I was recently fortunate enough to be sent a ‘near release’ prototype of the new GamePark Holdings (GPH) portable games console, the GP2X Wiz. Considering that, it only seems fitting to put together a quick post with some random observations and pictures.
Remember that these observations are not based on a long period of testing so come with the caveat that my opinions may change!
Now, obviously this is the successor to the GP2X (and spiritually the GP32).
What is interesting from my point of view is the direction GPH have taken the Wiz.
First thing you note is that it’s a tiny little console (only a little bigger then a GameBoy Micro). It’s small. Not really small but somehow much smaller then I was expecting.
Secondly, GPH seem to be betting a lot of making the device accessible to Flash developers (this really does feel like it is the focus for the device as the front end ‘launcher’ is flash based). This is quite a marked departure from the GP2X and feels more like a step into the casual game market that is often dominated by mobile phones. I guess this change makes sense for their Korean markets.
Time will tell what effect this has on the wider markets and the adoption of Flash on the device. I suspect very little to start with as a lot of GP2X devs will no doubt get a Wiz and treat it as a logical extension of what they have done there and start hacking the hardware and giving flash little more then a glance ;). Given time however Flash could lower the entry level for apps and open the door to creative non-coders and that can only be a good thing for homebrew.
Anyway, onto some hardware information.
The GP2X Wiz is based on the MagicEyes Pollux SoC clocked at 533MHz and powered along by its ARMv5 ARM926EJ core. Paired with that you have the usual large page NAND, 64MB of RAM, touch screen and an SDHC slot for storage. Oh, and finally a decent fitted lithium-ion battery (that proudly tells you not to let Children and Pets chew or lick it as it may be a health risk).
I was initially a little surprised that GPH did not opt for the MagicEyes MMSP2+ SoC in the Wiz (the GP2X used the older MMSP2 SoC) as moving to the VRender range means you loose some very handy features (The ARM94* 2nd core, the basic 2D engine, RGB scalar etc.) but on the flip side you do get an OpenGL ES 1.1 3D core. Unfortunately, as it stands, no one has got the said 3D core doing much yet (but I know Pickle was doing a little investigation work). As there are only a few dozen of these devices out and about in hackers hands that is no surprise. It is something I want to dabble with time permitting :).
One interesting thing I want to test sometime is to discover if the Pollux used in the Wiz suffers the same issues with strangled RAM bandwidth that the MMSP2+ suffers with. When I get time I will try the apps I built to test RAM bandwidth on the MMSP2+. If the Pollux is as bad as the MMSP2+ when it comes to RAM bandwidth that could be a bit of a snag.
The form factor.
It’s really shiny. To say the plastic used smudges easily is a massive understatement :D. That said it feels well made and fairly solid to hold with no flex (a pleasant continuation of the GP2X F200 level of build quality rather than a slide back to the dire quality of the 1st GP2X’s). It even has a slot for the stylus now, something the F200 GP2X did not manage.
The control layout is not quite to my tastes (big hands so it can tend to feel a little cramped). Buttons seem responsive and have a fairly positive feeling. The dPad is not as bad as all that but I have not really tried it in games yet. Not sure I am a convert to the ‘split dPad’ button layout for the right hand side mind you. This also raises the point that the L and R triggers are inset from the edges of the unit. That feels a little odd but you get used to it I guess. All in all, the controls are not great but not bad. They do the job.
The screen (when it is not suffering something like a vsync tear) is very nice. Its OLED technology and is nice and bright. Assuming the screen setup issues are software its a classy screen despite the low (comparatively) resolution of 320*240.
Something else that jumped out at me was the interesting choice GPH has made by deciding to move everything other than the headphones to the EXT port on the bottom. This includes things like the USB (device and host), TV out and charging. You won’t be connecting your Wiz to a PC directly without some additional fly leads due to the lack of a USB device port on the unit.
I suspect GPH plans to ship (as an extra or included, not sure) a dock or clip-on unit that provides at least USB and TV out and maybe WiFi if the picture below is accurate.
The software platform.
The 1st thing that greats you is the Flash menu GPH have developed for the unit.
Not a lot to say about it really. It feels like a sloppier version of the menu used on the GP2X. I hope this is down to the unit being pre-release but the menu crashes regularly and does a generally poor job of being a menu. Another aspect of the pre-release software is the lack of a lot else on the unit (that reliably works) so there is not a lot of software to talk about.
It is Linux 2.6 based but I have yet to get hold of the source to have a look at how clean the MagicEyes/GPH changes are. Looking at the file system and kernel it seems safe to assume that AESOP Embedded did the kernel porting work like they have done for other MagicEyes chips.
It seems to ship with a decent set of libraries and SDL. It is not clear if the stock SDL features some basic hardware acceleration.
I’ll update this and add more pictures when there is final software available as it is more then a little unfair to draw real conclusions from early code such as this
So what do I plan to do with it?
Not a lot right now (for at least the next few days) as I have some other projects to clear off my plate but once they are out of the way the 1st thing I want to do is clean up my basic ScummVM port then look at what is needed to add the Wiz as a supported machine to OpenEmbedded and look at what funky stuff can be done towards supporting stuff like kexecboot and a full Ångström distribution ;).
What about the Pandora?
Well it’s no secret that I look after the Ångström based operating system for the Pandora (among other things) and I guess that could represent a conflict of interests (yeah, right) but I would draw your attention to one little fact. I am a geek who likes to mess around with electronics :). The more the merrier. I could not give a stuff about ‘community politics’. I just simply look at something and ask myself ‘does that look interesting’ and ‘will I mess about with it’.
Having now had a little time to mess about with the Wiz it is obvious to me that I will be doing some hacking about with it and I can’t really see how it and the Pandora are in any way directly ‘competing’. Different design goals, different software goals, different platforms and different price points ;). Both look like decent hacking platforms in there own way. When they are out, and if you can afford it, get both or just ask yourself what you want to do with it and ignore anyone who sounds rather too devout about one platform or the other.
The Wiz with some other consoles to get an idea of size.