The DragonBox Pyra is Nearing Completion

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The successor of the Open Pandora is on its way to be complete and hopefully ready to preorder within 2015. Michael (aka Evil Dragon in the community) has just released a new video showcasing the current status of the design, and as expected many elements are now complete or very close to be.

First, the main PCB is in its final state and was confirmed to be working as expected. You can see in the below picture all on the elements on the upper side of the PCB: the keyboard traces, the nubs and the shoulder buttons sensors.

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:13:54

On the lower side, you get to see more of the actual hardware, with the two SD card slots, the internal memory cartridge, the micro-SD card connector, the SIM card one, the USB2-eSATA host, the HDMI out, the volume control, the LTE module, the wifi antenna… if you wonder where the SoC is, it is actually not on this board, at least not directly on it.

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:14:06

See the two vertical connectors at the left and the right of the “2” ? Those will accept the separate CPU PCB that will connect on it. The point of the CPU PCB is to ensure the Pyra can be upgraded in the future, even without upgrading the whole unit. The CPU PCB is, as you can expect, much smaller :

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:14:51

Note that the above PCB board is not populated right now, but it should hold an OMAP5 from Texas instruments for the first release of the Pyra. Once set on the main PCB, the whole thing looks like that:

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:14:42

You can see that on the top of the CPU PCB, there is an additional connector – that’s actually for development and testing purposes.

Next, the display board. That one is directly attached behind the top screen.

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:15:04

This one is not fully populated either, but it will hold the rotator chip on the upper right hand corner in the above picture. The rotator chip is needed since most screens nowadays do not work on landscape more but in portrait mode as most of them are used in mobile phones. The rotator chip solves that problem by doing an ongoing rotation of the display to avoid any performance impact. As you can see this board is much more simple than the other ones.

The assembly is pretty simple, you just insert the whole display unit (screen + display PCB) on the cover…

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:39:36

The screen clips directly into position…

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:40:11

… and then add the bezel part around the display in the end…

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:15:21

The lower part of the case is pretty much similar to the Pandora’s, except that you have now more buttons and more keys available. Before connecting the main PCB to it, you need to place the speakers on each side, which are actually not soldered on the main PCB (they would not appreciate the soldering temperature, and this is a standard design for phone nowadays), as well as the keymat (the keys are slightly transparent so that they can be backlit). Before inserting the main PCB you would need to put the D-pad and the buttons as well. The keymat is not finalized yes, there are still ongoing (heated) discussions as to what is the proper set of keys you need on the Pyra to support most of what people want to do with it.

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:15:42

The assembly proceeds with the shoulder buttons. There are now four of them, and they follow the design proposed by… Fusion_Power on the boards, I think. It’s an elegant solution to ensure all buttons can be reached and pressed even though the space on the side of the device is actually very limited:

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:16:16

Now we are almost done, after inserting the main PCB, you close the whole thing with the lower part of the case – revealing more prominently the SIM Card slot. The battery will be lying in the below compartment just like for the Pandora, and should be of 6000 mAh capacity to ensure you can use the unit for a loooong time.

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:16:33

You then place the nubs on top of the unit. You can see that the keys are a bit smaller than on the Pandora, since we have now four rows at the bottom instead of three, but Evil Dragon said they are still usable and bigger than on most phones with integrated keyboards (like the N900).

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:17:13

The screen then sets on top of the base unit, connected through the hinge (the hinge is designed to keep it either fully closed or fully opened – at this stage no intermediate positions are supported – it’s a friction type of hinge, and hinges such as the one in Nintendo consoles are not readily available for purchase). I believe the hinge part is not completed at this stage, this is one of the remaining elements. Note that the screen is not showing here since the 3d print quality does not enable it to hold properly. The lid does not open to full 180 degrees, but close enough (something like 170 degrees).

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:17:33

And here’s another shot of the whole unit from the side, with the shoulder buttons and the connectors clearly visible. Overall, it’s pretty much like the Open Pandora, but it looks like a modern version of it with newer ports and more buttons.

Screenshot from 2015-04-14 08:17:44

Note that this latest case design also includes more rounded edges for less hands strain over extended periods of use, as shown in the below pictures (left one is newer):

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Size-wise, you should not expect the Pyra to be very different from the current Pandora’s. Evil Dragon has also shown what he is considering for the power adapters – as you can see they include two USB connectors, one for the Pyra, and one for an additional peripheral (for example an external hard disk). A pretty good idea since you should be able to use the Pyra just like a regular Linux desktop environment once connected to a big monitor.

The development of the Pyra has cost about 60 000 euros so far, and it’s still not finished. Evil Dragon is asking for donations to cover the keymat mold cost (that costs 10 000 euros in itself). There will be other upfront costs to be covered in the near future (such as the case injection mold), and short of donations these costs will be reflected in the price of the final unit.

Apparently he is aiming at producing about 5000 Pyra units – of course this is just a temporary number and that may change if there is a higher interest in the device than expected. The Open Pandora itself sold in about 7000-8000 units, so who knows when the Pyra will end up in sales.

We still do not know when the Pyra will be officially avaiable, yet it still expected that preorders will start in this year and the first units be delivered as well as the production ramps up when everything is finished. You may be aware that molded parts need a long lead time (an industrial mold needs about 2 to 4 months to be ready) so I would not hold my breath for a release before later in 2015 (4th quarter seems to be likely).

That’s about it for today, and you can see the video in full below if you are interested in seeing things in motion and with more details :

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4 Comments on "The DragonBox Pyra is Nearing Completion"

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Shenmue
Guest

Nice article that pieced lots of scattered stuff on the forum.

Dredd
Member

Thanks for the Pyra update, great work.

Cavemonkey
Guest

Awesome, our hackerspace can’t await playing with the Pyra!

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[…] DragonBox Pyra open game console progress update The design of the printed circuit board is said to be finalized and working properly, while there’s still a bit of work to go on some of the other components. [OpenPandora and┬áPandoraLive] […]