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Review: 4X Nexus Memory Card w/PC Link

Review Update (August 1st, 2001):
When I originally reviewed this card back in January, 2001, I was sent a defective card by Level Six that did not work out of the box, but they sent a new one right away, and I just thought that the non-functional card was a fluke. Well after using this new card over the past 6 months, it stopped working yesterday, and I cannot explain why. The 4X Nexus memory cards seem to be unreliable, and I recommend that you seek another brand. Note that the SEGA VMU which I bought on 9/9/99 has worked just fine since the day I bought it.
 
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There are quite a number of memory cards available for the Dreamcast, and here is one that is much cheaper than the one's sold by SEGA, and provides the added benefit of being able to upload game saves to your computer.

As you can see with the picture on the left, the card does not have a screen, and is designed only for game saves.

Technical Specifications

Memory Size: 4 Megabits (512 KiloBytes) or 800 Blocks
Page Size: 200 blocks
No. of Pages: 4
Size: 18.2 cm x 8 cm 
Weight: 51g

Features

  • 800 blocks of save space with no compression used
  • connect to computer with parallel port cable (PC Link)
  • software available that works with Win 95/98/ME
  • can share your save files with others on the internet, or download saves to the memory card
  • compatible with any region Dreamcast
  • micro switch on left side of card, allows for easy switching of pages while card is in controller
  • no batteries needed, as it gets power from the controller
The product being reviewed was purchased through Level Six's website by mail-order, and was shipped to my location in Canada from the US. Level Six sent the product in quite a fair size box with lots of styrofoam. They obviously care about the product arriving safety through the postal system. I also communicated with Level Six twice by email on two different occasions, and both times they responded within hours of my sending an email. Very good customer service. They were also never aware that I was going to write a review on the card while dealing with me.

The Nexus memory card is very light, and at first I was a bit put off by it's light weight, as your expectation is that it would be as heavy as a regular VMU. The advantage of the light weight is that it adds no discernible weight to the controller when playing games.

It's a bit longer than the standard VMU sold by SEGA, and that works to it's advantage, as the button for changing pages, it located on the top left side of the memory card, and you can still access that button easily while it's plugged into the controllers second slot, while a regular VMU is in the first slot. Changing pages is quick, and only takes a fraction of a second. Also changing pages can be done while in a game, so page switching is very flexible.

A couple complaints of the card centers around the PC Link for transferring game saves to your computer through the parallel port. You have to have the memory card plugged into the controller when doing the transfers, as the memory card can only be powered through the controller. Very inconvenient if you do not have your Dreamcast near your PC. What is needed is a memory card with a USB connection, as USB can also provide power while allowing data transfers. Hopefully such a memory card will be released soon.
 
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Another complaint centers around the software you install on your PC, called DC Linker (ver. 2.3b). This software comes from EMS Production Ltd., who are the manufacturers of the card, and has a very ugly interface, as seen on the left. This program is not an easy program to figure out how to use, as it's not intuitive with no menus present, and there is no help file present in the program! I recommend reading the instructions at Level Six's website, in order to figure out how to use this program. They at least explain how to use the program quite well.
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Instead of using EMS's transfer program, I highly recommend you use this program, called VMS Linker, as shown on the left, which can be downloaded from the website here. It has an intuitive interface, and works just fine (ver. 1.6.1 tested). Only works with Nexus 4meg memory cards though. A program written by somebody who obviously did not like the original program.

Another feature of the card is the ability to have each page formatted to 240 blocks instead of the regular 200 blocks. It does this also without compressing the data. It seems even SEGA's regular VMU's have a memory "hole" of 40 blocks, that is not used, and the EMS people are making use of this space. I have not tried this option yet, but others have used it with no problems. This essentially gives you another 160 blocks of extra space on the card.

I like to use this card for backing up my game saves off of my regular VMU. Especially after an extended play session, for peace of mind. This card is for those who want a cheaper alternative to SEGA's more pricier and less featured memory cards.

Links
Level Six website
EMS Production Ltd. website
VMS Linker program for 4X Nexus memory card website