Anyone into retro gaming will know the name ‘Pandora Box’ straightaway. That’s because there are so many different variations of them. So, when I was asked by Ploylab if I’d be interested in reviewing the Pandora 3D console with built-in 10” HD monitor, I couldn’t say no.
When it arrived, I was surprised by how heavy the box was. Weighing in at 6KG, you can tell this is going to be one piece of kit. And it wants to be as it’s not cheap compared to other Pandora Box gaming machines. This will set you back $350, equivalent to £252, not including tax/duty, which you may be charged if unlucky.
The unit itself is completely made of metal and, as mentioned earlier, is quite heavy. It has a built-in clamshell 10” full HD (1280*720) screen, which looks fantastic, especially when playing games on this size of screen. It is sharp, and the colours are punchy without being too over the top. You can also change the settings of the screen to your liking.
Whilst the HD image quality is very good, it does look a little strange. It just sort of sits there on a hinge with no fastening clips or anything. You just push it down to close it and vice versa to open it. It’s not a big deal, just don’t expect anything fancy other than a great image.
You get the usual controls as with any Pandora Box: eight buttons and a joystick, which whilst not as good as Sanwa originals, they do the job well and are responsive enough. All of these controls can easily be removed and changed if you so wish.
This machine runs on the Pandora 3D Forrest firmware and has the usual setup that most will be used to. You have four options to choose from: “all games”, “types”, “latest” and “search”. For the best part, you will be using the “latest” and “search” options to find what you want and “latest” to go back to your recently played games.
What I was disappointed to see was that the 3D Clamshell does not have Wi-Fi built into it, so you are unable to access the Games Market, even though it is shown in the menu system but is greyed out. I did attempt to use a Wi-Fi dongle, but it failed to work.
You are able to easily add your own additional Roms, but obviously only if you already own those games. Compared to other Pandora machines, this particular version does not have as many emulators included. Those included are MAME, Final Burn, PlayStation 1, N64, PSP, Dreamcast, Famicom and Super Famicom with 4,299 games included.
Gameplay of games is generally good, though I did find that some more intense 3D fighting games did struggle a little, mainly with backgrounds breaking up and broken sound.
When running 2D games, I noticed no noticeable frame rate issues or artefacts and was more than happy with how the portable arcade unit performed. Whilst this might be an expensive piece of gaming hardware and may be out of grasp for some, its versatility and excellent image quality on that 10” screen more than make up for its shortcomings, such as its lack of Wi-Fi or access to the Games Market. If you are not that bothered about those shortcomings, then this is a great little unit to own.