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Pandora Almost Done; Plays Quake 3, Mario 64

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 20 comments

The Pandora handheld is almost done, combining the best of netbooks and handheld gaming units into one device.

If a netbook and a handheld gaming console got married and had babies, what would be the result? Probably Pandora, the OMAP 3-based handheld that combines the two platforms into one small, pocket-sized device. Looking part Nintendo DS and part smartphone, Engadget reports that the device is nearly done, and is currently capable of running Quake 3 Arena and Super Mario 64 flawlessly.

According to the official website, the device is 5.5-inches wide and 3.3-inches deep. Under the hood, the Pandora consists of the ARM Cortex-A8 600 Mhz+ CPU and a 430 MHz TMS320C64x+ DSP Core. On the graphics front, there's the PowerVR SGX OpenGL 2.0 ES compliant hardware, and a 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen with a native 800 x 480 resolution and 16.7 million colors.

But, as previously stated, this device isn't just a spiffy handheld gaming machine. In addition to the 43-button QWERTY keyboard, the Pandora provides S-Video output, dual SDHC card slots, USB 2.0, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g. The little rig also supposedly offers over ten hours of battery life, but we're betting that's only on standby. The operating system of choice is an OpenSource OS: Ångström Linux "with some Pandora-specific changes."

According to the schedule, the final testing with the FCC will take place on December 28. If approved, the Pandora device will go into mass production. A forum member of Engadget actually had the chance to preview a pre-production model, as seen in the video below.


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  • 2 Hide
    kezix_69 , December 22, 2009 7:03 PM
    that looks like a really handy piece of equipment to have. Not to mention it plays games!

    Though probably not Crysis :( 
  • 1 Hide
    backin5 , December 22, 2009 7:30 PM
    I would think that with the name Pandora, people might shy away from buying this gaming console.

    Unless they're looking for trouble...
  • -8 Hide
    sliem , December 22, 2009 7:33 PM
    Where do you get more games?

    @kezix_69: please, no more Crysis.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , December 22, 2009 7:44 PM
    "The little rig also supposedly offers over ten hours of battery life, but we're betting that's only on standby"
    Actually, the low power "standby" mode is expected to last about a week. In this mode, the screen, wifi, and other high power sections are shut off, and the CPU is ramped down to some really low clock that I can't remember right now.
    The real standby, wherein even the CPU is shut down and only the RAM remains powered, estimates are in months.
    Craigix, one of the lead developers who got his early, was playing it for over 7 hours before he finally reported that he had received it and had been playing it.
    The estimates are 10 hours of entirely normal use, 14 hours if you turn the LCD brightness down (and maybe clock speed, though this is a little ambiguous since the OMAP can automatically scale it's processor), and 100 hours of just MP3 playback as soon as someone figures out how to get an MP3 player onto the DSP. That last one may not be possible since the DSP is a tricky beast, but with LCD and wifi off, we should expect at least the 14 hours of MP3 playback, if not more.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , December 22, 2009 9:24 PM
    Also, the person that made the video is not a forum member of Engadget, but one of the developers of the Pandora, Craigix.
  • 0 Hide
    arlandi , December 22, 2009 9:39 PM
    the pad and it's buttons look hard to use. may accidentally hit some keys while playing games.
    but if this thing has a reasonable price, i can see myself buying one (if it available in Indonesia, of course).
  • -2 Hide
    natmaster , December 22, 2009 9:57 PM
    So it's a bulkier version of the N900? I'll keep with my pocket-able device thank you.
  • 0 Hide
    g00ey , December 22, 2009 10:26 PM
    Why not make a portable unit for good old Playstation games instead? One could rip the Playstation CDs into .iso files and copy the .iso onto a SDHC/SDXC or CompactFlash memory and run the .iso file as it is in the portable device.
  • -1 Hide
    paradoxum , December 22, 2009 10:31 PM
    it is pocketable, retard.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 22, 2009 11:08 PM
    I do believe this will emulate Playstation games, if that's what you're looking for.

    arlandi - I think the controls look hard to use because he's also trying to hold a camcorder while making this video. From everything everybody's said, including a walk in Pandora Forum's member, the controls are great.

    Battery life is very subjective, but 10 hours of moderate use - i.e. gaming without bluetooth, wifi, and constant %100 CPU usage is the claim. (Think any homebrew gaming, nintendo gaming, even quake 1/2 for that matter. I don't know what it looks like if you're doing Quake3, Doom3 - if/when it releases, or N64 emulation, or constantly playing movies.)

    Once you start turning wireless on, the battery life goes down. I suspect if you play multi-player QIII with wifi for multi-player and bluetooth for your headphones/mic while playing your own music in the background...well, battery life will likely be less than 10 hours. :-b (I haven't tested this and don't know how well it will multi-task with later game engines running.)

    The biggest challenge the team has faced is simply getting the device out the door. We're SO CLOSE now...but not there yet. The latest - hopefully final - molds are supposed to ship tomorrow to be tested. (I don't believe that this interferes with the CE testing. Just a little bit of shrinkage, a slightly wider slot for the video cable, and shoulder pads were fixed.) I don't know how long it will take to receive and test the molds.

    There are about 4,000 people who have pre-orders in, and I expect the guys at the tail end of the list to receive theirs in February. If NOTHING goes wrong, those folk could see them mid/late January. If the cases need to be tweaked some more and anything else happens, it could be pushed back further, though I doubt this. Where's that bare wood... *knock* *knock*.

    After that, things SHOULD be much smoother. With molds finished - and more than 4k of them produced in the first run, the initial boards mass produced, and all the shipping kinks worked out, the round 2 of orders ought to smoother, and really exciting. I think a lot of projects are kind of on a holding cycle while people wait for their hardware.
  • -1 Hide
    matt87_50 , December 22, 2009 11:29 PM
    wow, specs of an iphone3gs in a form factor that you can actually play games on? sounds promising!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 23, 2009 5:49 AM
    Talk about the Pandora forums is saying this beast has even higher specs than the iphone 3gs. This is only after comparison of the ODROID-released spec sheet, of course.
  • 0 Hide
    ashrafpasha , December 23, 2009 7:38 AM
    looks good to me!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 23, 2009 9:24 AM
    About battery time: This will depend a bit on how good the OS will be at using all the power saving features in the OMAP3 SoC. If it gets anywhere near what Nokia managed with my Nokia N800, then the 10 hour claim is not standby, and it's conservative for non-standby. The Pandora has a 4200mAh battery (originally specified as 4000mAh), my N800 has a 1500mAh battery.
    The N800 lasts (with new battery) 9-10 days in 'standby', that is, switched on but not networked and maybe some applications running but not doing much (e.g. a browser window could be left open).

    On wi-fi the same device would last up to 3 days, with gtalk connected, mail check, skype active, rss reader etc. Constantly streaming internet radio could reduce that to 3-4 hours. Streaming though would last much longer.

    I would expect the Pandora, with its monster sized battery, to easily last 20 days or more on standby, and basically be online with wi-fi all the time and still not having to be charged more than every few days.
  • 1 Hide
    bounty , December 23, 2009 2:24 PM
    Is this for linux hackers only or will there also be a software infrastructure in place so that regular joe's can game on it? Listening to the guy talk about kernels etc makes me thing the software side might be half-baked.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 23, 2009 7:18 PM
    couple things
    1 there is a playstation emu
    2 the reason he's talking kernals etc is due to who the vid was aimed at (doing requests etc), just so happens it's been picked up by a wider audience.
    3 software infrastructure is looking very good and easy. You can keep it very simple i.e. don't even need to use linux desktop and use a very simple interface, or get right into the depths without having to unlock or jailbrake it
    4 there's also an app store where it will be easy to download apps,games,etc plop it on sd card(which can be done on the device itself) and it just pops up ready to be used no installation needed even
  • 0 Hide
    littlec , January 2, 2010 3:02 AM
    Looks like a cool little toy. However I find myself asking "why would I want this?". I really don't have the urge to carry around old video games or have a performance compromised netbook.
  • 0 Hide
    g00ey , January 2, 2010 12:12 PM
    I would rather think of this more as a prototype. Remember that soon we will get SDXC cards that can fit more than 128GB.

    If it was slimmer looking more like a smartphone, had a touch screen combined with a retractable keyboard/gamepad, it would be really cool to play good old games on it such as Fallout I or II, Jagged Alliance, Alpha Centauri, Civilization, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 2, 2010 4:04 PM
    Are the emulators legal? Does Pandora bring the licenses to use them?
  • 0 Hide
    littlec , January 2, 2010 10:53 PM
    Independent Publishers/Licensees/Licensed Property Owners

    Nintendo licenses a number of independent third party publishers to use its patented technology, copyrights and trademarks in developing, creating and marketing their own video games. Additionally, there are a number of intellectual property rights associated with these games that are owned by these publishers. In addition, many independent property owners from such sources as movies, television, sports leagues, etc. license their intellectual properties for use in video games.

    So basically no shit it's legal are people wouldn't bother to market it.