An Open Source handheld platform for gaming and programming enthusiasts.
One of our members had a great idea about making an Open Source gaming platform which could evolve and be supported by the community, so after some feedback and requests from members we made his wish come true. The platform was named Ares by the initiator of the idea after the Greek god of the Sun. There are many features on this design and we shall go through all of them in this article, explaining the functionality of each and every one as well as describe the main internal characteristics of the hardware inside.
Above you can see all of the external features on Ares with their labels. The design was made in such a way that initial manufacturing could be as low-budget as possible, making it available for everyone at an affordable price. Controls were picked so that already available components such as the navigation buttons and Analog Thumb-Stick could be implemented without having to design and build them from scratch. Below are the descriptions for each feature in more detail.
Since Ares operates on the Gumstix Verdex Pro line of platforms (explained later on in this article), there is a microSD slot which can be used for loading games or other data onto the device. Mainly we made this feature available so that games could be loaded with ease although you can also use it for other purposes such as loading custom operating systems or loading music although this can also be done through the USB cable.
The USB port is converting the Serial console signals from within the Gumstix platform and making it available on a standard USB port. Through this port you can debug the console, load additional data or use it for custom purposes. Please note that Ares will not charge through the USB port although this can be achieved experimentally with a simple hack.
Inside Ares there is a 2100 mA Single Cell Li-Po battery and due to it's high capacity a high speed charger is required and is designed within the system. For fast charging a 1A power supply is required. This is also the reason that the USB port is not used for charging since it supplies less power, making the charging process take longer and be unstable.
The name pretty much explains it self. The Power switch turns the unit On an OFF by simply disconnecting the battery source. Charging Ares can be done with the device On or OFF although we highly recommend that you charge it with Ares Off for faster results.
There are 7 buttons on Ares, 4 of which are navigation buttons on the right side of the device which can also be used as Action buttons with an additional button in the middle. On the left Side there are 2 buttons which can be used pretty much for anything that the developer wants.
This is a miniature Analog stick which is used for navigating through menus, navigating the character within the came and anything else required. It's functionality as well as design is almost identical to the Thumb-Stick found on the PSP console from Sony.
There are 2 LED's on the device. The Power LED (Green) simply indicates if Ares is powered on or not. The Charge LED (Red) indicates if a charger is plugged into the device or not, it doe no other function since charge status is indicated by software within the Ares Operating system.
As you can see from the image above, Ares is quite similar in dimensions to already available consoles on the market. With it's large LCD and Touchscreen it is functional as well as comfortable to hold and play, making the gaming experience pleasant and fun.
There are 2 speakers available on the bottom side of the device which operate as Stereo speakers, making the gaming or Multimedia experience even better. Internally we used separate amplifiers for each speaker, thus making the sound strong and loud if required.
Ares operates on the Gumstix Verdex Pro series of platforms and get's its performance features from them. Please note that the XM4 platform does not have WiFi unlike XL6P and you will have to ether install the platform your self in the future or ask us to do it for you in order to take advantage of the WiFi features in case you choose as your primary option the XM4 platform in the Shop when purchasing. There are other features as well that make these two platforms differ and they are described below in detail. Read them carefully if you are unsure what choice to make before purchasing the device.
Verdex Pro XM4
Processor: Marvell PXA270 with XScale
Features: microSD slot, USB HOST signals, CCD camera signals, 80 mm x 20 mm
Verdex Pro XL6P
Processor: Marvell PXA270 with XScale
Features: microSD slot, USB HOST signals, CCD camera signals,WiFi, 80 mm x 20 mm