The DragonBox Pyra is a portable computer that looks like a cross between a tiny laptop and a Nintendo DX game console… and it kind of works like a cross between those devices as well. It’s got a 5 inch display, a QWERTY keyboard, the Debian Linux operating system that can handle desktop apps as well as games, and physical gaming buttons.
It’s been under development for several years, and it’s expected to be available for purchase soon for about 500 Euros (plus VAT). But if you want to help fund the developers you can now place a pre-order for 330 Euros and up.
Note that if you do place a pre-order, what you actually get is a voucher toward the full price of a device.
The system comes from developer Michael Mrozek (who also goes by the name EvilDragon), a former member of the OpenPandora team. While that project was plagued with shipping delays, the DragonBox Pyra is a new machine from a new team… and it has newer (but not exactly bleeding edge) hardware.
- 5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel resistive touchscreen display
- TI OMAP 5 dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor
- 2GB or 4GB of RAM
- 32GB of eMMC storage + dual SDXC card slots and an internal microSDXC slot
- 6,000 mAh replaceable battery
- Dual-band 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1
- 2 full-sized USB 2.0 ports
- 1 micro USB 3.0 port + micro USB debugging/charging port
EvilDragon isn’t providing an estimated ship date yet, because he doesn’t want to make promises he can’t keep. But there are working prototypes and you can find plenty of recent news updates about the project in the Pyra-Handheld forum.
This is actually the second round of pre-orders… but when the DragonBox Pyra went up for pre-order last year, the goal was to raise money to build a small number of developer prototypes. Now the design is largely finalized, the sale price is much lower, and the finished product is closer to being ready to ship.
The little computer also has a modular design: there are three components inside the case that could theoretically be removed and upgraded, assuming new components become available in the future. Those modules include:
- CPU board (with memory and storage)
- Mainboard (with ports, WiFi, and Bluetooth)
- Display board
Modular design could make it less expensive to upgrade the DragonBox Pyra than it would be to buy a whole new unit.
This clearly isn’t a device for everybody. It’s designed for open source enthusiasts interested in a portable device that can not only run Linux or console games (in an emulator), but which is also a full-fledged Linux mini-PC capable of running Firefox, LibreOffice, and other software.
Some of the hardware choices, like the TI OMAP 5 processor and resistive touchscreen, might seem odd for a device shipping in 2016. But there are reasons for each: the touch technology was selected so you could use any pen, fingernail, or just about anything else as a stylus. And the processor offers decent performance and documentation for open source software developers, even if it comes from a company that’s no longer producing chips for consumer devices.
If you’re not in the target audience, but want to understand who is… and read a mix of positive and negative comments, this reddit thread seems like a good place to start. You can also check out episode 8 of the LPX Show podcast, featuring an interview with EvilDragon.
But there’s clearly some interest in the project. EvilDragon says nearly 200 pre-orders were placed in the first few hours.
thanks Victor C!