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Datel X-Port

Review - offering the ability to store savegame files on a PC hard disk, the X-Port could be invaluable, but can its myriad of problems spoil the party?

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

- DatelPrice - £29.99

The Datel X-Port for PlayStation 2 - since this pic was taken the serial cable has been altered to a USB


Do you own a memory card? I have a whole shelf of the things. As a console game reviewer, it's quite important that I have a decent stock of blocks, so to speak, so whenever I feel the rumble of change in my pocket on the way home from town, I pop into my local games store and order three from the top and one from the bottom. It's become something of a habit, and I need to get out of it for psychological reasons. Not to mention financial ones. Which is why, when I first heard about the X-Port, I stammered with approval and muttered, what a bloody good idea! The X-Port, you see, allows you to save your PlayStation 2 save files onto your PC hard-disk, and swap and change them over the Internet. Genius, it is, but not without its flaws. And the first one is a biggie, especially for me. The X-Port doesn't seem to support Windows 2000. Now, I am a hardened Windows 2000 user, and run several PCs for various purposes (including a laptop), all wired up with Microsoft's NT-based consumer/business operating system. Datel's X-Port instruction manual (and packaging on the whole) makes no mention of PC software requirements except for a single line in the instruction manual, which is of course useless if you are picking it up off the shelf of your local games store.


Apparently the device requires "Microsoft Windows 95 or higher" (my emphasis, by the way). I took 2000 to be higher than 95, so duly plugged the USB cable in to my PlayStation 2 at one end, and my PC at the other. Windows picked up on the USB cable immediately that I plugged it in, and prompted me for drivers. I pointed it at the X-Port CD, and it found what it claimed to be a suitable driver. *Click* "\SystemRoot\System32\Drivers\usbio.sys driver could not be loaded. Error status was 0xc0000221" It's not obvious which is the "correct" orientation for the cable (there is a sort of blob, with cable extending from both sides, each terminating in a USB jack), so I tried it both ways. Same error. I rebooted with the cable installed (perhaps after all it was a simple Windows error) and received a stunning blue screen of death during loadup, attributed to our friend usbio.sys. Out comes the X-Port, and the machine boots flawlessly. The story is the same for three separate machines. Nonetheless I wasn't going to be deterred in my mission to save money on expensive PlayStation 2 memory cards by one small operating system hiccup. After painfully reformatting and installing Windows Millenium on an old Pentium II system, I was once again ready to do battle with the X-Port. Under Windows Millenium, things were pretty hunky-dory. Installing took less than five minutes (including reboot) and from there I was able to transfer back and forth from PS2 memory card to PC hard disk. To do so, you run the CD in the PS2, and simultaneously run the software on your PC to cooperate with it. Then it's just a case of deciding which blocks to put on the memory card.

Things can only get better...

The interface on the PlayStation 2 side is fair enough - it's functional and easy to manipulate with the gamepad. On the PC side I had no complaints either, apart from the aforementioned Windows 2000 issues. The X-Port software is apparently compatible with the Datel USB PS2 keyboard, as well. One area that the X-Port must win in, is its price. At a smidgeon under £30, it gives Sony's official memory cards a run for their money, especially when you compare the laughable capacity of those to that of your PC hard disk. The ability to swap saves via email and the Internet is brilliant too. I successfully emailed several save games to a friend before dashing over with my X-Port and downloading them to a memory card. Unfortunately, you have to own a PlayStation 2 memory card as well, because the X-Port is simply a method of transferring files between PlayStation 2 memory card, PC and vice versa. What I had hoped for, of course, was the ability to save direct to hard disk from within any PlayStation 2 game. The price of the X-Port may then be reasonable, but when a memory card is also required, the total can be up to and over £50, and having to shift save games back and forth between hard disk and memory card as required is quite a clunky way of doing things, particularly when you have to have the X-Port CD in the PS2 drive at the time.

Further down the spiral

Another issue about the X-Port, is that most people do not have their PC in the same room as their PlayStation 2. Datel were lucky with me, because I have a small PC handling Internet connection duties and such, just a few feet from my PlayStation 2. The X-Port cable itself is about two metres in length, meaning that most people will find it difficult to put to use, unless they lug their PlayStation 2 into their study every time they want to use it. As far as I am aware there is no extension available. Personally, I had hoped for (and perhaps expected) some sort of wireless RF system. That may have cost more, but would certainly have made up for the huge distance in some cases between PS2 and PC. At the end of the day, if you already own a memory card and have been thinking about buying another, the X-Port can be an excellent purchase, depending on your needs. If your playing habits are fairly mild, another memory card may just suffice (and will certainly save you having to leap up off the couch as often to switch CDs), but if you play rather a lot of games, and constantly find yourself agonizing over which blocks to trim, the X-Port can be invaluable. Ultimately, it's severely flawed, but it does have its uses.


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