Review of OpenPandora handheld gaming device.
Apr 24, 2011
5:56 PM EDT
|OpenPandora official site: http://www.openpandora.org
Here are more info about this handheld device from Wikipedia.
These are screenshots of the Pandora desktop after customization: screenshot1, screenshot2
The buyers acts as the investor for the OpenPandora project since their preorder money will be used to fund the project and production of the devices. The Pandora device was originally available for preordering at $330, but after over a year of waiting for the production to take place, I canceled my preorder. Now in addition to preordering, the Pandora can be purchased and shipped in 7 days for a premium price of $500 which I took the opportunity, but does it worth the cost?
The Pandora uses same CPU, DSP and GPU as the Nokia N900, but in term of graphical performance the Pandora I feel is a clear winner because some softwares are written to take more advantage of the hardwares. Most DVD res XViD videos can be played smoothly using SMPlayer. The emulator "PCSX-ReARMed" can run PlayStation games at over 120fps. Of course, the Pandora uses the BurrBrown OPAMP for great sound and amplication to the headphone.
When the Pandora was first conceived a couple years ago, the ARM Cortex-A8 CPU is chosen. However, now there are mobile phones rating at 1Ghz or more. Unfortunately, the limited performance of the CPU makes the device feel aged and performance suffers with applications that required raw processing power. Running Firefox 4 is bearable, but not fast enough to be practical. (However, there are other lightweight web browsers available.) At the moment, I am still looking forward to the support of DSP acceleration to play h.264 contents.
I believe the Pandora uses the same screen as the Archos 604 WiFi resistive touch screen. Using a full blown desktop environment required stylus and marksmanship. The Pandora does come with two environments, full desktop and one more touch friendly, but there is still a need to port over something like Meego if its going to be touch versatile.
The Pandora uses Ångström as the main OS. The Pandora developers created a type of single executable file called PND. The PND packages the application and its dependencies into a single executable file. This is very convenient since one can run both a new and older version of a software each from their own PND. However, one of my concern with PND is a lack of central authentication and possible security risk. As well as potential for copyright issues, since one can create a Firefox4 PND and slip in Adobe Flash plugin along. Lastly, PND file lack the ability to update itself unlike apps installed from repository.
PND applications can be downloaded from the OpenPandora apps page. Some popular apps available are: Abiword, Firefox, Gedit, GIMP, Gnumeric, GParted, Grsync, Pidgin, Rockbox, SMPlayer, Transmission, Truecrypt, VLC, Xarchiver.
Another way to install app is OPKG package manager, but as of writing the OS have issues with its package dependencies. Trying to install something using OPKG could result in a broken OS and required reflashing the device, which is very easy to do as instructed from the support page at openpandora.org.
Additionally, the support page of OpenPandora.org allows downloading of a CodecPack to support more media files playback if your country laws allows it.
GAMES & CONTROLS:
The device is designed specifically to have excellent gaming control. Including two analog nubs that have excellent responses, even for controlling the mouse on the desktop. The keyboard is exceptional and better than in any other handheld devices I've used. The keys are firm with travels and feedbacks. Included are all keys you would find on a standard keyboard. However, I do feel the keys are a bit stiff, but in a durable way.
There are already over 200 free games available at the Pandora apps page. From simple ones like the default GNOME card games to engines(?) to run Quake3 and DukeNukem.
The main purpose of the Pandora though is to run emulator for classic gaming consoles and is what it does best. There are emulators that can run SNES, PSX, NES, etc games perfectly, as well as ScummVM and DOSBox. There are emulators for Nintendo64, Commodore64, Atarai800 that are close to perfect or being improved.
Some issues (concerning firmware version: Release 1 HotFix 5):
1. Battery drainage: Similar to the Nokia N900, the Pandora needs to be turned "on" while its charging. Either due to hardware design or poor coding for power management drivers, the device discharge quickly while its off and even during low power mode, at least for my device. While the battery life is excellent, since you can have a 8hours gaming session before the battery runs out, but if left alone over night, the battery can drain by 20% or more. However, other users from the official OpenPandora forum says they do not experience this issue so it could be my a problem with just my unit.
2. WiFi: Due to imperfect WiFi driver for the current, the connection speed is limited. My device only download at 100kb/s max, when my internet is much faster.
3. The screen hinges are not stiff, so by tapping on the screen it might fall backward, this makes it harder to browse the web on the device unless you want to laid the screen flat.
The OpenPandora is a low funding project with limited production, therefore the Pandora device cost more than what it should compared to bigger brands that can mass produce their units in the millions. The Pandora is not worth the purchase if you are looking to buy a small computer to run general applications. For that, get a tablet or a highend mobile phone with 1Ghz CPU or more. However, due to its superb gaming controls and open development model, the Pandora is simply the best handheld device to play classic gaming emulators and other free games.
I am not concerned about small software problems that can be fixed in the codes, such as: implementing a working Pandora-specific repository, full WiFi speed, fix battery drainage and more availability of linux distros to be installed easily. I believe these issues will be addresses in time.
*I am not affiliated with OpenPandora.
Apr 25, 2011
2:53 PM EDT
|TMX: Do you mind if we post this as an LXer article?|
Apr 25, 2011
3:10 PM EDT
|That's what I was going to suggest, bracketed with serious tags. More content than many articles listed routinely here and elsewhere.|
Apr 25, 2011
3:28 PM EDT
|I agree Hans, this could very easily be made into a great LXer Feature..|
Apr 26, 2011
6:51 PM EDT
|Yes, you can post it as an article. Just remember I didn't have professionalism in mind while writing it.|
Apr 26, 2011
7:30 PM EDT
|Ug, thats what I was expecting from this little device after all this time. Glad I canceled my order some time ago and went with an N900.
Apr 27, 2011
3:51 AM EDT
|I am just waiting to hear back from tmx on a question, I have it all set to go otherwise.
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