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GPD Win

Fun fact: By number of devices purchased, GPD is my second-most purchased brand of electronics.

I have owned a GPD G5A gaming tablet, which I bought (and broke) many years ago, and a GPD XD gaming tablet, which I bought (and didn’t break) a bit more recently. Both of them are pretty standard (a bit on the higher end) Chinese tablets of their time, but with an integrated game controller.

Both of them were better than any of their competition at the time of release. They were useful mostly for playing emulated games, and the occasional Android game with gamepad support (which did show up from time to time, such as the superb Sonic 1 and 2 remakes, and Lego Star Wars).

However, after the XD, GPD decided to take a slightly different route forward.

This time they made a full-on PC, which comes with Windows 10 preinstalled.

On the surface the Win looks just like an XD with an added keyboard and an Intel Atom inside to replace the RK3288 SoC, and to a large extent, that is what it is. However, after playing with this thing for a couple of days, I have paid attention to some more detailed changes that GPD made going from the XD to the Win. Some of these changes I like, some of them I don’t. These are some of the changes they did, and what I think of them.

Build

The XD’s shape was very clearly modeled after a 3DS XL, down to some of the finer details on the outside. You could even confuse a closed GPD XD for a 3DS XL if you didn’t look too close!

With the Win, however, GPD has taken a new approach to the design. Some new curves and edges make the Win look much less than a 3DS clone, and more like an original design. This is nice, though it doesn’t matter much to me, because it still feels similar in the hands when playing, and that’s basically all that matters to me.

The lid is now made of aluminium, and is thinner than the XD’s plastic lid. The most important change to me was that the lid now closes properly! I always felt that the XD’s lid doesn’t quite close all the way, so this makes me happy. A small detail, but I like it nonetheless. Unfortunately, the lid on the Win now has a little bit of a wiggle on the hinge when it’s open, while the XD’s lid felt rock solid when it was open. Again, just a small detail, but small details is what I’m all about.

While the entire Win overall is thinner than the XD, the bottom half is much thicker on the Win than on the XD. When holding it in the hand you can even feel the difference, but fortunately it doesn’t affect using it.

Input

The most visible change on the device is obviously the added keyboard, and the slightly rearranged game controls. The keyboard is okay, in that it isn’t terribly uncomfortable to press the buttons, but it’s not even close to a good keyboard. Of course it’s too small to actually type on, so its main use is just in pressing keys whenever you need to. This thing runs a regular desktop OS, after all. Despite it feeling just okay, I much prefer this to touch screen typing on the GPD XD.

The shoulder buttons were slightly changed, too. For some reason they wiggle around a lot now, but they still click like the XD’s did, and they still work fine in games. I don’t mind the wiggling, and I like the new positions of the buttons slightly more towards the corners. On the XD they were all perfectly flat against the back edge, but on the Win, the outer shoulder buttons are actually pointing outwards at a 45° angle, and sit right on the back corners.

Otherwise the game controls feel just like they did on the XD, and that’s fine. They were already really good on the XD.

Screen

The screen looks to me just the same as the screen on the XD. It is a little bit larger, but not by a lot. The resolution is still 1280x720, which in my opinion is plenty. The XD screen was already very good (seriously), so I have nothing to complain about here either 😛

Sound

Here is the part of the Win that really disappointed me. The XD had two upwards-facing stereo speakers, that even sounded kind of good. (To the extent that tiny speakers like that can sound good…) On the Win, there is only one speaker, and it sounds disappointingly bad. I’m no audiophile, but I know when a speaker sounds tinny and cheap. On top of that, the speaker is on the side, so it’s really easy to block it with your hand while playing.

Fortunately the good old headphone jack is still there, so all you need is a good pair of headphones to make everything good again.

Connectivity

On the physical port side of things, the XD features the headphone and mini-HDMI jacks that we saw on the XD. In addition to these, it also features a full-size USB 3 port, and a USB type C port for charging. (No idea if the type C port can be used for anything else than charging though.) The inclusion of a USB type A port only makes sense, considering it is a full PC.

The wireless side of the equation has also been improved on the Win. There is now support for 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, and it supports all the way up to 802.11ac. There is also Bluetooth support, which was entirely missing on the XD. Improvements all around.

Fan/heatsink

This is a new thing. In the Win there is actually a fan/heatsink combination with vents on the bottom and edges! It can be manually enabled using a switch on the bottom. I don’t mind this addition, in some particularly demanding games it can help to prevent thermal throttling which would otherwise dramatically slow down the game.

The only downside is that you need to make sure not to block the vents (on the left and front edges, and in the left front corner of the bottom side) if you want to get any use out of this feature. It’s not a huge problem, and using it is optional, so again, thumbs up for this.

Hardware and games

On the inside is an Intel Atom x7-Z8750 SoC. It has 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of internal storage space (and for extra storage space, a MicroSD card can be inserted). The graphics card you get is just the integrated one in the Intel CPU, which is understandable for a device of these dimensions. In a larger device you might expect e.g. a mobile Radeon or something, but the fact is even an Intel integrated GPU is able to play some games!

(Sidenote: some earlier units apparently came with a Z8700 SoC instead of the Z8750 found in this one. However, after reading about it online, I’m not even sure if that made any difference in performance. I’m just going to assume the difference was not noticeable.)

I have tested a few different games on this thing (in alpabetical order):

  • Antichamber: Playable (30+ FPS). No gamepad support though!
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail: Runs well at native resolution.
  • Freedom Planet: Same as above (kind of expected)
  • Rocket League: If you set all the graphics settings to the lowest setting, then it is playable at native resolution, with the framerate hovering around 30 FPS. Lowering the resolution doesn’t seem to help!
  • Sonic Adventure 2: Runs well at native resolution (though I did see some graphical glitches)
  • Sonic Generations: Playable at a low resolution like 640x400.
  • The Stanley Parable: Runs well at native resolution with default settings.

Now, I’m not a huge gamer, so you can find a lot more information about playing games on this device on online forums and YouTube. You won’t find any benchmarks or statistics (or even framerates for every game!) on this blog anytime soon.

I also tested some emulators (mostly through RetroArch):

  • Citra (Nintendo 3DS): Tested Mario Kart 7, but it was not playable. Maybe it could be in the future, or maybe even today if there is some setting I missed that improves the performance.
  • DesMuME (Nintendo DS): Tested Mario Kart DS, but it wasn’t really playable. Didn’t really tweak the settings, so there might be a way to emulate the DS playably on the Win, not sure about that. On the GPD XD I could emulate the DS at full speed using DraStic, but that is unfortunately not available for normal Windows PCs.
  • Dolphin (GameCube/Wii): The performance of this one depends heavily on the game. Wii games probably won’t be playablei at all, but for example Mario Kart Double Dash or Paper Mario: TTYD can be played. Super Mario Sunshine almost ran at full speed!
  • Mupen64Plus (Nintendo 64): Tested Mario Kart 64, but again it was a bit slow. I think you might get this one to run full-speed somehow, I didn’t even touch the settings this time.
  • Redream (Sega Dreamcast): This emulator ran very well, so there’s one emulator that works right out of the box!

As you can see, I have not really put in a lot of effort in getting these emulators to run, so it’s quite possible that some of them will run just fine. Then there are of course the older systems like the SNES, Mega Drive, or the NES, which I didn’t try to emulate. I’m pretty sure that the Win can emulate those systems at full speed (if you can forgo things like cycle-accuracy…)

That’s about it! Those are my opinions and observations of the GPD Win (mostly hardware) compared to the GPD XD. I still haven’t tried any Linux-based OSes on this thing, which it should support since it is just a regular PC. At some point I will try that, and you will probably be able to read about it if you are interested.


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