Pandora review

2010-06-05 15:42:23

Introduction

I've just got my new Pandora console today and now I want to give you some impressions about this new device.

The Pandora is a handheld device designed by a few people from the GP2X community, built with money collected through pre-orders which started about one and a half year ago. Its release was delayed many times, but now the first units have been shipped to the customers. I was among the first to receive their Pandora console.

The Pandora came without any fancy package. Instead it came in bubble wrapping only. This was not a problem though. It arrived in good condition.





The console came with only three accessories: A power adapter, a quick start guide and a pen for the touchscreen.





The power supply is rated 5 V=/2 A.



When connecting the Pandora to the power supply adapter, it starts up immediately. It then boots into a first time configuration wizzard. At the same time it starts charging the battery.



When the wizzard is completed, the XFCE desktop loads. While launching larger applications takes a few seconds, using the XFCE desktop on the Pandora is pretty responsive.



Browsing the web.



top running in the XFCE terminal.



A very strange thing which I noticed when the desktop appeared was the battery's charging level. It was 0 %, which means the battery was completely empty. This is strange because it is a very bad idea to store Li batteries in a completely discharged state. So I hope it did not do too much damage to the battery yet. Also it has been said that when the battery is inserted, the Pandora always runs off the battery. While this is obviously the case when using the battery only, this also means when it is connected to the power supply adapter the battery is being charged and discharged at the same time. Although this reduces the cost of the charging circuit, it has a negative impact on the lifetime of the battery.

Hardware

The overall build quality of the case is okay. There are a few flaws, but it still looks pretty good. Unfortunately the shoulder buttons and the analog sticks are rather disappointing.



Both the display and the keyboard on the other hand are very nice. The display has a very good image quality with a very sharp image due to its high resolution. The keyboard needs some getting used to, but works really nicely, too. On my device the right analog stick (nub) does not work as good as the left one, but it seems the more it is being used, the better it works. So I'll just give it a little more time. The D-pad and the ABXY buttons work pretty good too, but I still need to test them with some more games.









One rather annoying thing is the Pandora's display hinge. Unfortunately the hinge has only one fixed position. While one can open the display in any angle from closed up to 180 degrees, the only position where it really does not move when touching it or when shaking the device is when it is fully opened (180 °). This is pretty useless as it is much more comfortable to use the Pandora when opening the display at about 135°. Also, all official advertisement pictures of the Pandora show the Pandora with the display at about 120 to 150 ° rather than 180 °. Probably because it looks really stupid when it is opened that far. Also, you cannot put the Pandora on a table and have it fully opened to use its touchscreen, because the display itself does not lie on the table, even when fully opened. I consider this a design flaw. It is not as serious as some videos might suggest, but I still would have preferred a hinge with either more fixed positions or a hinge which does not let the display move that easily.

Battery

Initially, I have fully charged the battery and since then used it for several hours. I have not been able to fully discharge it yet, but the battery life seems to be really good so far. With wireless turned on all the time, after two hours the Pandora tells me there is still about seven hours left. While I have been doing rather less demanding things (browsing the web, playing some games for a few minutes), a battery life of about 9 hours seems to be really good.

Wireless

Previously the integrated wireless LAN adapter was the topic of many discussions on the forums. Before the Pandora's release there was some trouble with the wireless hardware. A hardware flaw prevented it from working properly. Even after fixing it the Pandora team achieved data rates of only around 600 KB/s which is about the speed one can expect on a 11 MBit 802.11b WLAN. Expecting a rather low performance, I was somewhat positively surprised when I tested the wireless speed of my Pandora. For doing that, I've established a WPA2 wireless connection (AES encrypted) with the Pandora to my local access point. On the wired LAN my desktop PC is connected via gigabit ethernet. On that PC I've configured a ftp server (vsftpd). Through that ftp server I've downloaded a test file of exactly one GiB. The download speed I achieved with the Pandora was about 950 KB/s. This is not great for 54 MBit 802.11g wireless, which is capable of reaching about 2.5 MiB/s under good conditions, but it is still a lot better than the 600 KB/s. For this test the Pandora was located pretty close to the wireless access point. When increasing the distance, speed drops somewhat. Even when the Pandora is pretty far away from the access point (outside the building on the street) it is still able to maintain a stable wireless connection.

Conclusion

While I have not been able to test every aspect of the Pandora yet, I have tried to look at the most important hardware aspects. While the build quality is not great, it is still pretty good. There are some flaws though. First there is the hinge which has been designed rather badly. As long as it does not get loose, so the display keeps its position in arbitrary angles, I can live with it. It would have been better if the designers would have paid some more attention to it, or at least would have advertised it properly. The official images are really misleading. There are two other things which are far from perfect: The shoulder buttons and the analog sticks. On the other hand the display is great. The keyboard is really good once you get used to it and the high capacity battery gives you a long run time.
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PG (web) says:
2010-06-10 17:27:00


Nice review, I’ll be getting my own soon i hope. If the display is the same hinge as a DS i’ll be perfectly fine. Even tho a DS got its touch display on the bottom. I do think it will be fine. Enjoy your Pandora ^_^
Sage (web) says:
2010-08-12 03:02:49
Is this completely worth $330.00? After seeing this I'm trying to decide between an iPod Touch, an iPhone, an iPad, a PSP, or this. Is this really worth the money and does it have long lasting appeal? Thanks.
wejp (web) says:
2010-08-12 10:31:33
Sage: This highly depends on what you are planning to do with the device. If you want a device with gaming controls and a very capable CPU and possibly are also interested in having a small portable Linux computer, then this device might be the right one for you. In contrary to all devices you've mentioned, the Pandora comes with a full desktop environment and allows you to do multi-tasking and run ordinary desktop applications.
It is important to note though, that the software is far from being all mature. This situation is slowly improving, but don't expect everything to be perfect.
Neddy (web) says:
2010-08-28 04:08:54
Build/moulding quality reminds me of thrift shop products; all uneven part lines and strange gaps and ripples.

I have an eeepc 401 with the same resolution screen 800x480 and viewing webpages feel cramped and uncomfortable. I can imagine it's only worse on a smaller screen & keyboard.

Beyond emulation and some simple homebrew games, what quality gaming will there be that showcases the CPU power?

In short, it seems a bit of an "jack of all trades - master of none" product too me.
nemo (web) says:
2011-02-28 12:30:15
Could you elaborate on the shoulder buttons? I can't seem to find what exactly is your beef with them.
wejp (web) says:
2011-02-28 13:33:58
nemo: Sure. The shoulder buttons are very stiff, so it is hard to press them. Also, you can only press them a tiny bit, so it isn't very comfortable to use them for gaming. On newer Pandoras this is said to be somewhat better.

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