08 April 2020

Pandora's Box DX Released

3A notified users of its Facebook group yesterday that a new Pandora's Box was about to be released today. The box has indeed been released but is a bit buried on their Aliexpress page. I placed my order instantly and we are about to do a deep dive on the video that is on their page to see what's going on.

Major New Features

When the notification that the new box was being released came out, there was speculation of whether or not 3A would try to go after all the higher spec'd Android clones out there or if they would continue to build off of the base that they had with the Pandora's Box 6/9/9D with minor updates. It's clear that they decided to go the evolutionary route instead as this Pandora's Box DX appears to be an upgrade, however a relatively modest one. They did add a thing or two that was unexpected, however. Let's take a closer look.

3000 Games Preinstalled - MAME/FBA/PS1/Famicom/NES/SFC/SNES/Genesis

So taking a look at the games list from the video, they appeared to have moved the 10 or so default PB9D PlayStation games (with a new 3D tag) to the front of the gamelist with more PS1 games deep near the end of the gamelist. It still appears to have PlayStation versions of Mortal Kombat which is a pretty big hint that this box is likely the same or similar hardware as the PB6/PB9/PB9D. A slight disappointment. It also appears to take most of the game list from the PB9D - including all the various hacks and Mega Drive games and also adds a far larger selection of SNES games as well. The box carries over a small selection of Neo Geo AES games from the 9D as well which have the AES tag in the gamelist. It does appear that certain console games also include hacks as a separate game giving the player unlimited lives, etc... Not really high up on my list of desires, honestly. 34 PlayStation games are installed by default.

Shown in the gamelist are also some NES games that are not PlayChoice-10 games such as Mighty Final Fight. Some really great games are included such as Mario Kart, Mario World, SNES version of Turtles in Time but also some headscratchers such as the SNES Super Scope 6 game which is... a very odd choice. The SNES Mortal Kombat games are all included as well in case you aren't happy with the PS1 versions, I suppose? Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 on PS1? Barbie Explorer for PS1?

By the way, don't be fooled - the version of Killer Instinct used on the PBDX is the SNES version so don't get too excited. Much like Mortal Kombat, I'm sure we're going to hear a lot of people annoyed about this one.

Unlike the PB6, all the games are preinstalled onboard with no need to download anything so those of you who struggled with the PB6 download files will be very happy to hear that.

EDIT: Here's the gamelist.

Add Up To 5000 Games on USB Stick

It appears that while the default games are held internally on the PBDX, you are still able to add your own games to the unit by using a USB stick, much like the Pandora's Box 6 allowed it. The info about the feature mentions MAME, FBA, PS1, SNES, Genesis and NES games are addable.

I'm hoping that the PB6 community collection will all still work directly. We'll find out soon.

3 and 4 Player Game Support

Just like the PB9D, we also have 3 and 4 player support for certain games towards the end of the gamelist. They have a 3P or 4P tag in the list. You can expect most of the Capcom CPS games that support multiplayer to work here (Captain Commando, Battle Circuit, Dungeons and Dragons, etc...). It appears that they have extended their multiplayer support to more games such as Konami's various games (Sunset Riders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Simpsons, X-Men), Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and more. It appears that there's 103 games with 3 and 4 player support.

To support these 4 player games, just like the 9D, you are able to plug controllers into one of the USB ports. They are selling the PBDX with both wired and wireless PS3 look-a-like controllers along with a wireless dongle that you plug into the USB port. It also appears to support the 9D option to disable the arcade sticks entirely or to reorder the controllers so the USB controllers are player 1 and 2.

I've purchased the PBDX with wireless controllers so I will let you know how they work when I get my unit in.

Additional Sorting/Search Options

Hitting the Start button on the main gamelist brings you to a menu allowing you to show only 3D games, 3/4 player games, or games of certain categories (puzzle, racing, etc...). There are no new categories but the console games do appear to be in those categories now as well. There is also a search function much like the Pandora Key 7 letting players type in on a virtual keyboard to find the games they want. There is also a "Recent" selection showing you just games you've played most recently. Pretty clear that 3A learned from what the clones are doing here and I'm glad even though it wouldn't have been a feature I would have asked for specifically.

Sorting Search

Here's a short list of the categories and how many pages of games are on each. I'll give exact numbers where I have them.
3D (PlayStation) games - 34 games
3/4 Player games - 103 games
Fighting games - ~350 games
Action games - ~1020 games
Shooting games - ~480 games
Sports games - ~430 games
Puzzle games - ~740 games

New Loading Screen

Thought I would mention this before forgetting but there's a new loading screen that shows you a bit more accurately how long the game will take to load up. Not really a big deal and only shows 33/66/99% but it's still a bit more feedback than we used to get.

Loading

Saving/Loading Game States

Much like the various Android clones, you can now save and load game states by hitting the pause button during gameplay and selecting either Load or Save. They added a label to tell you if there is no prior save state to load which is a nice thing to have. Looks like a lot of people will be quite happy about this as it means being able to keep your high scores and such. Save states are persistent even after pulling the power so they are properly being saved and you can turn off your PBDX and pick back up from where you were next time by loading up the state you saved. Great news.

Saving

High Score Support

This is listed as a feature of the PBDX however I don't see anything that talks about the feature whatsoever. It may only be a side effect of the save/load state support above, however. Too early to say.

8 Button Support

With the addition of so many console games, the PBDX now supports up to 8 buttons and they can be mapped in the Settings page. By default, the PB6 only allowed you to map up to 6 buttons despite having 8 button iron box controllers released. This is great news for PlayStation games in particular. Default button mappings are set to the following:

B C D G
A E F H

8 Buttons

So they basically just added the two buttons to the end, which is fine. It also appears that gamepads can have their buttons set up just like the PB9D, also with 8 buttons. Also, you can stop defining buttons at any time if you wish. If you, like me, have only the 6 button version of the iron box controller, you don't have to worry about not being able to define the last two buttons. Hell, if you want, you can define only 3 buttons. It's up to you.

Scanlines

In the settings menu, we can see a new option for adding scanlines to the console output, a feature that a lot of people have been looking for and also was done on the Android clones for quite some time now. It also appears that the scanlines setting can be turned on with image optimization mode on or off which is great to hear. It's under the slightly unfortunate name of "Scanning Line" in the menu.

(No word yet on if the image optimization mode is any better than previously, but I suspect that it'll look better than it did with scanlines turned on.)

Home Game Timer Only?

Not too sure what this is, but I think it has to do with the per-coin timers that you get for home games. I think this allows someone to disable the timer entirely for home console games so you don't have to keep reinserting quarters to continue your game of Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers. Not shown during the video, however.

English/Korean/Spanish Languages Supported

You're able to switch between English, Korean and Spanish languages from the Settings menu now. Exciting, yep.

Disable Boot Videos

You are able to disable the bootup videos from the Settings menu. Another exciting one.

Settings Changes No Longer Require Reboot

In a nice change from the PB6, changing the settings no longer requires powering the machine off and back on again which I am very happy about.

Minor Changes - Other Things to Know

  • HDMI and VGA are not supported at the same time as they were on the PB6. With both inserted, you will only get ouput from HDMI.
  • Resolutions supported: 720p, 480p. 1024x768 is no longer supported on the PBDX.
  • Connecting to PC or PS3 as a game controller has been removed.

Conclusions

This likely isn't going to be the box that some people were hoping for as it does not really challenge the Android clones but it does appear to be a nice upgrade in general. I would say that if you were planning on getting a PB6, the PBDX replaces it quite well. There are a lot of quality of life features that are nice to have and having 4 player support for a lot of great games that were missing it on the PB9D is great. I'm buying this box with a pair of wireless controllers and hope to post a review as soon as I can.

Also, speaking of the PB9 and PB9D, it's now made incredibly clear that the PB9 and PB9D are indeed official 3A boxes for those of you that still aren't clear as this is a new box being sold on the official 3A Aliexpress store that builds directly off of everything they already put into the PB9D.

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