Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Trip to Vienna (and back) Pt 1

Note: This is part 1 of a 2 or 3 part series on gaming while on the go.

So I had over 20 hours of waiting, flying and layover time to kill when going to Vienna. On the way back, I'll have at least an extra hour.

First and foremost, do not fly Austrian Air international. I was in economy, near the back, and sitting back in my seat, my knees touched the seat in front of me. The have no order to their boarding, they just do all the rows at once, and worst of all, no personal air controls. I didn't know that was possible on a 767. On the plus side, the food was actually quite good.

So with this long flight in mind, I started looking at portable gaming devices. I mean I have my iPod and it is great, but ultimately with an iPod video, your gaming choices are limited. Not only that, but the games eat the battery.

So, I started my search with the Nintendo DS(i/lite/XL/etc.) Even at Walmart you're looking at $129 before games. Justifying $200+ on a new gaming system to the wife wasn't going to cut it. Besides, the battery life was too short and I couldn't find out if it charged via USB, so I started looking at a PSP.

I figured Sony has a reasonable console, and they extend via the PSP, maybe that's the ticket. What I found shocked me. The PSP with UMD $170. The PSP Go (which would be much cheaper for Sony to make) $250. And again the battery life just didn't stack up. I continued my hunt.

Looking at the iPod touch seemed promising, I could game on it, play music, play videos and finally upgrade this older iPod. But there is the issue that some of my docks, such as the wireless headphones or car integration kit may stop working. Besides, to cover all my music I was looking at a 64 GB device, so $400. Crap, that's even worse and I have to buy the games on top of that. Well, maybe an iPad. $700?!? I forgot they were that expensive.

So @thinkgeek announced a coupon and I went hunting on their site. I came up with two choices as a media solution, the A320 and the GP2X. Both can emulate older game systems, so if you look for the game images you can play older games, but there's a difference in price of ~$80. This appears to be a result of the touch screen and better CPU making the GP2X slightly more expensive. @ $100 I started looking real close at the A320.

At the time, if you read the descriptions it clearly stated the A320 came with a wall charger while the GP2X charged via USB. But the A320 had 8 hrs of battery life (big plus) and I downloaded the manual to see what they said about charging via USB. I was shocked to find out the manual said that the device didn't have a port for power, it always charged via USB. It seemed like too big of an oversight for ThinkGeek, they always make sure to get those kind of specs. So I asked @thinkgeek via twitter. Unfortunately, their A320 guy was out sick, so I just went for it. I bought the device with that hanging question.

Turns out the manual was correct, the device only charges via USB.

So in the two weeks since I got it I've played with it a lot, and then sent it though the ringer yesterday. So let's start with the good:
  • 4 GB of internal Storage
  • SDHC support via SD Mini (or SD Micro and a penny adapter from Amazon.)
  • Supports iPod video out of the box (at least the iPod videos I've made via MythTv, I highly recommend this weekend project to any and all geeks out there.)
The bad:
  • USB Charging Implementation
    • If the USB connection isn't just power, but includes D+ and D-, the device becomes a light and doesn't allow you to play.
      • There is one exception to this I've found. If you plug in after launching an emulator the emulator will keep going without causing any issues.
      • If you're not using an emulator, plugging in a USB connection will drop you out of your movie, e-book, etc.
  • Reset button
    • You need to use a paperclip to reset the device (which happens rarely).

The device held up well over the trip, and using my laptop's always on USB power port, I never ran out of juice. That said, if I had the right cable, the Air Canada flight could have charged it, there was a USB port on the touch screen entertainment system (for a keyboard) that would have worked perfectly.

I'll be adding scores and such to the last of these reviews.

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