GP2X Review

The last time a game made my heart really race, my wife was a Teutonic dominatrix and I had the blueprints to "die speziellen lesbischen headquaters". That was until today, when I started re-playing Quake.

Quake is one of the best computer games ever made; it might not be quite as exciting as licking your way out of the Saphist Coliditz, but in terms of game-play and challenge and excitement, Quake is hard to beat. What is especially exciting about my recent foray into Quake is that it all took place on the little-portable-open-source GP2X, powered by two AA batteries.

It doesn’t stop there. Not only does the GP2X (Powered by 2 AA batteries) play Quake, it does much more, and that, my dear reader, is what this post is about.

What is it?

Its a handheld gaming device weighing 161 grams and made in a place called Korea. Korea has two versions:

  1. North: Which makes secret nuclear weapons and spies.
  2. South: Which makes the GP2X.

The GP2X is made in Korea Version 2, and it is made well. Robust, well considered and with a high quality components, especially the screen.

It runs a version of Linux and has two 200MHZ processors and its own Video processor so it can do things that no other device on the planet, powered by two AA batteries, can do.

Where you get it?

You can get it from these people,, who are the global distributors and are based in England, which is a part of Europe. I have had a fair few emails with them and they are very helpful and very much behind the GP2X - and that is a good thing.

What does it do?

In order of importance:

1) Fractals!!!

OMG have you seen these things! They are patterns that are made mathematically out of component parts of the same patterns, and it gets better.... they go on for ever. Ot at least that’s what the manufacturers claim. I don’t know if that’s true but without doub
t they go on for 6 sets of AA batteries. You can just zoom in and in and in and in. It never stops.

Unfortunately the Korean version 2's didn’t put this in the GP2X so you need to download it and install it on the GP2X.

Download it here:,0,0,0,8,1088

2) Drum Machine

Most people who buy this in the early days will be pretty geeky. Using Shoemaker's G-F translation it is pretty clear to see that geekyness is inversely proportionate to funkiness. However, to compensate for this you can install a drum machine on the GP2X and, through practice, actually increase your funk without decreasing your geek. This is the best of both worlds and IS NOT
available on the Sony PSP or Nintendo DS Lite.

Download it here:,0,0,0,8,1088

3 The Graphical User Interface

The GP2X comes with its own "graph
ical user interface". This consists of small pictures ( or "icons") that represent the various aspects of the device. For example, the part of the graphical user interface that runs games has a "joystick" picture to guide you. If you get lost the pictures also have descriptive names associated such as "Games", "Music" and "Settings".

I found this graphical user interface very easy to use and navigate but some people may find it easier to actually go to a DVD store or an amusement arcade.

Because everything is open source there are other graphical user interfaces that can be put onto the GP2X to replace the one put on it by the Korea Version 2.0 team. I haven’t tried these others because the default one is just fine, thank you.

One other point of note is that the graphical user interface complies to the NORTFM. This means that though there is a manual you don’t need to read it, instead press a few buttons and you will pick it up, pronto.

4 Video Player

Once you have blown your stash of AA's cruising deep into the Mandelbrot set you might need a break from that math’s rollercoaster.

I suggest a good sojourn from such an excursion is to watch a movie. There are many movies available from an online video store called Bittorent, which has a great rental policy and the GP2X will play most of these (allegedly etc etc) and it will play them really well.

I like things that make you go "wow". Like when you go camping out of the city and look up to see the milky way. Or you walk in on your mother in the kitchen and she is juggling three apples and you have never seen her juggle before. Not even two.

The video quality of the GP2X has this wow. Maybe not as much as the Milky Way but at least 3 times more than Andromeda (the Galaxy not the TV Show and with the naked eye, not Hubble). Its clear and bright and with good contrast. The playback is smooth... so smooth (because of the hardware video) and all powered by two AAs.

You can push the output to the TV and its just as good as a desktop with TV out or Freecome Media Player display. I can imagine being around at a friends house and the chat has got a bit dull. They are talking about "friends of friends" and the beer is warm and its still so early. So what do you do? Get out the crack pipe or say this:

You: "Hi, I have my media player on me, how about we watch Zoolander 2?”

Them: “How?”

You: “I can plug it right in to your telly."


You:"Yes….. but have you got two AA batteries?"

As a final parting a very neat feature that could be in any video player but isnt, is that it remembers your position in a movie. So, I was watching a film in bed last night and when I was sleepy turned the device off. Tonight I'll continue watching it some more right from where I left off (assuming I don’t play Quake or "Frauline was is das in der leiderhossen!!!").

If you just want a portable movie player with TV out then that’s enough reason to get the GP2X.

5 Music and Podcasts

Some people find it enjoyable to listen to sounds aranged with a certain order or sequence and the GP2X has more than enough OOOOPH to satisfy these people.

It does MP3 and WMA and OGG, but lets be honest, we can forget the last two. The MP3 player is simple and effective. It doesn’t support play lists, in-song bookmarking or lyrics but it has all you really need for most cases. I wish it would have bookmarks like the movie player does but it doesn’t. It does have real smooooooooth in track navigation, so you can zip anywhere in a 50 meg podcast in seconds.

I’d like to make a special mention of the sound quality. I have had a zillion MP3 players over the years- stand alone, in Palm , PPC, phones etc and this, to my ears, is the best I have heard. It is clear and loud and a nice range and just ...good. It doesn’t have Dobly.

6 Games

This part of the review is only here so I don’t get accused of being nonquakeaphobic. I’ve seen the vidos of people playing many games at full speed. Ultima 7, Sonic, Duke Nukem’ etc etc etc.

  • There are tens of thousands of games available for the GP2X and the emulators seem to be getting better and better and better. Sure, there are homebrew games out there for the GP2x but ask yourself this question: Would you rather play a game written by one guy in 2006 and a budget of pizza and coke or 100 people in 1996 and a budget of 3 million?
  • I have been playing on the PSP of late, it may look better but the game play isn’t up to the games you get on the GP2X. End of discusssion.
  • Check out Craig’s review of the emulators and games available, really impressive.

Other Applciations

This baby runs Linux at the back end and has two meaty processors doing the work. In theory it could run Open Office, or Gimp (Like Photoshop) or contacts/calendar applications... really anything that can be done without internet on a desktop.

What I think will make or brake the trajectory of this side of the GP2X is peripheral support. It has a USB port so can it take a keyboard? Or a mouse? Can it cable via this to a mobile phone’s port to go online?

Because of the open source nature of this system and the fact it has port access the sky really could be the limit if a significant surge of developers get behind it. (We are going to try this at work, I think)

Any Downers?

There is a moment as a child when you realise that adults are not perfect. Maybe its when you ask one a question and they don’t answer right away. Maybe it’s when Uncle Derek looses the key to the tool shed and you both have to spend the night inside it and its cold. So cold.

For the GP2X this moment, the reaslisation that gadgets, like adults, are not perfect, comes when you try to change the batteries. The GP2X build is good, apart from the flimsy little metal tongue that pushes the negative into the positive. Its a spring that doesnt seep to ahve much spring about it. I am guessing that most of the send-backs for the GP2X will be because of this. It will break. I can that little thing now and it is saying... "I am the weakness."

There are other gripes......

Power Outage

In the middle of a game of Quake and suddenly the effects became awesome... better than an Xbox game. It was as if a white light nuke went off and I was starring at ground zero, my world imploding and melting at the same time.

In fact what had happened was the batteries died on me and that was the LCD's Swan Song. Being a life long battery fetishist I know that rechargeables live fast and die young; often without any warning. But this white out seemed really dramatic. I don’t ask for much... but 30 seconds of warning that the GP2X needs a change would be a start.

The Worst Accessory Ever

I got the official GP2x carry case and it is pants. It really is the worst designed case I have seen for any device, and I have seen many many.

  • The GP2x fits in the wrong way round so you can’t actually use it in the case.
  • It has a pocket but its is just a loose net that seems to flap and so useless for anything you might want to carry with the device, like batteries or SD cards.
  • The strap connector for it is cheap die-cast that I would not trust to hold a few feathers, let alone the GP2X.
  • It is disproportionately large relative to the size of the thing its protecting.

This is the worst case ever made for anything. If you can imagine taking the spongy excrement of a camel and smearing the GP2X in that excrement you will not be into the land of metaphor, but reality.

Conclusion: The Future

The review is coming to and end. I have been working on it for two days and I feel we need a dramatic conclusion to keep you happy. The GP2X review equivalent of blowing up the Death Star or (come out) Kevin Spacey loosing his limp. Where should I go? Try to be funny and zany? Or serious and resolute?

I think all good reviews of portable gaming and media devices should end with a quote that encapsulates what has gone before. And so I will end with a quote that achieves just that. And yet achieves even more.... spreading not just the scope and flexibility of the GP2X but also its community and potential.

I will end with a quote from a Korean (Version 1.0) Shin-Jok play that translates as follows:

"In the cusp of your fingers you may hold the many worlds and many things until power fails and all is dark".

out of 5