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Matrix Review

This review was done by Iretch of XBox Hacker

 

Xodus/Matrix Review - iretch @ 03:01 CST


Xodus/Matrix
An XboxHacker.NET in-depth review by iretch
Package contents:
-1 Modchip
-1 Programmer
-1 Locking washer

First thoughts:
Received the package- a stiff cardboard envelope with thick bubble padding in the inside. The envelope was somewhat smooshed up and I feared the chip might be damaged, but upon opening I found that it was perfectly okay. I suggest to Easybuy to perhaps use better packaging for such a thick object in the future, something might get damaged.

First thing I noticed was the overall build quality of the mod and programmer is excellent, feels very solid. The mod is noticeably more intricate than any so far. The main part of the unit is the SST 49lf020, a 256k (2mbit) chip (A native LPC chip) in PLCC packaging which supports both LPC and Parallel programming modes. This means the chip is able to be programmed through software on the Xbox, an excellent feature and one that is unique to the Xodus. The spring loaded pins on the bottom of the mod are gold plated, and seem to be of good quality. The tips on the pins are rounded, like a ball point pen, and give under pressure to ensure as close to a perfect fit as possible. There is a secondary chip which controls the LEDs for testing and diagnostics, it is not a controller like on other mods.

Initial programming:
Secure a fresh 9v battery (not supplied) onto the programmer, and then attach the mod. It is now safe to plug the mod into the parallel port on your computer (I have received word from someone on the Xodus team that it can potentially cause problems if you attach the mod after the programmer is plugged in) This is where one of my few gripes with the mod comes in: When both units are attached, it is very heavy and bulky (especially with the battery) and can get in the way of nearby plugs or components or cause damage to the mod or computer if something were dropped on it. Just be extra careful around it; maybe go so far as to hold it up.

The Xodus uses Milk, which is programming software written by the famous Numbnut. As I have windows, I used wmilk.exe and the included .dll. Following the directions provided in the recently released “Xodus_Matrix_Manual.pdf” I was able to program the chip fairly easily. Since the Xodus is a 256k chip, you can only use “Retail” BIOSes, (EvoX, Xecuter, etc) and none of the larger BIOSes such as Debug or the old Linux bios.

Installation:
I first removed the case and drives. I did a quick cleaning of the LPC header with some rubbing alcohol for good measure. First things first, be sure the chip is in Mode 1 (both switches in ON position.) Remove the torx screw nearest the LPC header, place the locking washer over the hole, place the chip in alignment over the hole, then drop the screw down and give it a couple turns to get it slightly fastened. Next to the ground pin (the one protruding from the main part of the chip) are 3 small holes. Push down evenly on the chip so it lowers down completely, and look through the holes so they are lined up with the 3 holes below. When you are fairly sure the chip is lined up correctly, power on the system while keeping it held down. If you have it perfect already, the LED will blink green, if not, it will flash red and you need to make a slight adjustment to get it lined up perfectly. Once it is, it will turn green and you can finish screwing the chip down. Be sure not to use too much pressure, as it could cause potentially damage something. Then just put everything back together! The whole process took me less than 3 minutes (and only about 15 seconds for the mod itself) which is unheard of previous to now.

The meat and potatoes:
In the name of science, I shook my Xbox repeatedly while it was on in an attempt to dislodge the chip, but it remained working. Only with a *LOT* of force I was able to twist the mod to get the LED to turn red, but as soon as I let go, it went back to green. So for all of you who have been arguing this mod is insecure; it is not true at all.

I tested a whole range of BIOSes, all of which worked perfectly. Unfortunately, the software to program the BIOS from the Xbox itself is not yet available, so I had to manually remove the chip each time, but it should be out soon hopefully.

All homebrew software which I have tested works, including Linux (0.4). All original discs have also worked perfectly, and in my time testing I haven’t noticed any stability problems in games (Some LPC mods have this problem.) I would also like to dispel rumors that this chip does not work in very old Xboxes, as mine is manufactured in October of 2001 and purchased on release day.

Conclusion:
This is the perfect mod for 99% of all users. Right now, only a developer or hardcore hacker would need to consider a mod with 512k support. The Xodus’ no solder installation might make some uneasy, but I feel this mod is as reliable as any standard solder mod. This should open up Xbox modification and its benefits to the mainstream. The high price of the mod ($59) is warranted by its overall quality and new approach to installation, but it is still more expensive than any other mod out there. With all the features added up, this should put it in direct competition with the current best mod on the market- the PC-Bioxx (which has support for full sized BIOSes but requires soldering and is priced at $49)

+
Very easy and quick to install.
Software flashable
100% compatibility
Excellent LED Alignment feature
Multiple operating modes

-
High price
256k limitation
Questionable packaging
No Xbox flashing software available yet

Final numbers-
Build quality: 10
Ease of installation: 10
Features: 09
Quirks: 09

Overall: 9.5

Side notes:
Preparation for installation for me was slightly difficult, as I had to move my homebrew chip to clear room for the LPC (You may see the wires in the pictures which I will release soon, they are not part of the Xodus) In the future when installing a homebrew chip, I suggest everyone leaves the LPC space clear so as not to interfere with possible future upgrades.

-iretch

Order a Matrix programmable mod here.

Xodus chip website (for Manual+Pictures)




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