Dingoo A320 Micro Game Station £69.99
13th Aug 2009 | 13:20
Is this a brave new dawn for Chinese consoles?
Dingoo Digital A320: Overview
Launching in China earlier this year, the Dingoo Digital A320 is an attempt to "break the monopoly of foreign brands into the game market." Dubbed 'China's PSP', units are now slowly making their way to the West, and gamers in the UK can now pick up a Dingoo for under £70.
Destined to remain an underground console, the Dingoo A320 is building momentum thanks to its bargain price, out-of-the-box support for classic emulators and a vibrant development scene – thanks to its open source nature.
Enthusiast developers have already coded a wealth of applications, with attentions now focused on Dingux – Linux port, which opens up the console to further possibilities.
What's in the box?
Available in a choice of black or white, the Dingoo A320 packs in 4GB of built-in memory, with a miniSD slot for a further 4GB.
STORAGE: the Dingoo takes MiniSD cards - not a popular format on these shores but cards are nevertheless available
The console also plays your digital video files, a contains a digital recorder, FM radio and TV-out connection.
And if you can stop chuckling at Dingoo's pidgin English packaging, you'll find a charger, mini USB, headphones and composite TV lead inside – accessories that other games companies charge extra for.
Dingoo Digital A320: Questionable legality
Dingoo has bundled several of its own Chinese-developed games on the A320, but the console comes alive by shamelessly ripping off the foreign games they claim to fight against.
Through its variety of built-in emulators, the Dingoo plays over 8000 classic games originally played on Nintendo and Sega consoles such NES, SNES, MegaDrive, as well as arcade platforms.
A dream console for fans of classic gaming formats, the A320 is a nightmare for legal teams across the globe.
The Dingoo is not supplied with any of the classic games it plays for good reason – the rom images themselves are illegal. Whilst you can easily find these games in darker corners of the internet, you run the risk of being saddled with a massive fine if you download them.
Is that a Dingoo in your pocket?
It was on long journeys that the Dingoo made its mark as a credible handheld. Whilst the A320 isn't gifted with the huggable ergonomics of its rivals, it weighs in as the smallest handheld, measuring just 12cm across and 6cm high. The Dingoo happily fits in your pocket.
With its tiny 320x240 QVGA screen, the Dingoo delivers performance close to its quoted seven hours of battery life, even when regularly switching between the console's in-built Aladdin's cave of features.
You look familiar
As far as the interface goes, never before has a console been graced with such a shameless Sony XMB rip-off. Yep, it's very very similar the the XrossMediaBar interface found on the Sony PS3, PSP and new Sony Bravia TVs.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, as the A320's front-end allows you to easily find the function you want to use within seconds of switching the console on – despite Dingoo's amusing use of English.
Dingoo Digital A320: Performance
As a sub £70 MP4 player, the Dingoo punches way above its weight, hiding some delights behind occasionally impenetrable instructions.
Spend time with the complex features of the A320 and your patience to be rewarded. The console makes light work of DVD rips and other commonly-used online video formats, with the bundled TV-out cable making it a viable source of entertainment on the road, and delivered performance comparable to any budget media player on a hotel TV.
WORM: one of the less-than-inspiring legal games that comes with the Dingoo
On the audio side, you'll find some surprises, with APE and FLAC lossless audio codecs rubbing shoulders with the usual formats. Dingoo also promises to support additional codecs with forthcoming firmware updates.
Dingoo's wish to make a viable Chinese gaming format are questionable, as the bundled software is risible. Graphically uninspiring racing title Ultimate Drift would reduce any gamer into tears of laughter as their rally car leaps to 1000mph. Michael Schumacher would be proud of the car's ability to perform a full 360 degree spin without loss of speed.
With the A320's stated 3D power, the first-party software seldom raises the console beyond JAVA mobile standard. Top-rated Chinese games won't be high of the list of gamers in the western world who purchase the Dingoo for its emulation and open-source nature.
Legalities already discussed, the A320 emulates a wealth of long-dead gaming hardware, including Nintendo's NES, Gameboy Advance and Super Nintendo, as well as Sega's Megadrive. Surprisingly, you'll also get support for several arcade formats, the Neo Geo and Capcom's CPS1 and CPS2, home to legendary coin-ops like Final Fight, Metal Slug and Street Fighter II.
The A320 ships with first generation versions of their in-house coded emulators, and this shows. Whilst gamers report NES and Gameboy Advance emulation as perfect, mixed results are found on other platforms. Dingoo promises further updates to the emulation software.
If a commendable set of built-in emulators and Dingoo's promise of continued support and improvements doesn't tempt you, the fast-growing Dingoo community should.
The budget alternative to other open-source consoles like Korea's GP2X Wiz, Dingoo development has been opened up with huge possibilities, with a vibrant online community already investigating the quirky abilities of its silicon – successfully porting popular emulators and applications.
Development of the dual booting Dingux allows the A320 to switch between its stock firmware and a fully-fledged version of Linux. Early days of development have already seen a Dingux version of MAME4ALL running on the console. Offering support for over 2000 arcade roms it silences many of the complaints raised by users over the console's built-in emulators.
Dingoo Digital A320: Verdict
- Long battery life
- Loads of video and audio formats supported
- Vibrant development scene – Linux port available
- Emulation out-of-the-box
- TV-out – for gaming and media on the move
- Value packed – all accessories included
- Square-edges means discomfort whilst gaming
- Varying results from built-in emulators
- Appalling 'first party' support
- Quirky firmware
A flawed gem, the A320 offers a tantalising glimpse into the moment that Chinese consoles began to grow up.
Whilst the Dingoo keeps one paw dipped in China's murky past of copyright melting rip-offs, it packs an intriguing level of features into a reasonably priced pocket-sized console.
The Dingoo is not for casual gamers though – mainstream consoles never launch with the quirks that blight the A320.
In a routine session with the console it is common to see a user lurch from love to undying hatred and back in a single breath.
That said, the Dingoo impresses on many levels and the comments of enthusiast developers point to a very exciting future, thousands of miles away from its homeland.