GCW-Zero Review – How well does emulation work?

GCW-Zero

I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a GCW-Zero. I’ve had it for about two weeks now and have been playing with it just about every night for a hour or so before bed. I have mainly been playing Link’s Awakening DX, but I have spent a fair amount of time with each system I can emulate.

NES via FCEUX: Perfect. Tried a bunch of different games without issue. Made it all the way through Super Mario Bros. 1 without a glitch.
Game Boy/Game Boy Color via GamBattle: Perfect. I tried a couple of other emulators at first, both of which had problems with music or colors. (OhBoy notably)
SNES via Snes9x4d: I get the occasional slow down. It’s about like SNES emulation on a 3DS. SuperFX games do not work well such as Star Fox or Stunt Race FX.
GBA via ReGBA: No issues that I’ve seen. Mario Kart plays very well. I’m almost expecting to find something glitchy, but so far so good.
Playstation/PSX via psx4all: PSx4All is an unofficial port and the only PSX emulator I could find. Every game I tried was very slow and the sound stuttered or was lagged.
Genesis: I’ll confess I’m not much of a Genesis fan and didn’t try it. There are several Genesis emulators available.
Nintendo DS, Nintendo 64: Spec wise the GCW-Zero should be able to emulate these but there are no emulators yet written.

Some Random Notes:

The hardware is nice. It’s cool, in a nerd sort of way, to see Linux boot up on a handheld. The GCW is light and feels good to hold. You can hold it a long time and not get fatigued. The buttons are all easy to reach and have a good feel.

The native  games for the GCW-Zero are neat but nothing to write home about.

The one exception to the above is Kobo Deluxe.

ScummVM has a port but most of the games are pretty laggy. Should be all good once the software gets some optimizations.

Quake 1, 2, 3 and Decent 2 run really well. The control scheme made them unplayable for me though.

Doom is supposed to run well but for the life of me I couldn’t get it to work.

Warcraft 2 runs in DOSBox. It’s a little laggy but I was able to play the first mission without wanting to kill myself.

Adjusting the volume by holding the power button and using the D-pad is weird, but does the job.

By trolling Ebay I got my GCW for a lot less than retail. I’m not sure I would pay $140 for it.

The best comparison to the GCW-Zero are the Android handhelds put out by JXD. In my opinion the GCW-Zero has great hardware and questionable software. The JXD devices have questionable hardware (quality control issues) and great software (Android OS). If I knew for certain the JXD handheld I was buying had no hardware quality issues I would buy a JXD handheld over a GCW-Zero. Problem with JXD is no one knows if you’re going to get a device with a jacked screen, buttons, or who knows what else.

ThinkGeek is a reseller if you’re looking for a reputable seller.

Bottom Line:

If you can find one for less than $100 I would recommend a GCW-Zero. I think in a year the software will catch up and it’ll be an awesome device.

My other thought is that in a year the handheld Android consoles will be a dime a dozen with greatly improved build quality.

 
5/9/14 Update: With the release of the newest firmware and some updates to the SNES emulators, SuperFX games work pretty well. Stunt Race FX works great!

7 comments

    1. I have. I even downloaded the latest copy of it today and gave it another go. Star Fox makes it to the start of the first level; the cut scene with them flying through the launch tube and then glitches out. Stunt Race FX makes it up to the first track loading and then suddenly the track disappears.

      I’ve got my fingers crossed that one of the emulators will receive an update in the future to smooth all of this out.

  1. I’m curious about what the quality/durability of the buttons and d-pad are. Any thoughts or observations?

    My experience has been that 3rd party stuff wears out fairly rapidly.

  2. Star Fox didn’t work very well. On SNES9X based emulator, if you disable the frameskip, the game runs very slow, if you enable frameskip, the game runs very fast…. 🙁

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