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Xecuter3CE + X3 Pro Switch + XLCD Review
>> Here's the long due (blame me for the delay) review of the Xecuter3 modchip. As the 'CE' revision has been released in meantime, it's been tested with the X3CE, but picture of the original X3 have been included aswell. I also included a review of the X3 Pro Switch and the X3 LCD (XLCD) addons ... so it's a long read.
More reviews will follow soon (SmartXX LT OPX, Xapt3r, X-lite and more!)
Where to buy X3(CE) and add-ons::
USA and Canada: System-Mods | Extreme-Mods | Divineo.com | BMMods
Europe: MrModchip | Divineo.co.uk | Divineo.fr | Divineo.de | Divineo.it | Divineo.es
This is the hardware review of Team Xecuter's latest modchip.
It includes the review of the basic package and the Pro-Switch and XLCD addons.
An overview of the software features of this modchip will follow later.
I started writing it before the 'updated' CE version was released - but I updated it to match the CE changes. The Xecuter3CE includes just a few small hardware optimizations compared to the original purple Xecuter3:
* a better connector (plug) of the alt. 5v point.
* a 90 degree angle I/O socket for easier install/positioning of the no solder XLCD screen.
* different design flash protect switch now with LED to give a better indication of flash protect status.
* better layout of the I/O solder positions/points.
* different PCB colors that correspond with the current CE design (white front, red back).
There are no real new features on the CE version, so the X3 OS/Bios releases will of course always work on both versions.
* Purple Xecuter3 package
This is what you will get in the default Xecuter3/Xecuter3CE package that retails at a suggested price around 58usd. The X3(CE) modchip, the 'normal' external adapter, external adapter cable, a headerpin, a wire install adapter, the power/eject control adapter, reset/eject cable, alternate 5v wire for xbox v1.6(b), D0(LFRAME)/LAN/HDD cable and self-adhesive pad to stick the modchip on the case when installing using wires.
The Xecuter Xbox v1.6(b) LPC Rebuild PCB is now also included into the default package at no additional price.
* Xecuter3CE from another angle
* Xecuter3CE backside of PCB
* Xecuter3 backside of PCB
* X3 headerpin install (with external adapter, XLCD and LAN/HDD cable)
* X3CE headerpin install (with external adapter, XLCD and LAN/HDD cable)
* The solderless Eject/Power control adapter
Official Feature List:
-2MB Flash Rom With 15 Bios Storage Options
-Dedicated 256K Backup Rom with a new Linux based bios (Can be upgraded to any bios you wish)
-i2c Bus for X3 Config LIVE!
-New Enhanced I/O Bus for Full LCD support (and other future hardware addons)
-All LCD modules to be custom made with adapters so no soldering required
-2 Modes Flash Protection Control (On Switch and on Mod itself)
-Mod Enable - Quick Press reset to boot from 2Mb Flash Rom (External LED will indicate Blue X3 Logo)
-Mod Disable - Press reset >1 second (External LED will indicate RED X3 Logo)
-Quick Press Power+Eject >1 second to boot from 256k Backup Rom (External LED will indicate PURPLE X3 Logo)
-HDD Activity LED
-LAN Activity LED
-D0 Control (Disable Mod Via Software)
-Wire Install Adapter (New design that plugs into pin header)
-Pin Header Install (Pin header supplied)
-High Quality external switch with changeable facias (different colors and logos)
-X3 works perfectly fine without the external switch. We give YOU the option without forcing the choice.
-New X3 Bios with X3 Config Live OS - Supports v1.0 - v1.6b (Current version)
-Supplied with all adapters & cables
-Bank Modes: all combinations of 256k/512k/1024k banks possible
You can install the modchip with several of the 'known' LPC install methods:
- With a headerpin: this is exactly the same as with other modchips except that the X3 modchip uses 2 extra LPC points (used for X3 Live on-the-fly bios editing).
- With wires: in the package you will get a special headerpin-to-wire adapter, so you will not have to solder any wires on the modchip itself. You can just plug this adapter in the X3 modchip headerpin and on the other side of the adapter all wires will come out that you can solder on the Xbox motherboard. This allows you to install using the wire-method if you like and keep the main advantage of the headerpin-install (easy to swap modchip).
You will also get a 3-wire adapter that you can plug in the X3. One wire is for D0 (xbox v1.0-1.5) / Lframe (Xbox v1.6(b)) and is required. The 2 other wires are optional, one for LAN status (network - blinking when there is network activity) and one for HD status (blinking when something is read/written from/to the Xbox harddrive).
You will also get a small adapter to connect the E(ject) and P(ower) points with the X3. It's fully solderless, you plug out the yellow wire coming from the xbox frontpanel, plug this wire into the adapter, plug the wire coming out of the adapter on the xbox motherboard and then connect this adapter with the X3 modchip (both ends also with a plug - so no soldering).
- Team Xecuter also made a solderless adapter for the X3 (sold separately). With the 'Xapt3r' adapter you can install the X3 without any soldering on Xbox v1.0-v1.5. There will be a separated review of the Xapt3r very soon (as it works for Xecuter 2.6(CE) too). The adapter will connect all LPC points and the D0-point. The Eject/Power points are already solderless by default, but the adapter will not connect the LAN and HD led points ... which are of course only optional, but if you want to see the LAN and HD activity leds on your external adapter you will still have to solder these 2 very easy points yourself.
As you can see it's a bit more work to install then most other Xbox modchips, but it's certainly not harder to install ... it just requires a few minutes extra. Connect the E/P adapter (no soldering), solder 2 extra LPC points, install the external adapter (no soldering - see below) and solder the LAN/HD points take a bit longer - but it's not for nothing of course ... you will be able to select your modchip mode using the eject and power button, you will be able to edit your bios features on-the-fly in the X3 OS, you will get an external adapter to 'hard-select' the bios bank and en/disable the flash protection and you'll get a 3-color status led, a HD-led and LAN-led.
For Xbox v1.6(b) you will also get a wire that can be plugged in the X3 for the alternative 5v point and you'll also get an LPCrebuild PCB. With this 'Xecuter LPC Rebuild PCB' you still have to link the same points to repair the LPC bus on Xbox v1.6(b), but it will allow you to do this a lot faster. (no looking-up points or cutting/stripping wires).
* The Modchip Itself
Once installed you will be able to boot your modchip from the backup rom. The Xecuter3CE is pre-flashed with an Xecuter Flashbios v3.03+ cromwell-based legal bios. This Flashbios is compatible with all xbox consoles to date. (Xbox v1.0-v1.6b). This bios will allow you to flash the X3 OS/Bios on the main flash or flash any other bios you may want. You can not only flash from a file on CD, DVD or harddrive, but you can also flash from network which is very usefull and easy if you have a mininum of network knowledge. No more burning CDs or DVDs with dummy files - instead just connect your xbox with your network (DHCP or with a fix IP) and you can flash the X3 via a simple web-interface directly from your computer.
If for whatever reason the bioses on the main flashchip get corrupted, you can always boot from the backup 256KB flashchip that is pre-flashed with the Xecuter FlashBios.
The X3 OS (which also contains a hacked bios that is fully editable from within the OS - more about it in the upcoming X3 Software review) takes 1MB of the 2MB flashchip.
You may wonder why the X3 is pre-flashed with the FlashBios and not this X3 OS/Bios. Due the fact that the X3 OS is built with the MS XDK and the X3 Bios is based on the Microsoft bios it can not be legally distributed with the modchip. Some people see this as a big disadvantage ... but unless you plan to only run linux on your Xbox you will have to find a way to get a hacked bios and homebrew XDK software anyway ... and if you can find this you can find the X3 OS too.
Installating the X3 will also give control over the eject and power buttons on the Xbox. So to en/disable your X3 modchip you don't have to change switches ... quick press reset to boot with modchip enabled, press reset for +1sec to boot with modchip disabled and press reset+power for +1sec to boot with modchip enabled from the backup flash. You can always easily see the status of your modchip from the X3-status-led on the external adapter.
The X3 also has 2 expansion ports: one connector specially made for the XLCD addon and solderpads for a 16-bit I2C expansion port for eventual future upgrades.
The modchip is stable and so is the X3 OS/Bios - I did not encounter any significant problems.
The 'Normal' External Adapter::
* Xecuter3 next to normal external adapter
* Xecuter3CE next to normal external adapter
On the left side of this picture you can see the 'normal' external adapter (the one in the middle under the power and eject button is the pro switch) ... it's always included in the default X3 package. On top you see a led that gives activity of the LAN and Harddrive. Just under it you have a led with the X3 logo that will indicate the status of the modchip (red for disabled, green for enabled and white for backup flash).
Under the logo you have the switches, the first 4 will allow you to 'hard'-select which bios bank you want to boot, the last switch will allow you to en/disable a 'hard' flash protection. When I say 'hard' I mean it's a real hardware selection and no software selection. So it will not first fastly boot OS to load the right bios, but it will directly load the right bios from flash when booting (more info in upcoming software review).
With 4 small dip-switches to select one of the 15 possible banks (8x256k, 4x512k, 2x1024k, 1x2048k) you will most likely need to print out a nice table listing the bios banks with their corresponding dipswitch status.
The external adapter is optional - if you don't want to install it you don't have to (modchip will by default boot from first 1MB bank (size of X3 OS)). Bios banks can be selected from software too and flash-protection can be en/disabled from a switch on the X3 modchip itself.
X3 modchip (in general) PROs
+ Good build quality
+ External adapter, you can always 'hard' select bios bank and see network and hdd activity.
+ Real hardware flash protection
+ Hardware support for on-the-fly bios editing
+ Not relying on 3rd parties for 'hacked' bioses.
+ Backup flash
+ Lots of cool/trendy 1st party addons ... but if you want them all it's gonna cost you some money.
+ LPC rebuild and alt. 5v for Xbox v1.6(b) included in the normal X3 package.
+ Great wire-adapter. Classic Headerpin install also possible. Solderless install on Xbox v1.0-v1.5 possible (adapter sold separatly).
+ Solderless LCD connector and I2C expansion port for possible future upgrades.
X3 modchip (in general) CONTRAs
- A full installation of the modchip takes a bit longer then with most of other modchips. Nothing forces you to install the modchip with all features tho (external adapter and lan/hdd led are optional).
The Pro-Switch Addon Black/Cristal::
* Back Pro-Switch front view
* Back Pro-Switch top view
* Crystal Pro-Switch top view
* Crystal Pro-Switch bottom view
* Crystal Pro-Switch front view
* Green Pro-Switch front view
* Green Pro-Switch top view
* Black Pro-Switch and Normal Switch installed
* Close-up for black Pro-Switch installed
* Crystal Pro-Switch installed
The Pro-Switch is an addon sold separatly. It retails at a suggested price of about 20usd. This pro-switch certainly matches a lot better with the design of the Xbox ... it fits just nicely with the Xbox right under eject and power button. It has the same features as the normal external adapter: 4 buttons to hard-select the bios bank, 1 button for the hardware based flash protection and 3 leds: 1 for status (backup flash, original(off - tsop), main flash), 1 for HDD and 1 for LAN. Still 4 buttons to select the 15 different possible bios banks, so that's not made easier on this pro-switch.
The adapter is available in 3 colors: black for the normal Xbox, crystal for the crystal limited edition Xbox and green for the translucent green limited edition Xbox (also Halo1/2 LE Xbox). Really a nice from Team Xecuter to also make a matching version of the 2 most popular LE xbox consoles. Also notice that the PCB color inside the pro-switch matches the color of the plasic for the translucent crystal and green edition ... which was a really good idea from Team Xecuter considering all the leds/lights in the adapter.
The adapter is very easy to install, you can use the same 2 wires as those for the normal external adapter, just bring them to the middle of the front panel instead of to the left side, plug them in the pro-switch (you can see the 2 white connectors on the picture above) and then you can just click the pro-switch at the underside of the front panel (so no self-adhesive pad required).
Besides the obvious 'coolness' factor, this adapter also has another advantage. All buttons are easy to access unlike the very small dip-switches and each button has a led inside that will indicate you the status of the button. Only thing I would have personally added on this 'pro switch' is a small switch to disable all the leds ... I saw this on the X2.6(CE) external adapter and though it was a pretty good idea of those who don't like all those lights. It's not really that important thought ... you know what you buy.
X3 PRO-Switch PROs:
* Looks a lot better then the normal external adapter
* Fits better with the Xbox design
* Very easy to install, you can just 'click' it under the Xbox front panel
* Status of each button
* They made a special version of the pro switch to match with the crystal and translucent green/Halo special edition Xbox.
X3 PRO-Switch CONTRAs:
* No real contras in fact, but it would have been great if this pro-switch would have been the default adapter shipped with the X3 ;)
The XLCD Addon::
Pictures of the XLCD in action:
* XLCD in the X3 OS (sorry for bad quality picture)
* XLCD displaying "Xbox-Scene" (sorry for bad quality picture)
* XLCD in XboxMediaCenter(info) playing an mp3 (sorry for bad quality picture)
The LCD addon is an addon sold separatly. It retails at a suggested price of about 43usd.
Team Xecuter released their own LCD screen that you can connect directly with the Xecuter3 modchip, without any soldering, so it's very easy to connect. Cut out the a part of the case to cleanly place the LCD screen in your Xbox case is less easy if you have no experience in case-modding. I suggest you buy the X3 Control Panel or X3 Deluxe Case (not released yet) if you never did this before. These new addons have a specially designed place to put the LCD screen
The constrast of the LCD can be modified by scrolling that small wheel on one of the corners of the Xecuter3 (you can see it on the top left of this image). The brightness can be edited directly from the X3 OS.
The screen is big (4 lines of txt, 20 characters per line), the background color is blue and the letters are white which gives a real great visual look.
There is of course support for the LCD screen in the X3 OS: it will display txt when booting (can be changed by user), display your OS build version, hard-bios-selection and soft-bios-selection. More features might be added in future X3 OS builds.
You will also have support for the LCD in Avalaunch(info) Dashboard and XBoxMediaCenter and of course more homebrew application could be added to this list in the future.
The XLCD is the most useful in XboxMediaCenter. When playing a media file it will display the name of the file on the LCD screen. Another great feature in XBMC is you can put it in a no-tv mode, allowing you to navigate XBMC only usng the LCD screen, great if you want to make a mp3/ogg jukebox of your Xbox :)
One of the optimizations of the 'CE' revision of the Xecuter3 is useful here. When installing the original X3 with a headerpin you kinda had to 'crush' the XLCD wire between modchip and motherboard (it works - because the wire is flattened specially for this - but it's just cleaner with a wire-install or Xapt3r-install (higher)). This has been fixed in the X3CE version. The connector has been turned on its side (90 degrees) now, so even with a headerpin install it will fit nicely.
* Connection with X3 modchip is as simple has humanly possible.
* Support for the LCD in the X3 OS, but also in XBMC and Avalaunch!
* Awesome look! (white on blue)
* 'Coolness' factor
* Big LCD screen
* Cutting in Xbox case to place your LCD on the front panel is far from easy. If used with the X3 Control Panel/X3 Deluxe Case it will probably be very easy.
* Not so useful for most people ... LCD screens on Xbox are mostly installed for the look/coolness.
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