Mar 10, 2010

GP2X Wiz: The belated hardware review

It's been almost two months since I ordered my GP2X Wiz from Play-Asia and probably almost two months since I first started playing with it (yes, things do ship fast in our age and day), meaning that though no hardware expert I can finally provide you with a modest review of this lovely little handheld. But first let's cover the absolute basics.

What is the Wiz? Well, it obviously is a handheld console. Less obviously, it represents the fourth generation of handhelds by Korean manufacturer GamePark, and is an open and Linux-based console. Just like its predecessors (GP32 and the GP2X variants) being open means the Wiz is a platform everyone can program for, without paying any licensing fees whatsoever; it is thus ideal for enjoying freeware, indie and emulated retro games. Exactly the kind of games this very blog enjoys covering, though admittedly some high-profile commercial releases can at times be also tolerated. Might look nice on the Wiz too, though not much has been made available yet.

What's more, the Wiz seems to be based on some pretty powerful hardware. It's roughly the equivalent of a Sony PSP, though some argue the Wiz is actually the more powerful device. Besides, it even comes with a touch screen and its battery easily outlasts Sony's. I haven't really measured how long one charge will keep the thing running, but it must be more than 7-8 hours. Possibly less when overclocked, which reminds me that overclocking is another nifty feature of the thing, that -impressively- is easily accessible.

Built quality is better than I expected and definitely above the original DS in feel, though not on par with the more expensive mainstream consoles such as the latest PSPs or the DS Lite. The screen on the other hand is brilliant and reminiscent of the shining beauty that was the tiny Game Boy Micro one. The main buttons feel great, despite their awkward and not particularly comfortable d-pad like placement. The shoulder buttons and d-pad itself also work and feel fine, in a machine that sports an overall smart, good looking and practical design, where everything, from the slot of the SD card to the stylus and the built-in microphone are easily accessible.

Although the Wiz does come with some rudimentary apps (such as a decent video player, a clock and a voice recorder), we all know it's gaming that matters. Of course it's quite early in the console's lifetime, but from what I've already seen gaming is indeed its strong point. Especially when we're talking retro gaming, as most emulators I've tried worked brilliantly, despite being mostly in their very early versions.

Classic arcade machines, the ZX Spectrum, the Amiga, the Atari 2600, the Game Boy, the Neo Geo CD and the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis have all been played to death on my very own Wiz and I really can't find fault. Controls, sound and sights are simply perfect. I'd even dare say that the Wiz screen makes classic games look better and sharper than ever. And let's not forget, that this is the only handheld absolutely built for playing classic adventures via ScummVM. I ran, played and enjoyed Elvira, both Monkey Island games and Beneath a Steal Sky without the slightest problem.

Now, as commercial games haven't been released yet, all I managed to try apart from emulators were some pretty impressive freeware indie games, covering everything from abstract shmups, to rogue-likes, first person shooters and retro remakes or ports. And keep in mind that -as mentioned- the console is still young and devs have yet to come to grips with. Oh, and there are almost daily releases of new software and updated emulators.

So, to wrap this short review up: is the GP2X Wiz worth the modest asking price? If you are interested in indie and retro games, that's a definite yes. More mainstream gamers might have to wait a bit and see if the higher profile games released for it will be to their liking... As a console it's a great piece of hardware though.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. That sounds very interesting indeed.

    I have heard that there are some problems with SNES emulation - how is it? Lacking anything? Did you try, say, Final Fantasy VI?

    Also, what about newer machines - is Amiga emulation fluid and pretty?

    As for the new things - would you perhaps make a little round-up of best games / homebrew for the device? The best of, if I may say so?

  2. Well, dear Barts, to be brutally honest, I haven't tried the SNES emulator yet, but I don't recall having read anything bad about it yet.

    As for the Amiga, the emulation is superb. Everything runs fast and the sound is perfect.

    The round-ups you mention are a pretty good idea, and I will be -probably- doing some, though probably for my pocket gaming blog:

  3. Mmm I'm split between buying this and a pandora

  4. Kikito, I must admit the Pandora is an exciting handheld, but I don't like the design that much. And it's both difficult to grab and find software for. Then again, these things will surely change soon.

  5. My favorite thing about the GP2X Wiz is that it runs Linux on an ARM chip. Which means that software made for it can often be made to run without modification on any other Linux/ARM devices, and vice versa. This includes the Pandora, the N900...let a thousand flowers bloom, etc.

    A big advantage to it is being here, right now. I'll let you know what I think of the Pandora's form factor when they finally finish assembling and shipping the first of them. By the end of April, I'd say.

  6. I'd love to hear all about it Nick. And -apparently- that ARM/Linux thing is quite important. You are absolutely correct.

  7. I have a Wiz, a Dingoo A320 and a Pandora on order. I also have a GP2X-F100 (one of the earliest versions of GP2X).

    I got the F100 in 2006 and was very happy with it. The Wiz is definitely a big improvement over the original GP2X in almost all areas, especially screen and battery life. Performance has been greatly improved too. The one weird exception is C64 emulation. It's not really what I'd call _bad_ on the Wiz, but it seems like I have to overclock a lot of things in Vice and Frodo to get them to run full speed with no sound stuttering. What's odd about that is that the GP2X-F100 only ran at around 280Mhz and it seemed a bit smoother (The Wiz can clock up to something like 800Mhz, I think). Yet as Gnome said, Amiga emulation, and most other system emulations on the Wiz are almost dead-on. Just seems to be the C64 emus that aren't quite right yet. I have to think that this is just something to do with those emulators they still need to be optimized for the Wiz.

    If you can manage to get Dingux installed on the Dingoo (can be a bit tricky), that's a surprisingly good system for about half the money, but the performance is definitely not on a par with the Wiz. It sort of has Amiga emulation, but it's very spotty and primitive, even compared to what I had on the GP2X-F100.

    As far as the Pandora, obviously, it doesn't exist yet, but if they get that done and shipped anytime soon, it has the potential to be a great machine. The main reason I'm looking to Pandora isn't really the expected great performance (though that's a great bonus). The main thing about it that interests me are are all of the control options that it has, such as digital input, dual analog sticks, a (almost) full REAL keyboard, and a touch screen. Of course, then there's the WiFi, dual SDHC slots, bluetooth and all of that. With all of the extra hardware capabilities though, I'm a little worried that developers may get distracted by all of that and lose focus of the fact that it's supposed to be a game machine.

    For now though, that's all moot, because the Pandora doesn't exist yet. Until it does, the Wiz is definitely the most powerful open handheld gaming system I've used so far.

    One more sidenote.. I have to agree that the buttons on the Wiz feel a bit weird at times. It's the way they have them arranged and sort of built-up toward the outer edges. You get used to it pretty quickly though. Then again, I was one of the (apparently very rare) people that actually didn't mind the joystick on the F100. Most other people hated it.

  8. I'm intrigued by their replacing the joystick with a second D pad. Perhaps because of the touch screen?

    It's disappointing that Linux games haven't really made much noise. The emulation sounds good. I know we're seeing emulators ported or created for many devices. But some, like smartphones, don't work so well. That said, a system that seems to be billed mostly as an emulator would seem to have a hard time given emulator proliferation. And without a push of new games for it, most will think of it as an emulator that can play movies, etc.

    It's great that the hardware is well built--I wasn't sure what to make of it from the pictures.

  9. I'd also be interested in your experience with SNES & Amiga emulation.

    Both are a bit slow on my GP2X-F100, so I stick to C64, Megadrive, MAME, NES, PC Engine emus instead.

    Yep - also fascinated by the Pandora, but until I actually see one in a customer's hands...

  10. @ Paradoyd: Whjy, thank you so much for your most enlightening contribution. Must admit I'm quite impressed by your commitment to indie handhelds too... And will join you in wishing for a better Frodo. Can't say I'm pessimistic about it, really. Oh, and please let us know how Pandora fairs as soon as you grab one. Please?

    @ guttertalk: Lovely to see you around (and blogging) again my friend! As for the Wiz, I think you'd definitely enjoy it. Was quite weary of built quality myself; that's the reason I had to mention it.

    @ JOMG: Well, the Amiga runs perfectly, though I haven't quite figured out how to use more than one virtual drive. As for the SNES haven't tried it yet to be honest, but reviews seem to wildly differ.

  11. @Gnome
    " Well, the Amiga runs perfectly [...] As for the SNES haven't tried it yet to be honest, but reviews seem to wildly differ."

    Which is precisely why we need a trusted source of information - you. When you have some time, please try Amiga, SNES, C64, Spectrum, CPS2, Mame and whatever else you see fit - and you got yourself a new blog note. I did something similar with this series of posts: examining state of emulation on PSP last year.

  12. Well, you're right... I'll give it a try as soon as I find the time. Just know that Amiga, Spectrum and Genesis emulation are just brilliant.

  13. So... Dingoo A320 or GP2X Wiz? I am looking for machine capable of emulating Sega Genesis (Mega Drive). Can´t decide :)

  14. Well, dear Sledgehewer, I can't really comment on the A320 as I haven't touched it, but from what I hear it's a great little machine too. As for Genesis emulation on the Wiz, it's absolutely brilliant. The emulator's GUI is easy to use and everything runs in 60fps with perfect sound and ultra-shiny graphics.

    Hope that helps!

  15. It's a shame that there has not been any commercial support yet for this sytem. I just bought mine July 20th 2010...spent a week downloading emu/roms and cannot find these commercial games that were talked about.

  16. Well, there were some brand new commercial releases, but I failed to check them out.