Pyra - Hybrid Gaming Ultraportable

May 28, 2019  

The Pyra is a device that I’m most excited about, and am finally hopeful that it will see a 2019 release (to be confirmed).

It’s also the device that I’ve been waiting for longest, now approaching 2.5 years! There was a demonstration of an early working prototype in March 2016, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4t9Ys8wI6k

A lot has changed since that early video though…

Some delay-causing issues have been:

  • Major issues with the original company dealing with the case moulds
  • Issues with noisy capacitors, and sourcing tantalum-free ones (ethically sourced)
  • An issue with the 4GB units crashing, thankfully due to a software misconfiguration
  • Shoulder button rework
  • Numerous versions of the key-mat, solving issues like bubbles, key shape, stickiness, etc.
  • Software issues
  • Technical issues with the boards

However, the only known outstanding issues now are very minor, and focus is going to be on the software, which doesn’t need to be perfect sending out the first units. So hopefully we will see the first batches of prototypes in the wild very soon!

Key Features

Here are a few of the features of the Pyra that I am most excited about:

  • Hybrid gaming and keyboard control (perfect for on-the-go scripting and retro gaming)
  • SIM support - potentially send and receive text messages or get mobile internet access
  • Multi-coloured LEDs - could be used for all kinds of notifications or events, or even coded specifically for games
  • Upgradable CPU board
  • Hardware controlled sound
  • Fantastic, active community
  • Hopefully good emulator support (at least for 8 and 16 bit systems)
  • Excellent storage possibilities with 3 high capacity SD card support

I also believe there is hardware switchable wi-fi, although I can’t find a source for this.

Origins

Pyra is the successor to the Pandora, and it’s development began back in 2014. By today’s standards, its specification isn’t the best, but the focus has always been on maintainability and upgradability and using free / open software (with a Debian-based OS). With two external SD card slots and one internal one, there is also plenty of scope for storage, and coupled with a custom package manager which detects software installed in drives that are inserted is likely to make swapping applications and games a breeze.

Development has been led by EvilDragon (Michael Mrozek) of DragonBox, and only with his apparent unlimited patience, openness and persistence is Pyra still likely to be released after all these years. It’s also a product that is seeing many tangible improvements, like the recent addition of springs to shoulder buttons (following a move from the previously problematic case company to a newer one), and loads of improvements to the key-mat.

Specifications

Technical Specs

  • Texas Instruments OMAP 5 SoC
    • 2x ARM Cortex-A15 @ 1.5Ghz with NEON SIMD
    • 2x ARM Cortex-M4
    • PowerVRâ„¢ SGX544-MP2
    • Vivante GC320 2D Accelerator
  • 2GB or 4GB RAM, 32GB internal eMMC
  • 720p 5” LCD with resistive touchscreen
  • High-Quality speakers, analog volume wheel
  • Headset-Port, Built-in-Mic, HDMI Video Out
  • Various sensors (accelerometer, gyro-sensor, etc.)
  • Vibration motor

Physical Specs

  • Ultra-portable: ~13.9 x 8.7 x 3.2cm
  • Large, 6000 mAh battery
  • Gaming controls: dPad, 4 shoulder buttons, 6 face buttons
  • Two analogue nubs with clickable action
  • QWERTY keyboard with backlight
  • Integrated Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n (2,4 and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Dual external SDXC card slots, one internal MicroSDXC card slot (can be used for the OS instead of the eMMC)
  • 2x Full-size USB 2.0 Host (one can be used as eSATA-with a small adaptor), 1x Micro USB 3.0, 1x Micro USB (Debug and Charging)
  • Fully configurable RGB-LEDs for notifications
  • Optional 3G/4G/UMTS and GPS module

References