First Pandora Impressions from Early Shipments

Bill Loguidice's picture

While my colleague, Mark Vergeer, and I wait for our own Pandora handheld videogame computers to arrive (I'm roughly 750 - 850 in the queue, and they recently passed the 100 shipped mark) and deliver our own coverage, I thought I would share some of the first impressions others have posted for the year-and-a-half+-delayed device. For a written overview, check here (and more detail, here). For a video overview, look below:

Looking at the video of the device both Web browsing and playing Super Mario Kart (SNES version), I must say, my long dormant excitement for the device is starting to come back!

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Bill Loguidice
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Here is a reminder of the

Here is a reminder of the Pandora's specs:

* Texas Instruments OMAP3530 processor at 600MHz (officially)
* 256MB DDR-333 SDRAM
* 512MB NAND FLASH memory
* IVA2+ audio and video processor using TI's DaVinci™ technology (430MHz C64x DSP)
* ARM® Cortex™-A8 superscalar microprocessor core
* PowerVR SGX530 (110MHz officially) OpenGL ES 2.0 compliant 3D hardware
* Integrated Wifi 802.11b/g (up to 18dBm output)
* Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (3Mbps) (Class 2, + 4dBm)
* 800x480 resolution LTPS LCD with resistive touch screen, 4.3" widescreen, 16.7 million colors (300 cd/m2 brightness, 450:1 contrast ratio)
* Dual analog controllers
* Full gamepad controls plus shoulder buttons
* Dual SDHC card slots (up to 64GB of storage currently)
* Headphone output up to 150mW/channel into 16 ohms, 99dB SNR (up to 24 bit/48KHz)
* TV output (composite and S-Video)
* Internal microphone plus ability to connect external microphone through headset
* Stereo line level inputs and outputs
* 43 button QWERTY and numeric keypad
* USB 2.0 OTG port (1.5/12/480Mbps) with capability to charge device
* USB 2.0 HOST port (480Mbps) capable of providing the full 500mA to attached devices (examples include USB memory, keyboard, mouse, 3G modem, GPS)
* Up to two externally accessible UARTs and/or four PWM signals for hardware hacking, robot control, debugging, etc.
* Unbrickable design with integrated boot loader for safe code experimentation
* Power and hold switch useful for "instant on" and key lockout to aid in media player applications on the go
* Runs on the Linux operating system (2.6.x)
* Dimensions: 140x83.4x27.5mm
* Weight: 335g (with 4000mAh battery)

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Rob Daviau
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I'll wait for you.

Well that is pretty cool but if anyone is going to convince me it's going to be you and Mark. I know I can trust you guys to give honest and realistic as well as detailed impressions.

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Bill Loguidice
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Pandora - The longer wait
MaximumRD wrote:

Well that is pretty cool but if anyone is going to convince me it's going to be you and Mark. I know I can trust you guys to give honest and realistic as well as detailed impressions.

Who knows how long that will be, though. At the current pace, I could see me not getting mine until at least September. We'll see. The only good thing with being later is that they'll get more production experience and the software will have more time to mature. Naturally I'm going to be more a user than a power user with this device, running stuff with as little modification as possible.

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Rob Daviau
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Why I gotta post a subject in when replying to a comment?
Quote:

Who knows how long that will be, though. At the current pace, I could see me not getting mine until at least September. We'll see. The only good thing with being later is that they'll get more production experience and the software will have more time to mature. Naturally I'm going to be more a user than a power user with this device, running stuff with as little modification as possible.

Well with my current financial situation I am more than happy to wait, then I reap benefits of later production runs and insight from you and Mark, well worth waiting for IMHO.

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Bill Loguidice
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Insert subject line here
MaximumRD][quote wrote:

Why I gotta post a subject in when replying to a comment?.

If you don't put a subject line in, it just takes the first part of what you write and uses that. However, if you quote something at the top of your reply, it doesn't see that, so it thinks you're trying to do a subject-less message, which it doesn't allow.

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Catatonic
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It's a bit of a "do

It's a bit of a "do everything" device. How do you see yourself using it?

Bill Loguidice
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Many options, but primarily for gaming
Catatonic wrote:

It's a bit of a "do everything" device. How do you see yourself using it?

Well, its primary purpose for me will be as a portable emulation device, as it's the first such device that can fully handle computer emulation properly thanks to having a real keyboard. Of those, I'd probably primarily focus on Amiga, ST, MSX, Atari 8-bit, C-64, PC DOS, and Apple II at first. It will also be ideal for any other system that can be thrown at it (thanks to its relatively high resolution for such a device), up to and probably exclusive of the N64, though there's a chance that it will eventually be near 100% with that and maybe - longshot as it is - even the Dreamcast.

Secondly, it will be a type of netbook, thanks to its full function Linux. Unfortunately, it looks like the keyboard will likely limit usage as a full netbook, but I'll determine that when I actually get it. It would have been nice to touch type on the thing, but that's looks to be impractical given the size. With that said, I do have a decent fold-up bluetooth wireless keyboard that I presently use with my PS3 that would make a fine companion for when I really need to type. It's similar to this, though NOT this model: http://www.amazon.com/Stowaway-Ultra-Slim-Bluetooth-Keyboard-Handhelds/d...

In any case, as you point out, it is a "do everything" device, but luckily one that does not sacrifice anything on the gaming side, so there's no telling what I'll end up doing with it. That will certainly be part of the fun. I have no issues carrying that and my iPhone everywhere (though hopefully I get the Pandora well BEFORE I get the latest iPhone in December). Eventually, when there's at least a second generation, I'll probably add an iPad to the mix.

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clok1966
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With the price and all

With the price and all wouldnt a small netbook be a better "do all" option, especially when you mention the keyboard. I know the size is small on the actual unit, but needing a "real" keyboard seems to ruin some part of the small part. I have an ASUS netbook and other then the -TINY- 160g HD its an amazingly robust machine (even plays my nerd CRACK ok (World of Warcraft)). You mentioned Dreamcast and such, plays pretty much full speed on it. As do PS1 games. I LOVE the thing, but hate the tiny drive as i want to put so much more then I can on it. (new drive means cracking it open and voiding warrenty :( ). I guess the size part is key, Netbooks while small are no where near pocket size. Maybe a small part of me still feels burned by the GPX, I loved the thing and all it could do, but hated the low battery life (i modified a power pack for it, but it negated the size thing) and the crappy thumb pad. I never did mod mine with the better pad. Once the PSP came out i sorta quit using it. And nowdays with the Netbook I never use any of um.

Dont get me wrong it looks amazing and the size makes it perfect for a pocket, big upsides there. But nowdays i just need more (and with phones the way they are, they have my "tiny" portable stuff pretty much taken care of, MAN do i love my droid after that Iphone (opinion only)).

with all that said, im reading all this and want one still.

Bill Loguidice
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Pandora - Not for everyone
clok1966 wrote:

With the price and all wouldnt a small netbook be a better "do all" option, especially when you mention the keyboard. I know the size is small on the actual unit, but needing a "real" keyboard seems to ruin some part of the small part. I have an ASUS netbook and other then the -TINY- 160g HD its an amazingly robust machine (even plays my nerd CRACK ok (World of Warcraft)). You mentioned Dreamcast and such, plays pretty much full speed on it. As do PS1 games. I LOVE the thing, but hate the tiny drive as i want to put so much more then I can on it. (new drive means cracking it open and voiding warrenty :( ). I guess the size part is key, Netbooks while small are no where near pocket size. Maybe a small part of me still feels burned by the GPX, I loved the thing and all it could do, but hated the low battery life (i modified a power pack for it, but it negated the size thing) and the crappy thumb pad. I never did mod mine with the better pad. Once the PSP came out i sorta quit using it. And nowdays with the Netbook I never use any of um.

Well, you're talking a device in the Pandora that's only a bit bigger than a Nintendo DS, so the size thing is favorable in comparison to a typical netbook. Battery life is roughly comparable at 10 hours+, so the frustration from the GPX devices should be minimized (I have the F200, so I know your frustration!). If you want a generalized computer, then surely a netbook for just a little more money (for a good one) is a sensible choice, but it still doesn't have onboard game controls and is not going to have otherwise device-specific optimized emulators. Again, to my mind - and I think most others - this is a kick-ass handheld portable emulation device first and a computing device second. I think of this as a clam shell F200 with the battery life issues fixed, far improved gaming controls, and a much needed keyboard to minimize frustration when emulating computers.

clok1966 wrote:

Dont get me wrong it looks amazing and the size makes it perfect for a pocket, big upsides there. But nowdays i just need more (and with phones the way they are, they have my "tiny" portable stuff pretty much taken care of, MAN do i love my droid after that Iphone (opinion only)).

with all that said, im reading all this and want one still.

I'm not one for hacking mainstream devices to do what I want. For instance, I have never jailbroken my iPhone 3G, and I never will. Same thing when I get the new iPhone version in December, same thing when I get a next generation iPad. Same things with my consoles and handhelds, though I don't mind doing stuff that is non-intrusive (like a DS plug and play flash card or the Dreamcast's ability to run CD-R's, etc.). I buy things like that intending to use them as the manufacturer designed them. I know that going in, therefore there's no need for me to add extra functionality. Computers are do everything devices in my opinion, and specialized devices are just that - good at doing specialized, targeted things. That's why the Pandora is a good choice for me, because it allows me to do the things I want to do without having to mod my PSP or mess around with hacks on other systems.

By the way, I by no means advocate anyone going through what I've gone through with the Pandora. It's above and beyond even the sometimes lax homebrew production schedules others keep, and that's saying a lot. You ALWAYS have to allow a good bit of leeway since these are just regular people producing this amazing niche stuff, but really, there does reach a point when something takes TOO long and you could have done many other things with the money. For at least a portion of the 4,000 Pandora pre-orders, they'll have waited TWO YEARS beyond when they expected to get it. That's crazy.

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Mark Vergeer
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Your approximate queue position is 700 - 800.

Now this is interesting. My approximate cue position is 700-800. Now what will this mean? That I am about just as far in as Bill.... weird....so it's going to be a neck to neck race after all! LOL

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