This Review is kept upto date with major changes, last updated Nov 25th 2007, updates for the F200 Dpad and Touchscreen.


Hello Everyone, Craig here,

So, the GP2x. The handheld underdog, if it were a character from history it would probably be Guyfawkes - Determined to cause trouble for the establishment. It's been around for a while now and has certainly found its feet. I just got the latest console revision - the F200. Yeah. It's time I updated this GP2X review for the touch screen and the new Dpad!

While you are reading, download this video review too, showing the games and emulators in action.

Let us first look at the specs - 240mhz dual core CPU (can be overclocked in software), 64M of RAM and 64M of NAND, 320*240 backlit LCD with custom graphics hardware and TV out, a touch screen and an all new digital Dpad replacing the old joystick. The specs are very good for the price, the TV out feature is especially nice. For comparison it is about four times as powerful as the Nintendo DS. It costs 119.99 and is available now.

It can play games, it can watch movies, it can play music and it can pretend to be other games systems. That last bit is what attracts most people and scares some people.

See the thing is, that unlike the PSP and DS anyone can develop software and games for the GP2X - there are no restrictions and no special licences or hardware required. If you have a GP2X you can make programs for it. This results in a fantastic sort of organised chaos of software with the most popular programs being game ports and emulators - so you can run other systems games on the GP2X such as Quake, Doom, MAME, Duke Nukem, Megadrive, NeoGeo, SNES etc...

Right, before we review the hardware, let's just get down to it - what can it do, and how well does it do it?

Emulators (The ability to run other systems' games):

Yes, the big one first I guess - many random reports on how well emulators run, often scattered over message boards and talking about various versions of various emulators - I'm going to use the latest versions of the best emulators and tell you how each system runs at 250mhz with full sound.

The GP2X is very powerful, it goes without saying that it can easily emulate older systems such as NES, PC Engine, Atari2600/7200/5200, Atari Lynx, C64, Spectrum, CPC, BBC Micro etc. But here we will be looking at the later era systems and how well it handles them...

GP2X MAME
Download: Version 3.7 (fast)

The current MAME version by Franxis is awesome - easily the best portable version of MAME available. But what can it play?
Well so far it supports 1124 games (including CPS, Neogeo and all the classics) - the full list of games can be found here.

It runs very very well, suprisingly fast for MAME. It is highly optimised with ASM CPU cores by Fdave and Reesy, games such as Ghouls and Ghosts, Street Fighter 2 and Final Fight (and the other games from that era/hardware) run really well (i.e. fully playable with sound). Almost all older games run perfectly (no frame skip) this is a must have emulator, and should be one of the first downloads you make!


NeoGeo Arcade
Download: DualCore Beta

This emulator by Pepone, based on GPNeo, is another masterpiece, we are using the latest Dual Core beta with the ASM z80 core by Reesy.
Not only is it full speed with sound, it also supports the giant NeoGeo ROMs - bypassing the RAM limit with some clever ROM graphics streaming, you won't notice it is even happening, but it works like a charm. Sound support is crystal clear and the games fit the GP2X screen so well - it is beautiful to look at. It supports both the Arcade and Home versions of the games and maps the controls to the GP2X as if it were a NeoGeo pad.

Show this to your friends and watch their jaws drop.



SNES
SquidgeSNES / PocketSNES

There are 2 good snes emulators and between them they can play almost every SNES game near perfect, including Mode7 and games with transparancies.
SquidgeSNES is very fast and suited to the platform classics and speedy 2D games, PocketSNES is best suited to the mode7 (3D) games and games which use a lot of transparancy - such as RPGs like Chrono Trigger.

Both support Zip files, Save States, Screen scaling and the best thing is both are updated regulaly with plans to combine them both into one awesome emulator.

Credit for this emu goto: Squidge, YoyoFR, Reesy, Notaz and the original SNES9X team!

Megadrive / Genesis
Download: Version 0.964

PicoDrive uses both GP2X CPUs - you could not ask for anymore from this emulator - one word: Phenomenal - you can underclock the GP2X to as little as 133mhz and still play games perfectly with sound.

Save states, Zip support, crystal clear sound and more options than you will ever use - it all builds upto not only the best Megadrive/Genesis emulator on the GP2X - but one of the best on any system. There isn't much more to say about it, you will find it hard to fault in any way.

Hook this upto the TV and people will be hard pushed to tell if you are using a real Megadrive or not.


Atari ST
Download: Version 008

Skeezix brings us OutcaST and with it near flawless ST emulation, onscreen keyboard, mouse, multimple floppy drives, and of course full speed with sound - it's all here.

The ST games look so good on the GP2X screen it is as if they were made for the system. Portable Stunt Car Racer, perfect :)

The menu system can identify the popular ST compilation disks so you don't have to guess what is on them and also supports multiple disk formats.

Again with TV out this looks and plays like a real ST on the TV screen - the ability to connect up a real keyboard via USB would be awesome!

Amiga 500 / 500+ / 600
Download: Version 0.5.1

Well, the Amiga has always been a bastard of a machine to emulate - but the GP2X and Critical are giving it a bloody good try!
It is based on UAE - and runs suprisingly well considering the 68k CPU core is not yet the highly optimised ASM one. Many games are currently fully playable with sound at 250mhz - this is shaping up to be something very special and it is the emulator I am most excited about.

Supports A500, A500+ and A600 based games (that would be all the best ones!)

A handheld Amiga? Oh come on, that's irresistible! ;)


Mega-CD / Sega CD
Download: Version 114

Notaz, author of the amazing PicoDrive has also brought us a MegaCD emulator (yes the massive sega CD system from the 90's) which I think is a first for a handheld.

It currently does not have perfect compatability but it can run many games - and all the games which it runs are full speed with sound, many people thought this impossible without a high powered PC.

Like PicoDrive this uses both of the GP2X CPUs for maximum performance and supports MP3 files for the game soundtracks to save space.

Snatcher & SonicCD both work - keep an eye on this one - it is quite amazing to have a portable MegaCD!

CPS 2
Download: Version 0.5.1

More Arcade emulation awesomeness in the form of this full speed stand alone CPS2 emulator. If you don't know what CPS2 is go here.
All the classics work, Mars Matrix, Street Fighter Alpha series, Dungeons & Dragons series etc. etc. certainly shows how powerful the GP2X is and just what it can do in terms of throwing graphics and sound around even with a heavy emulation load.

Even Qsound is emulated, it's like having a late 90's arcade machine on the go.

Amazing, this just shows how much the GP2X software has pushed the system in the last year. Download this now.


Buy the GP2X Now - Click here

The control set up is 8 face buttons, a digital Dpad, 2 shoulder buttons and a touch screen. Ideal for almost any game. The original Joystick was considered to have too much throw - ie you had to move it too far to get a responce, the new F200 replaces this with a Dpad which is instant and more fitting for the emulated games the results are much better than I expected, there is no getting away from the fact this is *much* better than the old joystick.

The GP2X runs Linux and uses SD cards - it is possible to run programs on the raw hardware too. Boot times with the current new 4.0 firmware are around 18 seconds but you can lower this with custom boot scripts. The interface is simple but does the job. New interfaces are in development by various people, some can already be installed. Older units take upto 40 seconds to boot - but they can be upgraded. When buying make sure you get a 2.0 or later unit.

As well as using the 320*240 LCD screen you can also connect the GP2X to a TV or Monitor with the TV out adaptor, in this mode it supports upto 1048*720 resolution. This is a unique feature in the handheld world and works really well - especially good for movies. More on that feature later.

The GP2X screen has changed in the new F200 revision to a touch screen. The new screen looks better and has very good contrast it does not suffer from blurring or dead pixels (unlike the PSP screen) and is the right aspect for emulators and classic game ports.

The screen is bigger than the DS screens and is taller but slimmer than the PSP screen. There are many rumours online about the screen flickering and having white edges, this was just on early versions of the console and has long since been fixed. The touch screen works very well, especially for point and click adventure games or ports of flash based mouse games like Boomshine. Support is expected for mouse emulation on Amiga and ST emulators.




The GP2X can take 3V from a power supply or 2 AA batteries - with 2600MaH rechargable batteries expect to get around 5 hours battery life. When using the TV out adaptor a power supply is recommended, but not essential.

The GP2X does support USB host - but only via a powered HUB - but this does mean you can connect up virtually any USB device, and if you wanted to, turn the GP2X into a full Linux computer. In normal mode it runs Samba on the GP2X side so you can copy files across from your computer to your SD card or to the internal NAND memory (64MB) via the supplied cable, or even use the GP2X as a mini server!

Because the GP2X uses Linux as its operating system the amount of games and software is massive, and the speed at which they appear is on a daily basis - almost all are 100% free. With this huge amount of software people can get confused and read contradicting reports so it's about time the main programs were reviewed.

Doom / Doom 2 / Final Doom

Well, I had to start with the ultimate classic and most ported game of recent times. It is based on the more advanced PRBoom, it of course runs perfectly, the GP2X has more than enough power to handle it.

There is full support for loading extra wad files, sound support (both music and sound effects) and you can play the free shareware versions as well as the full games if you have them.

Supports all original versions of Doom (Doom, Doom2 and Final/Plotonia Doom) as well as DeHacked games based on the Doom Engine. Excellent fun.



Duke Nukem 3D
Hail to the King, baby!

Back in the day I always though this was the better game in the Doom vs. Duke debate, it is especially excellent if you get all the movie refrences.
The GP2X version is perfect, an exact duplication of the PC original, sound, music and all. This game now suits handhelds perfectly.

Silky smooth gameplay, blow up walls, planes, bridges, a gigantic assortment of powerups and weapons, interact with almost all the scenery, underwater and flying sections...

Play it again and I guarentee you will be amazed how ahead of it's time it really was. Works as demo or full game.


Quake / Quake 2
Quake is ported by Woogal and runs really well on the GP2X, it is based on the PocketPC version which has some of the floating point converted to fixed point meaning more speed on the GP2X CPU.

Supports the Shareware version and the full games as well as mods and extra levels, it is exact to the PC version and is just as frantic and playable as ever.

Quake2 isn't as fast alas, it can be played but is a lot slower than Quake 1 as it has not been optimised for the GP2x (yet). My advice - stick to Quake 1 and its mods and extra levels - they are fantastic.


ScummVM (Adventure Games)
This allows you to play almost all the old PC adventure games it is ported by DJwillis who made the GP32 version. Supports all music, speech and the touch screen!
You can play: Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken, Indiana Jones, Loom, Passport to Adventure, Monkey Island 1&2, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Full Throttle, The Dig, Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword 1, 2 & 3, Flight of the Amazon Queen, Gobliiins, Inherit the Earth, The Legend of Kyrandia, Simon the Sorcerer 1 & 2.

What can I say to that? Wow!


Exult / Ultima VII
Version RC 2 Download

Exult allows you to play 1990's classic Ultima VII, complete with sound, music and speech. It is ported by Puck2099.

This works just as the PC version with intro screens, sound and speech. All you need is the PC version of the game and it just works like magic :)

Fits the GP2X screen really well and supports all the controls of the PC version with the GP2X stick + menu system. Really nice.

This also supports the Ultima VII spin off games (Black Gate/Forge of Virtue/Serpent Isle/Silver Seed) without any known bugs or problems.


Star Control 2 / Ur-Quan
Version 1.0 Download

The Ur-Quan Masters is a port of Star Control 2 from the classic PC/3DO version by Loki666 & Senor Quack.
The sequel to the original Star Control, is, in general, a space adventure game. It was a milestone for non-linear gaming and an undeniable influence on modern space travel games such as Homeworld; many consider it one of the best computer games of all time.

The GP2X version has been very well recieved and is very good fun, this is a big high quality stand alone adventure game.

If you have not played this before you should give it a try.



To Buy the GP2X Now - Click here

GP2X Commercial - Payback 2X & Vektar

If you thought Payback pushed the GBA to its limits, wait until you see it on the GP2X - it will, in the words of Apex Designs, be one of the best looking games at this resolution ever.

Real time 3D engine with lighting, shadows, 100% textured smoothed 3D objects including cars, people, obsticles, buildings and then 4X Antialiased.

The game features multiple cities and missions, a full audio track with music and speech and updated visuals from the original GBA/Amiga/Mac versions.

Watch the demo of this and you will see it is awesome, you will be blown away by how good this looks on the GP2X screen. The 3D is so silky smooth together with the game running in real 3D make this true next gen game which can stand up to the PSP and DS. The missions and effects are fantastic, everything adds upto a really well made commercial game.

Payback is available on SD now. Get the demo, full game and a video here.




Take Tempest2000, Asteroids and Geometry Wars mix them all together and you get Vektar. A trip of a game indeed.

Silky smooth retro visuals with next gen touches and a wicked sence of humour add upto a very addictive shoot em up. The idea is simple, clear the screen of colourful vector based swarming monsters and use your shield to push them away - sounds simple but can be fiendishly addictive and tricky.

To appreciate the trippy visuals you have to see them for yourself, together with the licenced soundtrack it looks great.

The original version of this game was presented as a demo at gp2x2006 coding competition, it was so good it is being made into a commercial game.

Try the demo for yourself here, or buy the full game on SD card.



Other notable PC ports include: Another World, Flashback, Descent 1 & 2, Hexen, Bubble Train, Transport Tycoon, Wolfenstein, Shadow Warrior, Rise of the Triad and more. To play these games you need nothing more than either the demo version of the game or a copy of the original game. It is as simple as copying it onto your SD card and putting it into the GP2X.

Many other ports are on their way - and unlike the PSP you don't have to pay for them all over again - just use your original copy.

Movies:

The GP2X chipset has custom video decoding hardware, so it can play almost anything you throw at it, upto 720*480 in resolution. The player is based on Mplayer and supports AVI, DIVX and Xvid. Almost anything downloaded from the net will play without any re-encoding needed, just copy it to your SD card. The video is automatically resized to fit the screen.


DivX, AVI and XviD Video Playback + TV Out

The TV out feature is nice for Movies as it means you don't have to burn your downloads to a CD or re-encode them, just put them on an SD and connect the GP2X to your TV and they play - in the correct resolution too. It works with emulators and games also - Really nice feature.

I tried episodes of Lost straight from Bit Torrent and also some movies and the GP2X handled them without any fuss at all:

Lost.S02E09.HDTV.XviD-LOL.avi, Resolution 624 x 352, 117kbps MP3, XVID 23FPS, 132kbps 12 bit.
Average file size of 340meg. Played without any problems on GP2X and on TV screen.
I also tried 4 more Lost episodes without any problems.

The Warriors (Ultimate director's cut).avi, Resolution 640 x 368, 128kbps MP3, DivX 25FPS, 132kbps, 12 bit.
This was a huge 700MB file and I used it to really push the GP2X, but it played it without issue.

Linux Penguin ice cream advert.avi, Resolution 320 x 262, 64kbps MP3, DivX 25FPS, 56kbps, 24 bit.
Very small 1.5meg file. Played without any problems on GP2X and on TV screen.

I should mention I did initially have some problems with an unbranded SD card causing the movie playback to sometimes freeze up - but my Sandisk card worked perfectly. I'm not entirely sure what caused this, it could be that the unbranded card was not fast enough or the GP2X just didn't like it - it did work fine with games though, just not always with movies.

TV out works with anything on the GP2X, so you can also play games and emulators on the big screen, this adds a whole new element to the system and is something that no other handheld currently supports, it reminds me of the Xbox homebrew scene when using it on the TV.




As well as all this of course the GP2x has a huge homebrew scene, that is original games and programs made just for the GP2X. The GP2x2006 coding competition produced some 26 entries in just 21 days, some of which were of amazing quality. Anyone can have a go at making something, there are many guides and step by step instructions.

I've obviously not been able to cover the massive scene that the GP2X has kicked off in the last 5 months, EvilDragon's file archive is the place to go if you want to see 95% of GP2X releases also there is of course GP32X.com which is the center of the scene, where the very busy messageboards often beat the main news page to the latest releases. The boards there are very friendly and you should be able to get answers very quickly if you want to know something or need help.




Trying to make a conclusion this early on in the GP2X life is a difficult one, considering it had no promotional budget, no big name tie ins, just the open source and linux scene and a little something called the GP32 behind it, it has done astonishingly well, seriously, if you think about the 100million budget the Gizmondo had - and the GP2X has outsold it already.

Should you get one? Well did you like any of the things you saw in the review? Like the idea of a 100% open system which does not force 'upgrades' on you, a system which once you have paid the price of the unit has hundreds of programs and games available free? Think of it as a portable PC rather than a handheld games machine, it's a great idea, and I really hope it does well - it deserves to for having the balls to try something like this in, lets be honest, an old boys club.

I'll let you make up your own mind - the latest model GP2X with the new joystick can be bought from GP2x.co.uk (Worldwide) and GP2x.de (Germany).