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Chameleon Review

This review was done by Iretch of XBox Hacker


Package contents:
-1 Modchip

-Up to 1mb bios in several different configurations
-Software bank switching
-Individual bank flashing from software
-Addon or standalone mod
-Can piggyback on top of a Matrix and enhance its' functionality
-Programmable with a Matrix Programmer
-Programmable controller (for future updates)
-Several installation methods
-Software-controlled TSOP flashing
-Evox built-in support

Front side:
-Based upon an AMD AM29LV800BB
-Controller is a XILINX XC9572XL
-2x5 Matrix connector (M)
-2x6 LPC connector (F)
-2x5 Matrix Programmer connector (F)
-4 Dip switches
-Xecuter-type direct solder connector
-A15/D0/E/P Pads
-Bright blue surface mount LED

Back side:
-Secondary A15/D0/E/P pads
-Connector for a controller programmer
-Large silkscreened "Chameleon" logo
-pads for external switches

The operating modes:
-Mode 1: 4x256
-Mode 2: 2x512 'stealth' (will require future software to achieve this)
-Mode 3: 1x1024
-Mode 4: 2x256/1x512. (This mode allows selection of banks and control of the mod through the buttons on the front panel.)

First thoughts:
The design seems a bit cluttered, and isn't quite the build quality of Xodus' previous chip: the Matrix. However, I don't think there would any way around this considering the number of components and connectors covering the chip's small surface

The Chameleon can be installed one of three ways: Pinheader install, a direct solder install reminiscent of the original Xecuter, or piggybacked on top of a Matrix. (Xodus plans on releasing a pogo adapter as well.) To use the TSOP flashing feature, you need to connect the A15 point. To use the front panel controls, connect the E/P. Both of these are optional. I did a pinheader install and used the bottom side D0 instead of the top they recommend. I did not test TSOP flashing because my solder skills are not up to par for the top A15 point, hopefully someone will find an easier one.

The Pinheader install is relatively straightforward especially if you are upgrading from an Xecuter2. Unfortunately, Xodus decided not to use the Xecuter type connectors so you have to clip and strip them or redo your D0 connection with a new wire.

The Xecuter type install seems simple enough, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you're desperate to use that method.

The Matrix piggyback install is probably what most people will be doing. I didn't receive any instructions as to how to do this but it does sound like it requires some minimal modifications to the Matrix before you can use it.

Initial Programming:
The chip comes preloaded with a custom version of the Linux Cromwell BIOS. When powered on, the LED on the chip should begin flashing. You should see a screen on your tv with the Xodus logo and instructions. Now you need to prepare a cd with a bios on it named linuxbio.bin and load it into the tray after it ejects. This is when programming begins, and after a short while the system will shut down. It is now flashed and ready to go. This is one area I had a problem in, apparently the cromwell bios does not support output through the RF adapter which I use. This didn't prevent me from flashing the chip but is confusing and will certainly confuse users who use the same adapter. So long as your LED is flashing, though, you are set. Xodus will publish the source to this bios when Chameleon is officially released.

The Meat and Potatoes:
EvoX requires a small section to be added to your evox.ini before it fully supports the functionality of the Chameleon. The chip of course works with all bioses. I tested it with Cromwell/EvoX D.6/X2 4976.02. Something I did notice, however is bootup and rebooting does take a few seconds longer than with my X2. I assume EvoX is at fault and not the chip itself (Perhaps it takes longer detecting the modes and such of the Chameleon.) Within EvoX you can switch between banks, program individual banks, and even check what current mode it is in as well as other info. All software tested works.

The Chameleon offers some unique new features and provides a great route for both upgrading and new installs. At $25 it is a remarkable deal. If the price is raised after all, It will still give both Xecuter 2's a run for their money.

Easy to Moderate installation difficulty
Extensive software support
Easy TSOP flashing
Multiple install methods
Packaged with legal BIOS
Variety of operating modes
Nice little blue LED

Longer boot time w/ EvoX
Cromwell does not support RF adapters
Matrix piggybacking requires modifications
Likely price hike
Does not include necessary wires or pinheader
Does not support Xecuter style plugs

Final numbers:
Build quality: 07
Ease of installation: 08
Features: 10
Quirks: 07

Overall: 8 (Not an average)

Side notes: I've been informed that the production chip will be of better quality and will include a pin header as well.

Order a Chameleon modchip here.

Xodus chip website (for Manual+Pictures)

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