My first impressions of the Pyra


MasterJulian

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Before reading ahead please note that I got my Pyra yesterday afternoon. This is a very first look and by no means a full review or test of the device. These are MY PERSONAL impressions.
Also please read the full post before writing a angry reply ;)

Mechanics
The mechanics are first things I noticed after opening the package. The chrome color looks really nice. The case fells very similar to the Pandora, meaning there are a few sharp edges here and there. The cutouts for the joysticks and the d-pad look like they have had some manual work done to fit. The joysticks feel ok although you can hear a spring squeaking when moving them. The shoulder buttons have a very short travel but feel fine. The keyboard feels ok, however the keys don't feel consistent. This is especially noticeable with the AYBX keys which all feel a bit different.
The battery was not preinstalled and it literally took me like 5 minutes to insert the battery and close the case because there is a bit more force required than I am comfortable with and I was afraid of breaking something.
Also I noticed that the lid does not fully close when I close it slowly. I have to "slam" the lid to get if fully closed. I made a short video of that:

//Edit: Also I noticed that there is something poking trough the label in the battery compartment which also pokes the battery:
Inked_MG_2818 (Large)_LI.jpg_MG_2821 (Large).jpg

All in all the device feels more like a early pre-production run than a polished device. It does not have the "premium" feel but is perfectly usable. As I said it feels a lot like the Pandora and I am perfectly fine with that knowing all the hurdles and the development story behind it.

Electronics
After pressing the power button the keyboard backlight starts to flicker, the leds blink and then the Linux boot message appears on the screen. All in all it takes my device about 30 second from pressing the button to the login screen.
The keyboard backlight is not evenly distributed but nevertheless every key is clearly visible and readable in the dark. This is a huge improvement compared to the Pandora.
The screen itself looks nice, vibrant, has a good viewing angle and good resolution. The resistive touchscreen feels outdated in 2020 but is absolutely necessary to be used with a stylus because there is no way you would be able to navigate the UI with a finger (a bit more on that later). However the edge of the touchscreen does not seem to work correctly. Meaning the outer ~3-4mm are not reachable with stylus. That is a problem because that is usually where e.g. the scrollbar is positioned. I re calibrated multible times so that is not the issue. I made a small video demonstrating the problem:


I mostly use the nubs as mouse to navigate the device. The touchscreen is just not reliable enough.
Wireless connectivity is also a problem. The reception (compared with my cheap phone) is bad
IMG_2807 (Large).JPG
even when positioned half a meter away form the access point I was not able to reach more than ~45MBit throughput. Also the device sometimes looses the connection even with that distance. With the Pandora I used a external USB WiFi adapter and I hope I don't have to do that here too. Maybe this can be improved with firmware tweaks or configuration?
Also charging is a problem. Using the device and charging at the same time leads to problems with the battery temperature sensing (even though it is only slightly warm to the touch) and then charging is disabled. According to ED this a known bug and can be fixed in firmware/software. I now shutdown the device before attaching it to a charger.
The speakers have a clear low/mid range but weak base. They are loud, really loud. Limiting everything to 100% volume is software and turning up the volume nob makes them clip and distort easily. I am pretty sure you can damage them this way. Turning them down to a reasonable volume they sound perfectly fine.

Software
The Pyra is running debian which is great. To install my favorite browser (Vivaldi) I just had to download the .deb, run dpkg -i and I was ready to go. The web browsing experience is nice however video playback is a problem. I tried YouTube and the ARD Mediathek (the video library of a German public TV channel) and both were not able to produce a smooth playback at native screen resolution (720p). I used youtube-dl to download a video and play it back without the browser. mpv seems to have some problems with the color but playback itself is smooth. After tweaking VLC a bit I was able to get the video to playback smoothly after the first few seconds. I also tried firefox-es from the debian repsitory but the overall experience was worse than with Vivaldi and also playback via YouTube did not produce sound output.
I played some games via scummvm (installed via apt-get). I tried monkey island 1 (DOS version) which is playable and the feeble files (Windows 4 disc version) and here video playback was not smooth, the in game menu is really slow but the game itself is alright. The scummvm menu itself (running in native resolution) is also very slow.
I tried to play some old console games via retroarch (also via apt-get) but this one does not start.
I noticed that a lot of applications threw errors regarding the video driver so there is probably some work to do.
I also managed to crash/freeze the device multible times. Once while browsing the web and the other times via SFTP (transferring files, creating folders)


Other thoughts
I haven't used a Linux desktop in a while. My main OS is Windows and all the Linux interaction I have (e.g. my server or some software development) is terminal based. I was a bit surprised that the desktop (at least mate which was chosen here) is still not touch friendly and not very well optimized for high DPI screens. Even when increasing the DPI in the settings not everything scales correctly or at all. I heard that Apple is the king when it comes to these things (I don't have any iDevices) but Windows 10 also has done a lot in this regard and scaling works really great here in almost all of the cases.
Also websites in "desktop mode" these days really don't seem to care anymore about devices with "low" (720p) screen resolutions. I saw a lot of scroll bars when browsing with the Pyra. I will change my User Agent to a mobile one and see if that helps.


Conclusion of this first impression
The software is in an early state, features are missing or buggy. This was the same with the Pandora in the beginning and knowing you guys I have no doubt that we will get a very nice experience in the not to near future. This community is awesome. I sadly don't have the knowledge for that so I will probably be of no help in this regards. I haven't even managed to get the cross compiler setup running yet.
The hardware on the other hand I have some doubts. The case I don't really care, If there will be future revision this can be swapped easily with a more "polished" one. WiFi can be fixed with a USB dongle, charging is apparently a software problem but the touchscreen is a problem.
However (as with the Pandora) I am hugely impressed on what ED is able to produce here (I work in electronics engineering). I am pretty sure I will not be using the Pyra as intensiv as I have done with the Pandora when I got that. However I don't regret my purchase/support for this project one bit and I am a bit sad that I am not able to support it better (financially or with software support)
 
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MasterJulian

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You can change the system font and the overall scaling. However that will not apply for every application/window. I changed it to a size that is comfortable for me.
 

EvilDragon

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I didn't even find the time to open an area with quirks / issues we have at the moment, as that'll answer a few questions about the software :)

The main issues you'll have with speed and video is indeed not yet finished drivers.
Default OpenGL runs with software MESA, so it will be dog slow.
Once the GL4ES wrapper is installed in the systems, all the OpenGL stuff will be automatically hardware accellerated - which will make them run at normal speed :)

VLC can also use OpenGL, so that'll help.

SDL, etc. is also not working properly yet, and only X11 itself uses hardware acceleration yet, but any games, etc. Installed from the Debian repository needs to use a lot more CPU power than they should :)

About assembly: Yeah, these are the quirks we still have with assembly here. It was the same with the Pandora - and we'll improve it over time to make it a lot more polished.

If sales are good enough, I certainly want to recreate the case design and moulds and do it properly - at the moment, it's the best we could achieve with whatwe received from the previous company :)
 

EvilDragon

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Congratulations and thanks for your review.

I'm specially dissapointed about wifi and touchscreen. It seems hardware problem.

The touchscreen is nothing new - I mentioned that years ago already when we received the first touchscreens.
The problem is: As resistive touchscreens are not really used anymore these days, they don't have such a big surrounding frame as they used to have.
Unlike capacitive touchscreens, resistive ones can't be bonded on top of the screen - they need to be affixed around it.

Due to the minimum space on the screen where they can be glued to, the edges are affected a bit. The only other option would have been to not affix it to the screen (but then dust would gather between the screen and touchscreen) or to create a surrounding metal frame - but that would've cost at least 50k EUR more just for the tools needed for that frame.

As usually, when using the OS most tend to use the nubs and as it's only at the edge of the screen, this was considered as being the best solution (no touchscreen or a capacitive one would've been the others).
Everything in the middle works fine, so for most games, etc. this is absolutely no problem. I wished I could've improved it, but that's when you try to combine modern tech (720p screen) with tech no one really uses anymore (resistive touchscreens).

About Wifi:
I'm not sure this is a hardware issue. Could easily be software as well. We have two matching antennas for the Wifi module (nothing self-built like for the Pandora) and I remember I had faster data rates at some time - but the current OS version is a bit slower.
I think the driver also complains about missing calibration data which it tries to load, so that could be the problem here.
 

matzesu

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Thanks for the honest review, seems like the Software needs some improvement, and the Case too..
wifi could also be just a Mather of software tweaks,
I think I will have get myself the Pyra to see if this is something I could work whit the issues..
I see my upcoming Pyra more like a Pandora in new, so I don’t expect that much
But whe will know how I find it hopefully next week..

I hope for the Email tomorrow so it could arrive at Monday ^^


Send from something, i guess ^^
 

λ the β-Redex Reducer

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Thanks for the review.

Also websites in "desktop mode" these days really don't seem to care anymore about devices with "low" (720p) screen resolutions. I saw a lot of scroll bars when browsing with the Pyra. I will change my User Agent to a mobile one and see if that helps.
It sounds like those websites do not make proper use of media queries.
 
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matzesu

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Do the other Pyra Receivers also got this Lid Gap Gate Issue?
I wonder if this may get better whit the times, or if this is just whit some Units..

It would be good to hear from EvilDragon what to make whit the not that easy to open Battery Cover: will it get damaged if you use the force its need to open and closed? Or is the Plastik strong enough?
 

TrashyMG

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Trashy, how is the resistive touch experience for you so far? I don't see that as an issue, if I ever use it I would be tapping around the middle of the screen not selecting way out to the edges.
Well I calibrated it and it seemed okay, haven't really used it much as of yet, maybe once I get the armhf versions of Starcraft & Diablo II working again.

Dealing with the devboard and knowing a bit of current status of the software, I have likely have a more realistic expectation on how the production units would behave once it was released. The Software needs a bit of work to deal with the quirky hardware that the Pyra has. Luckily there are some good programmers in the community, just needs more people with hands on the device to help work through it. Overall I think it's a solid device with a lot of potential, just needs help to get to that potential.

I may make a video here and there to show off things working, I'm not much on review videos.
 

pyrat

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Mmm... I wonder if the touchscreen edge can somehow be worked around in software, not really getting the expected total sensitivity, but something more useful, but for some uses.

How many pixels are not sensitive next to each side ? I tried to measure from a video frame and at right seemed like 17 pixels out of 1280 screenwidth.
And is the nonsensitive area equally wide in all units or it depends on how the glue spread or something ? I've just tried to add a Mate panel (Caja?) to a 1920x1080 desktop and the minimum size it allowed me to choose was 17 pixels.

Would it be more comfortable with four Mate panels (caja). one on each screen edge (top, bottom, right, left) that are either black or contain gadgets that we usually only look at, not touch (they could only be touched with joysticks, not the pencil).
Then windows would open in the central, pencil sensitive area, and the margins would be for less used buttons, notifications or meters. One could still watch videos or certain webs fullscreen because touch is not needed then.
[Edit: Mmm... I'm not sure the gadgets exist yet, but I could imagine:
top panel: notification area (playing song, last received message/gnubiff, next appointment, or some such), 1 or more clocks, wifi strength and SSID (+ weather forecast?).
left panel: free % on each drive (EMMC, µSD, SD left, SD right), volume meter for left channel
right panel: data usage, free ram, system load or cpu speed, battery status, volume meter for right channel
bottom panel, menu, and a couple of buttons for most used apps (terminal, browser, media player, libreoffice) and window list
]
One of the MATE panels could be wider so that one half of each button could still be pressed with the pencil. That's already the case with the bottom panel.

My doubt is whether I'd really use the pencil enough to be worth it. I guess since I'd like to combine mouse and keyboard, the joysticks would be handier.
I usually only use 2 panels, and in a smaller screen maybe I'd like one, like the default config...
But if I found myself interacting much with the desktop through pencil touch (4-5 mm sounds like too close to the edge to be able to touch with fingers anyway, I guess it only impacts the pencil input) I could maybe try it.
 
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matzesu

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Ah ok, so now I would like to read the fantastic manual (rtfm)
I remember that there where a lot more Videos from ED on the Pandora, like the one video per day, etc, but as he was involved that much this time, it seems like there wasn’t that much time


Send from something, i guess ^^
 

MasterJulian

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Thanks for the replies and thank ED for the additional input. I have no problem navigating the Pyra without the touch, navigation with the D-pad and the nubs is very intuitive.
Also when we have applications which are actually optimized for touch usage this will not be a problem since you would not need to access the outer bounds of the screen.

As for the WiFi I think that ED is right and this is more of a software problem. A few hours ago I had a disconnect and the device was not able to find any networks whatsoever afterwords. After restarting everything was fine again. Maybe some quirks with the firmware of the WiFi modem?

I am currently on my days of from work and will return on the 11.1, so if there is anything I should test or that I can do to help let me know. Either here on the forum or on the Discord server (I am registered there as "Julian"). It's not like I have a lot of plans for the next days due to the current situation.
 

levi

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Yeah, between using the nubs to move to mouse, and the trick of home button then d-pad for the system menu, I rarely used the touchscreen on my Pandora. I'd expect that to be the same on the Pyra.

FWIW, I don't think anyone's answered this yet, but that sticky out thing in the battery compartment is probably the pip from moulding. That will vary between units, maybe you've got a more sticky out one?
 
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