The GPD Win 2 is a handheld gaming PC that ships with Windows 10. But it’s basically got the guts of a laptop or tablet and so it’s capable of running different software.

GPD sent me a prototype to test, and so far I’ve had fun playing some PC games, set it up like a desktop to get some work done, peeked under the hood, and figured out that the keyboard is perfectly functional, but not something I’d want to use for an extended period of time.

But what if you want to run something other than Windows? For the most part that’s not a problem. But you may run into a few issues.

First of all, it’s pretty easy to boot the GPD Win 2 from a USB flash drive. So I had no problem trying a bunch of different GNU/Linux distributions.

But I didn’t bother to install any to the built-in storage because I couldn’t find one that worked with the computer’s touchscreen or game controller buttons out of the box.

It’s worth noting that my demo unit is a prototype. In fact, it’s an updated prototype. GPD sent out an earlier batch of Win 2 prototypes to some other testers more than a month before mine arrived, and The Phawx posted a YouTube video showing Ubuntu 17.10 working on his test unit. He notes that the touchscreen and gamepad work, but the Win 2 didn’t sleep properly when he closed the lid, so he had to manually put the computer to sleep or shut it off when it wasn’t in use.

My demo unit has an updated design and there may be some hardware or software changes that keep Linux distributions from recognizing the touchscreen or gamepad out of the box.

Hopefully those issues will be resolved by the time GPD ships the finished hardware later this year. And maybe if I had some more advanced Linux skills I’d be able to figure out how to install drivers to get things working. But out of the box, the three things that didn’t work on any Linux distro I tried were the touchscreen, the gamepad, or sleep.

That said, most other things worked. The keyboard functioned properly. You could use analog stick and hardware buttons to move and click a mouse cursor. WiFi and Bluetooth work. HD video and 3D games played without problems.

Things did vary a bit from operating system to operating system. Here are a few things I noticed during a brief hands-on with several different distros:

  • Ubuntu 17.10 – Everything but the touchscreen, gamepad, and sleep seem to work.
  • Fedora 27 – same as above
  • Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon – same as above, except the screen brightness shortcuts don’t work
  • Xubuntu 17.10 – keyboard shortcut issues
  • Lubuntu 17.10 – keyboard shortcut issues
  • Debian 9.03 – WiFi didn’t work out of the box, so I didn’t experiment much further.
  • Update: It turns out if you use a Debian image with non-free sources enabled, WiFi does work out of the box, and so do the screen brightness keyboard shortcuts, but not the volume shortcuts. You can still adjust volume manually using the slider in the upper right corner of the screen. 

In order to boot from a USB drive all you have to do is hit the power button on the GPD and then press the Esc or Del keys repeatedly when the GPD logo shows up in order to enter the BIOS/UEFI settings.

There are a ton of options you can mess around with, including CPU and voltage options that allow you to overclock the CPU. I haven’t really messed around with those, but I know that some other testers have been able to improve performance on same games by overclocking… although that will probably reduce battery life a bit.

Anyway, all of the settings will be sideways, because the GPD Win 2 thinks that portrait is landscape or something. That can make navigating a little tricky, but use the arrow keys to go to the last tab (Save & Exit), and then move to the bottom of the page until you find a section labeled “Boot Override.”

Choose the device you want to boot from. It’ll probably say something like “UEFI: USB 2.0 flash drive” and then hit enter.

From there, follow the instructions to run an operating system without installing it unless you’re absolutely certain you do want to install it to the Win 2’s solid state storage (where you can either replace Windows 10 or attempt to set up a dual boot system).

Every single GNU/Linux distribution I tested also had a sideways screen at launch. But it was easy to switch to landscape orientation in most of them… although ironically the way to do that was to open the Display settings and choose “portrait left.” Like I said, the Win 2 seems to think landscape is portrait, and vice versa.

Anyway, once you get everything right-side-up, it’s pretty easy to connect to WiFi and start using the Win 2 like a general-purpose Linux PC.

I was able to stream 4K videos from YouTube using the Firefox web browser (I know the Win 2 has a 720p display, I just wanted to see if playback was smooth… and it was). LibreOffice lets you create and edit documents.

You can also download and install third-party apps using terminal commands or your operating system’s built-in software center. So I loaded SuperTux (a 2D Super Mario-like game) and SuperTuxKart (a 3D Mario Kart-like game) and found that they both played smoothly.

I also found that while both games thought there was no gamepad/joystick connected and neither could recognize the left analog stick, they did recognize the D-pad. In fact, they thought the up, down, left, and right buttons corresponded with the W, A, S, and D buttons on the keyboard. So I was able to map the D-Pad as if it were part of the keyboard, which made playing these two games a lot simpler.

Since Steam already works (with full game controller support) on Windows 10, I didn’t bother trying to install Steam or any heavier-duty games in Linux.

Overall I’d say that for now Linux on the GPD Win 2 is a bit of a mixed bag, at least for the prototype I’m testing. It’s usable, but I can’t think of a lot of reasons why you would really choose it over Windows 10 on this particular device… unless you either really hate Windows or really know what you’re doing and think you might be able to get the non-working hardware to function properly.

That said, there is a way to have the best of both worlds. The GPD Win 10 ships with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update pre-installed, which means you can use the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to install Ubuntu or OpenSUSE from the Windows Store.

Doing that lets you open a Bash terminal and run Linux software using a command line interface without leaving Windows. More adventurous users can even try installing an X server to run Linux apps that have a graphical user interface.

The GPD Win 2 is up for pre-order for $649 through an Indiegogo campaign, and it’s expected to ship in may, when the price will likely go up to $699.

The little computer features a 6 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel display, an Intel Core M3-7Y30 Kaby Lake processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, a USB 3.0 Type-A port, a microSD card slot, a micro HDMI port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It supports 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 and a 37 Wh battery.

I’ll have a full preview coming soon (I’m reluctant to call it a “review” since I’m testing a pre-release prototype).

Update: The GPD Win 2 Preview is out, and just for kicks I decided to shoot another Linux video, this time showing Ubuntu 17.10:

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24 replies on “Using Linux on the GPD Win 2 (so far)”

  1. The screens sourced for the GPD Win 2 are originally designed for use on a cell phone. As such, the firmware for the screen identifies where the top, bottom, left, and right are. Since this screens are commonly used it portrait mode, this it why it “looks” sideways when viewed on the Gpd Win 2. This can also be seen when windows is booting up with the circle loading animation on the right side of the screen inside of lower center. Windows (and other OSes) correct this by flipping the rotation when loaded.

  2. Too bad about the Linux issues. Seemed like it’d be a nice portable Linux device.

  3. Thank you for taking a stab at testing Linux on this.

    At least for me, the touchscreen and gamepad not working isn’t a big issue but sleep problems would be really problematic. I’d like to treat this device like a phone (ie. open do something and close). Needing to completely shutdown and boot all the time diminishes it’s usefulness.

    Too bad you didn’t get a chance to test battery life under Linux. The sleep problems could potentially be related to other power consumption problems.

    Knowing the detected hardware like in Alan’s comment would be very useful in narrowing down the problematic drivers. I hope others can figure this out. If so, I’d buy a retail unit at that time. Otherwise, I can’t justify to myself paying that much money for the Win 2.

    1. Brad said in another comment that, at least in some distros, sleep works when done manually. Not perfect, but it’s not as bad as having to shutdown and boot up when needed.

  4. Sleep not working seems like a critical problem given that this device is for on the go use cases. Of course, Linux isn’t an officially supported OS but, I guess, Linux users would probably need to look elsewhere.

  5. Just wondering what the output of the following are:
    sudo lspci -v
    sudo lsusb -v
    xinput list —long

    Depending how the switch works (ie. does it physically switch between 2 devices), you may want to run the commands for both switch positions.

    It’d be good to know what hardware Linux is detecting.


    1. This would interest me as well.

      And BTW, since you already fired up Linux on it, you could try to contact Hans de Goede, he was/is THE guy making the original Win work, and already showed up on reddit and discord asking for some command outputs on the Win 2.

      1. Oh, and one more for good measure. This shows that the goodix touchscreen driver is loaded.

        I tried modinfo xpad for the gamepad controller and it worked in the first distro I tried (I think it was Linux Mint), but when I just tried it with Ubuntu 17.10 I got an error message saying :

        filename: /lib/modules/4.13.0-21-generic/kernel/drivers/input/joystick/xpad.ko
        Bus error (core dumped).

      2. Seems like the mouse and gamepad are recognized as DragonRise USB devices:
        lsusb_gamepad.txt: ID 0079:18d4 DragonRise Inc., Controller for Windows
        lsusb_mouse.txt: 0079:18d6 DragonRise Inc., Mouse for Windows

        I guess a more Linux savvy person could look at logs for any errors when switching between the 2 devices.

        I can’t find anything in the lsusb files that could be the touchscreen. Maybe it’s connected to a serial port. I wonder what shows up for others.

        1. If the touchscreeen controller is a Goodix one, then it might be on the I2C serial bus like other Goodix ones. A quick Google search shows that some people were having issues detecting/initializing it on the bus and using different kernels (even older kernels) and/or patches got it to work for them.

          At least this Ubuntu bug report, , says that it works on 16.04 with the 4.4 kernel. Too bad in Brad’s newer article, he mentions 16.04 doesn’t work for him either.

          Could be Brad got another dud device where there’s enough variance in the parts and assembly to cause some sort of I2C bus issues and would need some sort of driver workarounds to fix (Windows drivers can handle it and might have some code to handle non-ideal timings or something).

  6. That sucks. I was hoping to have a pocketable Linux desktop machine.

  7. Can’t say much for the touchscreen, but a couple of things:

    The D-pad working as “WASD” means that you didn’t have the input switch set to controller (as WASD is what it does with the mouse input mode), as shown in the photo where you said that.

    If it wasn’t working when you had it set to the controller, then it should work once you install the package xboxdrv from the software center(or package manager, your call).

    Screen rotation is the same as the GPD Win 1, it’s a smartphone screen, so landscape _is_ portrait to the hardware, and vice-versa. It’s a result of the hardware, and as you experienced yourself, an easy one to fix. Even then, Ctrl+Alt+Leftarrow and Ctrl+Alt+Rightarrow should rotate the screen in most DEs.

    1. I tried flipping the controller/mouse switch. It doesn’t work at all in game controller mode, but the right-stick and D-pad do work in mouse mode, as described in the article.

      Xboxdrv is already installed (and so is goodix), but it doesn’t seem to work in any of the Linux distros I’ve tried.

      Like I said, there seems to be something that’s changed between the first and second batches of prototypes, since both the touchscreen and gamepad work on the unit GPD sent to The Phawx.

      1. Thanks, I was wondering about the toggle switch since it doesn’t seem to be mentioned. So much for that theory.

  8. I can rationalize to myself that a non-working touchscreen and game pad are okay but I can’t tell myself that not being able to suspend properly is. Really unfortunate. Oh well. Seems like a nice device for Windows users though.

  9. Darn. I was hoping to get this since the Pyra seems like it’ll never get released.

    I guess I’ll keep lugging around my XPS 13. It’s small for a laptop but huge compared to a handheld.

  10. That’s unfortunate. Sleep/suspend not working is pretty bad. I was hoping to get this and install Linux on it. Thank you for looking into if Linux works on this.

  11. Too bad not everything works. Sleep/wake not working is a deal breaker for me.

    I guess I’ll wait if someone ever makes it work before getting one.

      1. Can you confirm that things still work okay after waking up when manually putting it to sleep? Sometimes some hardware don’t work after waking up from sleep like brightness and other keyboard controls, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mouse, etc.

        What happens when the lid is closed? Does the screen turn off but the PC doesn’t go to sleep? Does it just crash completely?

        Thank you!

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