After a lengthy and slightly worrisome stint at the sorting office in Heathrow, my GPD XD+ finally arrived earlier this week. I haven’t really had time to get to know it yet, but I have had a good look at the hardware and tested a few bits and pieces from the Play Store.
It’s a bit too soon for a full review, but I do feel like I can share some impressions on other aspects of the machine such as build quality, controls, software and the like.
I did pay for this myself, way back on February 18th when Fasttech had their 15% discount for CNY. It came out to $168 shipped, which was about £124 with PayPal’s exchange rate. I picked up the package from the local depot last Sunday. 64 days total, that’s a long time to wait – but it was a pre-order.
The device came in a similar box to 2016’s model, and I think Fasttech wrapped it in cling film as they seem to do with most expensive electronics. I guess to protect it from any potential disasters involving water! No pictures from inside the box, but it comes with all the usual stuff plus a screen protector which I have yet to fit. With a clamshell form factor such as this, it’s not really necessary.
When the device is closed it’s very reminiscent of a 3DS XL, which is no bad thing. As noted by others on the dingoonity boards, it seems that the top half of the unit is finished in a very glossy, slightly sparkly paint, whilst the bottom half is simply untreated dark grey plastic. I imagined this would look bad, but it’s barely noticeable. The entire thing is a massive fingerprint magnet, I had to polish it for ages before taking any pics.
It’s immediately obvious that GPD are in a different league to any other China manufacturers when it comes to fit and finish of their handhelds. Even compared to their old G5A the build quality is a massive step up. The seams where 2 halves of a case come together are fractions of a millimetre wide, and completely even all the way around. It’s beautifully put together.
The device weighs more than I expected, and overall feels almost like the quality you’d expect from something like a 3DS. I say almost, but there are some giveaways. The first thing I noticed is the hinge, it’s not quite Nintendo quality. The screen locks back in 2 positions – the usual playing position, and completely flat. In the 45 degree position there is a very slight wobble to the hinge. Once locked at 180 degrees it’s tight.
Once I’d finished drooling over the gapless seams and frowning at the waggly hinge I had a look at the controls. First of all, the analog sticks feel wonderful. With a rubberised finish and a silky frictionless glide they feel exceptionally well made. If I was going to criticise them I’d have to say that in some N64 games it feels as though they need to have more travel. It’s very difficult to find the sweet spot between no movement and full movement in games like Ridge Racer and Mario Kart 64. This might be something that can be configured in software, but I haven’t had chance to look at it yet.
The dpad is a bit of a concern for me, it doesn’t really feel like any dpad I’ve used before. It feels like perhaps the central pivot is too broad, meaning there’s a lot of thumb movement needed to go from one direction to the opposite. It’s likely something I’ll get used to, but it has to be said that it does feel strange. By no means is it a deal breaker, and other people may disagree – but I’m not keen on it. I don’t know if the dpad is a different design to the original GPD XD or not since I never had one of those.
The 4 shoulder buttons are both perfectly placed and perfectly made. They are very light to press and respond with a delightful and positive click once depressed. The only improvement would mean a complete redesign to make them analog, but you can’t have it all hey.
The face buttons all feel fine too. ABXY are within easy reach and easy to push, whilst the remaining face buttons require a slightly harder push and respond with a dull click. There is zero rattle to the unit either – with all those buttons you might expect a few to move about and make a racket, but they don’t. Hats off to the engineers at GPD.
On the back of the device you have a microSD slot (to expand the 32GB on board storage), a microUSB port for charging and data transfer, a Mini HDMI port and a headphone socket.
Overall the build quality is fantastic, with a couple of caveats regarding the dpad and hinge. If the leap in quality between the G5A and XD+ is anything to go by, in a couple of years GPD will be making devices to rival Nintendo.
The GPD XD+ comes with Android 7 pre-installed, and has been given a custom launcher by the GPD devs. I must admit I’m not a fan of the launcher, and will probably swap it out for something else.
I was able to uninstall a few of the unnecessary apps that came pre-installed
but Happy Chick is baked in so rooting the device might be next on the list of things to do (Happy Chick isn’t baked in, I’ve now gotten rid of it, the built in “Emulator” program is baked in but swapping to another launcher basically hides it). I’m totally out of touch with emulation on Android so I need to look at what the best solution is. I have installed RetroArch but I don’t know if that’s the best choice or not, any advice gladfully received!
I haven’t noticed any issues with the UI as far as stability or speed goes. It’s very nippy and performs as well or better than the Snapdragon 650 in my phone. The ROMs that came preinstalled seem to work close to perfectly for every system, and my brother installed PUBG which plays great albeit on lowered graphics settings. I ran the Antutu benchmark and the results are below. It’s not a groundbreaking score by any means, but for a budget device running a middle tier China SoC it’s pretty respectable. The first test drained 2% battery, and the 2nd test drained 1% battery.
SoT seems very good as well, I haven’t put it through its paces yet but the battery life on full brightness seems to be better than any phone I’ve had in the past. This is to be expected considering the 6000mah battery is about twice the size of most phones.
After reading some complaints about the WiFi in the original GPD XD, I also ran the speedtest on both my phone and on the XD+ (sequentially of course). Results are from the 5GHz network in my house, and I have no concerns about the WiFi on the XD+.
The screen is also very nice. Although only 720p, the colours are very vivid and viewing angles are exceptional in every direction. There is no blueish hue to the screen either, which is something I’ve noticed in cheaper panels.
Word is that there is a v1.1 firmware update from GPD currently being rolled out. I haven’t received it yet, but it’s good to know they’re not immediately washing their hands of the device now it’s been launched. I need to figure out what the best emulators are for Android nowadays, and then I perhaps I’ll do a full review at a later date. For now, you can find videos of almost any game running on this device so if you’re curious if a certain game runs then YouTube is your best bet.
These things are currently available at AliExpress from the official GPD store for about $200.
On an unrelated note, I finally got an SSL certificate for obscurehandhelds.com and all traffic should now be redirected to https. If anyone notices any problems please let me know.