What's Up with the Open Pandora Handheld Console?

By Will Greenwald

According to the developers, the Pandora can run a full Linux desktop, browse web sites via Firefox, and even play Quake 3.

After three years of development, the Pandora handheld computer/game console is finally in production and about to be shipped out. PandoraPress, the project's community blog, has released pictures of the first mass-produced Pandora, hot off of the assembly line.  
 
The Pandora is being developed by OpenPandora, a group consisting of former members of the GP32 and GP2X communities. The GP32 and GP2X (later the GP2X Wiz) are handheld devices produced by South Korean companies GamePark and GamePark Holdings. While they're touted as portable gaming systems, they don't use a unified, commercial development platform like dedicated handhelds. Instead, they're open-source platforms that rely on system emulation and community-developed games for content, running Flash-based games, Linux-based games, and emulated games from systems like the Atari 2600, Super NES, and Sony Playstation. The Pandora is similarly open-source, running off a Linux 2.6.x kernel and offering complete access to software developers. However, the addition of a 43-key QWERTY keyboard gives it even more functionality than other open-source game handhelds. 
 
Pandora dwarfs GamePark's handhelds in nearly every way
 

 
According to the developers, the Pandora can run a full Linux desktop, browse web sites via Firefox, and even play Quake 3. Between its form factor and functionality, it straddles the line between handheld game console and netbook. Its battery life, like its processing power, is comparable to a small netbook; the system uses a 4000 mHa Li-ion battery the developers say can power the device for up to 10 hours. 
 
are being developed for the Pandora, allowing the handheld to play arcade games, DOS-era PC games, Super NES games, Sony PlayStation games, and even Atari Jaguar games. Like the GP2X Wiz and other GamePark handhelds, the Pandora is going to be a very flexible emulation platform.   
 
The device was first announced in 2007, and was originally intended for release in September of 2008. Development and manufacturing issues pushed the release of the handheld back almost two years, resulting in several hardware revisions from the original release candidate and the movement of the handheld's assembly process from the United States to the United Kingdom. 
 
The initial run of 4,000 Pandora handhelds are currently being assembled and shipped. They're almost all spoken for, but some sites like GBAX, GP2X Turkiye, and GP2X.de might still accept limited pre-orders for the $330 device. After the first batch goes out, OpenPandora will likely work on a second, larger production run.