing LAD's on the Xbox v1.6(cool.gif LPC. Advantage is you don't have to buy/cut/strip wires or search for the points on a diagram. You could call it the 'quicksolder' method to repair LPC. This will not really make the points easier to solder, but it's certainly a lot faster.
The recovery PCB is not of the same high quality of the modchip PCB, but that's probably to keep the PCB as thin as possible so it doesn't touch the inside of the xbox case and also to keep the production price low (after all you get it in the LE/SE package without any price raise).
Again the image above is from the Limited Edition Halloween edition - the 'normal' LE/SE pack will contain exactly the same recovery PCB, but in blue. This recovery PCB is also sold separately.

General Stuff
Compared to when the first SmartXX originally launched, Team SmartXX has also been working to optimize a few other things:
- You will now find full quicksolder and headerpin installation guides in english for all Xbox and SmartXX versions on their website.
- While the SmartXX was original hard to find outside germany, the SmartXX modchip is now also widely available on many internet shops all around the world.

+ Very high quality PCB build.
+ Modchip is very stable in operation.
+ Fully compatible with xbox v1.6.
+ Huge 4MB flash that should be more then enough space to save all your bioses on.
+ Safe chip to use, with the recovery mode you should always be able to restore even if something goes wrong with the SmartXX OS bios image.
+ LCD contrast pot now also accessible from the back of the PCB.
+ All solder-install methods possible: quicksolder, headerpin and using wires (connected to quicksolder pads)
+ The SE/LE pack offers a great and complete package with an USB adapter, CD with all manuals and the Xebian distro and a recovery PCB for faster installation on Xbox v1.6(cool.gif.
+ 1year warranty from 'SmartXX Waranty Centers'

- No 1st party solderless adaptor yet. Seeing the succes of solderless solutions ... it's still something missing in the current SmartXX offerings.
(December 7 16:42 EST)

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