We wish to warmly thank the guys at play-asia for this review sample.

The GP2X mk2 is a hand held console made by a company named GamePark Holdings. Admittedly the GP2X has been on the market for a while, but the recently released mk2 fixes many of the less than ideal issues and generally improves things like battery life and so on. This is quite a fun gadget and should be interesting to just about anyone who likes to tinker a little.

Specifications:
Chipset: MagicEyes MMSP2 MP2520F System-on-a-Chip
Dual-core CPU: 200MHz ARM920T host, 200MHz ARM940T
NAND Flash ROM: 64 MB
RAM: SDRAM 64 MB
Operating System: Linux-based OS
Storage: SD Card
Connection to PC: USB 2.0 High Speed
USB Host: USB 1.1
Power: 2 — AA battery or via AC adapter
Display: 320—240 3.5 inch, 260,000 colors TFT LCD
TV output
Physical size: 143.6mm wide, 82.9 mm high, 27 mm (excl. joystick approx.) / 34 mm deep
Weight: 161g (without battery)


The console comes in a quite attractive black box, which should make just about anything look forward to opening it. When doing so you’ll find the console, and a USB cable.


Let’s take a closer look at the buttons and connections.



An AC adapter can, and should be purchased, as this little guy loves eating batteries.



SD-cards are used to store files. To the right is a headphone jack, and to the right of that is one of the two shoulder buttons.



Turning the console on isn’t exactly difficult.



The basic console-type buttons you’re used to.



Though the placement of the volume button is a little odd. Still, it works, and as does the directional pad.

In addition I recommend purchasing the TV-out cables and said AC-adapter.



So what does the console do?
The GP2X is essentially an open-source Linux based handheld that you can use to play games, play music and videos, read ebooks, and view photos. This certainly sets it apart from the two main competitors, the Nintendo DS and the PSP. Currently there aren’t a whole lot of retail games. A few are supposedly on the way but, I wouldn’t expect the selection to expand very much. Still, the neat thing about the console is its ability to get good performance with emulators and SDL. GP2X.de currently lists no less than 66 emulators; and to name a few: SNES, NES, PSX, Spectrum, Neo Geo, DosBox, MAME, and GBA. In other words you’ll be able to play thousands upon thousands of games on this little thing. Obviously not all of these emulators will be 100% polished and bug free but, that should only improve with time. It’s also worth mentioning that quite a few games will act strangely. Perhaps lack music or simply crash at some point.

Let’s take a look at the UI.


The main menu, which is navigated using the directional pad, and various buttons to go back and forth.


Here I’ve navigated to a game folder stored on an SD card. GP2X executables are easily spotted.


The settings menu lets to change various things and enable modes like USB-transfer and TV-out.

Unfortunately the USB cable included with the console wouldn’t work correctly with my various Windows systems, but the one included with my digital camera worked perfectly. As far as I know I’m not the first to experience this but, luckily it’s not an expensive thing to replace, should you be unlucky.

It’s also important to note that the unit doesn’t come with an SD card. It does have 64mb of storage space, around 32 of which the user can fill up but, in order to really do something you’ll have to additional storage space. A decent 512mb or 1gb card doesn’t cost much, however, it’s a little annoying having to buy additional things in order to use the console as intended.

Transferring data to the GP2X is extremely quick and easy as it shows up in windows just like any other removable drive.





A random SDL-based game.

Getting started on development is surprisingly easy. There are many sites where you’ll find articles on how to get started and forums if you get stuck. I gave this a shot myself and found it quite satisfying.


Mp3 playback. The controls allow for easy interaction. Various modes are supported but, the default goes a long, long way. Keep in mind that the integrated speakers don’t sound extremely good but, with headphones it’s as good as you’d expect.

Battery consumption can be lowered by dimming the screen during playback.

Video playback works equally well. Many codecs and resolutions are supported but, don’t expect the batteries to last very long. Should the screen be too small there’s always the optional TV-out cables. Output was in fact better than I had expected on my fairly old TV and I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks quite good on an HDTV.




Secret of Mana, using one of the several SNES emulators that are available.




Conclusion:
The GP2X is a pretty neat console. It may not look as fancy as the other hand helds but, I’m thoroughly impressed with the emulator support and the fact that it’s a platform that any random guy can develop. Sure you might not get rich writing games for it but, it’s infinitely more accessible than most alternatives.

The user interface does what it’s supposed to although, it doesn’t blow you away in any way at all. Also, there have been various software bugs that do get annoying at times but, the unit itself is perfectly stable, and can even be overclocked should you need a little bit of extra speed.

Giving this a score is somewhat difficult because those specifically interested in playing old games and maybe writing some code will most likely enjoy the unit but, specifically younger gamers and those that haven’t written a single “hello world” app will probably see a more limited use.

Score: 8.5 / 10


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