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


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129 Responses

  1. swit says:

    Also I think that gyro (?) functionality is redundant (for example Descent would play much better with dual analogs and I can’t think about any other old game that would use it).

    With 640×480 resolution this hardware would be capable of rendering hi-res versions of old open source PC games, as well as a few PSX games that uses hi-res mode like Colony Wars, Tobal, Ridge Racer R4, Bloody Roar II, Gran Turismo 2 (only menus and car rendering in garage is 640×480 iirc), Crash Bandicoot (512×240), Wipeout 3 (512×240) and other games with weird resolutions like Tekken 3 (direct feed from emulator – 320×480). This is a HUGE bummer in my opinion. I can’t understand how the console that have been designed with a help of gaming community could take this direction. Argument that most of older games run at 240p or below is not the best one because 480p would allow for perfectly clean 2:1 upscaling.

    Spec wise as long as the console is fully capable of running Amiga and PSX emulators without frameskip and with perfect sound than it’s good enough.

    Not sure how much simple resistive touch screen costs compared to normal one, but if it’s less than 10$ than I think it would be worth to implement it in order to gain scummvm support (resistive technology that require stylus would make scummvm far better on this device than on any capacity based system on the market). It would be also useful for old computers emulation (Atari, C64 etc.).

    As for the price, I would be ready to pay 160$+ if the system would have above mentioned VGA touch screen and dual analogs. In it’s current form it’s not worth more than a used PSP imo. Maybe GCW-One will fix these issues…

  2. Erik says:

    Why don’t people talk about the Archos Gamepad? It is an awesome android device that has a d pad, two analog sticks etc. All old school emulation (including up to N64) works great. The specs on it blow this away and it is available in Europe right now for 150 Euro and is planned for the US for around 150 bucks…It also is an android device so you have access to android market and all of its games, plus hdmi, video playback, websurfing, touchscreen, etc.

    • Wasabi says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble slightly, Erik, but there have been several reports regarding the Archos Gamepad’s d-pad (especially on “Obscure Handhelds”) as being fake. It doesn’t have the traditional feel of how a d-pad functions on controllers/gamepads and handhelds; it’s basically buttons, like the square/triangle/x/circle on Playstation pads or Y/X/B/A.

      However, the analog nubs are said to be true analog, so I guess it depends on what you want out of the Archos Gamepad.

  3. Warbarn says:

    Here is a demo that will show the value of the GCW Zero over a psp…

    • Lorz says:

      An excellent comparison, Anyone still think the PSP is just as good for emulators?

      The Android port of SNES9X runs FX chip games pretty well, but it still gets beaten by the GCW Zero…. so specs obviously aren’t everything, when a little 1ghz single core device can beat a 1.6ghz quad core device, lol

  4. Warbarn says:

    You guys keep talking specs specs specs. But specs only tell one side of the story look at what it actually does and compare you will see it outperforms the psp in most cases.

  5. Here is a video one of the developers recorded that compares a modded PSP and GCW Zero in terms of SNES emulation:

  6. 2bit says:

    Actually the Open Pandora is still around and arguably just now reaching its prime . I have one I bought 4,5 months ago new . I know what I’m talking about .

  7. Lorz says:

    wololo, I think this device deserves a second look….. if you’ve seen the comparison videos, there’s no way that you can’t give it a second look…. the specs may look meager on paper, but watch the videos, the performance speaks for itself!

    This is a humble little non boastful device, it doesn’t bring a bunch of fancy gee-gaws and bells and whistles, or “killer features” as it were, nothing really that screams “buy me! buy me NOW!!!”, but when it comes up to bat, it just quietly steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park….. how can you not love that?

    Maybe there’s not enough exciting about it for you to consider buying….. I’m with you on that, but it at least deserves a fair shake, and people deserve to see all of the info before you just dismiss this as “not worth it”

    • wololo says:

      I do not feel like I completely dismissed it. I called out a few design choices that I think are a mistake in this day and age. People who support this project have contacted me a lot since I wrote this article, but I still stand behind what I said. There are choices in the components that do not make sense to today’s standards. I’d be interested to see how many people need the HDMI output, when they don’t need more than a 320×240 screen.

      I’d be interested to see who decided to call this a device “by gamers for gamers”, when most gamers I know have been criticizing the lack of a second nub on all handhelds for the past 7 years, and when this device will clearly NOT run any indie game created recently. This is not about “commercial games VS homebrew” here, it’s about “let’s run emulators and not care about the indie scene at all, then pretend we are the right choice for people who value homebrews and indie games” <-- I am over-exagerating this here to make my point, I am not saying anybody behind the GCW-Zero project ever said or thought something like this. There is a world in indie gaming beyond emulators from the nineties, and this project ignores it, which is a choice, but which is what I called a "lack of ambition" in my article. I also think that for pure branding reasons, 512MB or 1GB of Ram would have been better. It does not matter that this Ram is used or not, what matters is that the current specs of the device will get many people to simply dismiss it. At the price of Ram these days, I'm sure it wouldn't have made a difference. Again, I am sure it's a nice little machine, I just don't see reasons for me to back it, and hopefully people will understand that I speak only for myself.

      • Lorz says:

        I disagree that they are leaving indie developers out, I think you far underestimate the specs of this machine, it does have a 3D OpenGL capable GPU, it can do games at the very least on par with a PSP if someone wants to develop it, even the dingoo was able to pull that rabbit out of its hat with a few simple 3D games rendered entirely in software… as to lack of the second analog nub, yeah another would be nice, but I don’t see it as a neccessity, I’ve played plenty of 3D games where the face buttons were mapped for movement and the shoulder buttons mapped to shoot or other actions….. it may not be ideal, but it does work…. so yeah, there will have to be some thought put into control layout, but I see no reason why any indie game couldn’t be brought over to this platform without any great difficulty.

        Why would they say “by gamers for gamers”, because everyone involved with this project is involved with the community on a personal level, they are gamers and enthusiasts, you can chat directly with many of them on the dingoonity forums if you like, there is no misrepresentation there.

        As for emulators, from what i’ve seen with my own eyes comparing to my own hacked PSP, and my own android devices, and even my PC…. this little device by far outshines them all, from what i’ve seen of Open Pandora in youtube videos, it even manages to outperform that in emulation…. though I think that’s largely because the Pandora community just isn’t large enough to get the bugs properly worked out of the emulators.

        • wololo says:

          @Lorz: fair enough. I still think 320×240 is a joke for a screen today, but it seems it’s just a personal opinion. As somebody else said above, 640×480 would have downscaled perfectly for 320×240, while allowing more flexibility in terms of multimedia and modern games. Am I the only one who enjoyed VGA and SVGA games in the nineties?

          • Lorz says:

            Not at all, I am in total agreement about the screen, I wish they’d have went with something higher res.

  8. TMSTER370 says:

    Open Pandora never closed you can buy one.

    • wololo says:

      Yes, sadly it is too expensive nowadays 🙁 . The price hasn’t changed since it was announced 4 years ago… which is understandable from a pure practical point of view, but…
      I was on the fence of buying one instead of a psp 3000 back in the days. Sadly they got massively delayed 🙁

  9. SteveBass says:

    I think there is a genuine misconception about the aims of this device. It actually was designed with the community in mind, head over to Dingoonity and check out the early threads there. In fact the community had a huge input into the specs based on what they needed from it, not to make it look good on paper.

    Once again, it is for retro emulation and playing retro ports, if you want to play modern indie games then please buy a console more suited to that at the magic $70 price tag you think the Zero should retail for – you’ll have to design and build one because it doesn’t exist, but whatever…. If you want substandard emulation buy a used PSP, but don’t pretend that there are better devices suited to this puropse than the Zero.

    And @wololo I didn’t realise that Wagic was your game, I had never heard of it so sorry if me dismissing it offended you. In all my years playing retro and handheld games on various platforms and visiting forums I have never heard anybody talking about it so my comment still stands, I don’t think it will be missed on the Zero. Sorry about that but such is life.

    I just can understand people not wanting to buy a device but being critical because it doesn’t do what you want it to even though it’s aims are completely different? Seems a bit silly to me.

    If you want a high resolution device that plays modern games, has all the buttons and analog sticks of a modern controller, sends output to the TV without cables, has a dual core processor and 2gb ram all whilst keeping the price down then you’ll have to make one. That’s exactly how the GCW0 came into existence and is exactly why the initial batches sold out long before kickstarter and long before the first one was even made.

    The community likes this device a lot more than naysayers here think……

    • wololo says:

      In the end I think we are saying the same thing.
      The GCW zero is “only” targeting oldies arcade games and emulators. I am ok with this, but this is not exactly how the Kickstarter project introduces it. Instead, emphasis is put in the presentation on “indie developers” and “homebrews”, but this is not really what the device is about. Fine, but the presentation of the project on Kickstarter should have been clearer.

      Please note that I didn’t say that my dream homebrew console would be available for $70, I said that the GCW Zero should be available for $70 given its specs. I personally, am ready to pay somewhere between $300 and $400 for a homebrew handheld with up to date specs. Something like what the Pandora was 4 years ago, but with slightly updated hardware, and better control of the schedule 😛

      I know that Wagic is not a mainstream game, I just find it strange that someone who pretends to be backing a project “by gamers, for gamers” has by default so few respect for indie game projects (and that is independent of the game’s quality or who created it).

      It is fine to create a console that aims at running emulators only. But let’s not have ambiguous statements in the project description saying that the console is all about homebrew and indie developers, when clearly it is not.

    • Lorz says:

      Wagic is an awesome game, you should try it, and I completely disagree about it “not being missed”…. we in the PSP homebrew crowd love it and would greatly miss it.

  10. Hi-Ban says:

    wololo, the reason of a 320×240 is clearly stated in the FAQ.
    If you did some research in the dingoonity forums, it was long ago asked to the community when the device was still in the design process. The majority agreed that 320×240 was the best choice.
    It does not require rescaling, it saves precious CPU cycles, it does not catapult the final price, and it requires less battery power so the console will have a greater battery life.

    Just because your homebrew game doesn’t support 320×240 does not mean that other people won’t develop for it. Zear, for example, is already developing a homebrew game for the GCW Zero.

    • wololo says:

      The reason for choosing 320×240 was NOT stated in the FAQ when I wrote this article, and I do not check the bottom of the Kickstarter every 5 minutes to see if it has been updated. I can see that now it is there (when I wrote the article, the FAQ only had one question I think, which was “are games in the video closed source?”
      It is good that they added this.

      If the dingoonity forums are the place to go to understand the design decisions behind the project, then shouldn’t that be stated clearly on the kickstarter page?

  11. SteveBass says:

    What resolution do all other retro (open or not) handhelds have? Oh yeah, it’s the same as this!
    Trust me, along with the case design it was one of the biggest discussions on the forums and most people (not to mention the OD developers) thought this was the best bet. The other big issue was the case – putting it in a cheap plastic PSP case would have drastically cut the price and production time, however the community wanted quality and good original design, which is what they got.

    There is already lots of homebrew for this resolution, look at Dingoo A320, Caanoo, GP2X Wiz….. Not a problem for them at all. People are developing for it all the time.

    Before development on OpenDingux was really ramped up (and those guys work hard for free) look at the names of the people who were developing for Dingoo, then have a look at the list of names on the GCW Kickstarter page. Sound familiar? They know what they’re doing.

    One last remark about the price – take a look at the Neo Geo X. This is a very similar (lower) spec handheld to the GCW0, underclocked and running a bastardised Dingux with the FBA port (no sources and violates GPL). It’s cheaply made and does a fraction of what the GCW0 does (poorly I might add) yet sells for twice the price and people lap it up, cheap plastic controller and all.
    Maybe GCW should have bought a license, violated GPL and closed the system off?

    • wololo says:

      I don’t know where you are coming from with the NeoGeoX. Do you see me praising the quality of that console? No, and for a good reason.

      Side question: where can I find a list of homebrews for the dingoo family? In particular, homebrews that are not emulators or ports of commercial games.

      • I don’t think there is a complete list anywhere, but right now the following homebrew games were ported with the approval of their authors:
        * Sqrxz 3
        * Unnamed Monkey Game (my own game)
        * Puzzletube
        * Worship Vector
        * Flare
        * Samegoo
        * Astrolander

        There is more homebrew already ported, but we never contacted the authors (usually because there is no need to – they’re GPL):
        * Blockrage
        * Heroes
        * Spout
        * Liero (I have talked with the original author once, it wasn’t exactly about GCW but rather Dingoo and Dreamcast ports, yet he was very happy someone is porting his old game)

        There’s also a ton of the old commercial game engines ported, so that you don’t think it’s all we have.

        And yes, GCW originates from the Dingoo scene, so we have quite a repository of games we have ported to the Dingoo in the past, which we are slowly polishing and porting to GCW one by one.
        Some of these that will be ported in the future and belong to the homebrew category:
        * Powder
        * Meritous
        * ASCII Portal
        * Biniax 1/2
        * Freedroid
        * GNU Robbo
        * Powermanga
        * Wizznic!
        * Nethack
        * Super Transball 2

        That’s just from the top of my head. That list will be MUCH longer in the future 🙂

        Also, thanks for giving us a chance and preordering a unit. If you want to join our community, we’re available at #gcw irc channel on

      • SteveBass says:

        I used it as an example of a similar spec console that people lap up which is nowhere near the quality of the Zero yet costs much more (twice the price over here), which “borrows” code from the community.
        People have “hacked” it to run OD but you can get the real deal for much less.

        For Dingux software check out the Dingoonity Wiki and openhandhelds:

        Some of that will be for the A320 Native OS and some will be legacy Dingux and will not work on OD at the moment (due to coding habits, not OD).

        Oh and regarding the Vita for emulation, a 32gb memory card will set me back nearly £60 so make sure you take that into account.

  12. Deagle275 says:

    Seriously , the point is :
    Would you rather have CGW-ZERO or a jailbroken vita with Ark.
    I would choose a CGW-ZERO .

    • wololo says:

      But then you give up on the great screen, vita and psp games, youtube, web browsing, the touch pad, the dual nub… Sure, the vita is almost twice the price… if emulators are the only thing you are looking for, I guess yes…

      • Deagle275 says:

        Yes they are most of what i’m looking for .

      • Deagle275 says:

        Also , i haven’t said the vita is worse . But for homebrew and emulation CGW-Zero is nicer . At least now.

      • Lorz says:

        Personally wololo, I really want to like the Vita, but I can’t, not because of the hardware or the price, because I find all of that great, if not amazing…. but the company behind it has continually and arrogantly sc*** gamers and homebrew enthusiasts over and over and over and over and over……. I cannot support that, my conscience simply will not allow me, it may seem harsh, but i really hope Sony either changes, or simply leaves the consumer media industry all together, it may sound childish to wish for the demise of a company like this, but they have done far more damage than good to an industry that is supposed to be all about having fun.

        • wololo says:

          I’m with you on this. The only reason I got a Vita is to blog about the hacking side of it, and my personal hopes is that things like the Ouya, or the recent moves on Steam are going to disrupt the market in a way that will either kill Sony on the Western market, or make them change their ways dramatically. Sounds far fetched, but one can hope 🙂

          Edit: as a device though, the Vita is simply awesome. But I agree that it hurts me more and more to give money to a company like Sony.

          • Lorz says:

            I agree, it’s an amazing device, I love my PSP, but the Vita is what the PSP should have been in the first place, I’d really love to have one, but only if it’s made by someone(anyone) than Sony, lol.

            I’ve recently been playing with cheap android handhelds…. JXD S5110, it’s alot like the Droid X360 you reviewed, except arguably improved in some areas, and worse in some other areas…and though it hasn’t been perfect, I’m pretty pleased so far.

            Oh, btw wololo, there is an upcoming Android based handheld which I think you might find interesting, it is retailing for $150 US, and is set to compete with the Archos gamepad, its features are a 7 inch screen(which is a little too big for a handheld imo), Amlogic MX dual core 1.5ghz CPU with mali 400 GPU, dual analogs(and they are supposed to be actual analogs….. but we are wating for confirmation from a distributor who has offered to test it and report the results)…. It’s the JXD S7300, and if interested, you can find out more about it at dingoonity in the android section, or at… a distributor for dingoos and android handhelds, who also happens to be active on the dingoonity forums.

  13. Deagle275 says:

    Sincerely , ” I would prefer a psp” . I would prefer a GCW Zero . You pay additional 35 dollars for :
    Three times the processor
    Open Source
    No jailbreaking
    You can play Starfox on the SNES Emulator.Try it on the psp emulator.
    G-Sensor .
    4 times the ram .
    Sincerely , if you like emulation , but you prefer to buy a psp , you’re drunk brother .

  14. HIMFan says:

    I agree with your original opinion 100% wololo. I’m rather disappointed. And the fact that Android has officially become a non-open source OS means that things like this have no future without being expensive. So we’re going to pay a lot for something that a good Android phone and a MOGA gamepad couldn’t already give us…and in better quality.

    So if they decide to take the route of using an older Android OS, then people will also lose out because most apps other than emulators will cease working. This thing is basically an NES controller with 1 nub and designed to play emulators. I’d welcome it with arms wide open in 2009. I would’ve called it a marvel of technology in 2005. But in 2013, everyone already has this device already in their house.

    • joevar says:

      This doesn’t run on Andriod. It runs on a customized linux called OpenDingux, or OD for short. OD was originally created for the Dingoo A320. (Note: There was a previous Linux distro for the Dingoo A320 was called Dingux which commonly used to replace the default Symbian based OS. All Linux distros on the A320 were always unofficial.) At some point the OD maintainers, brewers, and supporters decided that they could create a better device. Since they already had working software, they designed and build newer hardware around it. The GCW-Zero is this device.

  15. SatanClause says:

    Perfect device for homebrew. I would prefer a screen featuring 16:9 aspect ration, but I suppose that can either be emulated or a screen replacement shouldn’t be a problem. I would actually go ahead and move all the hardware into a PSP casing.

    Are these available for order now? I would like to present one of these to my class and see if we can maybe do an independent project, programming a few apps and games for this platform rather than the others. I’m sure my professors wouldn’t mind at all.

    • They are currently only available via KickStarter:

      A programming class project sounds awesome! You can count on the help of our devteam if you join our IRC channel #gcw on

      • Richard says:

        After some serious debate in the comments section here on our Kick Starter page and other forums, we have decided to upgrade the RAM from 256MB to 512MB.
        We have also decided to upgrade the internal storage capacity from 8GB to 16GB on the console.

        We think both of these upgrades will provide more value for the money you are pledging to get this great gaming console we call The GCW-Zero.

  16. andrej says:

    I know it’s all about emulation, but why everyone keeps forgeting about native PSP games?
    I don’t see anyone making high profilr games for GCW such as God of War, Lumines, Crisis Core, Patapon, Wipeout and so on…

  17. Vita_User says:

    Built for gamers by gamers yet it has no second analogue stick?

    The single analogue stick it has doesn’t look very good either.

    • Aero says:

      This rubs me to no end, you have no idea. The only thing I can take away from this is that only a couple of PS1 games require two sticks (Ape Escape and R/C Stunt Copter by my recollection)

      Also…this thing can’t emulate a dreamcast, and that’s almost literally all I want at this juncture. A portable N64 sounds grand as well…but not $130 grand.

  18. Hiroyasu says:

    Id like to give this project the benefit of the doubt but by only building it with 1 analog such as the psp, you might as well just get a psp. Bye for any chances of having any sort of f2p styles of games on it or any other 3d 3 person view games.