The Big Wad Bolf.
Well life has been hectic recently and as a pre-production Caanoo arrived on my doorsetp a week or so ago I think it was about time I completed my half finished review, so here we go:
On unpacking the Caanoo I was surprised how larger than the Wiz it was, especially since it’s supposed to be a Wiz with extra bells and whistles. It felt a little more like a cross between the GP32 and the GP2X than an updated Wiz. In the box was the unit itself and a charging cable.
The Caanoo feels very solid, and the casing isn’t shiney like the Wiz so you don’t get any icky finger prints showing up, I was constantly cleaning the Wiz and that drove me crazy.
The buttons all feel nice and none are wobbly like the Wiz buttons. All ports have pull off covers, with the covers on it looks very smart and flush, also the covers cannot be lost as they have a small section which keeps them attached to the console when they are open. I couldn’t help thinking that for a pre-production model this looks and feels like the finished article. Here comes the science stuff:
From what I can see there is no user accessible NAND, this means you rely totally on SD cards for your games, apps and media. This is a small step backwards for me as I liked having my favourite games on the Wizs NAND. But what the heck, we never had that feature on any previous GP/GPH consoles and I got on perfectly well with them.
SD cards insert into the top, again behind a cover. I found the card sat a little deep inside the socket and sometimes was annoying to insert and remove, mainly because of my nails. After a while though you get a technique and all seemed fine. You can then close the cover protecting it from elements such as dust and bacon sandwiches.
This is situated on the top of the Caanoo in the centre. It’s a very interesting design as it looks like an analog slider which directly alters the volume, but in reality the software reads the slider and takes appropriate action depending on where the slider is, it does mean that there is a slight delay in the volume changing when you move the slider, of course the latency may improve in future firmware updates. I also wonder how this style of control will effect legacy software that used VOL+ and VOL- as two extra buttons, only time will tell. I personally like it though as it makes more sense than holding a button to alter the volume, it’s a nice touch.
The power switch is located on the right hand side of the unit, It’s quite large and very easy to use (Thumbs up there). Pulling it downwards toggles on/off, and clicking it in the up position locks the keys, usual stuff there then. I much prefer this over the Wiz’s power switch as it definitely isn’t as fiddly.
USB Multi connector
This looks identical to the Wiz, the socket is placed in the same position (Bottom Middle). When I plugged this into my PC, Windows saw it instantly, the Caanoo went into USB mode and the battery started to charge without any fuss at all. One thing to note here though is that this connector doesn't appear to be compatible with the charging cables supplied with the Wiz .
To the left of the Multi connector is a standard USB port, this will be used for the WIFI dongle. I have tried plugging various USB pen drives into the USB socket but none of them were recognized. I'm not sure if it's the make/model of pen drive or if the firmware is not designed to utilize this feature.
This is placed to the left of the USB Port. It’s a standard mini jack socket so any of your current headphones will be fine.
On the left hand side is the power LED, which I must say looks quite pretty, it’s quite large and glows with a nice red/blue tone depending on it’s charging state. I like, I like it a lot!
The Caanoo has lost the D-Pad, returning all the way back to an analogue joystick. But don’t worry, it’s a million times better than the GP2Xs stick. It’s solid, responsive and has a nice centre button (Which the Wiz had lost). I have been playing Pacman on it for ages and so far it’s been perfect! There’s no wobble, and it doesn’t slip from your thumb. I think they must have really thought about what stick to use and came up trumps.
I’m not sure about these, they feel a little awkward as to press as I have to streach my fingers. I don’t have big hands so for some it may be okay, my boyfriend thought they we’re fine but he had another issue which I will talk about in another section (Speakers). Other than that they were responsive and I am sure I will get used to them.
I and II buttons
These are basically the start and select buttons, they are placed to the left of the screen below the joystick and are flush with the case. Easy to press and fine. Why call them I and II though? Button I in the launcher is set to bring up Help.
Addition: As RupeeClock pointed out in the next post, the I and II buttons are designed to be used as gaming buttons when you turn the Caanoo upwards (portrait), this is great for games like Pacman!
A, B, X & Y buttons.
Placed to the right of the screen, they are solid and easy to press, no problems encountered so far.
Placed below the A, B, X & Y buttons. This is like an escape button, it can take you back to the home screen or whatever software desires it to be used for such as menu.
Nice TFT screen, pretty good in daylight too, my only little niggle is the casing covers the very edges, if you tilt the Caanoo you can see the pixels underneath showing that the screen is indeed extend slightly under the casing. Touch screen is much more responsive than the Wiz and I’m liking it very much. There is also a pen for the touchscreen slotted into the casing of the Caanoo on the right hand side, vary much like the Wizs pen placement.
The speakers are pretty loud and as yet I haven’t yet had any distortion. They have a good range and are pretty much what you would expect from good speakers in a handheld console. But, and this is a big but, they are placed on the back of the unit. My boyfriend kept accidentally covering them with his fingers as he was using the shoulder buttons. I think the speaker issue is so far the ONLY big gripe I have on the Caanoo. I have had a word with GPH and they have said the speakers were placed on the back as this was the only place available, and putting them into context, the rest of the unit is good enough for the poor speaker placement to be forgiven. On the subject of audio, I have compared the audio with the same mp3s on my iPhone 3GS, The Caanoo was not as dynamic but otherwise produced excellent quality output.
GPH have seen fit to add not only a rumble feature, but also accelerometers, I have tested these and they work really well. It's going to bring a whole new set of gaming styles to the Caanoo very similar to the iPhone. Steering driving games by tilting or guiding a ball through a maze by tilting are only two such style of games that will appear.
I remember when I got my original Wiz the launcher was in a very sorry state, it crashed more times than me playing Motorstorm and a lot of the functions just didn’t work. This is definitely not the case with this pre-production unit. The menu is solid, the media software works as intended (the music player even has some themes) and the touch screen calibration is accurate. One bonus is that it boots flipping fast (10 seconds), that it’s almost like having a modern GP32, and I loved how fast the GP32 booted. The Caanoo isn’t quite as fast booting as that but it’s close. I should do a comparison video.
So all in all the Caanoo is a solid little machine. Although there’s very little software available yet, I can see this changing fast, there’s already a beta version of Buennu floating around so I am hoping Ruckage will recompile at least Ruckman (Pretty please). As stated before, the only faults I can see in the design are the speaker placement and the very edges of the screen being obscured by the case. I’m sure GPH can resolve the screen issue easily enough by shaving about .5 of a mm off the inside of the bezel, simples!!
Any questions are welcomed and if you have any software that needs beta testing then give me a shout.
Take it easy,