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.

pyra_03

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.

Specs include:

  • 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!



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23 replies on “DragonBox Pyra pre-orders begin (open Source handheld gaming PC)”

  1. It also should be noted that the Pyra has a replaceable daughter board which has the SoC , RAM and eMMc. The idea there is that you can swap it out for a better SoC,RAM and eMMC daughter board in the future.

    1. Because some people still need to feel they are cooler than someone else…

      1. Forgiving a myopic opinion, it’s really because there is nothing else like it on the market today:

        Find another device that has the following specifications:

        – HD display
        – Portable (sub 7 inch)
        – 2+ GB ram
        – Fully functioning power management
        – Removable battery
        – Removable storage
        – A/V out (composite or HDMI)
        – USB host
        – Linux based, with opensource kernel AND userland (this essentially disqualifies Android without some major work separating GMS from the Android kernel)

        And then some ‘nice to haves’ that relate more to it being a ‘game console’:
        – Physical keyboard
        – Game controls

        The closest thing I’m aware of that’s even close would be the Fairphone 2. Beyond that, you’d be stuck building your own device with an ARM based SBC. Even then, power management is not something built into most of the hobby market SBCs (I’m looking at you Raspberry Pi).

        For the majority of people, a 3DS / PS Vita and an Android cell phone (maybe even running chroot’d Linux installs) would be fine. Thankfully, for people with different tastes, there are different devices.

        1. There is a Windows Atom-based device that looks a bit more refined but otherwise is quite similar in size and keyboard that is cheaper. Computers in this form factor would make great airplane and train laptops but for daily use I don’t see it. I would also rather have a larger keyboard and no joysticks (that is an issue with both computers).

          If this will really run a full Debian OS it is theoretically possible to do 95% of what can be done with a recent Windows or Mac with just a few open-source applications. I would have picked something a bit easier to learn such as Lubuntu (if Canonical’s OSes will run on an ARM CPU) but I like the concept. The price is way too high for it to gain traction IMO, though.

        2. Just curious, what Windows Atom device are you referring to? Other than older UMPC style devices, the only current device I know of in development like the Pyra, but Windows / Intel based is the GPD Win. The Win is still pretty early in development, versus the Pyra which is nearing the beginning of physical production.

        3. The GPD Win is the only thing I can think of too, though ‘early in development’ might be a bit off as they’re intending to ship in October and beyond. Ticks nearly all the above requirements except removable battery (though it should be easy to replace when the battery starts to age) and Linux which could be supported. Meanwhile the pyra has some issues like no open GPU drivers.

        4. The Pyra’s GPU situation is a fair complaint. The GPU has been around for a few years, so hopefully that means what blob drivers are provided are ‘mature’ and don’t need a lot of work (which would be very hard to do anyway). As has been stated elsewhere, the GPU was chosen because it could be acquired at small inventory. If Pyra were being manufactured in the 10k or 100k volume versus the likely 1k volume (or rate), then a different GPU could have been sourced.

          Linux driver support unfortunately has been an issue with PowerVR since the original Atom days (especially the poulsbo chipset! so much frustration there). It’s probably one of the only major downsides to the Pyra.

          I am very interested in the GPD Win, but I question build quality and product support from GPD.

          Others with more experience with GPD as a company, please, feel free to chime in. I know they’ve made several other Android handhelds with a gaming ‘slant’. I have not owned any of these and can not vouch for the quality of those products.

          I have owned the OpenPandora, and can say support from DragonBox has been stellar. I also appreciate the transparency that EvilDragon has shown throughout the manufacturing process, which I suspect will be the exact opposite of GPD over time.

          Not knowing about where in the product development cycle the GPD Win was when the IndieGoGo campaign launched, it’s hard to say if they’ll meet their projected October deadline. I do seem to remember they had multiple keyboard / case renders that they were showing initially, which to me indicates that they were still relatively early in the design process (though this is pure speculation).

          Obviously, none of my opinions have anything to do with whether or not the GPD Win will be a good device. I hope it will be a huge success for them; I would probably pick one up if they can really achieve everything they advertise at the 350~$ price point they are targeting. And, generally speaking, a world with more choice in products is much better than everyone forced to buy the same thing.

        5. Well the GPD XD which was GPDs latest product, does get very positive feedback from it’s user base. And the build quality is also said to be very good. It’s also been supported by GPD fairly well, along with that, there is a community that has built up behind GPD (on Dingoonity).

          In regards to how close the GPD WIN is in terms of development . Well they have been working on a prototype which from reading GPD’s posts and seeing advancing pictures of it , it seems to be close if not complete. So I think the gap between the Pyra and WIN is closing very fast. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found that it turned into a race between the two in regards to which was first on the market for retail sales.

          Should be interesting times. I know a number of people will pick up both.

          Then of course there is the dark horse which is the PGS. But there is a good chance that will be vapour ware

        6. Yeah, I just found out about the PGS yesterday. I completely agree with the ‘likely vaporware’ assumption. Some of the things they are promising don’t seem physically possible.

          Nice to hear that GPD’s build quality is good. I hope they can come to market soon too.

          Man, looking back at the GPD Win keyboard though, the placement of that Power button scares me. Good placement for accidental suspends. I guess in Windows power management you can change the button to do nothing.

        7. the gpd xd is pretty awsome.
          i have one that i use for my mobile games and emulator games, the built quality is good so i would expect the gpd win to be better since it will prob cost more.

        8. Issues aren’t unfortunate, dolt; problems are.
          pure -> sheer
          whether or not: if you don’t say so yourself
          will -> shall

    2. There’s a demand, and someone is making money providing people what they want. This is not a hard concept.

  2. Error in article. Device has 32GB eMMC, hidden microSDXC, AND two full size SDXC slots.

    With two 512GB SD cards and a 200GB uSD and internal eMMC, it can house 1.23 terabytes of relatively fast data storage in a fully functional Debian Linux computer that might fit in a pocket if you wear baggy pants.

    Battery is removable too.

  3. Did they ever work out the US 4G LTE chip selections? Last I read it wasn’t going to support Verizon LTE. Which is a deal breaker for me.

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