NLU, FLU, BLU+?
Currently there have been three main versions of the GP32. The original, and unlit unit (NLU) were the first produced by Gamepark, as you can guess by the unlit model name it had no lighting like the Gameboy colour.
The next model was the front-lit unit (FLU), these are exactly the same as the NLUs except that they were modded by another company to give them front lighting, this means that they are exactly the same internally (They are also meant to be the best at over clocking, craigix reports that many models went over 200Mhz.) The lighting puts a drain on battery life reducing it to around 4-6 hours.
Next came the backlit unit (BLU), these came out the same time as Gamepark were promoting the GP32 in Europe. They have been reported by users who own all three unit to have the nicest lighting and to have the hardest screen to see in natural light. Later a new batch of BLUs seemed to be faulty, not displaying graphics properly. These were actually not faulty, they just used a new Taiwanese LCD instead of the old Samsung one, these models have been unofficially christened the BLU+ by members of the GP32x boards. Most software has now been fixed to work on the BLU+ including DRMD and GPDoom. The other problem with BLU+ is the poor over-clocking ability that they display, but if you want to get 166Mhz it may be worth getting a 166Mhz unit from GBAX.
Lit or Unlit?
This really is a question of how much you are going to use the GP32 and when. NLUs can be picked up quite cheaply and often over clock quite highly, the screen reflects light well so there should be no problems, if you are mostly going to us either GP32 casually in places with good lighting it might be worth trying to pick up an NLU from Liksang or Ebay (Note. you can’t fix a GBA style afterburner kit to a NLU, due to the afterburner membrane being to small for the GP32’s screen.) If you are mostly going to use it at night or in a car it might be worth trying to pick up a FLU or BLU, these do cost more but are very impressive. In the case of the BLU it’s worth noting that it very hard to see the screen when the light isn’t on, even in well lit conditions and also that you might get a BLU+ (although in all honesty there very little that isn’t working now.)
NLU 8-12 hours,
FLU when lit 4-6 hours,
BLU when lit 4-6 hours,
BLU+ when lit 4-6 hours
As always if the GP32 these are just estimates, if you are overclocking the unit you can expect reduced battery lives.
Size 147mm x 88mm x 34mm
LCD 65,536 Colours, 320x240 size screen, 3.5 inch reflective liquid crystal TFT
CPU 32-bit RISC
What you need
A GP32 obviously, a USB cable of GP32 (This should come with the GP32, but if buying off Ebay it’s always worth checking), a Smart Media Card (SMC) to store games and a couple of batteries.
Rechargeable batteries are always nice, especially considering how quickly the lit units eat though batteries, but it’s not essential. A USB SMC reader is always nice, as the GP32 does write slowly to the SMC.
The GP32 can only accept 3.3V SMCs of a capacity of up to 128mb. This is because the GP32 can’t read anything after the 128th mb, it’s a hardware limitation which is unlikely to ever be rectified. Apparently people have had success with XD to SMC adapters, but still only use 3.3v XD cards of a capacity of up to 128mb.
Buying the unit
In the UK it makes most sense to buy from cragix’s shop GBAX, if you want a BLU+, or Ebay UK if you want any other kind of unit, this ensure that you are not hit with import tax when the unit passes though customs. Currently GBAX only offer BLU+s, but they offer units guaranteed up to 166Mhz, but craigix has hinted that soon he may only offer units that are guaranteed up to 160Mhz due to the BLU+’s poor over-clocking ability.
In the US Jr2Swiss’ shop GP32z seems to be the cheapest option. Jr2Swiss offers glass screens, which make the GP32 more clear and harder to scratch.
It used to be suggested that the other best place to buy your GP32 from was Lik-Sang but at the time of writing they currently don’t stock any GP32s due to the BLU+ problem. So for the rest of the world it’s probably worth buying from Shibuya or GBAX if in Europe, or from Ebay in the rest of the world.
If you have the BLU, it's already set up to run downloadable games just fine. No registration hassle required, You can skip this section. For FLU or regular GP32 users, however:
You can run commercial games now just by putting in the SMC and playing. To play free games and download games off the Internet, you must register your GP32.
You do so at http://www.gp32.com/
- the steps are: download USB drivers, install them, connect your gp32 to your pc, run the identification program, get your account. With your account you can then download the free launcher. This is basically a menu of free games, put .fxe (game) files into your GPMM directory and you're set. If you have trouble registering, try clearing out your cookies and try again - this seems to have solved several problems before.
If you really can't download the stuff, you'll need to use GPS2 (a free tool from Darkfader's site, Firefly's drivers, and then get an encrypted freelauncher from #gp32. Try #gp32 on EFnet for details.
First you've got to format the SMC, then put .fxe files into GPMM. MP3s go into MP3, commercial games into GAME. Often you will get ZPK files - using PC Link, choose File -> Install to install them. Finally, emulators might require you put ROMs in a specific place, check the read me. For example, CaSTaway needs things to go into GPMM\ATARIST.
Unfortunately you need to register again using a different identification program to use Entware's JoyGP service and download commercial games and Movie Park.
What do I see when I boot up?
If you have the NLU or FLU, the long, annoying Gamepark intro. Ok not that long. Then a menu appears (press SELECT to change mode, START to go into it). There are three modes: MP3 shows up a play list of all your songs, with play/stop/fast-forward etc. and an equaliser (R+B exits). PC-LINK will ready the GP32 for PC-Link transfer - it justs waits. Close PC-Link on your computer and unplug the USB, and the GP32 returns to the menu. Finally GAME shows your commercial games. If you have the Free Launcher, this will also appear, choose this and a list of non-commercial games will appear.
If you have the BLU or BLU+ you’re greeted by the ‘European firmware’, after the Gamepark Logo you have two options “GAME” which allows you to boot software and “PC-LINK” which links to the Computer. The MP3 player was discontinued in the ‘European firmware’.
I’ll also list the options for the Slubman firmware as it is remarked to be one of (if not the) best firmwares for the GP32. If the unit has been flashed to Slubman firmware you will have five options when you boot up. “LAUNCHER” loads software, “EXPLORER” acts as a file manager for the SMC allowing you to create directories, rename/delete files and lets you see how much space is left on your SMC, “PC-LINK” either boots phoDrive which is a modified version of GPDrive or lets you link to the PC-LINK depending on which version of the Slubman firmware is on the unit, “RF-LINK” isn’t implemented yet and “FORMAT” lets you format the SMC.
MP3 and OGG
The GP32 has a slew of different MP3 players most of them very good and perfectly capable at playing your music. The built in MP3 player on the NLU can play many MP3s as long as they are renamed to 8.3 characters, like Windows 3.1/DOS. ID3 tags, however are supported so you see full filenames. However, your bitrate is limited to around 128/192 kbps. Later versions of the offical MP3 player don’t have this bitrate restriction and aren’t built into the firmware (they have to be installed via PC-link).
However a very viable alternative to MP3s is OGG files, OGG files are an open source alternative to MP3. The GP32 has it’s only perfectly functional OGG Vorbis player SvOrbis, currently it’s in it’s 0.9 version and is said to be very good my many people. It’s well worth trying, although you will have to re-encode your CDs or MP3s again. You can find software to do this on the official Ogg Vorbis Website.
There are two programs that play DivX videos on the GP32, Moviepark, which is now out of date, and Gpcinema, which supersedes Moviepark and is available from Entware and the GP32 file archive.
To play video you will have to encode them yourself or download them from the GP32 Theater. To encode videos yourself you will have to use VirtualDub to convert movies into a format the GP32 can play. A guide for doing this is
on GP32 World.
Just tell me the VirtualDub settings.
Codec: Mpeg Layer 3
Audio Sampling Rate: 11,050Hz-22,010Hz (I recommend 11,050)
Stereo (Mono works for me but crashes some units)
Codec: 4.12 Divx
Res: 320 x 240 or 320 x 172 (320x240 strongly recommended)
Framerate: 10FPS (decimate by 2 or 3, do not type in a new framerate. Fps < 10 is also ok)
Bitrate: 64-128kbps (nothing else!)
Currently the GP32 is undergoing a bit of a renaissance with regard to Homebrew games, after Lacuna won the GBAX.com “16 days later” competition, and after Fenix became more accessible Homebrew games started to come into the open a bit more. There are many good examples but I’ll list a few of the best here
Lacuna – A fast paced addictive game, it has everything that made Tetris great about it, it’s easy to pick up and it’s got very catchy music. You fly though tunnels trying not to hit walls, while it sounds so-so it certainly isn’t. I find I set out to play it for five minutes in breaks from work, except I’ll still be laying it twenty minutes later. It won 16 days later so I’m not alone in thinking much of this game.
Numo – it’s a real shame that this game choose to use soft core pornography to try and make the game more interesting. It’ a simple, but fairly fun Puzzle game. It involves careful planning and a (slightly) mathematical persona. If you just play the cartoon levels you can see it’s got a lot of potential, if the author could release a few (tame) picture sets this game would almost be perfect, as it is it’s slightly mired by the pornographic picture sets.