Open-source handhelds group test: GCW Zero review

Reviews David Hayward Sep 4, 2013

A very promising gaming system

Games Consoles Worldwide’s Kickstarter-funded project, the Zero, didn’t quite have the start in life it so rightfully deserved. Plagued by delays, poor communication between the developers and customers, and more than a handful of missed deadlines may have marred its release, but there is a happy story to this in the end.

The Zero contains a 1GHz Ingenics JZ4770 CPU with a Vivante GC860 GPU, a 3.5" LCD capable of 320X240, 512MB RAM, wi-fi, accelerometer, vibration motor and 16GB of internal storage, along with a micro SDHC card slot that accepts anything up to 64GB. There’s also a mini USB 2.0, HDMI-out, and in terms of the gaming controllers, you’ll find a single analogue stick, d-pad, ABXY buttons and a pair of shoulder triggers, making a total of six digital buttons.

Advertising itself as ‘The ultimate open source handheld’ and being the spiritual successor to the Dingoo A320, the Zero has some tough competition to stand up against, which it does admirably. The build quality is excellent, with the button press feeling solid enough. The d-pad responds effectively as does the analogue stick, although the stick did feel like it may not hold up to a good year's worth of abuse.

The OS is the latest version of OpenDingux, an OS that’s already tried and tested throughout the open-source handheld community. Thankfully, with it being a variant of Linux, it means that you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a relevant emulator or some sort of homebrew title. Likewise, getting the software to work with the Zero is relatively easy, and there’s plenty of online documentation to help you out should you get stuck.

There are two let-downs with the Zero, though, the first being its availability, which is bleak, to be honest, but the GCW team are trying to fill the demand by testing each unit, but they're exceedingly slow. And the second is its size and shape, and by this we mean it feels a little too small for our hands. A younger person won’t find a problem with it, but in our great ham-like fists the Zero feels a tad too little. Its shape is also slightly awkward, in conjunction with the size of the unit; after a good ten minutes of gaming, we had to pause and shake off a touch of cramp.

However, these are very minor gripes; in brief day-to-day, lunchtime use of the unit, you’ll probably never notice any problems with the size and shape. Thankfully, though, the 160g weight feels good and adds to the unit’s sturdy feel.

To conclude, the GCW Zero is a great open-source handheld device, better than its Android cousins due to the software, but not the most powerful unit in the handheld arsenal. Still, the product and the company are young, and improvements are inevitable, which makes this a very interesting unit for the future.

Details:

• Price: ~£135
• Manufacturer: Games Consoles Worldwide
• Website: www.gcw-zero.com/
• Required spec: Micro SDHC up to 32GB

Scores:

Quality: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 8/10 

Read more about: