Reviewed: Pandora Console

Hardware

If you're familiar with the original GP2X and GP2X Wiz, the Linux-based handhelds produced by Korean techno-alchemists Game Park Holdings, you'll be acutely aware of just how close they came to greatness; both consoles suffered from compromises that prevented them from truly fulfilling their potential. Interestingly, some of the guys in charge of distributing these two machines internationally felt the same way and back in 2008 they set about creating their own dream machine that would avoid the pitfalls that afflicted those two consoles. Read on to discover whether it was worth the effort.

It's a PC in your pocket - the Pandora is only slightly larger than the DS Lite.

It's a PC in your pocket - the Pandora is only slightly larger than the DS Lite.

Two years and several broken deadlines later, the Pandora is finally with us. Boasting a 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor, 800×480 4.3in resistive touchscreen, dual analogue control and even built-in Wi-Fi, it's obvious that this device means business. For starters, the Pandora has a physical interface that is comfortable to use. The D-pad and ingenious low-profile analogue nubs are great, and the resistive touchscreen and 43-button keypad further augment the device's input options.

At the heart of this beast is an Ångström-based iteration of the Linux platform we all know and love. In its default setting, the Pandora's OS operates very much like a standard PC desktop environment, but it's possible to opt for the more straightforward icon-based GUI if you'd like to keep things as simple as possible.

Both the GP2X and Wiz required plenty of effort to get them working properly, but the Pandora is even more complicated. Don't expect to simply scoop this up and start playing - most of the available apps require a concerted amount of tinkering before they operate as you want them to. Naturally this added complexity offers up benefits as well as headaches; the machine is capable of a lot more than the aforementioned Game Park devices. You can surf the web via Wi-Fi, watch YouTube videos and other Flash content (take that, Apple iPad) and even perform more mundane tasks such as writing emails or indulging in a spot of word processing. The open nature of the machine means that a potentially limitless number of applications could be created for it.

The Pandora's excellent D-pad makes retro gaming on the go a real pleasure.

The Pandora's excellent D-pad makes retro gaming on the go a real pleasure.

Getting your game on

The main focus of the Pandora is gaming, though. It offers a smorgasbord of retro goodness, with emulators available for vintage machines such as the Mega Drive, SNES, Game Boy and Neo Geo. Performance is head and shoulders above that seen on the Wiz, despite the fact that the vast majority of emulators available so far are quickly ported variants of existing programs. The Pandora's processing grunt doesn't end there, though - it can also replicate more modern consoles, such as the PlayStation and N64.

Essentially the same caveats that came with the GP2X and Wiz apply here; the Pandora isn't likely to replace your PSP or DS, but if you're serious about portable gaming and don't have any objections to toggling settings and tracking down ROMs (which, lest we forget, is something of a legal grey area) then the Pandora is likely to qualify as your dream machine.

Our verdict: The ultimate open source gaming device, but only seriously dedicated geeks need apply. 8/10.

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

You should follow us on Identi.ca or Twitter


Your comments

"requires plenty of effort to get working properly" -- really?

The review seems quite fair, but I have to disagree that the GP2X (can't speak for the Wiz) required plenty of effort to get it working properly. In most cases, the GP2X only required copying the game to an SD card. With the Pandora this should be at least as easy, if not easier. The only complication is likely to be with emulating older games, which isn't the only purpose of the Pandora as you've said. And lets face, obtaining ROMS etc. for older games is painful no matter what device you are using.

Correction

"(which, lest we forget, is something of a legal grey area) "
No, it's not. It's a *moral* grey area, but legally, we're screwed.

want

I think you are allowed roms if u take them off a cart you own and still have.
Also WANT

"requires plenty of effort to get working properly"

Umm... for games like Supertux you just need to download the .pnd-file from their file archive, copy it to your SD-card, put the SD-card back into Pandora and... yeah, that's it. You even get an icon in your menu (it's MAGIC! :D). Only stuff like the amiga or neogeo emulator require some effort, because you'd need to hunt down the right BIOS files (which cannot be legally distributed with the emulator itself).

Speaking from the standpoint of an current owner....

The Pandora is no more or less difficult to use as your average Android phone or Windows Netbook. Any new device takes a certain level of time investment to acclimate to it's specific features. There are plenty of games available already that are as the poster above describes, drag and drop, or if you're connected to WiFi Download and play.

The Emulation aspect of the Pandora is just one of it's many faces. It also has a robust complement of homebrew and familiar Linux releases. The is growing everyday

The Mobile Internet Device aspect is also very nice since you can get a full blown web-browser that renders the page like the designer intended, unlike your average MID or Phone. It's spectacular having Firefox in my pocket.

The Netbook aspect is just the icing on the cake. You can use it fairly comfortably as a note-taking device, or even a Personal Information Manager.

The sky is the limit. If you're patient the future is an exciting place. The community around this device is unique in the fact that the people who use the device are the very same people who develop for it, and help each other with problems. It's the only device in the world that you can talk directly to the designers when you have a problem, that is if one of the fanatics doesn't answer your question first.

This device is not just for geeks at all, anyone can pick it up and use it. For many people in the Pandora community it was their first foray into the world of the Linux Desktop, and there seems to be a bunch of smiling faces over here.

PND = ease of use.

In all having followed the Pandora forum for 2 years and ben wait for one almost the same... I thought this review was fair and accurate. I would disagree with "Don't expect to simply scoop this up and start playing - most of the available apps require a concerted amount of tinkering before they operate as you want them to". Whilst this in not a lie and would be true for some apps, but those apps would take the same effort on other platforms (e.g. mame).

You did fail to pick up on the PND file format that many games/utilities are distributed in. Pop the pnd in, say, /pandora/desktop on your the SD and when this is inserted the programs icon appears on the desktop. Easy of use genius. There are other locations the PND can be placed if your rather run them from a menu instead.

7/10 for value! Huh! Compared with a DS maybe but there isn't an UMPC this powerful at this price anyware.

What is the price point?

What is the price point? Featurewise seems to have no edge over Nokia N900, except the controls. And N900 is a phone, too.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

CAPTCHA
We can't accept links (unless you obfuscate them). You also need to negotiate the following CAPTCHA...

Username:   Password:
Create Account | About TuxRadar