Earlier today, 3A started releasing the instruction manual for the Pandora's Box DX, which includes the board specifications. Let's take a look.
A few days ago, I was contacted by someone known out in the community about the Pandora's Box DX and he said that the Pandora's Box DX is indeed an upgrade and that the main H3 chip was replaced with the Rockchip RK3128. Upon looking up the information on the RK3128, it was quite disappointing to discover that the chip features almost the exact same specifications as the H3 3A had used before it. He didn't tell me much except that all the games he's tried have worked "perfectly". I'll take that with a grain of salt until I have the board in my hands and can put it through some serious testing.
So, does this shoot down my previous thoughts that perhaps this board will be able to run WWF WrestleMania The Arcade game and 2 on 2 NHL Open Ice? Not exactly, but it does likely mean that either they will run sluggishly or perhaps they purposely included an older version of MAME specifically to handle the various Midway games. If memory serves me correctly, MAME 0.37b5 added Open Ice, Wrestlemania, NBA Hangtime and others at full speed with sound and it was only at MAME 0.80 or so that they added the far more accurate audio driver which tanks performance hardcore for these games. It's very possible that they included an old version of MAME specifically for handling these games, which would be great. It also likely means that same version of MAME wouldn't be used for adding your own games, so I wouldn't hold my breath on being able to add Hangtime yet (although I'm sure it's something we can allow if we start hacking on the DX as well).
The other thing to note regarding the board change is that we are going from an actively fan-cooled solution to a passively cooled one, so this will mean a quieter playing experience, which is quite nice as my Pandora's Key 7 sounds like a jet engine taking off every time I start it up.
As for USB controllers supported, the manual claims that 90% of USB controllers on the market should be compatible with the Pandora's Box DX. I'm hoping that in the community, we can come up with our own compatibility list.
For those of you who were hoping to run the PBDX with two of the classic Pandora's Box 2 player iron box controllers to play 4 players will be happy to know that the Gamepad Converter sold on the 3H store for the 9D will work for the PBDX as well and is quite cheap. You basically would replace the Pandora's Box in one of your two iron boxes with this converter and plug it into the PBDX USB ports and you'd be able to play 4 players with two iron boxes. Watch how it works here with the 9D.
When it comes to the question of high score saving and if it is just the save state stuff, it appears that 3A is telling is that it is writing nvram files to the board now. This means that games that support reading high scores from NVRAM should work but those that don't use it won't save high scores, in which case, save states will be your route to take.
It sounds like the PBDX ships with a 32GB SD card now and that 2GB of it is reserved for save states and nvram files. They specifically warn you not to add your own games directly to the SD card but to use an external USB drive for adding more games. Strangely enough, they do not tell you the paths you should use for adding your own games, which is somewhat odd. I suspect they will likely be the same as those for the PB6, but it's too early to tell.
There's a pinout diagram much like the one that was made for the Pandora's Box 6, however it has many mistakes (shows 2P for all buttons, not 1P/2P) and also leaves off buttons 7 and 8 for each player as well. Hopefully this gets fixed before people run into problems.
The Timer option allows you to apply timers to just the home console games or arcade games as well, which seems... a bit odd, but whatever.
In The End...
I'm really hoping to get my PBDX as fast as possible as I have so so many things I want to test out on it. I'm hoping that the Coronavirus isn't going to affect my delivery too much.
I'm thinking about live streaming the Pandora's Box DX when it arrives. Would you be interested in checking it out? Let me know.