Open Pandora, PSP, or Android?

I’ve had my Android phone for almost 6 months. I have a Motoral Droid 3.

For blogging via the Jota text editor, it’s great. It’s easy to write text drafts and then copy them to WordPress.

For gaming and emulators, I have mixed results.

The best emulators are yongzh’s GBCoid (Game Boy/Game Boy Color) and GameBoid (GameBoy Advance). Those games were designed for a handheld. They work pretty well on my phone. However, the emulator does crash occasionally.

I haven’t had much success with other emulators. Adosbox doesn’t work on my phone. Adosbox seems like a dead project. I might buy AnDosBox.

Frodo64 and Vice64 don’t work for me.

Gensoid and Gearoid were OK, but I haven’t used them much. Cadash crashed a lot in gensoid.

Droid2600 was nice. I like the way they implemented paddles via the touchscreen. I had trouble with Droid800.

Mame4Droid is buggy. It’s based on an old version of the MAME core. It’s hard to play an emulator without save-states, when playing on the subway.

I tried SNESoid, and found it buggy. There is a for-pay SNES emulator. I haven’t used NESoid much. Even though I have a multi-touch keyboard, it doen’t work for games that require simultaneous keypresses. For example, the run+dash+jump combo doesn’t work in Super Mario Bros.

My Android phone works for blogging. It’s inadequate for gaming. I considered getting the Android SDK and fixing buggy open-source emulators, like adosbox. However, I don’t have much programming energy left after working.

If I spend 20 hours of my time fixing a buggy open source emulator, that’s almost equivalent to spending cash buying a better device, or buying one of the for-pay emulators. I’m considering buying andosbox and fpse.

I’ve seriously considered getting something else, and downgrading to a regular non-smartphone, when my Verizon contract expires.

Open Pandora is promising. It’s optimized for gaming, with controllers. It has a keyboard, so I could use it for blogging. There are some drawbacks.

First, it’s a bit pricey, around $500. However, that’s comparable to what an unlocked contract-free smartphone costs.

Second, it’s partially vaporware. They’ve only made a handful. They have a back-order, even for people who paid for a pre-order. They did start making another batch, but haven’t shipped yet.

Third, I wasn’t sure about the software catalog. For example, the latest MAME wasn’t ported to Open Pandora. That should be easy, because Open Pandora is Linux-based.

There aren’t that many Open Pandoras in circulation. That makes it less likely that software will be ported to the Open Pandora. It’s the “network effect” problem. If many people own an Open Pandora, there’s a greater benefit to buying one. If few people own an Open Pandora, I may be SOL, without any software support. (I don’t understand the problem. Why can’t any open source Linux program be easily ported to Open Pandora?)

Finally, there’s Moore’s law. They keep improving the specifications, as hardware gets cheaper and older parts aren’t available. That gives me an incentive to wait. Instead of buying a new Open Pandora, maybe I should wait a few years and buy a better one or a cheap used one.

Android has a large market share. That should guarantee good software support. That’s one advantage of Android over Open Pandora.

There’s another interesting alternative. I could get a PSP. With the PS Vita coming out, old PSPs should get cheap.

There’s an active “homebrew” community for the PSP. The PSP has encryption, preventing people from self-publishing. Some people cracked the encryption, and started publishing their own stuff. Notably, many emulators were ported to the PSP. Sony cracked down on homebrew by locking down the OS, via upgrade patches. There are no exploits for the latest PSP firmwares.  Some games have bugs, enabling people to bypass the security via a corrupted save file.

Unfortunately, there’s no keyboard on a PSP. That makes it unusable for blogging. That rules it out, unless I want to carry both an Android phone and a PSP.

Also, I don’t want to support Sony by buying a PSP. If they’re going to be jerks and lock down their hardware, I shouldn’t support them.

Overall, I like my Droid 3. For blogging on the subway, it’s great. For gaming, it’s mediocre. I may spend a couple dollars buying emulators. I’m considering fpse and andosbox. I’ve seriously considered getting an Open Pandora, and downgrading from a smartphone to a regular phone. I’ve also considered getting a cheap used PSP, and using that for playing old games in emulators.

16 Responses to Open Pandora, PSP, or Android?

  1. I will suggest buying a PSP, although it does mean supporting SONY. It is great for emulation, homebrews, has nice screen, decent sound, very easily hacked to run custom firmware, has good games library, support running backups thus saving your game disc and more games on the move, has decent battery life (which can be further increased using more capacity battery and using plugins) and if you can’t get hold of a game through legal means, you can find a backup online and run it on custom firmware.

    Although SNES emulation on psp is hit and miss sometimes but has pretty much perfect ps1 emulation. There is an emulator for N64 too, haven’t tried it yet.

    OpenPandora is my dream device which I will probably never own since its so rare.

    • The latest PSP firmware is hackable? I see. I was looking at outdated information.

      You can preorder an Open Pandora. There’s no guarantee you’ll get one. As hardware gets cheaper, more Open Pandora clones may emerge.

  2. You would still be limited by the available emulators for Android, but you could pick up an iControlPad (basically OpenPandora controls without a keyboard) that snaps onto your phone. Much cheaper than an OpenPandora, and probably much more convenient than carrying around both a cellphone and an OpenPandora.

    I have an OpenPandora, and it is fairly cool, but your phone has higher build quality, faster hardware, and a nicer size.

    • I’m content with my keyboard as control pad, and using the touchscreen for analog controls. The emulators vary in quality. For example, NESoid and GBAoid don’t work properly when I press 3+ keys simultaneously, even though I have a multitouch keyboard.

      Also, it’s a PITA to properly configure an Open Pandora. The good Android emulators are easy to configure.

      It’s easier for me to get fpse and DosBox Turbo rather than an Open Pandora.

      I’m probably going to get the next generation Motorola Droid when my current contract expires in mid-2013. By that time, I should be able to get a PSP and DS emulator for my Android phone! (one that runs without frameskip) Hooray for Moore’s law!

  3. You are lucky that you have the money to buy and test all this stuff. 20% of the population in the U.S. is out of work right now according to economist John Williams of shadow stats.

  4. Having a Pandora now for over a year ..
    I can only simpily say than the Pandora is the only way to go …

    just look at all the emu’s alone
    daphne, MAME, gngeo , hatari , pcsx , mupen64plus , snes , stella , picodrive , temper , and dosbox to name a few.. and most play flawless…

    full desktop

    plays any format movies/music….

    I have not put my pandora down since I bought it… just my 2 cents

    • I’m seriously considering getting a Pandora. However, I didn’t like the way they screwed over the early preorders. My Android phone is good enough for most purposes.

  5. OpenPandora can actually run Android OS from an SD card. I don’t think the official Google app store works though.

    • Why would anyone run Android OS on an Open Pandora?

      Android OS is an abomination. I’m getting disgusted with my Droid 3. I’m looking into the Linux-based alternatives.

      I’m considering at the GCW Zero as a promising Open Pandora alternative.

      • I don’t understand why you think it is an abomination – it serves the smartphone purpose quite well IMO.

        For myself I prefer the desktop-like linux experience of the OpenPandora. New orders are shipped with NO WAITING from https://www.dragonbox.de/en/ The emulators are top-notch and webbrowsing is very good.

        If you like linux you will love the OpenPandora.

        • I have two complaints with Android.

          First, the user is not given root access. You can root your phone, but I don’t like systems that are designed to be locked down.

          Second, it’s based on Java. I’ve heard many people swear that just-in-time (JIT) compiled bytecode is just as fast as natively compiled code. That hasn’t been my experience actually using it. For example, MAME4Droid has obvious lag when the garbage collector runs. (There is C/C++ on Android, but it compiles to bytecode rather than a native binary.) Because users are not given root access, all apps are bytecode rather than native binaries.

          I am seriously considering an Open Pandora. I probably will wait a few years to see if the price comes down or the product survives. (Update: The price of the 1GHz version just decreased by $90, from $699 to $609.)

  6. Go the Open Pandora way! There is quite no device like it. It’s been a pleasure to play and tinker with it (15 days now). The community is great, games are very professionally crafted/packaged, repos are very active (they post on FaceBook every update/release, today a version of Metroid was published, for free), and emulation is ready “out of the box” (with full list of emulators and howTos to choose the best ones).
    My 1GHZ device runs smoothly at 1.244MHz: overclocking is a matter of dragging a slider, there is also a CPU stress test software that will find the right clock speed for you.
    The device is FAST and SNAPPY, the OS is clean and so thin compared to Android (or anything else, really). XFCE is cool and feels perfect. It runs a full version of desktop Firefox, on heavy sites, quite fine (and you can scroll with the d-pad as arrows). You can even use the Pandora as an external bluetooth HID device to a tablet/phone: as a mouse+keyboard+joystick for your phone/tablet (you move the pad on the Pandora and the mouse cursor moves on the phone, you type on Pandora.. etc.., software is called “Master Control”). The two SD slots mean you can add a *LOT* of stuff to it: 2 x 128GB means 256GB of space! Of course multiple OSs are an option (keeping data in one slot and some OS in the other). Anyway, if you do it for fun, get the Pandora.

    • I’ve been seriously thinking about it. They’re switching to “Open Pandora 2″, primarily because it’s no longer possible to get parts for the current version.

      If it isn’t a preorder disaster like the Open Pandora, I might order it from stock.

      One problem with the current Open Pandora it that it’s a couple years obsolete hardware. My phone has so much more power. I might go for an ubuntu phone.

  7. Buy the GPD WIN, Its like a Pandora but with Windows 10 on it, and 4 gigs of RAM with an Intel Atom quad-core. $300 for Kickstarter backers.

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