The Dragonbox Pyra is finally shipping! This small handheld Linux PC (that can be used for just about anything, including gaming) has been in the works for 7 years or more. It was designed to be the successor of the Open Pandora (an excellent device that predates smartphones) which led to numerous innovations in the ARM space (the creator of Box86, for example, comes from the Open Pandora community).
The DragonBox Pyra has had a difficult development process, with numerous hardware (and mold) related issues during its design. It was kind of supposed to be ready to come out a few years ago, but every time you’d think “hey, it’s just 2 months away now!” it would be delayed again and again – for yet completely valid reasons. Why do I say valid reasons? Well, EvilDragon (Michael Mozrek) who leads the project, is a very transparent kind of guy and details every issue and every potential solution along the way with the community. It’s probably one of the most open projects in that sense – nothing was ever hidden from the public.
So, now that it finally ships, what do you need to know?
- Its SOC (based on the OMAP5432 with a dual core A15 chip) which used to be somewhat competitive 5 years ago, is now on the outdated side. That’s a shame, but the good thing is that the CPU board is made to be interchangeable so that they can work on an upgrade at some point that you can just swap. Will such an upgrade come? If yes, when? Nobody really knows, but at the very least the design allows it.
- The price is set at 745 euros (with VAT) for the 4GB Ram version which also includes mobile internet support (3G/4G) GPS and additional sensors. EDIT: The 2GB version listed in the same page was considered at some point but has been since dropped in favor of a single 4Gb version.
- For now only the pre-orders are shipping, so it will be a while before new orders actually secure a unit. Hard to say how long, but expect several months at least of waiting time.
- It runs Debian (with some non-free blobs for graphics).
While most people are going to look at the above and say that it’s overpriced, they will be hard pressed to find something actually equivalent out there. The Pyra is a highly customized device, with numerous ports, swappable internals and battery, and specific gaming and keyboard controls included. I have spent thousands of hours with the Open Pandora before and never regretted it one bit.
Sure, the situation has changed now with cheap smartphones being all over the place, Pine64 doing their things, Odroid and their console experiments, and the Raspberry Pi and alternatives being more and more ubiquitous, but fundamentally the device remains very unique. A kind of swiss army knife that can basically do pretty much anything, running Linux, in your pocket. The closest thing that comes to it is the GPD Win series, but there’s no official Linux support there, and it’s not ARM based.
This is not the device for just everyone out there (even the price says so), but there’s certainly a niche of users who will find it very useful and ‘just right’.
I’m one of the first 200 pre-orders, and while I am not sure when I will actually get one, I will definitely review it in more details when I have one hands-on.
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