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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Droid X360 (PS Vita Clone) Review Part 3

This is the 3rd part of my review of the Droid X360. You can check Part 2 here.


I quickly tested the integrated movie player and mp3 player, and saw no specific problem (except the intents issue described previously). HDMI output worked out of the box with the provided cable, although for some reason it didn’t work with another cable I have at home. (I am not fully aware of the HDMI specifications, but I can swear these cables have the same mini-hdmi entry…).
Video playback of an HD mp4 file, as well as gaming through HDMI was smooth.
A quick note on design here though, I would have appreciated the HDMI output to be at the top of the console rather than the bottom, as playing the console with the cable going towards you then to the TV unbalances the whole thing… Just a detail, but that’s usually why when playing on a TV I prefer to have the controls separated from the device connected to the TV. The provided cable is small enough that you’ll have to sit very, very close to the TV if you want to play.
As a portable video player that connects to the TV, I would say the Droid X360 beats the other devices we have at home. It is more portable than a 10” tablet, but provides roughly the same functionality.


This is the meat of the test, and probably the reason most people will buy this device in the first place: Gaming, especially emulators. Well, let’s get the cat out of the bag: Android games play generally ok, but the emulators experience is sub par, for one main reason, the physical controls.
I tried a few android games, they played ok. I preferred the experience of Android gaming on a 10” tablet, but the Droid X360 performs ok. The included pirate copy of Plants VS zombies played great. Asphalt 5 was more of a hit and miss. The integrated gyroscope seemed to no be correctly calibrated for me, but I’ve seen people playing the game without a problem in other reviews, so either it’s a setting that I’m missing, or I just got a Lemon here. I’ve also had a few experiences where pushing some buttons on the screen did not work correctly because the actual “contact” was a few pixels below. But this seemed to be game-specific (Asphalt 5), and it is possible some games just don’t like the screen’s resolution. But again, overall, touch-screen dedicated games worked fine.
Let’s move on to the most interesting part: emulators. The Droid X360 ships with 9 emulators that have been “optimized” for the integrated gamepad. In other words, the settings have been pre-set for you so that you can play with the physical controls on these emulators. In theory, this is great, but practically, it doesn’t work. In details, the physical controls don’t register correctly half of the time. What this means is that you have to push the buttons several times before the emulator registers the command. Some people have said this is because the physical connectors are too small, or the “distance” between the button and the connector on the motherboard is too long (basically, you have to push the button “far” in order for it to actually press on the connector). Others say this might be solved with software mods (more on this below)
In turn-based games such as tactical RPGs (I tried Advanced Wars on GBA), this is a frustrating experience. In action games, such as the Mutant turtles or Mario bros, provided on the console by default, this is simply unplayable.
Incidentally, Wagic was surprisingly very enjoyable with a mix of physical and touch controls. Don’t get me wrong, it is still having the same problems with the gamepad, but the touch interface in Wagic is not always great, and with the right mappings it was actually extremely nice to be able to switch between the touch screen and the physical buttons. I ended up using the Left trigger a lot to go through phases, while using the touch screen to select cards (which was easier than on my phone, given the size of the screen).
In the video below I am showing Wagic running on the Droid X360. You can see me pushing the left trigger a lot to go through phases. At around 1.58, I am trying to navigate through the cards with the physical keypad, and as you can see it takes several pushes before the console finally registers the button. Hopefully this shows how bad the situation can be. Again, Wagic on that device was extremely enjoyable, but action games in emulators just plain suck for now.
Note: if you are interested in setting up the physical controls in Wagic, feel free to copy/paste my settings.
More on the controls: The “analog” nubs are actually digital, but thankfully they are not mapped to the same ids as the dpad. What this means is that this device really gives you lots of buttons to play with (12 direction buttons – the dpad and 2 nubs -, left and right shoulder buttons, four action buttons A B X Y, select, and start), which is cool for some demanding emulators.


If you read this blog, it is very likely that you own a PSP and/or a Vita, so I’ll try to make a few comparison points with those devices in this section.

The Droid X360 (left) is thinner than the Vita (right)
Compared to the PS Vita, the X360 has the following pros and cons
  • Access to the android store, all android apps are available
  • Better Movie and music playback than the Vita
  • HDMI output
  • Emulators and hack friendly
  • Copying files to and from the device is much easier than on the Vita
  • The PS Vita has a much better screen than the Droid X360, both from a “touch” point of view, as well as color quality, brightness, viewing angles
  • The PS Vita has more horse power, obviously Vita games look and play much better than on the Droid X360
  • The Vita has a much better interface, and much smoother controls, which counts a lot for the overall experience (the X360 easily gets frustrating, especially in games)

In this one I am trying to show the viewing angles issue on the Droid X360. The colors tend to get “darker” or “inverted” at certain viewing angles, which doesn’t happen on the insanely good screen of the Vita.
Thankfully, in normal usage, this is usually not an issue, the screen is ok for the price
Compared to the PSP, the X360 has the following pros and cons
  • More raw power allows it to run all emulators including heavy ones such as N64
  • Runs Android games and access to the google play store
  • Much better video and music playback than on the psp
  • For emulators and homebrew that run fine on both devices (such as the GBA emulator, or PS1 games), the experience is much more enjoyable on a PSP, mostly because of the controls
  • The Droid X360 does not run PSP games
  • The XMB and general user interface on the PSP is much better, less bloated
  • Overall, controls on the PSP feel much better (yeah, I’ve said that before), which makes the experience less frustrating
  • A refurbished PSP costs less than the Droid X360

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