GPD Win: Windows Gaming in a 3DS Form Factor?!

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Robert Maxwell, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    I considered putting this in SciTech but it's more of a gaming device than anything, so it goes here.

    I got one of these yesterday. It's cool. Here is a picture.

    [​IMG]

    Without a size reference, it may be hard to tell just how small it is. It is exactly the size of a Nintendo 3DS XL, so I hope that helps!

    Boring background stuff

    Tiny PCs have been a fascination of mine for many years. My first unusually small computer was a Sony C1VPK laptop in 2001. I followed that up with an ASUS R2H in 2007, and an ASUS eeePC a couple years later. The R2H was probably the weirdest of the lot: no keyboard, basically a slate PC back before anyone really knew how to make them. The Surface wasn't yet a gleam in Microsoft's eye.

    For me, these all had one thing in common: I wanted to see how far I could push them in terms of gaming.

    I picked up the GPD Win in the same tradition. It's a weirdly small computer, and unlike the others I mentioned, it is unabashedly geared toward gaming. Plus, a Windows PC shaped like a 3DS is too bizarre to pass up.

    But what do you do with this thing? What is it?

    It's a full-blown Windows 10 PC in a tiny clamshell format. You might think this is absurd, to which I can only say: shut up.

    Rivet-counting types probably want to know the specs, right?
    • Intel Atom X7 Z8750 CPU (in the most recent model) quad core @ 1.6GHz (boost up to 2.4GHz)
    • Intel HD graphics 405
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB eMMC ROM
    • Supports Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11a/ac/b/g/n for WiFi
    • 1280x720 touchscreen display
    It runs Windows 10 Home 64-bit. It came out last year but somehow escaped my attention until recently. It was originally funded on Kickstarter, as have been some similar devices (like the Smach Z). Difference is, this one got funded, produced, and sold, and is now available for general purchase--a much safer bet than something like the Smach Z.

    You can expand the limited internal storage using the microSD slot (up to 128GB), and there's a USB 3.0 port on the back, too. The unit is charged with a USB type C cable (included) which can also carry data. (I don't have any other USB type C stuff so I haven't tried the data transfer.) You can also hook it up to a TV via the mini-HDMI port on the back.

    You have probably noticed that it has joysticks and gamepad buttons. Essentially, this unit is an iteration of a previous GPD product which was an Android-based portable gaming system. That one didn't have a hardware keyboard and, of course, didn't run Windows. But it sported a gamepad design like this. The selector switch at the center top of the of the gamepad unit lets you switch between DirectInput, mouse input, and XInput interfaces for the joysticks and buttons. I find that a really neat feature, personally.

    This unit is merely a curiosity if you can't do anything fun or useful with it, though. Other people had games like Skyrim, DiRT 3, and even GTA V working on it. A couple factors limit how useful it is for gaming, though: the Intel graphics processor is not the best and it uses shared memory. And the CPU is not incredibly powerful, as you might imagine. But so far I have tried:
    • Skyrim (original) -- Good performance on medium settings. Even faster on the lowest settings, but medium is perfectly acceptable (and much nicer).
    • PCSX2 (PS2 emulator) -- Tried a few games, they run pretty well at fullscreen and 720p resolution. Could probably get full performance out of them by sacrificing resolution--not a huge deal for PS2-era games.
    • Children of the Nile -- This is an old 3D strategy game. It crashes shortly after startup. Oh well. Might be fixable, but quite possibly not.
    • Neverwinter Nights -- Yeah, yeah, super old game. It plays great, though. The mouse and touch controls are quite good.
    • The Sims 2 -- Performance is good but graphics flicker. I understand there is a fix for that, I just have to put it in place.
    • The Sims 3 -- Ironically, seems to run better than The Sims 2. I suppose it is better optimized or something.
    • Master of Magic -- The one DOS game I basically always keep installed on every computer. Plays perfectly. :techman:
    • Civilization V -- This game is not designed for 720p resolution. It is playable and performance is OK but the game is clearly upset by the lack of vertical resolution. (You can't even edit the graphics settings in-game because of this.)
    • Everspace -- This is a new(-ish) roguelike space combat game. Plays wonderfully on the lowest settings and is still beautiful to look at!
    • Broforce -- Plays great. 2D action platforming so I expected as much.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition -- Surprisingly playable! I had to turn the graphics down but the framerate was plenty acceptable once I did. My one gripe: it won't recognize the XInput setting, so I'm stuck with keyboard/mouse controls. I'm sure there is a fix, I just have to figure it out. (This turned out to be me being dumb. I had to check the settings after restarting it with XInput turned on to switch it from mouse controls.)
    • Stardew Valley -- Another low-spec 2D game, so performs great and is very playable.
    • Rebel Galaxy -- Works great on low settings!
    • The Banner Saga -- Some slight graphical irregularities (can't see menu option highlighting) but is playable and runs smoothly apart from that.
    • The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth -- Flawless. At this point I'm going to skip over any other indie 2D games unless they happen to perform very poorly. You can generally assume that a 2D title is going to run quite well on this thing.
    • Fable Anniversary -- Frame rate is borderline on the lowest settings. Might be able to push a bit more out of it. It is playable though.
    • Legend of Grimrock -- Plays great. Haven't tried the sequel but it should be fine, too.
    • Saints Row: The Third -- Good frame rate, very playable. Might try 4 and see if that works, too, but I'll be surprised.
    • Stellaris -- Yup, runs just fine.
    I will no doubt be trying out some more, at least when I'm not actually playing games on it. Here is a YouTube video with 101 games people have gotten working reasonably well on the device, too.

    It cannot go unremarked that the GPD Win is apparently an excellent emulation unit. This opens you up to a tremendous number of games across many systems. Most owners use it for that very purpose. The only emulation I've done so far is PCSX2, which was very pleasant. It seems that anything up through the PS2 generation should play without much trouble, with the caveat that anything from the PS2 generation may take some aggressive tweaking for good performance. But PS1 on back is a breeze.

    What about stuff besides gaming?

    I'll be blunt: this is not something I'd want to do any real work on. The keyboard is a chore to use because the keys require quite a bit of pressure and have a very hard "click" when they go down. The intention is clearly to keep you from accidentally pressing keys while playing games, and it certainly does that. That said, you can totally watch videos on it, I'd just have to ask why you'd bother if you have something more convenient handy, like a tablet or laptop. I'd classify it as appropriate for "light" web browsing, especially if you make use of the touchscreen. The screen itself is about the size of a large phone screen.

    It is also touted as suitable for playing music, and includes some cheap headphones for that purpose. But phones and even standalone portable music players are a lot smaller in your pocket than this thing.

    To look at it more positively, though: imagine you have a 3DS or a Vita but you're disappointed by their much more limited Internet and media playing functions. This unit is an excellent compromise in that it opens up a massive game library and brings all the media capabilities of a Windows PC.

    Other things you could do with it: well, you could install Linux on it (people report it works quite well) and now you have a little Linux box that is more powerful than a Raspberry Pi. With the mini-HDMI output and the USB 3 connector you could pack an external keyboard and mouse and have something that will hook up to almost any TV or monitor on-the-go. (Counterpoint: "A laptop is more convenient for that." True!)

    Any complaints or negatives I should know about?

    A few. I was aware of most of them before I bought mine, so clearly I didn't consider them dealbreakers. I believe in making informed decisions. So, what are the downsides?
    • The joystick buttons (L3/R3) have been turned into actual physical buttons at the lower right of the keyboard. I assume this was done to save money, but it is kind of obnoxious for games that rely on those buttons for anything significant.
    • There's only one speaker and it's not great. I understand that this was done to help with heat dissipation and space inside the unit. Still, it's got a headphone jack.
    • It uses active cooling. There is a slider switch on the bottom that lets you alternate between no fan, low speed, and high speed. High speed is definitely audible but not distractingly so, in my opinion. The unit gets noticeably warm during use but, apart from when I had it installing tons of shit at once, doesn't get concerningly hot.
    • Battery life is unimpressive. I haven't tried running it all the way down under a routine load yet, but I hear 6-8 hours is very optimistic and real-world use is more like 2-3, especially if you're doing any kind of 3D gaming. Not a fault of the unit, just the state of battery technology.
    • The L1 and R1 buttons, which are also used for left/right-click in mouse mode, feel loose and have much more travel than you might be used to from an Xbox, PlayStation, or Steam controller. Took some acclimation and was a little worrisome at first, but it doesn't seem like they are about to fall out or anything.
    • Finding a comfortable position to hold it took a bit more work than with a 3DS, but I got it eventually. The weight distribution is reasonable. I cannot tell if it weighs more or less than a 3DS XL--they feel about the same to me.
    • The limited built-in storage means you will have to invest in a microSD card or thumb drive. All it would take is one large Steam game to occupy so much of your system drive that you can't even install Windows updates anymore. (Some may consider this a feature.)
    • Some people complained about excessive sensitivity on the joysticks. I haven't had any issues with that, personally, but consider yourself warned.
    • There is no webcam! Almost every laptop known to humanity comes with a webcam these days, but not this puppy. Maybe they couldn't cram it into the case, or maybe they didn't consider it an essential feature. Maybe it would've just cost too much. I'd just hate for someone to assume it has one (like everything else does nowadays) and then find out it doesn't.
    Uh, sorry for the long intro post. I'm here to answer questions, take suggestions, and also to hear about other weird-shaped/weird-sized computers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  2. bontamer

    bontamer Cadet Newbie

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    Wow that looks really great!
     
  3. Trinity Jinglebrocks

    Trinity Jinglebrocks All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member

    What's the price on that? I like weird gadgets.
     
  4. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    $300ish. They ship direct from China.
     
  5. Trinity Jinglebrocks

    Trinity Jinglebrocks All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member


    Cool that's affordable.
     
  6. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    So, games that don't work (or don't work well):
    • The Witcher 3 -- It runs but even with specs gutted beyond all reason, it's not really playable. Not surprising given that it is a pretty high-spec game that even struggles to run well on a PS4.
    • Fallout 4 -- Allegedly more playable than TW3, but it just crashes on startup for me. I may have to tweak it some more.
    • X-Tension (expansion for X: Beyond the Frontier) -- Figured this old, low spec game would run easily, but it's so old it won't run at all. It is confused by the size of my page file. Oh well.
    • X2 (sequel to X) -- Graphics are displayed rotated 90 degrees from where they should be? OK. Not really usable in this form.
    • Dark Messiah of Might & Magic -- Crashes on startup. Not bothering with any tweaking on it.
    • Fallout 3 -- Loads, but crashes when you try to actually start the game. Oh well.
    But... back to games that do work well:
    • Torchlight II -- Plays wonderfully (mouse controls)! I haven't mapped the various shortcut keys to the gamepad, however you could if you really hate going down to the keyboard to bring up inventory and stuff.
    • Factorio -- Plays without a hitch with mouse controls.
    • Darwinia -- A little unwieldy with the mouse controls but still totally playable.
    • ArcaniA (Gothic 4) -- Gotta turn down the graphics but plays just fine when you do.
    • Shadowrun (the new ones) -- No problems, plays with mouse controls.
    • Baldur's Gate (original) -- Doesn't use the whole screen but plays just fine. I suspect other Infinity Engine games would play OK, too.
     
  7. Trinity Jinglebrocks

    Trinity Jinglebrocks All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member

    I wonder if that would handle Mass Effect 1 and 2
     
  8. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    I'll test them myself but reportedly they work fine.
     
  9. Nondenominational Holiday Name

    Nondenominational Holiday Name Badass Admiral

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    that was an interesting read, thanks for the thread :techman:
     
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  10. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'd suspect they'd run, but not very well. When my PC had lower specs, I got the first Mass Effect and tried to play through it and it was a pain. It worked, but just barely. I had to go into ini files and turn off most of the post-processing effects, and even then, the game ran very slowly. I eventually gave up on it and got back to it once I upgraded and have played it multiple times since.

    I'd imagine most of GOG's catalogue of older games would be fine on this.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  11. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    Nope, it's better than you think. ME2 at 30fps and it still looks good:

     
  12. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, that's quite interesting. Looks like I had lower specs than that thing when I first tried :D What did you have to do to get it running well enough?
     
  13. Trinity Jinglebrocks

    Trinity Jinglebrocks All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member

    Even Skyrim runs well on this. This is so tempting to buy.....

     
  14. Trinity Jinglebrocks

    Trinity Jinglebrocks All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member

    OMG Jacob .... So unremarkable.
     
  15. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell memelord Premium Member

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    I didn't do anything, that's someone else's video. ;)

    I got ME1 installed, just need to apply the controller mod so I can use the gamepad with it.

    Yup, it's an impressive little machine.

    The Reddit forum for the GPD Win is a wealth of information, too. There's a wiki that includes tons of tips for boosting performance and doing various things with it. Plus, there's a game compatibility list being built by the community.
     
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