The DragonBox Pyra is a handheld computer with a 5 inch display, a TI OMAP 5 processor, a QWERTY keyboard and built-in game controllers. Designed to be a hackable, open hardware device, the little PC ships with Debian Linux but supports alternate operating systems, and you can use the Pyra as a general purpose computer or a portable gaming machine.
After years of development, the first DragonBox Pyra handheld computers are now being assembled and shipped to the first customers who placed pre-orders… although it might take a little while before all pre-orders are filled and the team behind the Pyra is ready to begin shipping units to customers who place new orders today.
Some of the computer’s hardware looks a little dated for a device that won’t arrive on doorsteps until early 2021, particularly the Texas Instruments OMAP 5432 processor, which is a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 chip with PowerVR SGX544-MP2 graphics that was first launched in 2013.
But there’s really nothing else quite like the DragonBox Pyra on the market.
It bears a superficial resemblance to handheld gaming PCs like the GPD Win 2, but while some hackers have managed to get Ubuntu and other open source operating systems to run on GPD computers, the Pyra is designed to run GNU/Linux software, has hackable hardware and software, a user replaceable battery, and even the design schematics are available for download.
It also has more ports than you’ll find on most handheld computers, including:
- 1 x micro HDMI
- 1 x headset jack
- 1 x micro USB 3.0 OTG
- 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A
- 1 x micro USB for charging & debugging
- 2 x SDXC card slots (external)
- 1 x microSDXC card reader (internal)
The system can be configured to boot from the internal microSDXC card as well as eMMC, allowing you to easily run multiple operating systems.
Other features include 4GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, an adapter that allows you to connect SATA storage to a USB port, a backlit keyboard, game controllers with dual analog sticks, a D-Pad, four shoulder buttons, and 6 face buttons, a 6,000 mAh battery, configurable LED notification lights, a built-in microphone (but no webcam), stereo speakers, and a vibration motor.
The DragonBox Pyra has a 5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel LCD display with support for resistive touch input (you can use a passive stylus, fingernail, or fingertip, but the screen won’t be as sensitive to finger touch as the capacitive displays used on most smartphones).
It supports 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1, and there’s optional support for a cellular modem with support for 3G and 4G wireless networks and GPS.
Developed by a team led by Michael Mrozek (EvilDragon), the Pyra is something of a spiritual successor to the Pandora handheld Linux gaming computer that was released ten years ago, which Mrozek was also involved with.
The new model’s processor, wireless capabilities, and some other features may look a little anemic by 2020 standards, but they’re a big step up from the Pandora, which featured a TI OMAP3530 processor, an 800 x 480 pixel display, just 256MB of RAM and 512MB of built-in storage, and topped out at 802.11g WiFi and USB 2.0 speeds.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that while the Pyra is available for purchase, it’s a niche device that’s designed for open hardware enthusiasts and might not be the best fit for everyone. Part of the reason it’s taken four years to take the Pyra from concept device up for pre-pre-order to shipping product is that there’s a small team responsible for designing and testing the hardware and software and working with manufacturers capable of producing small batches of hardware at reasonable prices.
You can find pre-order information at the DragonBox Pyra web store, or read about the assembly of the first few hundred units in the Pyra forum.
Saw an initial impressions post: https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/threads/my-first-impressions-of-the-pyra.99296/
A lot of issues for a $900 USD device:
1. Case is puncturing the battery which could cause a fire.
2. Manual cuts (not pretty looking) in the case to allow joysticks and D-pad to work.
3. Able to hear the springs when moving the joysticks.
4. Keys don’t have consistent feeling when pressing them.
5. Battery is difficult to insert.
6. Lid doesn’t close fully unless slammed shut.
7. Keyboard back light isn’t evenly distributed.
8. Touch screen doesn’t work at the edges.
9. Wi-Fi is slower than the already expected slowness of 802.11n even when next to the router.
10. Wi-Fi occasionally disconnects.
11. Can’t charge and use at the same time due to overheating. Supposedly a fix is in the works that just slows down the charging when the Pyra is on.
12. 720p YouTube and other web video playback stutters. Local video playback is fine with some tweaks but not a solution for many sites. Improved drivers/SW may fix this.
13. Device crashes/freezes sometimes.
Suspend/sleep isn’t supported per-previous reports.
I have a suspicion that the poor wifi is a result of a poor implementation of USB 3.0, which emits a lot of interference.
Most PCBs that use both Wifi and USB 3.0 need to be designed with this interference in mind, and the components need to be distanced from eachother, and consideration needs to be given to how some of their traces are routed throughout the board.
As soon as I saw they were using the USB 3.0 Micro Type-A connector, I immediately cringed, because when USB 3.0 interference of Wifi was discovered by Intel (they published a white paper on it), the industry started becoming more conscious of this, many connectors on the market were redesigned. When I design PCBs with USB 3.0, I always try to stick to the most recently designed connectors, because I’m always worried that the older models were designed before the industry started being mindful of EMI/RFI. When I see the USB 3.0 Micro Type-A connector, my first thought is “I wonder if the maker of this connector has even evaluated its interference behaviours in the past several years?”, because NOBODY uses that connector.
I can feel that person’s frustration with the Pyra through that lid slam, haha.
$900 well spent. /s
The “upgradable” concept is thrown out the window when almost everything about the Pyra is outdated.
The current device isn’t even worth buying now given the price. I saw videos of the EVM board and prototypes. If people thought that was “fine” then they have extremely low standards for a UMPC. Software “optimization” is not going to make it much better.
I have two on order.
I am so pleased to hear that you have spent time thinking about my standards and my purchasing decision.
You are awesome.
It’s not just the CPU that’s outdated that severely limits this as a UMPC.
The 802.11n is way too slow for me in my wire free life where I could be transferring gigabytes of data to/from my UMPC within my local network.
To get USB 3.0, you need an adapter for the USB 3.0 micro-B port which is a port that didn’t adopted much. The full size ports are only 2.0.
Even with the whole modular thing, upgrading the above replaces the CPU board, main board and maybe even the case. Probably easier to just get a new device if they ever get upgraded boards/cases out.
Seems like this is only practically useful for classic gaming/emulation. For consumers who just care about the end product (ie. not the whole it’s a small team stuff and other “background” information), this is way too expensive for what it can offer.
Well, I haven’t received my order yet, so I will find out later.
I have had a large number of the umpc / tablet, phone, mobile whatevers over the last 20 years. My current phone is a dual screen Axon-M.
The Axon-M is actually a good example of a device that I bought after my Blackberry Passport died because I thought, hey, two screens so more realestate, two screens so at least the on screen keyboard should be usable, pretty good soc specs, and on and on.
Then, I used it for a while and found out that i need akeyboard, i need a built in gamepad, i need a ton of usb ports, the on screen keyboards on android are all awful, all the software on the android app store is as awful as all the software on download.com used to be in the 90s and so on.
Not everyone needs the same thing, but my home is Linux first, my workflow is Linux first, my toolsets are all Linux first and even company the size of Google cannot build a device that even comes close to being just “plug and play” into my ecosystem even at all.
Everyone has their needs. The Pyra does so much more than most of the other devices that there really isn’t any comparison at all for me.
While I’m impressed by EvilDragon’s commitment to see this project through to the end, it’s sadly only going to be exciting to the people who originally preordered it. Let’s hope Chris Roberts has the same level of commitment ;).
Are you getting a review unit Brad? I’m interested in UMPC use cases. Given what I’ve read through the Pyra forums over the years, I won’t be trusting the reviews/feedback from the pre-order folks. They seem a little too far into the “fan” category or trying to justify their pre-order a little too much.
Not sure what your ‘UMPC’ use cases are, but if they are mostly based in Microsoft / Apple software solutions, you are better off sticking with something else.
Experience with both the Pandora and the multitude of UMPC devices, Toshiba Librettos up to current GPD stuff tells me that if you want to get productive quickly on a device, stick with something x86 based.
This device will be an ‘experiment’ for anything related to productivity unless your workspace is built around Linux-y environments.
This is the correct assessment. If you are looking for a GPD Win, get that. If you want something else, get that.
This device is an important step in getting devices out there that are built with Linux in mind with as many bells and whistles as we can get.
We have limits on what is available to us in terms of hardware and software support or course. This is true on the desktop, laptop and other mobile form factors.
Just like with the Linux ecosystem, we will build around these kinds of devices incrementally and move forward as best as we can.
Glad to see it finally released. I owned the GP32, and GP2x. I followed the Pandora’s development on the Gp32/Gp2x forums from 2008 until its release.
The Pyra appeals to me in concept, and design, but I’m just not interested in in the SOC they’re using, not even slightly. Its far too old, to the point of being absolutely useless to me.
My $60 Odroid Go Advance can outperform it in emulation.
I’d sooner spend $80, on the new Odroid Go Super, and save the rest of the money for buying the next 6 or 7 upcoming handhelds.
You are welcome to opinions, but your $60 Odroid Go Advance can’t also be a computer with a full debian repository. It also lacks a second analogue stick and a few more buttons.
When talking about the level of power this thing has in 2020, is being a full computer a real advantage anymore? It is a cool device, but it is really held back by the SoC. You might as well just use an Android smartphone – which have progressed quite a bit since 2014.
If the Pyra were running on x86 hardware like the GPD Win devices, then this idea would be really awesome even today.
You keep on missing the OPEN and FREE AS IN LIBRE part.
The amount of hardware available to the project without binary blobs is limited at best.
This was the best that could be done when the project started. And the project was started and completed by one person and it took a while.
Since you brought it up (and you obviously have deep expertice in the field), are there any socs out as of 2021 that have no binary blobs?
If yes, post it and it will be looked at.
ODROID-GO Advance/Super has RockChip RK3326 SOC, Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A35 at 1.3GHz.
Pyr has Texas Instruments OMAP5432 with dual-core Cortex-A15 at 1.5 GHz.
Cortex-A15 was a high-end out-of-order execetuion core yielding around 3.5 to 4.01 DMIPS/MHz (I will take 3.75 for comparision with other cores).
Cortex-A35 is a low-end in-order execution core yeielding around 1.78 DMIPS/MHz.
So in mono-core Odroid-Go will yield around 2.3 DMIPS (1.78*1.3), while Pura would yield like 5.6 DMIPS (3.75×1.5). More than double. And there are soft which desn’t support multi-core (so more cores don’t help there).
Even in multi-core Pyra would win: 9.2 DMIPS (2.3×4) for Odrid vs 11.25 (5.6×2) for Pyra, even considereing Pyra onl has 2 main cores (there are other 2 small cores in OMAP5 but only for auxiliary auctions).
Obviously you underrate Cortex-A15, while it is much more powerfull than newer Cortex-A35. Simply A15 was top high-end core, while A35 is low-end cheap core.
Did they ever fix the sleep issue where the CPU can’t go into a lower power idle state and it’d only last 10 hours with the screen closed/off and the Pyra doing nothing/sitting idle?
That’s a pretty major deal breaker if not.
If this is true, then that’s a major problem. Even most x86 devices nowadays have working suspend/sleep in Linux. Pretty major flaw for a device meant to run Linux.
Well that means this isn’t a practical UMPC. Can’t even suspend properly. This is critical flaw is a deal breaker.
There is no real fix as this is a bug in OMAP5432. As this SOC was mainly designed for cars and similar use, there is no need to fix it for TI. Pyra ended using this SOC because the version was going to be in smartphones was finally cancelled (if you remember Nokia was a good client for TI SOC in mobile, but Nokia went with wrong friends and turned to WindowsPhone/Qualcomm and the rest is history).
The good point is that CPU/SOC in Pyra is in a daughter card, designed in this way to be updated, so with time surely we will we upgraded CPU boards for Pyra with more modern CPU/SOC in them, and they won’t have that bug.
So you can buy Pyra now (well, when it be ready for normal purchase without pre-order), enjoy it, and later, when ready, buy new CPU board for it and upgrade power/efficiency and eliminate sleep bug.
Yup, that is pretty much it. Buy what you like when you need it. The entire thing is modular, upgrading it should be straight forward with the daughter card when the time comes.
4 years, more like 7 years. The project started later half of 2013
But anyway, good to see it’s finally rolling out
Good point. I meant to say four years from the time pre-orders began. I’ve updated the article to make that more clear.
You wrote about pre-pre-orders though, which happened in late 2015, over five years ago.
The SATA adaptor is not an included feature but will be sold separately on demand.
It’s also not just one but two vibration motors because one was barely noticeable with such a heavy device..
From what I understand, planning and whatnot started in 2012, so it’s taken 8 years for this passion project to complete (9 years for when most people start receiving units). These days this thing is really only a fan’s only machine for people who frequent the Pyra forums (which are honestly hosting a somewhat unfriendly atmosphere nowadays) and people with more money than sense.
If you wanted a gaming machine, the Wins all do it better. For retro gaming there’s plenty of way cheaper Chinese devices with active community support with newer, faster devices coming out every year. If you wanted it for IT work, there’s the MicroPCs and One’s new thingamajig. If you wanted something for gaming and work you could 3D print Joycon rails for one of those machines or use an iPega.
Congrats to Dragonbox for reaching this milestone after such a long time.
Yes, this is a very niche device, but hard to find one quite like this.
Had the Pandora and really enjoyed it. Sold it too soon as I thought the Pyra would have been released sooner.
However, now that they are starting to be released, I would like to order one.
Quality should be better than the Pandora and there is still an active community at the forums with several people that are working on and capable of supporting the Pyra for some time to come.
Also, not many other open source devices like this one, that are designed in a modular manner to be CPU upgradeable.
That’s pretty much it. Everyone has their own needs and should buy what they want.
This and the Librem 5 will the final parts of my drive to degoogle my life. It is plenty hackable, it is upgradeable, it has a ton of ports on it and so forth.
For me, second to the open/libre feature is the need for a thumb oriented keyboard. All of the devices posted as alternatives are SEVERELY limited in all sorts of features including that most of them either don’t have a keyboard or don’t have a THUM KEYBOARD which is unbeleivably important in a device of this size.
Congratulations to the Pyra team and the folks who supported them this whole time.
Although I won’t be getting one. In the end, this is an expensive device for what it’s capable of no matter how much software optimization they do.
Looks like a 3D printed DIY project.
I clicked on the store link since why not get one as a UMPC and saw the $400 – $500 USD price tag. Waaaaaayyy too much money for this slow ugly looking device.
I guess my extent for “open” is really more “does it run a Linux distro without much fuss to get all the hardware working” but doesn’t include price and usefulness being inversely proportional to each other. Seems those who are really into the whole “open” thing have a lot of money to throw around.
Lol let me know of another umpc with better specs and lte
What if I don’t need LTE? LTE isn’t a big feature for a lot people.
Way to miss the point. Although I’m not surprised you did.
The price is high because it is a small production.
What you get are a lot of features not found in anything else like lte, gps, 3 sd card slots and emmc, in a package that is compact, user serviceable, and modular.
Oh and has more power than the spec chasers probably normally use.
That’s okay. Get something else. You have unique needs and demands, make sure those are satisfied.
A handheld UMPC with LTE would be great but I’m not sure this well perform adequately for my non-gaming UMPC uses. At this price point, I expect at least Cherry Trail Atom x7-Z8700 level performance. I highly doubt the Pyra will get close to that.
I applaud these folks for finally getting the Pyra shipped but even with built-in LTE, the rest of it isn’t good enough for me pay that $500 USD.
It may not be the device for you.
If I can make a suggestion though. Instead of looking at the hardware, instead look at your use case and then see if it would meet your same needs.
I used to want specs and it took me to a whole bunch of umpcs that were terrible. I circled back around to the Pandora and it was fantastic despite its low specs it did everything I wanted and more.
The Pyra should be even better.
I have had everything from the original Compaq IPaq, Blackberries, Windows mobile, Androids and so on. I even have a Pocket C.H.I.P and a Fujitsu fmv-u8240 sitting on my desk. My daily driver phone is my dual screen Axon-M Android device.
it is completely fair to compair any of the above or anything in the marketplace currently with the Pyra.
My decision to purchase units was made from my experience and absolute dissapointment in owning all of the above devices. Even the GPD Win was a huge dissapointment becasue the keyboard is just too large and too wide making it hugely uncomfortable to use.
With each iteration of device that I have been buying, they have been adding more and more features, getting smaller and smaller and now we can even get them with Linux as a first class citizen support.
The Pyra is the closes that I can get to this goal right now and not a single device can come close in the marketplace by a huge margin.
And, to boot, I am not beholden to Google, or the chinese manufacturers of my Axon-M, the whole thing is open. If I have the time and resources I may try to build a daughterboard or two with different socs on it and see how that works out. Perhaps others might do that as well and I’d love to buy their extensions to use.
The Pyra hits quite a few sweet sweet spots for my needs.
DIY? Nope, it has take years and a lot of money, a lot of prototypes and refinement to build this machine. And I think it is much better done than GPD machines (which have suffered from a lot of hard problems).
Ugy? If you are a fashion boy you may think beauty is in slim and slippery smartphones, withouth keyboard, without physical game controls, with unremovable batterty, spy-OS, etc.
For me Pyra is real beatiful: a pocket device with real keyboard (and with light on keys, a thing that GPD Win 1/2 don’t have; GPD Win 3 doesn’t have real keyboard but a horrible touch surface with painted keys), with real gaming controls, with removable battery, upgradeable CPU board, etc.
Sorry but I see beauty in functionality, and I love to have a real pocket computer with real keyboard and real Linux OS.
Of course I own a smartphone, but I miss a lot of things on it, things I had in pocket computers a lot of time ago.
It’s also built quite ruggedly like the Pandora.
Some of the users show pictures of their Pandora being absolutely trashed from daily use and still working.
I kind of like that.
The Pyra is definitely a niche within a niche device. For the asking price of something that’ll probably struggle handling several PC tasks and could probably only run classic type games, I can’t see many people beyond those who haven’t cancelled their pre-orders buying it. At least the very small group of people who would buy this are happy that it’s finally shipping.
I’ll still read news/reviews about the Pyra since handheld gadgets are fun to read about but wouldn’t buy it.
The dev board has proven that it can run something like 16 internet tabs, 2 instances of psx games, gimp and a few others at a time when hw acceleration hadn’t yet been implemented.
It will be fine
Congratulations to them for not giving up. I was interested in this as a UMPC with LTE (not interested in gaming) but cancelled my pre-order some time back. With each passing year, that CPU just seemed slower and slower for a UMPC as applications and web sites become more demanding.
I guess I’ll wait for that CPU upgrade board. However, that may take so long too where I might cancel my pre-order for it as well.
Would this be as fast as a Cherry Trail Atom? That’s the slowest I’m willing to go for a UMPC (no gaming for me) at this price range.
If you want at least Cherry Trail Atom performance, then you’re better off getting a GPD Win 2 and USB modem/tether your phone.
IMO GPD Win (1/2/3) are a mess:
1/ No backlight keyboard. This is a no-go: a pocket device will be used in a lot of places, the same for a smartphone, and some of them won’t have enough ambient light, so backlight keyboard is a must.
2/ Unremovable battery in GPD Win (and there has been problems with GPD Win batteries), while in Pyra you have a removable battery: you can change it easily when it gets old, or even you can carry 2 batteries to get greater autonomy if you need it.
3/ There have been so many hard problems with GPD Win and bad support from GPD, I wouldn’t buy a GPD machine. Sorry, but it is not so special to get risk.
4/ GPD Win are not real POCKET computers: they are too large. By contrast Pyra is like a Nintendo DS, real pocket size.
5/ Pyra is designed to be upgraded. GPD isn’t.
I could continue with more points but I think it is enough.
Point 4 is completely and utterly total BS. The Pyra is also quite large and would be too difficult to pocket as well due to how thick it is.
Point 5 can easily become irrelevant as it is based on the assumption that upgrades would eventually come and when/if they do, they’re actually worthwhile enough to purchase at whatever presumably high price they will likely command.
I’m glad for you that the machine you waited nearly a decade for is finally coming out and that Evil Dragon can finally get some of that incredibly illusive sleep, but you’re wasting your time trying to defend a quite outdated machine that only has value to you and the small community that you belong to. Just enjoy your new device for what it is and please lessen the hostility.
Sounds like minor issues compared to the lackluster Pyra.
Arthran: ¿”outdated machine”? Is there other complete pocket computer on market today?
«The Pyra is also quite large»: Wrong, it is like a Nintendo DS, only 3 mm thicker, so it is POCKETABLE. Really it is the only pocket computer today, because all GPD models are not pocket computer: they are simply too large.
Even worse, that horrible GPD Win models have no BACKLIGHT keyboard. Worse, GPD Win 3 doesn’t have real keyboard (it has a tactile surface with keys painted on it).
You don’t see it, but Pyra is the ONLY POCKET COMPUTER TODAY. There is no other POCKET computer, as all the other are simply much bigger to fit on a pocket, while Pyra fits, like a Nintendo DS did.
And being thick is a good point, because holding thin device while typping with thumbs is simply horrible and plainful, totally non-ergonomic. A thick and small device is much better for this use.
Arthran: Techrada review about Nintendo DS said: Genuinely pocket-sized
And Pyra has the same dimennsions than a Nintendo DS, only 3 mm thicker, so it is pocket-sized.
It may be you have not valued real size dimensions, you have not compared with other pocket devices, you only think “oh, it is thick” and you don’t go beyond.
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