After years of development, the team working on the Dragonbox Pyra handheld Linux gaming computer have finalized the design. That means the next step is to thoroughly test the hardware for reliability and then apply for CE and FCC certification.

If all goes well, mass production could begin soon, and the Pyra could begin shipping to backers who have pre-ordered the 500 Euro device.

Of course, there’s always a chance there will be delays. There have been plenty since the Dragonbox Pyra was unveiled in 2014… and since it went up for pre-order in 2016.

In fact, in the time since pre-orders opened, Chinese device maker GPD has shipped the GPD Win, GPD Win 2, and GPD Pocket handheld computers and the company is now running a crowdfunding campaign for the Pocket 2.

But there are some important differences:

  • The Dragonbox Pyra is aimed at open source hardware and software enthusiasts, and the handheld PC runs GNU/Linux software.
  • The Dragonbox Pyra is also designed to be hacker-friendly with replaceable and upgradeable components. Nothing is glued into place, so if you open the case with a screwdriver there nothing stopping you from changing out components or making other modifications.
  • GPD is a company with a history of producing handheld gaming devices running Android and Windows. The Dragonbox Pyra is more of a labor of love from developer Michael Mrozek (EvilDragon), who was formerly a member of the team that developed the Pandora handheld computer/game console.
  • Because the Dragonbox Pyra has been in development for a very long time, it will ship with hardware that looks pretty dated by modern standards.

The Dragonbox Pyra will have a 5 inch, 720p display, a TI OMAP 5 dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor, 32GB of eMMC storage, and a choice of 2GB or 4GB of RAM.

It has full-sized and micro USB ports, HDMI and headset jacks, stereo speakers, dual-band 802.11n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0.

The little computer also has a few features which are pretty distinctive even after multiple delays. There are dual SDXC card slots instead of the usual one, for example. And the keyboard is backlit.

Other features include gaming controls with four shoulder buttons, six face buttons, a D-pad, and analog sticks.

Still wondering why anybody would still want to spend 500 Euros (~$585) on a computer with a 6-year-old processor in 2018? I spoke with EvilDragon in 2016 for an episode of the LPX podcast. He described some of the things that make the Dragonbox Pyra unique… and many of them still apply even now that GPD and other companies are producing handheld computers.

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32 replies on “Dragonbox Pyra handheld PC is finally (almost) ready for mass production”

  1. Not a pc, just ARM..this is just a stupid project all together..and I find it hilarious that China has crushed them in every single way, first gpd and now all the cheap opendingux devices. almost 3 years of preorders and still not released, history repeats itself and now he cannot blame craig or china.

  2. “Soon” as in 2019 with no definite date. Some those unique things on Pyra like those 3G/4G modems may not work right out the box because software for them have not been developed yet.

    1. Compared to how long it took, that isn’t long (I probably don’t need to point out that EvilDragon hopes for October 2018, it’s not going to happen). 😀

      The software side surely will take a few months but that is quite fast compared to the Pandora, where it took years to have an ecosystem up. That work can easily be brought over, so they don’t have to start from zero. The modem works out of the box because it’s a self-contained system with its own ARM chip and OS, connected over USB and listening to AT commands. All that additional software is going to change is ease of use.

      1. Heard ED said 2019 in the QA video. I’m not talking about simple AT commands but about cellular and data networking for internet connection besides phone functions. It does not exist yet. Again from the same QA video. So that phone functionality and internet connection over 3G/4G will not be available right out of the box.

        1. And I heard him say “maybe September” (this year 😛 ) in the same QA video. I am not going to watch two hours just to find that it was availability in the store that will take till 2019 because that one is obvious, it will take some months until all the pre-orders are processed and he can order the third batch (due to the money constrains he was talking about).

          You were not talking about simple AT commands, you were saying “those 3G/4G modems may not work right out the box”, implying they need drivers to get to work. They don’t, you can just use AT commands or any existing stock software that can utilise them for “cellular and data networking”. It means there is probably nothing yet that listens to incoming calls and knows to prod the vibrator, so you could only phone out and use the internet until someone ports simpler phoning software, like the one used in the open phone projects by the same PCB designer of the Pyra. That is what EvilDragon was talking about.

  3. I need a cheap dingoo with new procesor gpu and better battery
    nothing more

  4. I like the overall external design and built-in LTE. Too bad the rest of the specs are too underwhelming for what I’d want to use this for.

  5. “Nothing is glued into place, and you can even open the case with”
    Intentional cliffhanger, or is this like the meme where the writer is abruptly cut off by an attacking ninj

      1. You verschlimmbessert it as “without a screwdriver” though. Obviously, it should say “with just a screwdriver” instead.

  6. Criticism I’ve read here is valid but seems to mostly from a gaming perspective. Coming from a free software tinkerer perspective, this is the perfect device for me. I can have a consistent workflow across all my devices. Rather than rooting, ROM-ing, ripping google spyware out, and trying to survive without it, and then try to beef my phone into being the Linux workstation that it was simply never cut out to be I can just have a portable, pocketable handheld Linux workstation.

    my phone also doesn’t have removable storage or battery, hardware keyboard, or the usual USB, HDMI etc. a laptop does, but doesn’t fit in my pocket. with the 4g modem I should even be able to make calls and send text messages.

    yes, the omap5 is painfully outdated, but it is actually an upgrade on the 10 year old atom processor in my laptop, so no complaints here. I’ve been surviving with a single core at 1,5 GHz and 1 GB ram, in a device that doesn’t fit in my pocket and only has a couple hours battery. also, people are already talking about a CPU board upgrade. I’m not sure what they’ll land on but I think the imx.8 and the rk3399 have been considered. CPU processing power isn’t the only factor that makes or breaks a device.

    I can go on endlessly about what the Pyra can do that my phone can not, as well as the advantages of a fully open stack that you control, not to mention being able to replace or upgrade parts. and I know not everyone’s workflow is conducive to ditching iOS android or windows, but mine is. it’s not a perfect device for everyone, or even a perfect device, for that matter, but it has advantages that no other device has. I have no interest in any of the Gpd products. they’re probably better if you’re trying to play triple-A games, but I’m not. I am confident that the first release of the Pyra will be a better device for me than the 4th revision of the GPD.

    I just don’t think it’s fair to write it off because of the old processor. there is more to life. also, sourcing arm socs in low quantity is incredibly difficult.

    1. Spot-on. It gets tiresome after a while to explain that the focus of the DragonBox Pyra is not on gaming; anyone should notice something is off if they think that and see two SD and another microSD card slot in the specifications.

      It’s not a Pandora 2: The display is 720p, so it’s not 4:3 aspect ratio emulator-friendly – nor is it the usual 1080p smartphone panels which are actually cheaper thanks to the economy of scale. The resolution was deliberately chosen because that is the best compromise for using standard desktop software on a 5″ screen. It’s meant to be a notebook replacement for your pocket.

      It’s insane how many Pyra case, keymat, and gaming controls iterations there were until EvilDragon was finally happy with the result (except the thickness of the case, which he wants to address later on because that will need a new mould but at €6 it’s the cheapest part in production cost and all you need is a screwdriver to replace it). Compare that with the non-ergonomic crappy layout for the GPD Win which was clearly just an alibi because they needed it to operate the device but had no time to make it properly and you had to buy the GPD Win 2 to fix that and it’s again just cheap thin keys without space around them or backlight.

      The Pyra is an open PDA with gaming controls. Most people don’t even remember that PDAs were a thing, now that everyone seems to prefer smooth slabs of glass for everything. This is not a device for the masses, nor was it ever meant to be. It’s the way it is because that’s EvilDragon’s preference – all the better if there are enough other like-minded people to fund his dream device and maybe even pay back the €300k debt he still has from the Pandora fiasco.

      As the official distributor for GPD in Germany, EvilDragon would gladly sell you a GPD Win (which he acknowledges is the better device if you just want to game) or Pocket – except that they cycle their handhelds so quickly that neither are being produced anymore, already. From the percentage of faulty units sent back to him, GPD’s production quality is also questionable.

  7. No Win 10 64-bit and too expensive. No thanks… Why cant someone make a cheap Win 10 tab with 4 GB of ram and a decent SOC?

  8. Evil Dragon is a badass and I still fondly rememeber my first Pandora.
    It’s an amazing project, but sadly in this day and age, it’s audience is really, really small.
    I wonder what would his team created if they had the budget to go all in.

  9. I’m excited about this because it’s not trying to be a distraction device like modern smart phones; it’s productivity and gaming, without a penny needing to be spent (more than what you pay for it). No ads or freemium games. Computing for the love of it.

  10. While I have no intention of buying this, I applaud the folks for not giving up. Maybe I’d be interested in buying one if they actually ends up making an upgraded CPU board with much much more modern specs (too bad the Wi-Fi chip isn’t on the CPU board).

  11. I’ve eyeballed the Pandora and pyra for years now and it’s really unfortunate that they aren’t a bigger company to create a more powerful product at a way cheaper price point.

    The thing with this is that there isn’t much more you could do on a pya that an Android smartphone with a controller accessory couldn’t do and a gpd win 2 can play many, many MANY more games thanks to running on a much more powerful intel core m3 and windows 10 which allows for steam. Regardless of whatever hate boner some may have against windows, objectively the win is much better as a GAMING device than a weak arm chip running debian, if it were running an x86 processor and Linux then we’d be in business since you can get steam on Linux.

    I like the passion and design but it has the unfortunate fate of modern smartphones and gpd win existing. I know why it’s so crazy expensive but it’s still crazy expensive in a world where you can buy a large screen powerful phone like the OnePlus 6 that would absolutely destroy it in performance and user experience while being an important tool that’s always with you.

    And like others have pointed out if you want a dedicated machine with a big battery then the gpd XD+ has you covered for only around $200, still much more powerful than the pyra. If you are wanting to code and write essays then wouldn’t it be quite uncomfortable to do that on a device of that size regardless if it has a keyboard or not? You could find a used thinkpad X series on eBay and load it with whatever Linux distro you see fit for cheaper and it would be much more powerful and usable

    1. For the people who want a Pyra, no Android device can destroy it in user experience, or even come close to it. It’s just not really the same market. If you prefer the Android user experience, then you are not part of the target market. The only device which comes close to making the Pyra obsolete for its target market is the GPD Win 2 loaded with Linux, which still costs significantly more, and still has some shortcomings.

  12. Too expensive, too late, too underpowered. Other than people wanting to do some programming or modding on it, I don’t see anyone who would want to buy it.

  13. I was an owner and community member of the old Gamepark systems (GP32, GP2X, and GP2X Wiz), and I followed the Pandora, but never bought one. It was too tough of a sell back then. Even though it had no competitors, it was far too expensive for something that I was ultimately going to play console emulators on.

    At the time, it seemed like something cheaper and better was going to be right around the corner.

    In my opinon, the Dragonbox Pyra is in a worse situation than the Pandora. Not only is it, again, too expensive for what it could be used for. It lives in an era where there are competitors scattered across several niche subcategories that do the same thing for way less money (GPD XD), or better/more popular things for a little less money (GPD Win).

    Also, there is far better hardware to make something like this today. The RK3399 SOC has a GPU that is more than twice as powerful as the GPU in the Pyra.

    Make something like the GPD XD, but with a newer/better ARM SOC (Samsung Exynos, or Rockchip), and a little more portable (clamshell is okay, but make it thinner), and less than $300, they would have a real winner. As it is, this is too expensive for how outdated it is.

    1. The problem is at the time Rockchip and Samsung were not open sourcing their hardware blobs especially for graphics. That’s problematic when you are trying to support Linux distros or even Android when you have to wait for them to do any updates for fixes. Even the TI chip is not completely open sourced as well, the graphics core is proprietary however TI engineers were/are available for direct assistance for the Pyra.

      CPU replacements are already being considered by the community, RK3399 probably will not be a good replacement since its based on the same tech as the OMAP and the chip is too large for the cpu board. Might need to wait for 16nm chips.

  14. I pre-ordered the Pandora back in the day, and the delays on that were nightmarish. By the time I got mine, the community around the old Gamepark handhelds had kind of imploded and it felt like things had moved on. That said, the form factor is nearly perfect, and I’d love something like this if it had a more recent, more powerful chipset, especially if it had both Linux and Android support. But this is a tough sell now. I wish them luck. Hopefully the next hardware update comes a little quicker.

    1. Something that wasn’t mentioned in the article is that the device is made up of a peripheral mainboard, and a removable processor subboard. The handheld was designed such that the processor board could be upgraded without having to change the screen / keyboard / game controls / etc.

      In theory a newer processor board would be less of a task to bring to market. Whether that happens is yet to be seen.

      1. It’s definitely something I’d want to see concrete plans and a timeline for before committing to the current device. Buying something I’m not 100% sold on in order to take advantage of future upgades that may never come doesn’t seem like a great plan.

  15. With something like the GPD XD + I wonder why I would need this anymore. I could play real games like AOE I guess

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