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In development for what seems like an eternity, the Pandora open source pocket computer/handheld games console first emerged in 2007. Having a page in the product database and being discussed by readers in the Pocketables Forum, the Pandora is developed by OpenPandora, a group of distributors, developers and community members of the GP32 and GP2X handheld gaming consoles originally made by South Korea's GamePark Holdings. Very much an enthusiast and community driven project without corporate involvement, it was originally intended to be "the ultimate open source handheld device" with an emphasis on gaming.

If you're not familiar with the device, here's a quick rundown of the basics:

The Pandora is capable of running a full Linux desktop (using a customized version of Ångström Linux), browsing the internet using Firefox, acting as a PMP, and of course playing a variety of games including those for Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Super NES emulators.

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The Pandora has a very unique arrangement starting with a basic clamshell design like a small UMPC. But once open, the radical control layout is revealed with a three-row QWERTY keyboard occupying the bottom half of the base and a full complement of gaming controls taking residence in the top portion, including a D-pad, dual analog sticks, and a set of four face buttons. Think of it as a PlayStation controller transferred onto a UMPC! A row of number keys and the backspace key retain their usual positions at the very top of the base unit.

Specifications of the 11.82-ounce Pandora are impressive starting with a 4.3-inch WVGA resistive touch screen, a TI OMAP3530 (ARM Cortex A8 core) processor at 600MHz, PowerVR SGX 530 3D graphics chip, 256MB RAM, 512MB of local NAND flash storage, b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, dual SDHC slots supporting up to 64GB, TV-output (composite and S-video), headphone out and audio line-in/outputs, USB 2.0 OTG and host ports, and 4000 mAh li-polymer battery.

Those who have been following it will be happy to know that the Pandora has just reached a significant production milestone with the completion of the first manufacturing test unit using the final components that all future units will be produced from. Although there will be further tweaks and refinements of the device with continued testing, this test unit is considered to be the first unit off the production line and the likely beginning of the first batch of 4,000 units. The expected MSRP is $330 with most of the first batch already sold, but a few are still available if you email gp2xorders@gmail.com.

I am intrigued by this device as a gadget enthusiast and a gamer but most of all, I'm amazed by what a passionate community have achieved so far, much like the previous story regarding the modified Sony VAIO UX. I highly recommend a visit to the OpenPandora website for anyone  interested in this unique device. Also check out the video below showing the first manufacturing test unit being booted up into Linux. Is anyone here one of the lucky few who have ordered a unit of the initial batch?

[Engadget]