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Review: Gamepark GP2X

The handheld entertainment market is certainly active these days. The iPod is an industry unto itself, and numerous companies are producing handheld video players. The Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Nintendo DS have brought high-quality gaming into the palm of your hand as well. Occasionally, however, something unique crosses our desks.

The $199 Gamepark GP2X is an interesting hybrid device. Based on the Linux operating system, this unit is about the size of a traditional handheld gaming player. It sports a 3.5" TFT LCD display and two separate processors (one for video, one for everything else.) Out of the box, the GP2X has a built-in video player, music player, photo viewer, and e-Book reader.

But what sets the GP2X apart is that -- because it's based on Linux, and because Gamepark has encouraged the developer community to create or port applications to the platform -- there's a wealth of free software you can install on the device. Want a calculator? Just download and install it.

Perhaps the most interesting set of applications are the games. To begin with, there's a very functional port of MAME, which lets you play more than 1,000 arcade games (like Marble Madness and Tempest), in their original coin-operated form. There is also an emulator for Neo-Geo games, and even the original Quake first-person shooter engine. Installing these isn't hard, but it's not simple either. It's certainly not like plugging a UMD into a PSP. On the other hand, it's all free.

The GP2X includes 60 MB of onboard memory and has an SD reader, which is where the games, video and audio are going to reside. It also includes a USB 2.0 port, and can even display video on a normal TV using an optional cable. It runs on two normal AA batteries, and can also use an AC power adaptor (not included.)

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