GP2X Wiz gaming handheld console
Ah! The wait ends. Korean manufacturer GamePark Holding’s fourth generation handheld GP2X Wiz has finally been released. The machine, intended to be the successor to the highly popular GP2X, sadly has been subject to a lot of delays. The company has developed a Linux based hand held gaming console to cater to homebrew games and emulation. The GP2X Wiz is not another ordinary gaming console as it differs from the mainstream competitors like the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable. While the latter makes sure users stop writing their own software, the Wiz is completely open. It means anyone can write new applications and software using Adobe Flash or the native code of the machine. The GP2X Wiz is an extremely compact hand held gaming console that features a 533MHz processor with a 3D accelerator. It has a 64MB RAM and a 1GB NAND Flash memory and 12 inbuilt games. It also has a 2.8 inch OLED touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, a USB 2.0 port and a SD card slot. Sadly it lacks Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. However GamePark claims to incorporate those two as well in the future. Is it worth the wait or should you rather wait for the Pandora – another equally powerful console, read the review to find out.
What’s in the Box:
GamePark has always had a knack for catchy packaging and they have not let us down this time. The heavy cardboard box has been designed to look like a treasure chest. The Wiz logo is present at the centre of the box with the caption “Whatever you want” printed below. Sony and Nintendo ought to learn a thing or two from GamePark when it comes to bright and attractive packaging. Inside the box was the unit present in a plastic bag, a mini CD, a lead for connecting PC and a Quick Start guide. There is also a packet of Silica gel present in the box, which is a first as no other gaming console packaging has ever had Silica gel included. A Carry case, headphones, a stylus and a screen protector are to be separately bought if needed.
The initial impressions of the GP2X Wiz device are pretty favourable. Made up of matte black plastic, it resembles a toy. The build quality is better than GamePark’s earlier models. It might be small, but it feels very solid. It has dimensions similar to that of an iPhone or an iPod touch but a bit thicker. Moderately larger than the Nintendo Game Boy Micro, the console beats the GP2X F-100 / 200 in terms of design. The buttons feel good and smooth to touch. It seems to have all the amenities we have expected to be towed in as well.
GamePark never really had great controls in their earlier models. The First version of the GP2X, the F 100 had a micro switched joystick intended to be used on Sat-Nav devices. The F 200 had a four button D pad which still had issues. The Wiz fortunately features a proper D pad and while it could have been much better, it is still a bit spongy. The controls could do with having a solid pivot company and in spite of all this; the console has a substantial improvement over its predecessor.
The buttons in GP2X Wiz Gaming System are a bit close to each other and are quite small. There is a Menu and a Select button on either side of the screen, rather reminiscent of GP32’s layout. The implementation of the function of the select button depends on the specific game or application. On the right side are the four action buttons (A, B, X and Y) also located similar to the joy pad cross. They have a surrounding silver edge that has a metallic look. Though mushy, they would not be used much during game play. The Joy pad can be pressed not only in the four basic directions, but also diagonally as well. By pressing at the centre, one can gently move the thumbs to rotate without much problem. On the upper side are present two more “action” buttons that are well placed. They make a “click” sound when pressed so that you do not have to check for it. The power button is located on the left side of the device and is used to switch on or off the console. The device can also be used to lock the device as well. There are buttons on the bottom side as well: 2 to control the volume (that is to either increase it or decrease it).
At the middle of the bottom is present the USB slot to which one can connect the supplied USB cable. The right hand side of the bottom is the location of the 3.5mm jack adapter which allows one to connect a pair of headphones. Next to the left button on the top is present the microphone hole and on the middle of the upper side is present the slot for SDHC. This leaves out one slot on the device for the strap. So a pretty decent set of ports, nothing extraordinary here.
The display has a diagonal measurement of 2.8 inches and a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels points. Most Emulated games faced problems while running in high resolution. However, a wide screen such as the one PSP has is not necessary as most games were made for 4: 3 aspect ratio earlier. The touch screen uses the same technology used in PDAs. The screen responds to a touch pen or a finger with ease. We wish the screen were larger but it is not really much of a deal breaker. It does display images very beautifully. One also can choose from four possible intensities, brightness and display. The touch pen provided is hard to lose because the holder is located in the device.
Using the GP2X Wiz:
To turn on the unit, one needs to slide a self returning switch on the side of the unit. Since the Wiz uses a trimmed down version of the Linux operating system, it takes some time to start up unlike other handhelds with just cartridge software that take 20 odd seconds to load. Once the Wiz boots up, there is the icon driven menu which is pretty okay, but the quality and brightness of the screen will bowl you over. The Wiz runs a Qplus embedded Linux and is capable of playing some homebrew games created for its predecessor. It also has a GUI that allows one to play videos, view photos, record audio and read eBooks and comics. It does not come with emulators built in but one can download them free of charge. The Main menu has the following icons : Wiz Game (that allows you to play purchased SD card games), Built in games, Flash Games, Entertainment(which is further subdivided into Video, Flash, Music, Photo, Comics, EBooks, Tools, Launcher and settings.
The OLED screen makes it viewable from any angle and allows you to view bright and sharp images. One small niggle we found in the Wiz is that the volume resets itself every time we reboot the machine.
Connectivity to PC:
In order to connect the GP2X Wiz Game console to the PC, one needs to use the USB cable and connect one end to the bottom of the console and the other to the PC. The connector has an LED that goes green if the console is connected and turns red when the device is not. The console shows up as a separate drive on your PC and one needs to select on the display whether you would like to see the internal memory or the memory card.
Although the GP2X comes loaded with a host of applications such as a video player, a clock and a voice recorder, it is best as a gaming console.
The GP2X Wiz features an ARM9 533MHz CPU with 3D acceleration which means one can enjoy cutting edge music, games and movies with this powerful Processor. It is 100 more MHz than the Dingo which is under clocked at 400 MHz. It is capable of over clocking to 800MHz and hence is powerful enough to play with if you are interested to write your own applications. However, it is still weaker than Pandora’s 600 MHz and one really cannot observe the difference between this processor and the one of its predecessor the GP2X. However, it was able to handle emulators, some homebrew software and flash based titles pretty well. When we played the game Quake 2 on the Wiz, it seemed choppy at the default clock speed, however, over clocking to higher speeds eliminated that as well.
One of the USPs of the GP2X Wiz is that fact that it is the first handheld console which boasts of modern AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) display. How is it different from conventional TFT? These LEDs are thinner, do not need a backlight and are excellent in clear and contrasting views. Even in pitch black darkness, the colour black is visible and the device consumes a significantly less amount of energy. However, it is difficult to make out anything on the screen in direct sunlight. It also does not suffer from ghosting like the Sony PlayStation Portable does.
The Gamepark GP2X Wiz comes with an inbuilt memory of 1GB and most users would likely require more than that. The Primary storage device of the Wiz is the SD Card (with SDHC supported) which can be placed into a socket at the top of the unit. The SD cards must be formatted as FAT16 or FAT32 and now cards up to 32GB can be added. The console features an SDRAM of 64MB.
Built in Games:
The Wiz is capable of running several emulators, flash games, applications and freeware games and comes preinstalled with a number of games on NAND. However, gamers notice that the Wiz is best for playing eternally popular classic arcade games and one cannot expect game launches like the one PSP and Nintendo has. So does that mean missing out on a lot? Not really, thanks to the growing list of emulators in GamePark’s application store. GamePark has announced that it will be making a handful of games available every month for download. The best part about all this is that one can download all of them for free. The following are a list of games that are included in the console.
- IQ Jump : A collection of 5 brain training style “flash” games that allows you to look for the same pictures, or a missing number, addition and subtraction, looking for a coin in the saving pocket and Crisis ladder.
- Animatch by Ruckage: A regular match three game with cute little animal icons. The cutest thing was that the game says “Paws” when you pause it.
- Square Tower Defense: A rather cubist tower defense game that did not have basic instructions included.
- Wiztern by Chemaris: A demo game that allows one to tap at the screen to shoot at cards flipping over.
- Myriad by WarmFluffyUK: A space invaders game that allows one to shoot a city from above and whips them.
- Space Varments by Ruckage: A point and shoot game where one has to tap the touch screen to shoot passing aliens.
- Tail Tale by Rerofumi
- Boomshine 2x PeterR
Backward compatibility with previous models such as the GP2X is missing and one can make them compatible and copy them into console. This is unlike the PSP where one has to “hack” the console.
The inbuilt games are good enough, but what most users are excited about are emulators. They are basically programs that allow the Wiz to “emulate” a video game console. They are usually used to play older video games on PCs and consoles. They are usually used to translate games into other languages or modify existing games. However downloading emulators and ROMS usually violate copyright rules and is punishable by law. For Emulators and ROMS to work on the Wiz, one needs to first find an appropriate emulator and then the actual ROMS. Once you have both of them, one has to drag them into proper folder on the device. To do that one needs to connect the console to the PC via the USB cable. One can navigate the Wiz folders on the PC and can even store ROMS on an SD card to save space on the device. We did try a couple of emulators and they worked flawlessly. The Wiz supports Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Super Nintendo, various arcade machines, Sega Master System, Game Gear, Mega Drive, Genesis, A Sega CD, Sega 32X, Sony Playstation and Neo Geo games and mind you, that is a very impressive list.
The GP2X also functions as a music player something that most users would also want in a console. Buyers will not be disappointed as the Wiz can handle music in MP3, OCG and WAV format. There is even a spectral analyzer that “visually” reacts to music and was an aesthetic add. The music player was equipped with basic functions alone and too bad it did not have an equalizer like its predecessor did.
When compared to the older models, the Wiz features four new applications: Calendar, World Time, Calculator and Timer. A calendar is highly handy and thanks to the world time one can see what time it is in different cities in the world. The timer helps in measuring time intervals. There is a recorder as well on the Wiz. With an integrated microphone one can record sound. There are only four controls: Start / Stop, recording, playback, delete and exit. The recorded audio files are stored in WAV format. Another mentionable feature is that the Wiz acts as an eBook with limited functionality. One can read .TXT files on the Wiz along with images and enjoy comics on the handheld as well.
One can download and view photos taken from a digital camera or a phone through your PC. There are options to enlarge or abridge the image from 320 x 240 to 1024 x 768. One also can rotate the images in 90, 180 and 270 degrees. The Wiz supports JPG, BMP, PCX, GIF and PNG files. Amongst the wide range of video formats, the console supports DivX 3/4/5 and XVid (MPEG-4) and the audio formats of MP3 and Vorbis.
When it comes to audio, it is capable of replaying music in MP3 and OCG formats on its multi codec MP3 player.
First and foremost, the Wiz as a gaming console does excellently well. Although it does not stray anywhere close to the territory of Nintendo or the PSP, it excels at what it is aimed to: Open source gaming and emulators. Emulators such as Pico Drive (Megadrive/Genesis), GP2Xpectrum (ZX Spectrum) and Mame4All (Arcade) worked wonderfully well and the OLED screen made them look even better. Controls, sounds and sights were great. The new processor does not seem to enhance the performance of the GP2X Wiz and then there was the problem of screen tearing in some fast paced games. There was a diagonal split across the screen making the game look like it was running 2 displays at once perhaps due to different refresh rates. We hope that GamePark will launch a software fix for this soon.
There were some occasional crashes and freezes but a quick reboot solved the problem. The built in games were fun and the best was perhaps Animatch, a clone of the Zoo Keeper. Video playback through the inbuilt media player was at best average. The movie files we played were occasionally marred by stuttering. The music playback was far better. The recording capabilities were good too as it was able to accurately capture spoken audio well. We believe that future firmware upgrades will greatly enhance the performance of this already well performing device.
The GP2X Wiz features a Li-Pol battery with a capacity of 2000mAh that lies hidden under the removable back cover. To remove it one needs to unscrew the 2 little screws and there you have 2 AA rechargeable batteries. In order to charge your GP2X Wiz, you need to connect the console to the PC using the USB port. Charging the battery through the USB port was gruesome and slow and it gets slower if the console is switched on. It took 5 hours to get totally charged with the console off and a whopping 10 hours with the console on. So we suggest that you leave it for charging overnight. For faster charging times, we suggest you buy a classic charger with a USB port as an output and connect using it in place of the USB cable.
There is a battery status icon located on the upper right corner of the display. Though it is not linear, it shows the remaining energy and once you reach the minimum value it displays the low battery message. Unlike the GP2X100 it does not “die” when the power ends and energy saving is possible thanks to power saving measures such as reducing brightness of the display and the automatic shutdown screen (which switches off screen and is handy while listening to music). So the main thing is how long does the Wiz last? 4 hours 35 minutes was all it took for the battery to get empty. One can replace the batteries easily without having the need to reset the date and time every time you do it.
The GP2X Wiz is provided with a warranty period of one year on service and labour.
The Wiz is an amazing successor to the GP2X and manages to meet our expectations. Though it is much better than its predecessor, it seems like a more enhanced version than a full fledged successor. Apart from the fact that it has a small screen, the console has a great design and is perfectly sized for handheld gaming. Like most other handhelds the Wiz tries to cater to Audio and Video playback but with mediocrity. The Wiz sadly can handle emulators that the GP2X could handle as well but only slightly better. Its closest rival is The Dingoo Digital A 320 is available at half the price with similar specifications and another rival the Pandora has not yet been launched. If you owned any of the predecessors and feel like the Wiz addresses any of your past problems, it is highly recommended. As mentioned earlier, the console caters to emulators and home brew games and so if you like some hardcore popular titles such as the GTA, you can pick up the Sony PSP or the Nintendo.
GP2X Wiz Game System – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||GP2X Wiz|
|Dimensions (H x W x D) in||121 x 61 x 18|
|Weight||98g without battery and 136g with battery|
|Buttons||Up / Down / Right / Left
A/ B/ X/ Y
Power On/ Off / Hold
|Display||2.8 inch AMOLED Touch Screen|
|Processor type||533MHz ARM9 (overclockable to 800 MHz) 3D Accelerator|
|NAND Flash Memory||1 GB|
|Storage||SD Card with SDHC support|
|Connection to PC||USB 2.0 high-speed|
|Max Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Chipset||MagicEyes Pollux System-on-a-Chip|
|Video Formats supported||DivX, XviD for video
MP3 and WAV for audio
|Audio Formats supported||MP3, Ogg Vorbis and WAV|
|Photo format supported||JPG, PNG, GIF and BMP formats|
|Flash Player||Flash Player 8 with Action Script 2.0|
|Power||Internal 2000mAh Lithium Polymer Battery|
|Battery Life||4 hours 30 minutes|