Friday, 25 February 2011

The Hard-Drive: The Caanoo

Hey there fellow enthusiasts!
Its Mr. GameBrain with his first review.
A review of a open-source, linux-based handheld console.

Now lets us observe the mysterious contents of the box below:



Caanoo box


Caanoo and 4gb SD card

Tada! Look at it! Isn't it beautiful?
I bet you thought it would be some sort of cheap chinese knock-off console didn't ya?
Well its Korean you racist!

In some ways I'd argue its design is better than the DS Lite and the PSP Slim.
Like the original Gameboy Advanced, its light and easy to hold, the analogue stick, though sometimes a bit of annoyance (mostly for games that require the precise nature of the D-Pad), is far superior to the PSP's cheese grater, and the DS Lite's D-Pad.
The buttons are flatter and much more responsive, (as probably less likely to break) than the PSP's (well, in my experience anyway. My PSP 1000's Square button barely responds these days...), and I love the fact that like the PSP, it has a power switch that can be pushed up to lock the controls, (as it makes it easier to use as a MP3 player).
Finally, the console has none of that glossy finish. Shiny is good when things are new, but my DS Lite drives me mad as it get absolutely filthy whenever anyone touches it!

However, the console does have some design quirks.
The shoulder button, though not bad, do take some getting used to, as you can't push the outside of them to make them "click" like you can with the PSP.
Also, the volume slider, though well placed and easy to use, is managed via the OS, so you get an odd delay while the OS catches up. The video below shows exactly what I mean:


video

(I appologise for the poor quality but I am recording this on a phone...)

Now would be a good time to check out whats under the hood of this beast!

Here's the spec list (courteousy of the ultimate tome of knowledge: WIKIPEDIA!!):

SoC (System on a Chip): MagicEyes Pollux VR3520F
CPU: ARM926EJ 533 MHz embedded on SoC (architecture version ARMv5TEJ)
GPU: 3D hardware engine embedded on SoC (OpenGL ES 1.1 support)
3D performance: 133M Texel/s and 1,33M Polygon/s
main RAM: 128 Mbytes DDR SDRAM 133 MHz (peak memory bandwidth: 533 Mbytes/s)
video buffer: about 16 Mbytes of main RAM are reserved for the video/texture information
Operating System: GNU/Linux based
Flash memory: None (128 Mbytes reserved to the OS)
Connection to PC: USB 2.0 High Speed through EXT Port
USB Host: USB 1.1 standard socket
Supports SD / SDHC memory cards (up to 32 Gigabytes)
G-Sensor/Vibration Motor
High precision analog stick
Display: 3.5 inch LCD 320×240 pixel (resistive touchscreen)
Embedded Microphone and stereo Loudspeakers
Power: Internal 1850mAh Lithium Polymer Battery (approx. 5/6 hours game/video playback)
Dimensions : 146 (w) × 70 (h) × 18.5 (d) mm
Weight : 136g
WiFi: via adapter (USB dongle – Purchased separately)
Colors: Black/Blue, White
So the Caanoo has a fair bit of horsepower, but its not really designed for anything too powerful, (the GPU is pretty limited). But as we will see it is good enough for homebrew.
Before we move on, I will say that I am annoyed about the lack of built in WiFi though. Getting a seperate adaptor is going to push the price up by about £20, but if you search around the forums a bit, you'll see that a decent selection of WiFi dongles do work with it, (so you don't have to buy the official one).
And I will be honest here and say, thats its not entirely worth having a WiFi stick either at the moment, as not a lot of applications utilise it, and the internet browsers available are pretty bare bones.
(Plus you kinda need someone else with a Caanoo, and being all cool and obscure, its pretty likely your not going to know anyone who's going to have one on hand)
Also, even though the console does support TV out (which also is a bit hit and miss), it doesn't include a cable for that either...

But lets not get too negative, as I said earlier, its good enough for homebrew.
How good enough I hear you ask. Well....

Pretty darn good enough I'd argue due to the selection of good emulators and homebrew below:

Emulators

-Nes - Gpfce
-Snes - DrPocketSnes v7.1.0 via GINGE (My personal favourite) 
-GB/GBC - OhBOy
-Master System - DrSMS
-Genesis/Megadrive/CD/32X - Picodrive
-GBA - Gpsp
-Arcade - Mame4All
-CPS2 - CPS2 Emulator
-TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine - Hugo/Temper (via GINGE)
-Playstation - PCSX4ALL (This emulator is very hit and miss depending on the game)

Interpreters

-ScummVM
-GINGE

Homebrew

-Giana's Return
-Sqrxz
-Sqrxz 2
-Snake on Dope
-STPPC
-Animatch
-Jump To The Moon
(Don't worry there are some more, its just that these are the most notable ones!)

Applications

-Voice Recorder
-Skin Maker (Allows for customs menu skins)
-Reader2X (Text reader)
-MPlayer (a very good backup video player. Plays some of my videos that the main player won't)
-Grafx2 (a spriting ap)

As you can see the Caanoo does not have a huge selection of native homebrew (of course there is more than this, but this is just the main highlights), but it does have two very good things going for it: A large selection of emulators, and GINGE.

Whats so significant about GINGE? What actually is GINGE?
Well GINGE or GINGE Is Not a GP2X Emulator, is an interpreter that allows for some backwards compatibility. With it you will be able to play some GP2X and Wiz homebrew as well.

Here's a quick list of what worked for me and what didn't:

Works:
Dastardly Dungeon
Deal or No Deal
freedroid
Unicolor
Blobwars: Metal Blob Solid
Max in Ghostpix
Super Methane Bros
mk13 (that make 13 card game)
nethack
RetroVirus
Temper
Alex's Falldown
Bare Fist Fighter
Bubble Train
Cave Story
Brass Munkey
Buzzy's bad day
UAE4ALL (Amiga Emulator)
SQDEF
Fire (game and watch)
Journey
Duke2X
Wind and Water

Doesn't work:
logoball (loading then black screen)
OpenBOR
Zombiepox2X
abe
Alex the Alligator
freec2x
OpenTyrian
Powder2X (just shows open ./powder:)
Tower Toppler (loads but the main menu is somehow blown up to about 4x the size!)
wizznic
xRic
frodo
eduke
KOF bennu (resets to menu)
Garden 2X (black screen)
Micropixel
Monster 2 (boots up to menu, but crashes before you can get ingame)
pdfviewer
Powerslide (works, but unplayable as other cars flip out as soon as you start to race. Had it set on easy though...)
Solitaire for wiz
atris
audiorace (crashes to caanoo)
blobwars(crashes to caanoo)
drillwiz (crashes to caanoo)
Super mario war
opposite lock
wiz_sand
milky tracker (runs but can't use touch screen)
As you can see it opens up the console quite a bit more, (though GINGE is clearly not perfect! XD).

Now time for the final part of the review: Multimedia playback!

Spec list a la Wikipedia:

Video
  • Container files: AVI
  • Video formats: DivX, XviD, MPEG4
  • Audio formats: MP3, WAV
  • Maximum Resolution: 640×480 pixel
  • Maximum Frame Rate: 30 frame/s
  • Maximum Video Bitrate: 2500kbit/s
  • Maximum Audio Bitrate: 384kbit/s
  • Captions: SMI

Audio

  • Audio formats: MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WAV
  • Channels: Stereo
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Power output: ?
  • Sample Resolution/Rate: 16bit/8–48 kHz, in 8bit/22kHz

Photos

  • Supports JPG, PNG, GIF, Bitmap File Formats
This is where the Caanoo falls a little short. Pointless image viewer aside, (seriously who ever would waste space on a gaming console for PHOTOS!!?!?!), the playback formats are a little limited.

On the music side, we have OGG, Wav and MP3, good for general use, but those audiophiles won't be pleased.
I've only tested MP3, and I'll be honest here and say they sound very good to me via speakers and headphones.
There are a few visualisers to choose from, and you have your basic loop,and shuffle settings, but its kind of irritating that in this day and age they didn't think of allowing us to use playlists and filters.
Heck, my phone does a better job, I can sort by artist, by album, by genre, and I can list all of my tracks and set it to shuffle.
On the Caanoo I have to navigate all my folders to reach the songs I want, (and to be honest I really would have liked it if I could choose to list all and shuffle, then it would be perfectly ok).
Hopefully some kind coder out there will either make or port a better music player, (or god forbid, GPH might actually update it in a firmware upgrade!).

On the video side, the built-in video player isn't bad, but it isn't very good either.
Here's an example of when it goes well:


video

Now here's an example of when its not quite so good:


video

The odd thing about all this is that I'm using the exact same program with the exact same setting to convert these videos.
Fortunately we have MPlayer to rescue us, as it plays all my videos well.

So overall, the Caanoo is a good handheld console for tinkerers, for coders (since its open-sourced), for retro junkies, and its pretty decent multimedia wise, and for about £100-120 its good value for money as well.
Hey, it might not be a Pandora, but its also nowhere near as expensive as one, and you might actually be able to get one before you die! XD

5 comments:

  1. I would also like to point out that the photos were not taken on my bed, but on our ironing board.
    Yes Mama GameBrain is using an old Star Wars quilt cover as a ironing board cover.

    Thrifty eh? ;D

    ReplyDelete
  2. and don´t forget the service is very good too,
    i bricked my caanoo a month ago during the firmware-update,so i contacted the friendly people at GPH(Germany)and within 3 days i got my caanoo back full working again!!! only paid oneway
    shipping.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Drill2x works very well over Ginge

    ReplyDelete
  4. How did you get milkytracker running? I can't find the port of it for the Caanoo! Please hit me up at Starscreaminfo@gmail.com if you have the time! Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. sweet review! hey check out my review
    http://blog.thinkteletronics.com/archives/83
    it was less verbose

    ReplyDelete