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Pandora Open-Source Netbook/Console Arrives Next Month

You remember the Linux-based Pandora handheld gaming console, right? It plays Quake 3, Mario 64, and will even ship with a 600 MHz ARM-based TI OMAP3 SoC? It manages to cram a full QWERTY keyboard and gamepad buttons into a Nintendo DS XL-like form factor, combining the gaming qualities of a dedicated handheld with the usefulness of a netbook? Yeah, that thing. It's finally shipping after four years of development, production setbacks and loads of investor funding.

The specs seemingly haven't changed since we last wrote about the device in 2010. It uses a 600 MHz TI OMAP3530 SoC packed with an ARM Cortex-A8 core and a 110 MHz PowerVR SGX530 core. It also sports a 4.3-inch resistive touch screen with a 800 x 480 resolution, 256 MB of DDR-333 memory, 512 MB of on-board storage, and dual SDHC card slots supporting up to 32 GB of additional storage each.

But that's not all. An S-Video jack allows users to output to current and older TVs. It also has 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, a USB 2.0 OTG port for charging and a USB 2.0 HOST port for connecting additional peripherals. The Pandora team also managed to cram dual analog controllers and full gamepad controls within the 43-button QWERTY keyboard (numeric keypad included). The device even provides shoulder buttons.

The team behind the open-source Pandora device reports that the initial shipment will consist of a mere 4,000 units. That's understandable given there's been no advertisement on TV and magazines to support the launch. But the price might be a big turnoff for those who didn't even want to spend $249.99 USD on the Nintendo 3DS: $485 USD/ 375 EUR for international customers, and 445 EUR for European customers (incl. 19-percent VAT).

The thing to keep in mind is that Pandora isn't a dedicated gaming handheld system: it's a mixture of both worlds. It's fast enough to emulate many other systems, run a full desktop, access the internet via Mozilla's Firefox and play older PC games (like Quake 3 Arena, Warcraft). The operating system is Ångström-Linux with some Pandora-specific changes, but owners are welcome to slap on any OS of their choosing.

"What you’ve got here is an open-source, very efficient  handheld PC with a strong community behind it," reports UMPCPortal who has been following its development since 2007. "It’s also a bit of history." Apparently the reason why we haven't heard much about the device since 2010 is because it was having issues after going into limited production at a Texas-based manufacturing company -- a failure rate of at least 25-percent to be more precise.

The team was thus forced to halt everything and find a new place to produce the device. Fifteen days later the team found not only a new candidate, but 70 investors stepped forward and coughed up nearly half a million EUR (647K USD). The Pandora device was given a green light once the new company produced a unit with a 100-percent success rate.

Consumers interested in purchasing this pocket-sized netbook with gaming controls can head here and pre-order now. Mass production is expected to begin between now and the end of February. All orders will be fulfilled by OpenPandora GmbH, Germany.