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Nintendo Switch Cartridge - EPROM or MASKROM?


beautifulman2999
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does anyone know if Switch game cartridges are EPROM or MASKROM?

 

the images above shows 2 types of configuration for these game carts; one that looks like a NAND chip and the other is a wafer sized flash memory chip that closely resembles to what's found inside a PS Vita cartridge.

 

 

Thanks for taking your time in reading this and letting me know!

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  • 2 weeks later...

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The cartridge itself is small and exhibits 16 connections to the console on what appears to be a PCB. The first step of this teardown is to open the cartridge to further assess its construction. Opening the cartridge is fairly easy and can be done with a scalpel for example. Once opened, a single chip is visible with the PCB visible from the outside being part of the chip. The chip is labelled with the manufacturer name being MXIC and has a number of reference. Two chips are standing inside the package epoxy which makes the MXIC device a System In Package. The biggest chip may be a memory that stores the game while a second one can serve as an authentication device and can possibly be used to decrypt the main memory content.

 

Some assumptions can be made at this early phase of the study. The memory can be either ROM or Flash based. This can be easily verified by etching the chip interconnections and looking at the patterned silicon. The memory can use a proprietary protocol which would require a custom chip design which would not be necessary and would add an extra cost for the design and manufacturing. It is also likely that the chip is a standard flash storing encrypted data. In this condition, the second chip would be used to decrypt data on the fly when needed. [sOURCE]

 

the above article was written by someone who had taken the game cartridge apart and then posted all those pics of the cartridge's internals on his website. according to him these switch game carts are possibly ROM or flash memory based, though he seemed unsure.

 

 

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in addition, i've also found this diagram which appears to have originated from Macronix's website quite some time ago.

the diagram clearly shows that Macronix does not manufacture Mask-ROM chips higher than the capacity of 128mb.

in other words, Nintendo Switch Game Cartridges are most likely not Mask-ROM based, as they are rated with a storage capacity of 32GB which would far exceed the 128mb limit of Macronix's own Mask-Rom chips. this means that all those Macronix chips that you see inside every switch game carts can't possibly be Mask-ROM based because Macronix does not produce Mask-ROM chips with that high of a storage capacity.

 

 

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Earlier this spring, nevertheless, reminiscence producer Macronix introduced that it anticipated to offer chips for the upcoming NX console.

The corporate’s personalized XtraROM is out there in as much as 32Gb densities (4GB per chip), however detailed efficiency information on these options isn’t obtainable. [sOURCE]

 

currently the only product lineup from Macronix that DOES offer high capacity storage solutions would be their HybridFlash "XtraROM" chips which could store up to 8GB of data. however, Macronix also produced a custom variant of this chip called "Gaming Machine XtraROM" which has a maximum storage capacity of 32GB. in terms of both appearance and storage space, these custom "Gaming Machine XtraROM" chips seems to closely match the configurations of the Macronix chips that were commonly found inside most Nintendo Switch game cartridges. Regardless, as Macronix themselves had stated earlier, they are using their own propriety "XtraROM" technology as a storage solution for nintendo switch games. so at the very least, we know for a fact that nintendo switch game cartridges does indeed uses "XtraROM" chips to store its games, that much is certain. the bigger question is how long will this "XtraROM" chip be able to retain its data before data-rot sets in, seeing that it's not really maskrom technology.

 

 

- Memory flexibility and reliability factored in by Macronix's new HybridFlash

When the value of a byte or more bytes changes from 1 to 0 during NAND flash read and write, a read disturb error tends to happen. If many times of reading (tens of thousands sometimes, depending on technology) of a page happen before erasing, the error can be even worse. This means that the raw bit error rate (RBER) increases with the increase of NAND flash reading. When there are too many bit errors to be corrected by Error Checking and Correcting (ECC), NAND flash reliability and data storage ability will drop to an unacceptable level, and the issue cannot be completely resolved only by built-in ECC.

In order to resolve the aforementioned issue during micro NAND flash development and provide a high quality solution to embedded storage devices, Macronix has launched its new generation product HybridFlash that factors in both flexibility and reliability. According to Kilguss, HybridFlash consists of XtraROM, flash memory and controller, which can respectively serve OS storage, boot loader/code update, and interface purposes.

XtraROM is able to provide ASIC design based on customer DRM schemes, does not need bad block management and extra ECC, is free from write/read disturbance, requires fewer masker layers than other technologies, and enjoys its exclusive wafer foundry capacity. So many strengths of XtraROM help maintain considerable reliability after product size reduction and do not need the extra backup code image required by other NAND flash technologies.

- XtraROM's superiority over NAND flash in many areas

HybridFlash provides a very stable medium to contents and OS, enabling storage as long as 20 years at 85 degrees centigrade and it also works normally from 40 degrees below zero to 85 degrees centigrade. Its security control mechanism effectively guards against hacking, viruses, and unauthorized alterations.

According to Kilguss, Macronix has conducted repeated reading of three sets of XtraROM's single page at 25 degrees centigrade with Vcc set at 3.6V and a data rate at 1MByte per second to test whether the data in XtraROM is affected. After more than 109 tests lasting for 168 hours, 80 units of each of the three sets of XtraROM were randomly sampled (a total of 240 units sampled), and no error was found. According to Kilguss, testing of general SLC/MLC NAND flash under the same settings would show errors of disturbance within one hour.

Compared to SLC NAND flash or MLC synchronous NAND flash, XtraROM performs better in Random Read, Sequential Write, Random Write, and Read Cycle. Therefore, XtraROM is now widely used in closed consumer systems (e.g., printers, set-top boxes, and digital TV), network devices (e.g., switches, routers, and base stations), industrial applications (e.g., programmable logic controllers, industrial PCs, rugged PDAs/tablets, and point-of-sale systems), and home appliances (e.g., coffee makers, ovens, and refrigerators).

HybridFlash can replace CDs and DVDs traditionally used to install or distribute Windows, Office, Visio, Project, Visual Studio, Visual FoxPro, Adobe Acrobat, Games, etc. According to Kilguss, the data written into HybridFlash can be preserved longer, free from virus attacks, and can do without any wait for downloading. HybridFlash also helps netbooks, tablets, smart phones, and slim notebooks do without the space for CD players to make them even more compact.

 

Ralf Kilguss, Senior Segment Marketing Manager, Macronix

 

[sOURCE]

 

the article above seems to have technical inputs by Ralf Kilguss from Macronix, in which he clearly stated that the company's "XtraROM" HybridFlash technology will have a data retention time of around 20 years when stored at room temperature of 85 degrees centigrade. so there you have it; Switch Game Cartridges, which employs Macronix's "XtraROM" as its storage solution, will have a data retention span of at least 20 years according to the manufacturer Macronix.

 

in the end, it seems that Macronix's "XtraROM" chips are not really Mask-ROM chips afterall, but merely a different kind of Flash Memory technology developed proprietorially at Macronix's R&D labs, and as such it would most likely be susceptible to Data-Rot as well, just like any other flash memory would to date. unfortunately this could mean that Nintendo Switch game cartridges might not be able to last forever like your old nintendo maskrom game carts from the 1990s would. as macronix had stated themselves, their "XtraROM" HybridFlash technology are guaranteed to hold data for at least 20 years, and that definitely doesn't sound like it's Maskrom to me. the fact that macronix had explicitly given us this estimate leads me to believe that they've already done all the relevant testing on these XtraROM chips beforehand which led to their 20 year estimation of data retention for this particular product. if i had to take a guess, i'd say that Macronix had probably done some kind of accelerated life testing on these XtraRom chips that eventually resulted to data decay as soon as they tried to go past the 20 year timespan in a simulated environment, hence the reason why macronix is telling us that these "XtraROM" chips will only retain data for 20 years because that's really what their lab results showed. though i for one am glad that they're atleast being honest about it.

 

the thing with flash based technology they will eventually lose its charge and have all their 1s revert back to 0s, thus resulting in complete loss of data inside the game cartridge, aka Data-ROT. So while it might not happen today, it will surly happen someday. And in all honesty, that's just too much for me to bear.

 

 

well that's pretty much all the information i could find regarding these switch game cartridges, if anyone has more to add in, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Edited by beautifulman2999
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Well, flash has a limited set life, but it holds a charge longer when its used once in a while. I have nearly 20 year old flash cards that still work fine and have old data on them, and that's 20 year old tech. No problems with my ngpc carts either, not sure, but I think most of those are supposed to be flash variants.

 

Also, 20 years at 80c? Not quiet accurate, but if you assumed 40c, where people live, then the life would be double that.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, flash has a limited set life, but it holds a charge longer when its used once in a while. I have nearly 20 year old flash cards that still work fine and have old data on them, and that's 20 year old tech. No problems with my ngpc carts either, not sure, but I think most of those are supposed to be flash variants.

 

Also, 20 years at 80c? Not quiet accurate, but if you assumed 40c, where people live, then the life would be double that.

 

40c is still stinking hot. 22c or so is considered room-temp.

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