The GCW-Zero: A new open source handheld console (Kickstarter)


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126 Responses

  1. bsanehi

    The screen is way too small, needs more ram & second analog nub. Also they should make a deal with Nvidia, and through in tegra 4.

  2. hgoel0974

    In these times, such specs are WAY TOO basic.
    Smartphones do an average 1.5 GHz and around 1.5 GB RAM or as in the case of the Vita, a good graphics card/chip with a reasonable amount of dedicated vram.

    To me, this seems just like another children’s console, like the Nintendo DS,3DS- Very basic specs=only attractive to someone with no knowledge of hardware=kids 😉

    • JY

      Just wanted to point out:

      The fact that you can’t appreciate games because of the lack of next gen graphics makes you look like a kid.

      • Jonny

        JY your entire comment makes you look like a kid

      • hgoel0974

        Where have I said that I can’t appreciate games because of lack of next-gen graphics?
        I am talking about specs, they don’t have too much to do with graphics.

        GBA Emulator on the PSV’s screen doesn’t make the games look Next-gen all of a sudden. A good graphics card just makes some things easier, if this is an emulator device, it should have these decent specs to be able to do some good emulation.

  3. Hello. I’m responsible for the Duke Nukem 3D port to GCW Zero. I have to disagree with you in “GCW-Zero is in only for old games and emulators, and will not try to fix broken implementations of some FPS games”. First, we focus on playability of the FPS titles and good input mapping is our top priority. Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Quake I&II, Hexen II, Descent 1&2 – they all play really well with just one analog. Here is how my port of Duke Nukem 3D utilizes the GCW button layout:
    Analog nub: look up/down and turn left/right
    Front buttons (A/B/X/Y): move forward/backward and strafe left/right
    Right shoulder: shoot
    Left shoulder: jump
    D-PAD left/right: change weapon
    D-PAD down: use/open
    D-PAD up: toggle crouching
    SELECT + D-PAD left/right: change selected item
    SELECT + D-PAD down: use item
    SELECT + Right shoulder: mighty boot

    All the buttons are naturally re-mappable if needed.

    I put a lot of effort into this button mapping and you have to believe me it plays really well. Here’s a video of Duke Nukem 3D in action where you can see me using the mentioned button layout:

    The other FPS games use similar button mapping, customized to the game needs.

    • wololo

      Thanks Artur. I am more concerned about more recent FPS games that really benefit from a second nub. I’ve played Duke3D on a keyboard without a mouse, and that wasn’t a problem in those days, so I can definitely see how it will be extremely playable on the Zero.

      The videos of Descent I’ve seen running on the GCW-Zero made quite good use of the G sensor and that looked nice too.

      I am myself not a big FPS player, besides the old ones you mention, but I *know* that the lack of a second nub was the top 1 criticism for the PSP, and it was one of the most welcomed features on the Vita. Again, I am not saying the lack of a second nub kills the idea, but that it limits its scope.

      Edit: our community is focused on the Vita, a device which for $250 has specifications that completely kill the GCW Zero. Of course this is not the same world, Sony sells their devices at a loss because they get the money back on software sales, and can mass-produce it, but from the “end user” perspective of people visiting this site, the price of the Zero compared to its specs will definitely feel like a “let down”. This is also why I mentioned the Open Pandora. The Open Pandora was incredibly expensive, *but* it had awesome specs that gave us a nerdgasm. The CFW-Zero does not have those. It will get the job done, and I am convinced the games ports will be extremely polished, but as a device in itself it is not very exciting.

      • joevar

        From a technical prespective, your criticisms are completely valid. But from a business prespective, a company like Sony has much more than a gaming device with better specs. They are also backed up by reputation through established devices and communities and funding from previous projects. Sony mass produce devices knowing that they’ll likely sell on that alone. Unfortunately, this places a high barrier to entry if newcomers like GCW wants to compete with Sony. I can’t imagine that GCW could ever produce a Vita competitior anywhere near $250. $400 is a probably more realistic price, but hardly anyone will buy that when they can safely choose the Vita. I think the Open Pandora is good case-study here. A device with great specs supported by a small, unsustainable community because of its high barrier to entry ($$$ + risk) for joining that community. Creating a lower-end device as a first product makes more sense. Fortunately, this isn’t a unique situation here. It’s a fairly common theme for startups. I’m willing to bet (literally) that next time around they’ll mass produce a cheaper “Open Pandora.” Because they’ll already have communities, funding, and software to support it.

        • wololo

          I guess one of my points is that I’d pay $400 now for some open source device with the specs of the Vita (while I wouldn’t pay $135 for a device with the specs of the Zero). I would have been an OpenPandora owner if they hadn’t blown their schedule by several years, and I think Kickstarter would help a project like the OpenPandora today to 1) meet its deadlines and 2) help lower (a bit) the prices with actual mass production.

    • BrendanBeckmann

      Descent, huh? Man that brings back memories. I might have to get one of these if I can play Descent on it. I wanted to play it back on the PSP but the only builds seemed to be built for pre-2.0 OFW so it seemed like compatibility would’ve been awful.

      I hope one day the Vita will have it, that would be nice.

  4. praed0r

    IMO this proposed new machine lacks a real “killer” reason to buy one, it looks very much like a poor copy of a PSP that probably won’t be able to play PSP/PSX games.

    So for those that cannot afford a Vita, a second hand PSP would be a much better option – it has a vast library of quality games, great homebrew and emulation support and is readily available right now.

    I would be very surprised if it met it’s donation target.

    Just my opinion, I have been known to be wrong before lol.

  5. Jd8531

    Looks cheap, one nub, small screen and weak specs. If it was sporting a Tegra 3 or 4 I might be more inclined. Id recommend just getting a Vita or pspgo.

  6. Raziel

    *shivers* the thing would have been 10 years ago. now those specs are pretty pathetic and you have waaaaay better choices if you want to play *Retro Games*

  7. Dovlek

    With the Project Shield from Envidia we will se something new

  8. Dovlek


  9. z0_0d

    this is a low end game console, not compete with PSP.

    some internal photo can be found here

    very bad casing and construction design

    price range should under US50

  10. Al Kowholich

    Do we really need a Tegra 4 and 512 MB of RAM for SNES. And some of us out there could care less about Playstation or newer. Just saying

  11. deejay

    120 for this is too expensive in my opinion

  12. KUROKO

    Is that the new ps 1 ?

  13. KUROKO

    Neo-Geo Gold X looks better than this

    • Jose

      Neo Geo X is a laughing stock in the community.

      This outperforms the Neo Geo X in so many levels. If you made any amount of research you would find this runs Neo Geo BETTER than the Neo Geo X.

      • sabin1981

        I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there. This? The GCW Zero? Same SoC as the Neo Geo X, so please.. tell me how this “outperforms the Neo Geo X on so many levels” — I’ll wait 😉

        I’m sorry, I respect the developers and their accomplishments – such as the Dingoo – but this is just a horrible machine. It’s overpriced and underpowered. I would much rather get one of those cheap Android machines, such as the ones from YinLips or JXD. At least those are backed by some oomph and have full access to the Android catalogue as well as proven, constantly updated, emulators.

        • The problem with NeoGeoX is they violate several licenses. First, I haven’t heard of them releasing the source code for their Linux port – that’s a violation of GPL. Second, FBA – the emulator they used to play Neo Geo games – only allows for a non-commercial usage. So they broke a license of FBA as well.
          This is perhaps not a biggie for some people who only care about games they can play. It is however a repellant for homebrew developers and hackers – if the company violated software licenses already, how can they be sure the company won’t try to steal the software they developed as well.

          Additional problem that comes from the lack of Linux sources is the unability to improve the OS. With no drivers or documentation for the device released – anybody who wants to improve the OS will need to first reverse engineer the hardware, then write the drivers to LCD, button input, usb host, hdmi, etc. all from scratch.

          This is not the case with GCW Zero where the full source code is available on the github account.

        • Well check out my videos of it running all the neogeo games that the neogeo x plus more using the same emulator at the correct resolution and at 0 frameskip. If you read the neogeo forums you will see that the game files are all use the fba extension and the emulator is actually a .dge file which is what the dingoo used. heck there is even a psx bios on the internal sd card. Oh and here is the link to the viloation of the fba license

          but the major point of it are:

          You may not sell, lease, rent or otherwise seek to gain monetary profit from FB Alpha;
          You must make public any changes you make to the source code;
          You must include, verbatim, the full text of this license;
          You may not distribute binaries which support games with copyright dates less then three years old;

  14. KUROKO

    I’m only trying to have a good time thats three for me woohoo

  15. jutley

    I have one of thease as i was one of the first 40 to order one early all i can say it a amazing device pictures alone don’t do this device justice in reality it something else i have had all the retro handhelds and nothing compares to this if you need more info pm me.

  16. Yukon

    I’ll buy it for $50.

  17. ironchefion

    I hate the small screens in alot of these handhelds. i am so used to the Vita’s 5in that if these upcoming handhelds comes out, they must also match the screen size of that of the vita nothing less.

  18. ironchefion

    And the specs, maybe good years ago, but come on, gotta be better than that nowadays

  19. wl

    even old PSP looks better, (but without linux)

  20. Lorz

    Screen too small and lack of a full set of controls I agree with, but I think it has plenty of horsepower for the purpose… they wanted to maintain compatibility with Dingux and the Dingoo, so that they would already have an installed base of software, this means their hardware choices were a bit limited….. The Dingoo family handhelds use Ingenic CPUs, so the makers of the GCW Zero chose the most powerful chip in the Ingenic line…. which also happens to be the same chip powering the Neo Geo X Gold.

    “We are committed to working with the open source and homebrew communities.”

    In my opinion, that promise alone already makes this a million times better than the PS Vita, and any homebrew developer tired of constantly fighting with greedy dirtbag market fatcats like Sony just might agree.

  21. huz

    hi, i have xperia play r800i n64 snes gba gbc megasega neogeo with retro classic controller wireless work! .i have pspgo 6.20 pro-b1 deadalus64 fail frezee.
    not buy fake hard button psp android china

  22. XDarkMario

    shut up and take my money!!!

  23. GamingClassicist

    Something like this used to exist years ago, back when the PSP was new.

    It was called the gp32x.

    • Lorz

      Open handhelds aren’t a new Idea… GP32x, GP2x, GP2x Wiz, GP2x Caanoo, Open Pandora, Dingoo a320, Dingoo a330, Dingoo a320e, Dingoo a380, Gemel a330… just to name a few… the GCW is a continuation of that heritage….. and if you ask me, it’s alot to be proud of, because they all represent gamer and developer freedom, no greedy corporate scumbags pulling the strings.

  24. foxtrot

    Wololos concern about specs is pretty convincing, but Jose’s helpful insight really opened my eyes.

  25. hgoel0974

    Illumiscreen is more attractive than this, although I support neither, because Illumiscreen sounds like a gimmick, The same effects could be achieved easily with a projector and a camera, with the camera telling software where the Television is, sending that portion of the video to the television and the rest on to the projector, the camera would send the software an image of the environment, the software modifies it for the pulsing effects, projector projects them.

    So, it is not too complicated to implement.

  26. SteveBass

    Before being critical of the “low specs” please educte yourself about what this system does and how it does it. It is about emulating consoles up to PS1/N64 level and playing ports (Duke Nukem, Doom, Cave Story etc).

    It will most likely not benefit for any more ram, 256mb is more than enough, the processor is a capable one and the screen size and resolution is well suited to it’s purpose (playing old games on hi-res screens is not beneficial).
    Battery life is also reported as being exceptional.

    Android needs lots of ram, this doesn’t, it’s called efficient coding.

    There are already production units out there, the OS (Opendingux) has a wealth of software and is looking very professional. It blows a modded PSP out of the water any day of the week and you don’t need to charge it every 2 hours.

    • wololo

      About efficient coding, and the devs behind this being good at what they do and optimizing the performance, I have absolutely no doubt about that. But how about the army of newcomer devs who would like to lend a hand, maybe port this or that emulator/homebrew to the system? With lowend specs like this, they might get discouraged fairly easily. Not everyone has a Master’s degree in embedded devices.

      The screen size and resolution are too low for at least one game: Wagic. It sucks because I think we’ve proven we’re willing to take that game to as many devices as possible. The screen size and resolution was already a problem on the dingoo, and this doesn’t change.

      This blog entry is my personal opinion, and I believe I am pretty well “educated” on what the device will do, what it’s purpose is. I have also bought lots of gadgets in my life, and I believe $135 for such specs is not a competitive price, especially for backers who are actually the ones taking the financial risk with the first batch. I’m just saying it might have a hard time finding its audience given the price and that pretty much every android device out there offers the same emulators support and better screens. The Zero only has its dedicated controls for it, and even that, with the missing additional nub, is kind of a letdown.

      About it being better than a modded PSP. The PSP came out 7 years ago, so that should be a given. Even though, I’m pretty sure the PSP’s controls will be better (simply because it’s difficult to be better than Sony at that), and the PSP’s screen is definitely better than this. CPU and GPU, sure, but again, 7 years later, that was kind of expected.

      Again, just my personal opinion. Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice project, I just don’t understand what the audience is for that kind of product. Count me in for twice that price with a similar concept, but up-to-date hardware specs.

      • “But how about the army of newcomer devs who would like to lend a hand, maybe port this or that emulator/homebrew to the system? With lowend specs like this, they might get discouraged fairly easily. Not everyone has a Master’s degree in embedded devices.”

        The fact it runs Linux and supports common libraries like SDL, makes it easy to develop for, even if you have never coded for an embedded device before. You can compile your application for Windows/OSX/Linux PC and it will look exactly the same on the GCW. So you can start coding your software without even having a unit. Naturally speed and performance optimizations are a different thing and you can’t really test them without having the actual device, but 1GHz MIPS processor is a lot and definitely does not fall into the category of low-end handhelds that require coding magic to run games at decent framerate. As a bonus we have a Floating-point unit (FPU), so games heavy in floating point arithmetic run just fine on the GCW (this was a major issue for other handhelds, as calculating floating point on just a CPU costs a lot of computing power).

        Overall I have to agree with some comments that GCW Zero is not made for running modern games, but that’s exactly the point – it was never designed to run them. We will be more than happy to see modern big titles being ported over, but realistically speaking – I would not have much hope for it. GCW Zero is a device to run classic games and retro stylized homebrew. If you are interested only in the newest 3D games breaking the limits in polygon count – you’re better with a Vita :)

        GCW Zero is for people who have interest in the homebrew scene – the system being up-to-date Linux and the entire platform open source – no jailbreaking is required and nobody is going to ban/sue you for attempting to run unsigned software. We originate from a strong homebrew community and have a lot of talented people willing to develop for this platform. GCW Zero is our next step into fully open and free (as both beer and freedom) homebrew scene. If there are any developers reading this news post, they might be interested in checking out our source code repository:

        • Deagle275

          Well , it’s a nice console, easy to port stuff, simple specs , nice screen and small .The only problem i see is : Not many people are interested in it . I don’t have any problem with the spec , if it emulates ps1 at 30 fps it’s nice . Would we be able to overlock it , i mean , you encourage us to modifie it .

          • We don’t have overclock working yet, however the JZ series of processors were able to be easily overclocked (ie. JZ4740 which was 336MHz could be overclocked to 430MHz in most units), so my guess is – in the future we will be able to overclock the GCW Zero. Currently however you are limited to 1GHz.
            Naturally – the source code to the kernel is out there, so if anybody is interested, they can start hacking it and adding overclock support right now.

  27. Aneudi

    It comes in black!?! It looks like a cool handheld but i never used linux before. I wish someone would make a handheld that runs dreamcast, ps2, and/or gamecube games, but I doubt that.

    • It runs a GUI frontend, so you never have to deal with the raw Linux side of the device (unless you want to). This is like Android phones, which are also running on a Linux kernel, yet nobody has issues operating them. You can see our GUI frontend on the pictures on our website (plus some more homebrew not featured in the KS video)

      We have developed a package format (opk), which works like this:
      1) you drop the package on the internal memory/external SD card
      2) the game icon appears in the menu, you’re ready to play*

      *) Games that require 3rd party data files (ie. Duke Nukem 3D) need an extra step of copying the missing files. But that goes without saying.

  28. cojoo

    and! “it also comes in black” lmao

  29. Zonic

    It’s like the GBA and PSP had a baby O_o

  30. abobo

    maybe 7 years ago this handheld would’ve been relevant today it looks more like a joke

  31. wolframio

    Looks bad because is a mix of psp and ds

  32. timdim

    Initially I was disappointed at the specs, however having looked closer I have accepted it as effectively a dingoo a390 or whatever model number would be next and have backed it at $135.
    The resolution probably is the right choice for retro. I am a little worried with the low dpi of the screen though and that it will be extremely pixelated, similar to what happens with DSi/3DS XL.
    If it’s made in the USA then furry muff but +$20 for the rest of the world is a bit of a joke, but that’s maybe a kickstarter issue as I see it on others.
    Also as a comparison, I paid €140 for my Vita with LittleBigPlanet!

  33. svenn

    To expensive; Rpi does better and is allot cheaper. 256 is really to low, 512 is barely a difference in price but a better start point.

    • SteveBass

      Haha, I see my comments are being deleted when I correct the author on the gaps in his knowledge, brilliant.

      The Rpi definitely does NOT do anything better than the GCW0, plus the Rpi is not a handheld console, you have to build it. How many people can do that and make it the same standard as the GCW0?
      The only other open handheld that offers similar levels of performance and emulation is the Pandora which is 4x more expensive, will take an age to arrive (if you get it at all) and is of dubious build quality.

      Again, without wanting to sound like a stuck record, this is NOT underspecced. 256mb ram is more than enough for doing what this console is meant to do. If the Rpi needs more to acheive the same result then unlucky, you’ve got some poor coding going on right there.

      Also the screen is pefectly suited to retro emulation. Ever seen 16 bit on a big stretched PSP widescreen? It looks horrible.

      Name me a single handheld which has close to perfect emulation and exceptional build quality with a cheaper price. Just one will do…..

      • wololo

        To clarify something: Comments are *never* and have *never been* deleted on this blog, with the following exceptions:
        – comments that simply say “first”
        – comments that use the words “nazi” or “Hitler” for no good reason
        – comments that contain racism, pornography, warez, and illegal stuff in general
        – comments that are a basic insult towards a specific individual
        – comments that reveal personal information about members of our site without their consent
        – comments that were obvious attempts at revealing secret information regarding our Ninja releases

        In your case, your comments are not deleted. Some of them might have gone in the spam folder (we use Akismet, this is automated and I don’t check the spam folder), but most likely this is an artifact of caching on your browser. Just ctrl+f5 and you should see your comment. If you’ve been on this blog for a while, you know that I have a deep respect for freedom of speech, including (especially!) for people who disagree with me in a constructive way.

        Edit: ever seen Picodrive on the Vita’s OLED with bilinear filtering on? It looks awesome.

  34. SteveBass

    Yeah again, to people saying it’s too expensive and “X” is better (Rasberry PI? ***! Definitely NOT better than the Zero), keep in mind that this is for close to perfect retro emulation. For emulation of this standard your only other option is the Pandora which is 4x the price.

    If you think 256mb ram is too small then you might want to take it up with the devs behind OpenDingux who wholeheartedly disagree. Remember what the A320 could do with a tiny 32mb?

    Comparing it to a Vita or whatever is just trolling, if you want to play modern games get a modern console (and pay a fortune for it’s proprietary memory cards), if you want a retro console that supports open software then get this.

    Far too many people just look at numbers and judge without even knowing what it is they are looking at. Thin is NOT underspecced, if it was the Opendingux team wouldn’t be so dedicated to it.

    As it stands the article comes across as badly researched and uninformedwith a possible negative affect on the kickstarter project. Unfortunate but I guess people like making uninformed opinions to suit their preconceptions.

    • wololo

      I’ve been a gamer for the past 20 years, I’ve owned many gaming devices, and I’m a strong supporter of open source, indie games, and homebrews; so I don’t feel like I’m uninformed.

      I stand by what I wrote: In absolute, this device is too expensive for what it has to offer, and the project is unambitious, as it is the direct continuity of the previous devices (Dingoo, etc…), and will not manage to convince a broader audience than its ancestors. The fact that it is driven by a group of passionate people does not mean that other people should blindly throw money at the project without thinking about it twice.

      256MB is too low when even the cheapest phones these days have 512MB. It doesn’t even matter if the device actually uses the extra Ram, given the price of Ram these days it is mostly a matter of image. Whatever you say, people *will* compare it to other mobile devices.

      Comparing it to the Vita is absolutely not trolling. How many people do you think will have the money and the passion to own *two* gaming dedicated handheld devices? There is real competition here, this device is in direct competition with smartphones and other dedicated handhelds.

      About the negative impact that this article might have on the project… I’m honored but I doubt my blog has that much impact on a $100’000 project. If anything, my stats say I’ve sent about 250 people to the kickstarter page. Even though I am not backing the project, I am still raising awareness about it. I could instead have ignored it, but I am glad I didn’t, this has triggered interesting discussions so far :)

      • SteveBass

        Again why are you comparing it to phones? It has more than enough memory to acheive it’s goals, why do you think this is a problem? I can guarantee that memory will not be a problem, would you feel better if there was 1gb in there not getting used? Judge products on their performance, not the numbers on the side of the box.

        I suggest you find someone who has one of these (an initial run has been sold out already) and experience it for yourself, then compare it to other open handhelds (if you have experience of any).

        Also it is not in any way in competition with the Vita, they are 2 completely different demographics and do totally different things. It’s like saying a 2 seater sports car is in direct competition with a family saloon because they are both cars.
        People who want to play modern games will buy a Vita, people who want to play retro games buy this, a Dingoo or an Android console. It really is that simple.

        A lot of work has gone into this to ensure the user experience is like nothing else previously released, it is a great product and well worth the money. All the more disheartening to read such uninformed opinions based on absolutely no knowledge or experience of the GCW0 or Opendingux and the software that runs on it. There is one of the main devs explaining it (zear) and still people persist with the “but it’s underspecced” babble.

        • wololo

          @SteveBass, you focus on the performance, I also mentioned the lack of a second nub (will make new fps impossible), the small screen size (will make homebrew games such as my own, Wagic, impossible to port), the useless HDMI port (do you have a 10meters cable, or do you play 50cm away from your screen?), etc… Can you address those? Can somebody involved in the project explain how one reaches $135 with such specifications? etc…

          Technically, this device will allow to run emulators fine, but how about homebrews and indie games that were developed after 1998, and expect a decent resolution for textures, or a decent screen size to play more than simple arcade games?
          Maybe I’m not the right demographic for this device, but again I don’t see the point in paying for a dedicated “homebrew” console that doesn’t take into account actu