Saturday, December 4, 2010

Clarifications on previous post

I'm not sure I've explained myself properly, since I totally agree with the comment posted by Xeatheran, but he failed to notice.

Using his words, people buying the A320 and similar devices want an emulator priced around $100. Any feature that significantly increases the price would make it have to compete with the other more expensive linux based consoles (Wiz/Caanoo come to mind) or with the godzillas of the market (NDS, PSP).

So, any wished feature must be such that doesn't increase the price significantly:
  • Better processor: by next year, the CC1800 will be obsolete and underpowered compared to other competitors in the PMP market. The CC2000 will be a bit more expensive, but here they have no choice but to move on or lag behind. Note that the CC2000 has a powerful GPU. More details upon the official anouncement.
  • 256MB: this was already planned before I suggested it. Note that the CC2000 processor uses DDR RAM, whose widespread usage makes it cheaper than the SDRAM used by the JZ4732 and CC1800. This means 256MB in the next generation consoles may probably cost the same or less than 64MB in the current generation consoles.
  • A 480x272 4.3" LCD screen is not much more expensive than the A320 LCD, and it would make a big difference, at least for me. I find the A320 and GA330 screens too small. Problem here is that if you need a multiple of 320x240, you'd have to go for an 800x480 4.3", which I believe will be not just a little but much more expensive.
  • It should be obvious: either powered host USB type A or SDIO. Not both. My choice here is host USB, because dongles are way cheaper and more accessible than SDIO cards. But they pointed out that it may be impossible to fit such a bulky connector in the design. Maybe the PCB cutout would solve this. Anyway, it would increase cost just a little bit (mostly due to the USB power DC-DC converter), but you are also saving by removing the 2.4GHz radio from the design, which also as I pointed out, may be a big advantage when (if) time comes to pass CE/UL certification.
  • Analog nubs: if they are aiming, besides emulation, to get software studios to develop games for this console, it is a must. A GPU capable of, for example, running FPS games, would make no sense without analog nubs.
The rest of features I mentioned are essentially free (except licensing Doom, Duke, etc).

So: a CC2000 SoC (800MHz, GPU), 256MB DDR RAM, 4.3" LCD, analog nubs and powered host USB type A port. This would make a killer emulation console and stay in the same price range where the A320/GA330 are.

Camera, touchscreen, WiFi, etc, are nonsense. If you want too shoot crappy photos (most integrated cameras are crap) or browse the internet, use your phone or buy a tablet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Suggestions for the next generation consoles

While I was with the CC folks I discussed with them a few suggestions I had for what I though would be the killer console, just in case some could be implemented in their next generation. They're eager to listen to users. That's invaluable IMHO.

Mind you, these are my own suggestions and that means some of them may be pointless since as you may already know I'm not a gamer. So, I'll really appreciate all kinds of comments.

I also collected suggestions from the people at #dingoonity IRC channel during one of the sleepless nights.

These are my suggestions:
  • At least 256MB RAM (this is already confirmed).
  • 4.3" or larger LCD (larger would probably hinder portability).
  • Powered USB OTG port (GA330 is OTG but not powered).
  • Host USB type A connector on the top side. Would allow easy use of WiFi or bluetooth dongles to add wireless capabilitites (internet, multiplayer, etc). Proably the only way to place such a connector without making the console too think would be to use a PCB cutout, such that the connector, instead of being on the PCB, is "into" the PCB (i.e. center of connector aligned with PCB).
  • One microSD slow and one SD/MMC slot with SDIO capability, which would allow use of wireless SDIO cards. Note that the host USB type A connector mentioned above would probably be a much better solution, since there are many more USB dongles to choose from and they're much cheaper than SDIO cards (you can buy a tiny bluetooth dongle for less than $6 shipped).
  • Allowing external wireless through either host USB type A or SDIO has some nice advantages over the internal 2.4GHz module currently used in the GA330:
  1. You can connect to another GA330, your mobile phone, home network, and whatnot. With the internal 2.4GHz module you can only connect to another GA330.
  2. Brings down the price of the console for users that don't need wireless anyway. For those that want it, it's dead easy to add it (mostly in the case of the hust USB type A connector). They could even sell a "wireless edition" pack including the dongle.
  3. Lack of wireless in the base console eases CE/UL certification (in case they ever want to comply).
  • Hardware color space conversion and scaling (already in the CC1800 VPU, and of course in the CC2000 which has a GPU).
  • Good subtitle support. Their high end PMP HD8900 already does support subtitles, buy they lack the black outline which is fundamental to ensure readability independent of image, and fails miserably (and silently) to load some subtitle files (I was able to solve this by rewriting then in strict UTF8 encoding, but this should not be necessary).
These are from #dingoonity:
  • Include Dingux plus a bundle of GPL games in each A320/GA330, and advertise it on the box as a selling point. Community will be happly to prepare such a bundle. In order to comply with the GPL the source code could be supplied in a separate subdirectory with a README stating that it can be safely deleted to reclaim some disk space.
  • License the full version of some famous OSS games like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, etc, and include them in the bundle above.
  • Use the third connection of the headphone jack as a mic or line input, as it's used in many handsfree headphone kits. Usage of such a feature would be certainly minoritary, but it's essentially free (they're already using a three pin headphone jack in the A320 and I bet the codec they use in the GA330 already has MIC bias and MIC input pins).
  • Analog joypad. This would be great for games, but notice that this would provide the necessary pointing device for a web browser, for example.
  • Route all the unused GPIO pins to test pads on one clear area of the most accessible side of the PCB (both in the A320 and GA330 this would be the opposite side to where the LCD is connected, that is, the side you can access right after opening the case). Would be great if among those pins there was a I2C or SPI bus. This would be great for diehard hardware hackers, and is essentially free since doesn't increase manufacturing costs.