Pandora Thread: Actually real, really shipping.


What's all this then?

This is the Pandora, a pocket-sized gaming computer. It's a console, UMPC, PMP, MID, BFG and any number of TLAs, some of which haven't been invented yet. It began life as a community project of sorts, headed by several prominent members of the community and funded by 4,000 pre-orderers. It's the spiritual successor to open handhelds such as the GP32 and GP2X, designed with community input to answer all the complaints of the systems that came before. Read all the specs on the official Pandora website.

Wasn't it coming out over a year ago? Why is it so late?

Shut up! That's why! This little device has survived production delays, bank meltdowns, angry mobs, natural disasters, vapourware trolls, other detractors who may have had valid points in hindsight but not today ok, and much more. Perhaps the biggest time factor though, was that it was designed and built from the ground up by a bunch of guys who'd never done it before. Turns out it's pretty difficult to build something like this with no experience, no corporate backing and no millions. Who'da thunk? But it's finally real, and it's shipping out to patient pre-orderers right now.

How do they expect to compete with Nintendo and Sony?

They don't. The Pandora is a niche device aimed at retro gamers, homebrew lovers, and anyone who likes open devices. It's expected to sell in the thousands, not millions. Not that they'll say no if a million people want one.

What's "open" about it?

Put simply, "open" means you can do what you want with it. Developers can write or port software and release it how they like (free, open source if they want, commercial is cool too). Users bask in the glory of all this, installing what they want without restrictions, without DRM, without tiresome rules or terms of service. It runs a completely open source operating system, which you're also free to hack, slash or just replace. And that's just the software. Want to tether to your phone or use a DualShock pad via Bluetooth? Go for it. Fancy plugging in a USB broadband modem, or HDD, or MIDI controller? Do it. Got a use for UART? It's at the rear expansion port. Want to add more buttons and lights? There are spare solder pads inside, go nuts.

I'm a gamer, not a hacker!

That's cool baby. A large portion of Pandora buyers are more interested in mashing buttons than making and modding things. It's a gaming handheld for gamers! It just so happens that you're allowed to hack it, if that's what blows your skirt up.

What about the Linux thing though? I don't know how to Linux.

That's ok, you don't need to! Countless hours have been spent customising the Pandora operating system (based on Ångström Linux) to make it as seamless and user friendly as possible. You can switch between several different GUIs, from a mobile-style icon grid to a fully fledged desktop environment which is as easy to use as Windows. The finger-friendly Ubuntu Netbook Launcher is even in there. Managing your installed software is extremely simple too, thanks to the specially developed "pnd" system. All apps are downloaded as a single .pnd file. Save it to your SD card and installation is complete - it automatically appears in your menu and it's ready to run. To uninstall, just delete the .pnd file. Linux isn't supposed to be this simple! It's a disgrace!

Yeah well, it's big and ugly.

Be fair now, it's not that big. It's only a touch bigger than the NDS Lite. As for looks, well, 4,000 people saw fit to throw their money down in advance, so it must be bringing sexy back for someone, right? (Yes!). If you're not quite seeing it, just think of that plain kid in high school who you never really noticed until you found out they had every kind of console and the keys to the liquor cabinet. Pretty enough now? Giggity.

Wait, $330? I can buy a PS3 for that!

Yes, you can. But when you buy a big brand console, you're only covering part of the manufacturing cost. These companies typically sell high volumes of hardware at a loss, and rely on software revenues to turn a profit. Open Pandora Ltd is a low volume manufacturer, and each sale needs to cover the cost of the hardware. Once you buy, the deal is done; they are not relying on you to buy software to make more money. This is good news for developers too - no SDK costs or licensing fees, just make your software and release it at your leisure.

Does the name have anything to do with the radio service, or the jewellery, or the PSP battery haxx, or those blue people, or the Greek mythology?

No, no, no, no, and yes.

Show me some things then.

K, here are some videos. They're not promo vids, just bits and pieces of development progress filmed for the benefit of pre-orderers. The first group of videos were made on pre-production Pandoras in the last few months:

A platter of Pandoras | Office apps, OS tweaks | Theme changes | Adjusting nub settings | LCD gamma manager | Switching GUIs, installing apps and a bit of Atari ST | DOSBox frontend + Warcraft | Amiga | D-pad workout with Picodrive | Commodore 64 | Developing on the Pandora with PyGame

The next group of videos are older, and were made on a range of old prototypes and dev boards. They do not represent the current state of software (or hardware, obviously!):

Wolf3D | Doom | Quake 1 | Quake 2 | Quake 3 (using dual nubs) | Descent | Descent 2 | Marathon | Heroes of Might & Magic 2 | SNES | PSX | MAME

Many more videos can be found in the (community maintained) Pandora Video Vault.

Can I buy one now?

Yes! You can now secure a second batch preorder from the official site. First batch Pandoras are still being assembled and shipped, and it's expected to take until October to get them all out. The production line will then keep rolling into the second batch. Be aware before ordering that this is a small project and delivery times can be "loose". It's possible that not every second batch order will make it out by Christmas.

More links and information:

Official site:
Community blog (unofficial):
GP32X forums:
Pandora Wiki/FAQ:
Pandora Wikipedia page:

Thanks to Lafazar and Crasherball, whose many words and links I drew upon to create this thread.
== GAF-FAQ ==

It looks uncomfortable.

Obviously words on a page can only go so far towards convincing you otherwise, but everyone who has used it says it feels much more natural in your hands than the brick it appears to be. Even, nay especially, the nubs. Check out the hands-on reviews below.

Can I install another distro?

Yes. Debian, Ubuntu, Neuvoo (embedded Gentoo), Maemo, and Android are just some of the options. You may have to get your hands a little dirty, but if you're asking this question you're probably ok with that.

Can it emulate PS2, Xbox or other newer systems?

No. Mupen64plus (N64) is really pushing the hardware, and NullDCe (Dreamcast) is where it hits the wall. Both of these emus should see a release, but there are no performance guarantees for either.

[more FAQ to come]


Pre-production units:

[1] [2] [3] [4]

*[4] is in German, and includes some very cool photos of EvilDragon's retro collection.

Shipped mass production units (user reviews):

First customer impressions in post #45 of this thread.

More user reviews: Coder Tim_T | Bosbeetle | MDave | 7zark7 | mindlord | rook

Also: GP32X Pandora Youtube thread

Tech press reviews: 16 July 2010


Unconfirmed Member
Sew said:
Not at this moment. The first batch of 4,000 is currently being assembled and shipped. Once that's done (give it a month or so), pre-orders for the second batch will be opened. It is hoped that later batches will be manufactured in advance, and stocked by some web outlets.
I really hope i get mine within a month.
This is not currently in my budget, but it looks awesome. Hope to get one in the not too distant future. The perfect toy for me!


Hail, peons, for I have come as ambassador from the great and bountiful Blueberry Butt Explosion
This is pretty neat, but i have no idea what I would use it for.
B.K. said:
Those analog nubs are in a horrible place. They look like they'd be almost impossible to use.
Everyone who has used it (sadly I'm not one of them yet!) says the position is much more natural than it looks, once it's in your hands. The grip is much like any dual analogue controller.

This video may or may not be helpful:

(Just disregard the ancient prototype case with the flappy hinge, if you can :D )
this thing is really cool, I've been following it on or off for ages now. Not really interested in buying one but I just wanted to see how the project would go. I have to say, these guys really have done well to continue with such high spirits whilst all the trolling and boo-hooing was going on all over the forums.

Look forward to seeing final builds in the wild and seeing what people can do with them.


Blinded by the luminous glory that is David Bowie's physical manifestation.

Descent 2

On the go?


How much is this? Can I run Debian on it instead of the Pandora customized Linux if I want?

I really kinda wish there was a demo hardware around in brick and mortars (yes, yes, wild dreams and all that) so I could see/feel the size of it. Sounds impressive for what it's trying to do, but I gotta know if it's comfortable for my hands before I totally commit to it. :(
Glad to see that there is finally a finished product, I'd love to hear some impressions from those who were in the first batch of preorders. I would love to know how it handles older games running under DOSBox. I've always dreamed of having a portable DOS machine.
First pics in the wild. This one belongs to GP32X forum mod X68000, who dropped in to help them for the day and took his unit home.

TheSeks said:
How much is this? Can I run Debian on it instead of the Pandora customized Linux if I want?

I really kinda wish there was a demo hardware around in brick and mortars (yes, yes, wild dreams and all that) so I could see/feel the size of it. Sounds impressive for what it's trying to do, but I gotta know if it's comfortable for my hands before I totally commit to it. :(
Price is in the OP, $330. :)

Installing other distros: Yes. I don't know if anyone is working on a "Pandorified" Debian just yet, but there has been some community interest in it. We've already seen Ubuntu, Maemo is a cheeky possibility, and there is a team working on an embedded version of Gentoo called Neuvoo. PND support (see "I don't know how to Linux" section in OP) can be added to any distro.

If you're keen to road test before buying, you could post in the GP32X forums to ask if there are any devs or customers near you who would be willing to meet up. Pandora people seem unusually keen to do this. :D
Great thread, Sew. I have my place in the queue, around 2000. It's definitely way overdue at this point, but I'm glad to be part of the first 4000 (and the great gp32x community).


ὁ αἴσχιστος παῖς εἶ
How in depth is the Android build? I heard nothing was really working last time I saw an update.
Interesting concept, but I'm not gonna blow that kind of dough on it when I get get a netbook for not much more.

Also, that design... it looks like the portable gaming device in a steampunk movie.
Wish I hadn't cancelled my preorder a year ago. Assuming there aren't any quality issues with the hardware I'll be on board for the second batch.
This thing has been on my mind for years, and if it is as good as they say, I'd be interested in a Gen 2 or something.

Currently though, my Dingoo and Netbook+PS3 Controller handle what I need.
I read the first and second posts and there's no tech-specs, boo!

Also, it looks kinda cool, but why should I get this over a PSP with custom firmware?
Congratulations to the team. This is a monumental achievement for the Open Hardware movement. For those wondering about the tech 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.
* un-brickable 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)
This looks kind of interesting but having never even really paid attention to these homebrew devices do they ever get any really interesting games or does it basically remain an emulation station for people?

Its what I am worried about these days... with things like the iPhone appeasing smaller devs I can't see some great games being made for a device like this :/


ὁ αἴσχιστος παῖς εἶ
Un-brickable eh? That sounds like a challenge...

lsslave said:
This looks kind of interesting but having never even really paid attention to these homebrew devices do they ever get any really interesting games or does it basically remain an emulation station for people?

Its what I am worried about these days... with things like the iPhone appeasing smaller devs I can't see some great games being made for a device like this :/
Well if they ever get the Android build working great then you'll have all those apps (provided either they get Google's OK for the Market or someone pulls what some Archos owners did and hack it on.)


he's Virgin Tight™
Hah, interesting. I was in a project like this like 2 years ago. The team lacked Electronics Engineers so they decided to call it quits, but at the moment I found it very promising. Was similar to this.

Pretty cool stuff. I may buy one of these just to support these guys.
Meh, don't see a reason to upgrade from GP2X Wiz, which I'm very happy with. Maybe down the road if the price comes down, and a community actually develops.


Wants the largest console games publisher to avoid Nintendo's platforms.
good things come to those with patience : )

will likely be my main portable.
I've been keeping my eye on this for years. It's awesome that they're finally shipping. I'll wait to see some impressions from the final units, and I may get one of these in the future if they're planning a second run.
Time for some customer impressions then. Lucky buggers!


Right, pics will come in in a bit. First boot is a bit slow, thought it was hanging. I logged in, filled out my details and now its finishing installation. I did orrder the TV out cable, but that's missing.* Case is nice, screen seems awesome. First impression is that it looks really cool, typing is very nice, but I find it kinda odd to have the screen that far back** - I'd prefer it if was a bit more laptop-like, but I think I can grow to use it More in a bit.

First impressions: feels pretty nice, keyboard is pretty good, shoulderbuttons are a bit tight. Screen is awesome. Browsing works nice. I hope to get q3 on there to see it show itself off :)
* These are shipping out later.
** He means the default lock angle, which is 170 degrees (10 more than the DS Lite).
I did try openjazz, was very smooth, wolf 3d, same, I started dosbox, awesome, ran battle jewels - looks great :) Cdogs also looks fun.

Nubs are feeling good too - by default, to my taste, they are set in xfce to be a bit too sensitive; the clicking which ED demoed in a video is a bit hit-and-miss affair for me; working most of the time but not always. I'll probably print an overview for L, R, yabx, and right nub.

OpenPandoraTeam, you did very well. Very impressed!!! Both with the hardware and the state of the software!

Good times ahead :)
I really like it sofar :) IT feels very nice, buttons feel good; the nubs are a bit too sensitive, but that I can tweak (haven't yet). The text on the screen for chat & websites are larger than I expected, it's all very readable. The .pnd system works VERY nice, really awesome. As you can read above, there are a few minor things I came across, but nothing major. The thing feels great, and I'm glad I got it. The Quick start guide is a very nice touch; unfortunately I did need it (as I didn't know how to reset it), so it's great that it was there. It even had a (printed) signature from Craigix, so that's always nice ;)

But the cripsness of the screen is something to behold :) The keyboard & controls are extremely nice, it's good to have a real volume dial etc :)

I do need to clip my nails a bit further, as the number keys are very close to the hinge and I keep hitting that :)

Awesome device, really worth the wait :)

I've got mine as well :)

Though I'm at work just now so no pics for the moment!
Really isn't that much bigger than a DS Lite, and the weight is pretty decent.

Kept hitting the space as if it's under "b" though, heh.. and the placement of the shift will take a bit of getting used to, but it's all good :)
The nubs are interesting as well, the right one is looser than the left on mine, but doesn't seem to affect anything and I'm sure the left one will loosen up after some use anyway!

All in all, very pleased so far.. just waiting for my lunch so I can have a proper fiddle :)


My pandora has arrived and it's a thing of beauty. I thought it would be bigger but it's a tiny little thing and it's awesome, I've not done anything on it yet bar test if it's working and just briefly checked out the 2 gui's. I'm gonna check out some games on it now, just popped it on charge to charge it up first. It comes with about a half charge so you can jump straight in.

The case is really good, I was wondering how it would turn out but it's cool.

The carry case with it is really nice aswell but it's a tight fit but I'm sure once it's been in and out a few times it'll loosen up a bit. I did order a tv-out cable b ut it didn't come with my pandora so I can only assume they're not ready yet, either that or they forgot. I did ring up but couldn't get an answer. The sd card was a Kingston 32gb class 4 so it should be ok. There's even a cool battery box to stick your extra battery in if you ordered to, I only got the one. As you can imagine I'm dying to have a play so I'm off. The pics where taken with my iphone so they aren't great quality.

All in all it's a FANTASTIC thing of beauty and I can't wait to see all the games and stuff fill up the apps store. I'd like to thank mweston. craig, ed and all the other guys behind this, it's been a wait but it's been worth it thanks guys :)

More pics:

TYKE's little tike:


Steve compiled and released Fuse (Speccy emulator) the moment his Pandora arrived.

And just as I was writing this up, he posted this review:

Having received the thing only yesterday, I've not tried out anywhere near everything as yet, but here's a quick summary of the most noticeable points. Note that this is an honest review and contains my own personal opinion of what must be one of the first 100 units produced. Having a sample size of precisely one, I have no idea how other people's consoles compare to mine.

The Case: The paint finish on the case is a very nice satin black, and the thing fits pretty comfortably in your hands. Working at a desk is also quite doable. The screen may not click in an upright position, but it does stay put where you leave it. There are some minor build quality issues, what they'd call "fit and finish" in the auto trade. On my unit, the screen bezel wasn't pushed completely home, but this was easily remedied with a little tweaking. Unfortunately the way it fits has resulted in some minor scuffing of the paintwork near the clips. The L and R buttons are also a little wobbly, to the extent that the tabs which keep them from jumping out of the case can catch around the edges. This may be due to the screw at the rear of the case not being fully tightened, leaving a gap between the two halves. The battery seems to push to corners of the cover up a little. Hopefully it's just a matter of flattening out the "sticker" (for want of a better word) around it a little better. There was also a rough spot on the tip of the stylus. Users may want to give that a quick test and sand down if necessary before using it on the actual screen! Overall though, an ergonomic and nice-looking case.

The Controls: The D-pad is good, with nice travel and feedback. The ABXY buttons are pretty close together, but work great when you get used to them. The nubs are like nothing I've used before - very smooth and, although I've not used them in-game yet, moving the mouse pointer around with them is fluid and accurate. The keyboard isn't going to win any awards but considering the limitations of this type of keyboard, it's good. There are some minor imperfections visible under the clear sealant. The layout is however pretty terrible. Except for the letters, numbers, and major keys like enter and space, nothing is where you'd expect to find it, instead being scattered apparently randomly over the keys. Typing anything more than a couple of lines is going to take some getting used to.

Audio/Video: The screen is very clear and very sharp - you will not be disappointed! The resolution is also very impressive for such a small screen. Not a ghost in sight, either. It has a slightly rough finish, so can feel a little scratchy when using the stylus. Sound is clear and pretty good considering the size of the speakers. I have not tested with headphones yet.

Software: Although still early days, the xfce desktop is light and snappy. Unfortunately I didn't get the alternative Minimenu to work yet. Reflashing the firmware (not usually necessary, I have been hacking away at this thing) and installing updates was quick and easy. There's not an awful lot else to try out yet, but so far the Pandora has coped with everything I've thrown at it with ease, including full-screen video playback.

Overall: Although let down a little by the build quality issues, as a gaming handheld and computer: it's great. Technically speaking, it's a nicely spec'd machine and I can't wait to see what it can do when the software catches up. Well done, OP team!
The first boot isn't going perfectly for everyone, a few day 0 bugs being discovered etc, and the help forum is starting to see some action. It's awesome to see the guys who built this thing directly helping people in the forums - not just the core team members like craigix etc, but the code gurus like Notaz, DJWillis, and Skeezix who have devoted their every spare moment to this thing for the last two years. Such a fantastic community.
I am very interrested in this, but the price seems way, way out of whack now.

They took so long to come out the GP2X Wiz and Dingoo came out at 1/2 and 1/4 the price in the meantime.

If it's functional as a netbook(in terms of web browsing), then that changes things a little bit maybe.
It looks very interesting, but I really have to think about the price, especially with the 3DS coming in the near future. The main aspect for me would be emulation, but a lot of the emulators I'd use already run on the DS and I expect even better ones for the 3DS (no, actually I'm hoping/praying). Anyways, congrats on the awesome work the people have put into this piece of hardware.

Btw. here's an interview with Michael "EvilDragon" Mrozek from German tech website

One thing I'd love to do is to play Quake on it versus other players, but then again...none of my friends could be convinced to buy the thing.