Author Topic: GPD Win 2 first impressions

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Kevadu

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GPD Win 2 first impressions
« on: June 16, 2018, 08:59:03 PM »
Intro

(Linking to Wikipedia because they have pictures and stuff and I haven't actually taken any myself...)

So if you've been in the discord channel you might already know this but I'll recap a bit for those who don't.  I just recently received my GPD Win 2.  What the heck is a GPD Win 2 you ask?  Basically it's a fully functional Windows 10 PC in a handheld gaming device form factor.  There have been many attempts at indie-ish handheld gaming devices over the years but most of them had ARM processors and would run custom flavors of Linux or Android.  Meaning games had to be developed specifically for them and that obviously limited their appeal.  But this thing has a standard Intel processor and runs Windows 10.  It is literally just a very small PC, and as such can run your existing PC games.  And that's a game changer.

As the name 'Win 2' implies this is actually their second device in this series.  I never tried the original GPD Win but from what I've read the Win 2 is a pretty big jump in both specs and some of the design elements.  So I'm not sorry I missed out on the original because in same ways it can be thought of as just a prototype for this one.

The Win 2 is roughly the size of a 3DS XL, though maybe a bit thicker.  It's also surprisingly heavy.  Not so much that you can't lift it obviously but it does weigh more than you might expect and can be a little fatiguing to hold for a long period of time.  It's a clamshell design with a 6 inch 720p touchscreen display on the top while the bottom houses both gamepad controls and a small keyboard.

Controls

The keyboard is more like the kind you would sometimes find on phones back when phones actually had keyboards than a laptop keyboard but it's pretty decent considering.  The buttons are shaped to help you distinguish them and have a nice tactile feel when pressed but you're certainly not going to touch type on this thing.

The real appeal of this device is the integrated gamepad controls.  Of course it has a USB port so you could attach an external device or something but that kind of kills the portability aspect.  Most of the time you're going to be using the integrated controls.  They are pretty much what you would expect from any modern gamepad: Two analog sticks, a D-pad on the left, four face buttons on the left, and triggers on the back of the device.   The analog sticks seem pretty good considering their small size.  The face buttons are also pretty nice and the D-pad is...acceptable.  I've certainly seen worse.  Start and select buttons are actually on the top right part of the keyboard but I don't really have an issue with that.  They're still pretty easy to reach and they're not the kind of buttons you're going to be using all the time anyway.

The one nonstandard thing they did was that the analog sticks do not click so for L3/R3 functionality they actually added a third pair of trigger buttons on the back of the device.  I have seen a lot of people complain about this but I guess I have a different perspective because personally I have never liked clickable analog sticks.  The main reason being is that I always seem to click them by accident when I'm just trying to move the stick around.  Am I the only one with this problem?  So for me I actually prefer having another set of triggers.  They're set a bit further in on the device than the standard L1/R1/L2/R2 triggers so you have to reach a bit for them but I haven't found them too hard to hit.

My one real complaint about the controls is an ergonomic issue I don't actually know a good solution to.  Because they have to share space with the keyboard the positioning of the D-pad and face buttons is not ideal.  The gamepad controls are all on the top edge of the device's base with the analog sticks towards the edges but the D-pad and face buttons are placed further in so your thumbs really have to reach for them.  On most gamepads they would be separated by a mix of vertical and horizontal movement, not just horizontal.  But with there also being a keyboard there's not really room to do that.  They could ditch the keyboard I suppose but given that this is a fully functional PC I don't think it's necessarily a strange thing to include.  So yeah I don't know how I would actually do it better but I do feel the need to mention it.  Particularly if you have small hands you might not find this device very comfortable.

There's a switch in the center of the device that switches between mouse and gamepad modes.  In mouse mode you actually use the right analog stick to steer the mouse cursor around which can be helpful for navigating menus in Windows.  As I mentioned earlier the screen is a fully functional touchscreen and Windows 10 does have touch support, but keep in mind that Windows 10 is not really optimized for being used on a screen this small.  So the touch capabilities are there but you might find fine control difficult.  That's why the mouse mode is pretty useful.  In theory  you could also use this and the tiny keyboard to play games that don't have gamepad support...but I don't think I would actually want to.

Specs

Let's talk specs for a bit.  It is powered by an Intel Core M3-7Y30 processor...which I won't blame you for never having heard of but basically it's an ultra-low voltage version of the same processor architecture Intel uses in their desktop and laptop chips.  It runs at a lower frequency of course but it's worth mentioning that it's not an Atom processor.  Atom processors were made to be low-power and inexpensive but their performance lags pretty far behind the Core series.  This is a surprisingly powerful CPU for such a small device.  It even has hyperthreading enabled, which some low-end desktop chips lack.

Now to the less good news: There is no discrete GPU.  You're reliant on the CPU's integrated GPU.  While Intel's integrated graphics have improved somewhat over the years...it's still pretty bad compared to a discrete GPU.  On the plus side consider that you only have a relatively small 720p screen.  You obviously don't ever need to run at a higher resolution than that (and 720p is pretty low by modern standards) and a lot of features like AA can be turned off with minimal subjective impact simply due to the small screen.  You won't notice the details at the same level you might with a larger screen.  Still, running modern games can be a mixed bag.  The CPU is quite powerful for a handheld device so it's usually the GPU that will hold you back.  Some well optimized modern games can actually run quite well on it with low settings but others will struggle.  There are a lot of videos on Youtube of people trying various games on this device if you're interested.

To finish the spec discussion it also has 8GB of RAM and comes with a 128GB SSD.  The SSD is actually relatively easy to replace and uses the standard M.2 interface so you can put in a bigger one if you want.  However while it is an M.2 standard it is worth mentioning that there are actually a few different form factors out there and they're not all equally popular.  The vast majority of M.2 SSDs are in the 2280 form factor, basically meaning they're 80mm long.  The Win 2 uses a 2242 SSD, which is 42mm long.  So quickly looking at Newegg there are literally thousands of 2280 SSDs available but they have a whopping...16 2242 SSDs for sale.  So finding a replacement might be more challenging than you think.  Again it is a standard, not something the GPD folks made up for anything...it's just not a very popular standard.

I/O

There are actually quite a few I/O options on the Win 2.  It has a USB-C port (which is also used for charging) and a standard USB-A 3.0 port on the back, as well as a micro HDMI port, micro SD card reader, and of course a headphone jack.  My only real complaint here is the inclusion of micro HDMI...HDMI may be pretty standard but I don't see micro HDMI very often at all.  I realize that there isn't exactly room for a full sized HDMI port but I wish they had used that space for another USB-C port or something instead.  With the right dongle you can do video out over USB-C as well but you could potentially use it for a lot of other things as well...and yes you need a dongle but then I need a dongle for micro HDMI anyway.

Everything is on the back of the device which I found a little strange at first.  But it makes sense when you actually hold it because there is no way side I/O would work when you're holding it.  Still I wish they had been able to put at least the headphone jack on the front or something but that's a minor issue.

If you buy a large and relatively fast micro SD drive you can essentially just use the micro SD as a second SSD, installing things directly to it.  So that's another way of expanding your storage options.

One thing I find myself really missing is a fingerprint scanner.  I've gotten used to using them for unlocking my phone, tablet, and laptops so I find its omission here quite noticeable.  Having to type in your password on the tiny keyboard to unlock the device feels clunky.  Though if I'm only going to use it for games I suppose I could set it to not need a password at all...

Heat, battery life, etc.

The device is cooled by a single fan that sucks air in the bottom and pushes it out the back.  It's a pretty standard design but the fan can get a little whiny when it spins up.  There are four small feet on the bottom of the device which are supposed to make it so that if you place it on a flat table there is still some room for the fan to breath...but for some incomprehensible reason they made these feet really short.  They're barely little nubs on the bottom.  Which means that the airflow really isn't very good if you place it on a table, to the point where I've put it down only to hear the fan immediately start spinning faster as it struggles to breath.  To be fair it's meant to be a handheld device and this is much less of a problem when holding it in your hands, but still it feels like this would have been an easy thing to fix.  Just make those feet a little taller.  On the plus side the fan intake is central enough that I haven't had any issue with my fingers getting in the way while holding it.

The device can get a bit hot when you're gaming on it too.  Not so much that it's uncomfortable to hold but it's definitely noticeable.

On the other hand battery life is awesome.  I can't tell you exactly how long it lasts because I have yet to actually run it all the way down.  But I can tell you that I've gamed on it for a couple hours (actual gaming which tends to consume a lot more power than other tasks) and still had over half my battery remaining.  It is worth noting though that the large battery probably makes a significant contribution to the unit's weight.  As I said in the beginning it's not light.

Games

OK, enough of this nonsense let's talk about the experience of playing games on it.  Unfortunately I haven't actually had it for very long so this is the part I probably have the least to say about, but it's something I should be able to expand on as I try more games on it.  I tried a few games just to verify that they work and nothing has seemed obviously broken so far.  Cold Steel II appears to run perfectly fine on it and that's something I plan to come back to.

Partially because it seemed like it would be a good game to test on this thing but also because it's something I've been meaning to play, most of my time with the device so far has been spent playing Tales of Berseria.  And the experience has been pretty good I would say.  It's a little more demanding than something like Cold Steel II so you definitely need to put it on low settings to get good frame rates, but assuming you do it's quite playable.  Combat seems perfectly smooth...actually the worst performance I've seen so far was in that starting down in the beginning of the game with all the falling leaves, sparkling lights, and stuff...but that's just a town so it wasn't bad enough hurt the experience that much.

Also Berseria is a fun game.  But you probably already know that.

Conclusion

It's a really neat little device.  It seems to work pretty well and does what it promised, though it can be rough around the edges in spots (figuratively...the literal edges are pretty smooth).  Part of me wonders if it's going to take a GPD Win 3 to really nail everything.  Though from a spec point of view it's about as good as you could ever expect in a device this size except for that integrated GPU...but a discrete GPU would never have fit into their power and space budget.  The CPU is supposed to use just 7 Watts.  Maybe someday AMD can make an APU that competes with that (AMD's integrated GPUs tend to run circles around Intel's, though both still lose to a discrete GPU) but at least for right now they don't have anything that low.

Oh yeah it's worth mentioning the price.  I picked it up during their crowdfunding campaign for $650.  They do plan to sell it through normal channels later (though right now they're still trying to fulfill all the crowdfunding orders...) but claimed the price would go up to $700 then.  We'll have to see how long that actually sticks seeing how most electronics go down in price over time.

That probably sounds like a lot when you can pick up a Switch for $300 and probably have a more polished experience.  But that's just the hardware.  With the GPD Win 2 you have access to your entire existing library of PC games on the go without having to repurchase anything.  Then consider that with sales on Steam and GOG even new software does tend to be a lot cheaper in the PC world.  And with cloud saving you can move pretty seamlessly between the Win 2 on the go and a 'real' PC when at home.  So I think there is a place for something like this, particularly if you're already invested in PC gaming.

Besides it's a neat gadget and I like gadgets.

Rucks

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Re: GPD Win 2 first impressions
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2018, 11:48:49 PM »
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