My Caanoo Review


darklight1138

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Although the Caanoo has been out for a while and there are plenty of reviews, I figured I'd throw my two cents worth in and include an "angle" which is review coming from a former owner of the previous model. It's long but hopefully thorough and helpful for people who haven't decided between the Wiz and the Caanoo, or are thinking of upgrading. I've tried to section it so that people can choose certain parts to read if the whole thing is too much. I haven't written reviews in a while so forgive me if I ramble or make some mistake (feel free to point any out). So I hope you enjoy it!


My review from someone who previously owned a Wiz

The backstory:

I was shocked when I found out around Christmas of last year that there were handheld emulators and more shocked that I didn't know about them. I was perusing a "geek Christmas list" on a popular movie website and as I scrolled down, I saw a handheld device that would play Nintendo games even though you had to stick the actual cartridge in the top of it. Interesting, I thought, as I continued to scroll down. Then I saw something called a Dingoo A320 that didn't need cartridges; it merely needed a ROM of which I had thousands on my computer. I was blown away at the idea of being able to take Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, and many other games I grew up on with me everywhere I went, all in a tiny device that could fit right in your pocket. I had to have this. My facebook post reflected my enthusiasm: "I need one of these so bad I think I'm going to be sick!" And it had a TV-out to boot!

Christmas came and I knew I was getting one as a family member had caught my post. Now Christmas hasn't been much to me since I became an adult. I can't remember the last time I really got anything I wanted other than clothes and the occasional gift card, but this time it was different -- it was like childhood again when I picked something out and waited with feverish anticipation at getting something cool and electronic, something that could rekindle those years of past when I got to open a nice shiny box, hook it the contents to a TV, slam a game in, and enjoy video game nirvana for hours upon hours.

Christmas came and unfortunately, the Dingoo was sold out and instead, I got a Wiz. I knew it seemed to be a better, more capable handheld, but didn't include as much like TV out cables and plenty of built in memory. I was still ecstatic though. I rushed home amidst a snowy night and began to add some emulators and roms to it. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when I couldn't get my favorite system, the Super Nintendo, to run at all. Luckily I found an awesome board at gp32x and soon a solution was discovered - SNES emulation could be enabled through a clever app called GinGE. I was happy again. This little black handheld with the silly name provided endless entertainment. Not only could I relive memories of past, greater games but I could play ones that I couldn't afford when I was young. The TV-out was disappointing, but it was a small qualm that was greatly overshadowed by what else it could do.

I found myself in the hospital for a month and the Wiz was able to help me through those constant times of being stuck with needles, filled with fluids that made my hands feel ablaze, tubed for icky stuff to be drained from me, and exposed to all sorts of forms of medical torture that were supposed to help me get better. I lost a spleen and some of my insides, but what does that matter when I gained the Mana Sword and slayed the Mana Beast.

After I got out of the hospital, I was pretty much bed-ridden for a while, and so the Wiz was there once again to get me through the long days. Unfortunately, I think I began to wear the Wiz out. The 'x' button, the most used one (of course) started to feel like a baby tooth that was on the verge of falling out. Of course the button wouldn't fall out, but it instead stopped functioning. The process of sending it back to Korea for repairs was simple but a painfully long one. I felt like a drug addict going through withdrawal as I waited for it to get fixed. Eventually it was back in my hands and I was pretty happy again. That is, until after a while another button started to feel the same way. Then one of the directions on the pads started to follow suite. I also noticed black dots on the screen and that's when I realized that the Wiz just wasn't sturdy enough for my voracious playing appetite. I tried taking it apart which only caused more misery. The thing doesn't like to be taken apart. At all.

So instead of coughing up more money to send it off yet again, I started researching a replacement. The Caanoo looked to fit the bill. It was bigger and had a better button layout: actual buttons instead of the exploded d-pad like configuration on the Wiz and it used the same card as the Wiz. It was newer and had more capabilities, but a few drawbacks as well. I never could understand how a company can improve on some things so dramatically and then completely drop the ball on others. Oh well, I couldn't keep sending the Wiz back to Korea and what would I do when my warranty expired?

I had no money, but was determined to get one. I needed one soon and I didn't have much time. I would be going back to the hospital for follow-up surgery and I would be damned if I was going to let a few channels filled with lame reality tv shows on a crappy hospital TV keep me occupied. I parted with some things I didn't need and managed to get more than enough money, which let me order a smart-looking black one that would be shipped quickly to my house with time to spare before my return to the hospital.

Luckily it arrived, and this is what I think of it.

First impressions:

Upon ripping the shipping package apart, the box is nice, bright, colorful, and more importantly filled with the object of my desire. I knew the Caanoo was larger than the Wiz, but I didn't realize how much larger. Still, it is the perfect size and it feels comfortable in my hands, more so since it has more rounded corners than the blocky Wiz. It has a little more heft and overall felt like it was made to be more durable. I like the look of it as well. It seems to have a more professional yet functional look to it; you could almost slap a Nintendo label on it and be none the wiser to the vague Korea company that was truly behind it. (Note: this was before I held a Nintendo 3DS; talk about a tank of a handheld!) I ordered a black unit (which is more of a very dark gray), and the unit is not "glossy" like the Wiz, so fingerprints aren't much of a problem which is good if you're OCD like me about keeping it looking nice and clean.

Included are two styluses (a nice touch), a 4GB card filled with games, a wriststrap, and the cables. I wish they could have included a wall charger or, at the least, one of those block adapters that can be connected via USB. I had one lying around luckily.

Handling the unit itself:

The analog thumbstick was a bit of a concern. I preferred a d-pad -- who didn't -- but I felt that since I've been gaming on an Xbox 360 that it wouldn't take long to adapt. It didn't. The SNES-type 4 button arrangement feels solid, and already I could tell this was going to work out much better than the Wiz. The shoulder buttons are stiffer and it did require a little bit more effort to use them, but it wasn't too bad. There are more buttons on the face of the unit, which I liked. I never felt entirely comfortable having to press both volume buttons on the bottom of my Wiz to access emulation menus as it seemed to me that when buttons had more than one purpose, that was additional wear which is obviously a concern to me. Plus it was kind of awkward having to do so, so a button dedicated to the menu function of emulators on the Caanoo is a great idea. The two buttons that normally serve as start and select (labeled 'I' and 'II' on the Caanoo), usually arranged at a distance from one another across the face of other handhelds, were now in a vertical row on one side, and it struck me as odd. However, I found out that they can be used as controller buttons when the device is titled 90 degrees for games with tall screens, such as some popular "shmups". Yet another great idea. I would have preferred them not to be nearly flush with the unit and so it takes some getting use to because it's easy for your fingers to lose their place.

The power button is now on the right side and it is easier to switch on/off or into a hold position than the Wiz. It's a little loose for my tastes but that's the cost of being easier to use. It sort of rattles when you shake the device (and is the only thing that does so), something I normally frown on, but it appears to be well made. On the left side is a big transparent piece of plastic that will light up differently depending on if the Caanoo is powered or charging. Another upgrade from the Wiz I really like is that it will blink when the battery is low. This is a good idea as a lot of emulators do not include a battery meter and so the only way you know the unit needs recharging is when it cuts off right after you beat the final boss of a game. I like lights, especially blue ones, so this was a nice touch.

The volume control is now on the top and is a slider instead of two buttons. Most people note the delay that occurs between using the slider and when the volume in game actually changes but my complaint is that it goes from a low volume (that’s still not very “low”) to mute too quickly, as in there isn't a few more volume settings in between. I think a larger slider area would have been something they should have built to eliminate the overly sensitive nature present on the unit. Perhaps a slider area twice as long would have satisfied me.

Another thing that impressed me is the fact that all of the ports now have covers (a plastic piece with a tether to keep it from being lost). With the Wiz, the SD card slides into the top and is left exposed to dust and dirt and, more importantly, the risk of popping out while in use, which could render the Wiz a brick from what I've heard (the card popped out a few times while in my pocket but luckily not while the Wiz was on). And so having covers on them not only protects them but keeps the SD card securely in your device. It also helps to give the Caanoo a sleeker look. If I have one complaint about the covers, it's that the one for the data port on the bottom of the device can interfere with plugging in the cable as it tends to get in the way. The cover can be pulled out a little further but it's still not a great placement choice.

There is also a standard USB port beside the data port. I haven't used it much but I have hooked a flash drive to it and it recognized it. I was actually able to hook a digital video camera and browse some pictures, but after a while it seemed to freeze up. An optional USB dongle is available to make the Caanoo wireless, but I don’t have one and haven’t decided if I’ll ever need one.

The back of the unit is a big source of contention. I knew the speakers were on the back, and this is something I haven't really learned to deal with. In order to get a good volume, your hands have to be cupped a certain way. Most of this time it isn't a problem as it seems to do well with how people normally grasp their unit but I find myself fidgeting with my hands to get that perfect angled effect. However, I use headphones most of the time but this could be an issue while in public where I wouldn't normally carry them since they're non-compact. The speakers project the sound from behind to put it simply, and so you'll need to compensate by increasing the volume which doesn't lend well to quiet public waiting environments.
Luckily, they produce pretty good stereo sound with equally good separation, something the Wiz did not.

Playing the Caanoo:

Luckily the unit takes the same SD card as my Wiz which was already filled with roms. Mine is a 16GB SDHC class 10 card, which I recommend since there are noticeable speed differences between classes. For example, with a faster class card, my Wiz booted up in significantly less time than with the cheap card I had in it before. In waiting for my Caanoo's arrival, I went ahead and installed on it a wonderful starter pack available from the internet that made the transition a whole lot easier. Since I had roms already, it was just a matter of replacing the emulators with their Caanoo versions.

Powering on the unit and getting to the main menu seems to be about twice as fast as the Wiz, if not faster. The screen is a different size and make than the Wiz: a 3.5 inch LCD as opposed to a 2.8 inch OLED. In pictures and videos on the net, the LCD on the Caanoo appeared to be quite a step down and even washed out. I believe it just doesn't lend as well to pictures because it looks much better in person. It's bright, sharp, and renders good colors. But it is a step down from the Wiz which had one of the best screens for a device of that size. Supposedly LCDs are cheaper to manufacturer and have a better reliability and life span than OLEDs, which I consider a good trade off. I can't really say that I was bothered at all at the quality difference, even upon initial play.

The menu is an improvement over the Wiz's rather gawky orange one (there are third party options to fix that, it should be noted). Included in the aforementioned starter pack is an application that allows you to change a lot of the menu's appearance so it's very easy to customize the colors and look, something that I really like since I am big into personalizing my devices. Maneuvering through the different options, such as 'apps' (a new category) and 'games', is fast, easy, and responsive. As with the Wiz you can use the controller and buttons or the touchscreen, which I didn't notice any difference in responsiveness between the two units. The Caanoo's sleeker menu comes at a cost: you lose a few programs such as the calculator, calender and stopwatch. These probably won't be missed by most, but I kind of liked the feature in a sort of "it's there if you need it" way. However, as of this writing, there are a few third-party apps available to make up for these and there will probably be more on the way.

The movie and music player perform on par with the Wiz, although this time you have a few skin options with the latter. I haven't used either much but what little I have they seem to function satisfactory. Playing certain animated features though, I did notice a checkboard pattern over the screen visible in near black levels. This could be a brightness issue but the lack of more than a few brightness settings results in a picture that is too dark or one where the checkerboard pattern is oftentimes visible. Using the third party media player in the included starter pack with the same video presented no noticeable patterns, but resulted in frame rate jerkiness and even audio that was out of sync. I should note that I didn't do any kind of conversion to the video prior to playing it on my Caanoo, so it's very likely that doing some stepping down on the quality and resolution most likely would remedy these issues. Another omission is the flash player from the Wiz, but I never could get it to work that well in the first place.

Included with my 4 GB card are some "official" games as well as a surprising amount of roms and emulators. The Capcom Play System 2 emulator is present, as is many roms. Upon playing that, I was surprised that the Caanoo runs it much better than the Wiz. For example, '1944 - The Loop Master' really chugged on my Wiz as it had a lot of screen activity such as rotating sprites that were detailed and numerous. On my Caanoo, there are absolutely no slowdowns whatsoever. Another game in that popular series, '1944 - The War on Destiny', benefits from the Caanoo's 'I' and 'II' button configuration as you can tilt the device longways and use them instead of the 4 SNES-type buttons on the right side. The included Neo Geo emulator runs better as well, as the 128MB ram, upgraded from 64MB on the Wiz, eliminates the need to create large .GFX files which are required sometimes on the Wiz due to the large size of many Neo Geo roms. This translates to a game that starts up much faster on the Caanoo.

Other emulators perform pretty close to the Wiz although some of them require the use of GinGE as there are no Caanoo specific versions yet. Growing up, I never had a TurboGrafx-16 system, as I considered it an enemy to my beloved Sega Genesis. Having downloaded and played it's emulator, Temper for the Wiz, I was surprised at how good many of the games were, so it was a disappointment that there was no port of it for the Caanoo. Luckily GinGE once again proves its worth as it allows Temper roms (including the SuperCD games) to run at full speed. However, SNES emulation is perhaps the weakest of the bunch, which again is unfortunate. Not only does it run slower but it seems that there are more roms that are either somewhat functional or not at all.

Now that I had played many games on the Caanoo, I can now come back to what is definitely a con of the system, and it relates to the screen. For some reason, information at the top of the screen, probably about 5 pixels deep, is obscured by the bezel that holds the screen onto the device. Tilting the device forward, the lost information can be seen but it's not a remedy as the LCD loses visibility and more importantly, it's no way to use the device. Now had GPH modified the resolution in some fashion, perhaps a way to shrink the screen slightly vertically, this issue could be resolved without too much concern, but as of yet there is no firmware solution to this. What this translates to is a partial obscurring of game information such as scores or time limits. It certainly doesn't affect gaming or cause any more difficulty that much; it's just more of an asthetic distraction and eyesore. It seems less noticeable with some emulators which leads me to believe that some developers have compensated for this through display configurations, but I cannot say for sure.

The battery life is shorter, by about half an hour or so from what I noticed. I would roughly estimate I get 3 to 4 hours of playtime whereas the Wiz seemed to fall around the 4 to 5 hour mark. The Caanoo does have a bigger screen and more features (especially the rumble feature), but the biggest consideration is that the battery itself is lower in power rating than the Wiz, 1850mAh as opposed to 2000mAh. It also seems to take longer to charge, but as with all rechargeable devices, your experience may vary.

Extra features:

The ability to tilt the device sideways is terrific, and I really enjoy being able to play a lot of the games that utilize taller screens. In addition to this, the Caanoo has a few other features that set it apart from the Wiz. There is a built in G-sensor, which allows the Caanoo to know if it’s turned sideways. If you’re looking at portrait-sized pictures (pictures that are taller than wide), simply turning the Caanoo sideways will allow them to fill up the screen more. There are also some homebrew games that use the feature to aid with looking around, and some old MAME arcade games can utilize it as a way to steer. For example, Hang-On, a classic motorcycle racing game, is much funner when you’re able to tilt the Caanoo to lean the bike left or right in order to steer. Like modern day controllers, there is a rumble feature that provides physical feedback for games that support it. So far, I’ve only played one game that supports it, which is the Quake port. It isn’t a terribly important feature for me but I wouldn’t mind seeing more support for it in the future.

Conclusion:

Overall, I am extremely pleased with both the performance and potential for the device, having owned it for a little less than two months now. It is a substantial upgrade from the Wizand seems to be a better built device which is very important considering how often I use it. While the screen is bigger,
it is a slight step down in quality and the issue with the top of the image being cut off is a con that should and could be remedied. Games run and sound great for the most part and the extra muscle of the internal parts makes for a better and sometimes faster gaming experience. Speakers being on the back of the unit is a con but it doesn’t terribly detract from gameplay, much less so obviously with a headphones. Extra features like G-sensors and button configurations to allow vertical game play add greatly to an already impressive device.

If you’re deciding between the Wiz and the Caanoo, I would definitely recommend the latter, although it is newer and thus software is less robust and in some cases less reliable, so hopefully in the future we can see the gap between the two narrow. Either system will fulfill your classic gaming needs although in my experience the Caanoo will and should hold up longer, especially for frequent users.
 

LTStone

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Ha I was just going to email you and see how the Caanoo was holding up for you.
 

coldfish

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Nice detailed review darklight1138.

I've had the Caanoo for about a year and I still use it almost daily, GPh really improved on build quality and finish (apart from the bezel) over their previous machines (though my GP2X-f100 is still my personal favourite).

Here's a Caanoo mini-review, along with some other handheld related rambling.

Hope it's all ok with your health.
 
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I've had my Caanoo for a few weeks, and love it. I play Robotron daily, and am wondering how long the analog stick is going to bear up to the abuse. So far, so good. :)
 

blues2

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Promised Planet said:
I've had my Caanoo for a few weeks, and love it. I play Robotron daily, and am wondering how long the analog stick is going to bear up to the abuse. So far, so good. :)
i played with my caanoo just about every day and my analog stick died out just in time for the warrantee to expire, a little over a year. i still want to play with it and don't know whether to get a new one and save the old one for parts or get it fixed. the bottom line is i'll probably need a new analog replacement every year. i wish there was a way to mod the analog stick into a dpad.
 
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darklight1138

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LTStone said:
Ha I was just going to email you and see how the Caanoo was holding up for you.
Hey friend...yeah, it's holding up well.


kayuz said:
you still have the wiz??
pass on the caanoo, ;)
No, sold it to a poster here for parts. Used the money to help pay for my Caanoo :)


coldfis said:
Nice detailed review darklight1138.

I've had the Caanoo for about a year and I still use it almost daily, GPh really improved on build quality and finish (apart from the bezel) over their previous machines (though my GP2X-f100 is still my personal favourite).

Here's a Caanoo mini-review, along with some other handheld related rambling.

Hope it's all ok with your health.
Thank you!

That's a good site you linked to. It's very well-written and informative. I enjoyed reading it alot as I like that type of time-line narrative type format. Found out some stuff I didn't know (a PC Engine handheld??).

Is that your own site? If so, great work! Bookmarked.
 
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coldfish

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Yep my site, sort of a compilation of all of my hobby stuff, I'm glad you like.
 
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Well, after only about a month and a half, my Caanoo's analog stick is starting to act up. Not too serious yet; recently it just started to send random "down" events while in the zero position. Hopefully it won't get worse, or at least get worse quickly. :-/
 

erico

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sorry to hear it man, it´s quite sad, my biggest concern when buying a caanoo was the quality of the analog control.
I have a few analog joysticks here lasting more then 5 years and they seem ok to this day.

Now my caanoo´s analog one has a giggle of 1mm more or less on stop position.
When I get hard on it , it dosen´t seem it is going to hold.

I hope it does, if it breaks, I also hope fixing may be easy, I got a post about this subject somewhere on the caanoo forum.

best of luck!
 
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megacd

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The best review about Caanoo I've read so far (and I've read A LOT). You're a professional!

I just wanted to congratulate you four this wonderful review (I had to register to do so).

By the way, you convinced me and I have ordered my Caanoo. I used to have the GP32 (I paid 199 euros) in the past but I sold it. I think it's time to remember old times. :rolleyes:
 

blues2

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if anyone is interested this is the analog component.

http://search.digikey.com/us/en/products/254SA104B50B/254SA104B50B-ND/1755924

it's very tiny but if you have some experience with desoldering and soldering and the tools to do so, then it isn't too hard to replace.
 
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blues2 said:
if anyone is interested this is the analog component.

http://search.digikey.com/us/en/products/254SA104B50B/254SA104B50B-ND/1755924

it's very tiny but if you have some experience with desoldering and soldering and the tools to do so, then it isn't too hard to replace.
Strangely (?) enough, my analog stick isn't acting up any more. Apparently some internal doohickey (that's a technical term) fell back into the right position, or something. Got my fingers crossed. I love my Caanoo and don't want to have to give it the heave-ho because the analog stick can't stand up to the demands of Robotron, Galaga, Joust or Moon Cresta.
 
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erico

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great to hear that!
it was probably tired of the user playing it so much it send down signals as a notice to let it down and sleep. :p

Thanks a lof Blue 2 for the component link.

Mine is going quite good so far, but the analog thing is the real only thing on this hardware that scares me a litle.
Awesome to know I can have an extra. I DO expect my caanoo to live for at least 10 years to start with!!

for sure this is the best handheld I ever bought! really love it.
And great review darklight1138!
 
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