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Tech Heads: GP2X is serious bit of kit.

Byline: Steve Lawson

JUST what my life/wife needs ... another gadget for me to play games/watch videos/listen to music/view photos on.

But there's something different about the GP2X. It runs on a Linux operating system but, more importantly, it's a true Open Source gadget.

What that means is, its Korean manufacturers, Gamepark Holdings, have provided the hardware and then left the users to do the rest.

They've said: "There's your console, now make it work differently, faster, slower, better, longer - but don't blame us if you break it."

It's a refreshing attitude in these proprietary days.

The GP2X (http://gp2x.co.uk/indexgp2x.html) is a bedroom programmer's dream.

Mine runs on two 275mhz processors, has 64MB of RAM, custom graphics and decoding chips.

It takes Secure Digital memory cards, has 64MB of onboard memory and runs on 2 AA batteries for five to 10 hours.

Top that off with a bright, 320x240 backlit screen, stereo sound and the option to connect it to a PC or TV, and you've got a seriously capable unit.

Getting your music (in MP3, Ogg Vorbis or WMA format) onto it is as simple as dragging and dropping files onto an SD card (it must be formatted in the FAT file system used by Windows).

The same goes for games, pictures and even videos. It will play .avi, .divx and .xvid format video and it doesn't matter what size/resolution they're in because the GP2X resizes them to fit.

You want games? Whoa Nelly! It plays straight ports of PC games such as Quake and Doom, plus it can use emulators such as MAME, SNES, Atari, Sega Megadrive, Genesis and GameGear.

The GP2X file archive has hundreds of free games, while sites such as ROMNation offer thousands more.

And, if you want to develop your own, Gamepark provide the development tools for free.

Now, you're waiting for the "but", aren't you?

Well, there is one but it has less to do with the GP2X and more to do with the homebrew/retro scene.

The GP2X is not like the PSP/DS where, if a game doesn't play, you take it back to the shop.

There are thousands of free games for the GP2X but, among them are a few that stubbornly refuse to play, so expect to spend a little time ( a) learning how things work and (b) fixing things (there's a user forum at www.gp32x.com/board/).

The GP2X is a remarkably capable piece of hardware but it's plainly not for everyone.

But if you accept that, occasionally, things might go wrong - and you actively enjoy fixing them - this is the best pounds 124.99 you'll spend all year.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:450
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