It’s been a few years since a group of developers started working on an open source handheld gaming device called the OpenPandora. A lot’s changed since the original designs were drawn up, and now one of the developers has announced plans for a new device which should offer the kind of performance you’d get from a high-end phone or tablet in 2014. It just happens to be built on a much more open design.
The DragonBox Pyra is expected to be a 5 inch handheld game console with 2GB of RAM, a full HD display, and a speedy processor.
The system will feature a TI OMAP 5 dual-core processor with PowerVR SGX544 graphics. While that means the 3D graphics driver will require a proprietary binary blob, developer Michael Mrozek says the kernel is open source — which means that even if Texas Instruments stops updating the graphics driver, independent developers will be able to continue using the existing driver when compiling new kernels or operating systems.
Update: While initial work on the project involve an OMAP5 processor, the team is also now looking into Qualcomm Snapdragon, Allwinner A80, and Intel Bay Trail processor options.
Other features include a 1920 x 1080 pixel resistive touchscreen display, a 4200mAh battery, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, dual SDXC cards, a full-sized USB port, micro and mini USB ports, configurable notification lights, HDMI output, a backlit QWERTY keyboard, and gaming controls including two analog sticks, 4 shoulder buttons, a D-Pad, and 6 face buttons.
The whole kit is expected to measure about 5.5″ x 3.3″ x 1.1″.
If you’re wondering about the resistive touchscreen (because resistive has sort of become a dirty word in recent years), it’s because you can use resistive touch panels with either a finger or a stylus. Using a stylus gives you greater accuracy, which could come in handy when playing point-and-click style games.
While the Pyra is still a work in progress, Mrozek showed of a sample of the board at FOSDEM recently, where he demonstrated its power by running two PlayStation 1 emulators at the same time, as well as a Battle of Wesnoth game and the GIMP image editor.
In other words, the system has enough power to run a modern Linux distro, allow you to emulate a classic video game console, run newer games, or run popular Linux apps.
There’s no word on the price or release date yet, but don’t expect the DragonBox Pyra to be particularly cheap. This is a niche device aimed at open source gaming enthusiasts and it’ll be produced in relatively small quantities, which tends to drive up the cost of consumer electronics. But there’s really nothing else quite like it on the market at this point, which could make the project worth any (fairly reasonable) asking price when it launches.
Erm, performance would be more like a late 2012-early 2013 smartphone. A 2014 phone would destroy this thing when it comes to performance.
Anyway, I can’t wait for this, especially since it seems that the SoC and RAM could be upgraded later.
The last time, Pandora was crowd funded through conception, prototype, mass production, and all the problems in-between. Pyra will only be open for orders when it’s ready for mass production.
I should point out that ED and his company have nothing to do with the company that had all the issues with the Pandora in the Past.
ED has a good and honest record with the community. He took over from the old company when that gentleman walked away from it. Ever since he has been able to deliver Pandoras on time and has no debt to anyone.
Please be aware of this difference, It is ED and his company that is launching the Pyra . The person and company associated with the initial launch of the Pandora are not on the scene anymore.
Sorry, are you saying that now this other company has taken over I can actually buy a pandora and have it ship within, say, a year? Hot damn that’s tempting!
I was one of the original orders (position 1400-1500) in 2008. Waited about three years and cancelled in 2011 and got refunded before the other company left people high an dry. Bought a N900, waited a couple more years, order a 1 GHZ Pandora from dragonbox last summer and got it in a few weeks from Germany. Been happy ever since. EvilDragon said there is limited quantity. I just checked and he has 14 in stock.
Video of FOSDEM presentation is here: https://video.fosdem.org/2014/AW1125/Saturday/OpenPandora_and_a_peek_into_the_future.webm
I ordered my 1GHz Pandora last year and got it delivered to my country in a few days. Help and support were nice and prompt. Best toy ever, by the way. Waiting for the Pyra..
So does that mean this new guy and company has no track record? I guess that’s better than a bad past.
ED has a track record that goes back years . It’s a very good track record.
Thanks! I wonder if this can become a Steam thin client and stream games. Too bad that future Playstation cloud game streaming service is closed and only for Sony and maybe for other approves devices.
I can confirm the positive track record: my 1GHz Pandora last year was delivered
in a few days with great help and support from ED before and after sale. I was totally satisfied with the product: the OS is small and clean, fast and responsive and the amount of available software is impressive. The community is very active in both optimizing the system and providing new or adapted software.
Here is another chance to wait forever for an obsolete product.
“developer Michael Mrozek says the kernel is open source — which means that even if Texas Instruments stops updating the graphics driver, independent developers will be able to continue using the existing driver when compiling new kernels or operating systems.”
I thought proprietary drivers not being updated eventually break with newer Linux kernels and thus keeps you stuck on an old kernel. At least that has been my experience.
Maybe they’ll switch to an Intel SoC at some point if/when Intel’s smartphone Atoms drop PowerVR GPUs and go with their own or if their tablet Atoms further reduce power consumption. Or maybe go with the Tegra K1 if NVIDIA actually does provide open source or even long term supported proprietary drivers like on their desktop/notebook GPUs.
The actual driver is open source. The binary blob s really more of a library. The driver is a wrapper around that library. If there are bugs in the binary we can’t fix them but if the kernel changes we can always recompile the open source portion of the library. This is exactly how NVidia did drivers for years in the late 90s and early 2000s: the “installer” would connect to an ftp, download the binary and open source driver shim, and then compile it against your kernel headers. It worked just fine for them and it’ll work just fine for us as well.
It isn’t a perfect situation be any means but it’s hardly the doomsday scenario that so many people seem to think it is.
Will they ever ship a unit is the question 😛 open pandora was great when it was announced but by the time it shipped… not so much. Still, great to see some activity in the UMPC space again 😀
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