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Alive 11
GamePark 32 Review
At  the  end of its product cycle,  a small but fantastic toy  finally  gets
reviewed for Alive. Of course I am talking about the GP32, a somehow generic
game console from the Far East.
I was introduced to the GP32 by HAVOC. Actually it happened when I told him,
that  I  was  considering buying a Gameboy Advance.  This made him  go  into
advertising mode for the little wonder from Korea.  I thought about it for a
few weeks, and then I finally bought it instead of a GBA :)

To let you get a picture of that little toy, I'll start off with a copy from
the specs:

# 32 Bit RISC CPU (ARM9), up to 133/166MHz

# TFT 3.5" Reflective TFT LCD Display (65,536 colours, 320 X 240 Pixels)

# Smart Media Card Compatible

# USB Port for PC Connection

# 16Bit PCM Stereo Sound, MIDI Support, 4 Channel WAV Mixing

# Powered by 2 AA Batteries (12 Hours Play-Time, NON-LIT)

# DivX, XviD and MP3 Compatible

Additional Information:

You  have  the  option of 133 or 166MHz from the  flexible  CPU.  The  CPU's
standard clock is 133MHz, but it can be changed via software(!), from as low
as 22MHz up to something above 220MHz,  but most units just about run stable
at 156MHz.  With a little bit of work you can apply the "Volt-Mod", which is
as  simple as replacing two resistors,  and then you get it to run stable at
166MHz  or maybe even more.  But you also need to know that the main bus  is
clocked  at 66MHz,  so the speedup of the actual programs you run gets  more
non-proportional to the clock.

"NON-LIT" should be read as "Neither back nor front light".  The first units
were produced with a reflective display.  Therefore you only could use it in
well-lit  environments.  Later on they produced units with front light,  the
Front  Lit Units (FLU).  I never saw one of those but they are said to  show
washed-out colours.  After this came the Back Lit Units (BLU). Those are the
ones to get! IF you can get one, because GamePark stopped using the displays
from  Samsung  and went for some Taiwanese LCD.  This display was  not  100%
compatible,  therefore those units are know as (BLU+). But most programs are
patched  or recompiled by now so you should not have the same  problems  the
early adopters had at the beginning with these screens.

 I talked about the CPU, but in the end it is mainly a system on a chip, the
chip  in  question  being the SC3243000 from  Samsung.  It  has  everything.
Starting  with  the arm 9 2 0TDMI core,  SMC/MMC controller,  LCD Controller,
16Bit  DACs  for sound and even a real time clock,  which could  be  battery
backed, but  GamePark  misses on that.  If they hadn't have done that,  then
apps like a calendar and timer or stopwatch would have been possible.

  What makes the GP32  really special is the fact that GamePark  decided  to
make  their  SDK available for everybody.  Rumours say that it  wasn't  done
intentionally, but it seemed hopeless to make money with games for the GP32.
Since  the SDK is freely available a lot of GP32 owners are also taking  the
opportunity to code on it.

                              CODING DA THING

 As most others I didn't buy the gp32 for gaming only.  I wanted to try some
ARM assembler on it! So let's have a look at how and what to code.

                                How to code?

Coding on an Atari is quite straightforward.  Launch DevPac and go ahead and
hack. But on a hand-held device (or game console), it's a bit different (and
also more comfortable in some ways).  You code with your favourite editor on
Windows,  Linux,  or MacOS X, then compile it with gcc (if you don't want to
spend money) or the ARM Assembler. If you do want to spend some serious cash
it is a superb ARM compiler. I don't have to mention that I am going the gcc
way.  There  are  some  tool chains for LiNUX/ UNiX which are  available  as
Windows packages as well. The gcc 3.4 is said to have some optimizations for
ARM code,  but I stick with the gcc 3.2 based tool chain, because I code the
critical stuff in asm anyway and the fastest code has to be generated when a
product is finished,  for release that is, which won't happen with any of my
stuff :))

Coding,  compiling  and assembling is done on the PC but what about testing?

You have three possibilities. First, you can use the emulator GeePee32 which
is really a big help when debugging because of the tracing possibilities. It
runs slowly though.  It can be compared with a GP32 running at 44MHz. And it
is for Windows only,  although it runs with WINE,  but not quite nicely.  If
you  want to check the speed of your stuff,  you have to transfer the object
file to the GP32 and there you have the next two possibilities.

Firstly,  put  the file on the SMC via a card reader,  or use your GP32 as a
card reader via a USB cable.

A more convenient method,  but AFAIK only possible with LiNUX, is to execute
it directly on the GP32. Connect your GP32 with the USB cable to the PC, set
your  firmware in a special mode and run a little tool on the (LiNUX) PC.  I
don't have to mention that you can use it with MAKE.

                             Technical aspects

 If you expect lots of hardware support like the GBA has,  such as  sprites,
tile modes, or alpha-blending, you are looking in the wrong place. It's more
like the situation on the Falcon :)

You have memory,  just a CPU and memory.  The good thing is,  that the frame
buffers are in the normal RAM, there is no slow chip RAM. The LCD controller
can do some tricks but the only one which is worth mentioning is the virtual
screen.  You  can  tell the controller:  "Let the screen be 480x400." but of
course just 320x240 pixels are shown at once. But this is no major drawback,
because the CPU is so fast :) I managed to code a tiling engine which  could
do 170 fps.  Let's say we want three layers and sprites, then we are running
at  approximately  60  fps.  OK,  now if you want to add  some  transparency
effects as well, then it may get critical.

  I never did anything with the sound,  but it is said in the specs you have
some  16 bit DMA channels.  Furthermore,  there are MOD players with up to 8
channels available which you can use.

  The  actual  processor is really great.  It has some advantages  over  the
68000. The strangest feature, compared to 68k, are shift/ Rotate for free (0
cycles)  and conditional execution of almost all instructions.  The 68k  set
has  just the branch instruction executed conditionally.  Ah and YOU are the
one to tell the CPU to update the condition codes. An example:

1 mov   r0, #23              ; put #23 into reg. 0
2 subs  r1, r0, #23          ; sub #23 from reg. 0. Result goes into reg. 1
                            ; and set CC bits
3 add   r4, r5, r1, lsr #2   ; add (r1 * 4) to r4 and result to r4
4 moveq r4, #128             ; IFF the sub produces a result of 0 then
                            ; move #128 to r4. The "eq" is for equal
                            ; condition. Not move-quick.

Closer look at line 3:

ARM (1 cycle):
       add   r4, r5, r1, lsr #2

MC68060 ( at least 2 cycles [ cause of superscalar pipeline]):
       move    d5, d4
       lsr     #2, d1       ; d1 gets destroyed
       add     d1, d4

If  you  need  the  contents of d1 later on you have to  add  at  least  one
"superscalar" cycle.

BUT,  I won't go into details here.  There will be another article coming up
for  that  topic.  I just wanted to show you an example of some  interesting
features of the ARM9 to tease you a bit. Ahh and it has Multiply-add as well
:) To keep the m68k lovers happy: ARM has no DIV instruction :)

                           SOFTWARE FOR THE GP32

What  kind  of software can you get for the GP32 you may ask.  "Games!"  you
might  think.  Well  there  are some commercial games of  course,  but  it's
obvious that you do not get a big list of titles like there is for the  GBA.
I  think there are something like 20 or 30 mostly Korean games you  can  buy
for a budget price,  something like 5-15 EUR.   You can download those games
and  put them on a SMC or purchase a (16Mb) SMC,  but that is of course more

  Next  we have the homebrew games,  which are,  TBH,  not comparable to any
commercial  games,  but I must say I did not try them that much,  because of
the 3rd kind of apps you can use on your GP32 ... eeeeEMMMMmmmuuuuUlatorz!

 First a downer,  GBA emulation is not possible,  although some french dudes
have  shown  great  promise with GPAdv.  I want to mention it  because  they
exploit  the  fact  that the GBA's CPU,  the ARM7 core is  almost  identical
(opcode wise) to the ARM9.  They do not have to emulate the CPU which leaves
more time for the hardware emulation. They managed this quite well. I played
three  commercial  GBA games on my GP32,  but they were a bit slow.  Another
problem  was that some GBA roms are 32MBit.   The GP32 has just 8MB RAM,  so
they have to "load-on-demand".

 Useful ones ( and used by myself) are:
  - NES
  - MegaDrive ( Genesis)
  - Atari ST
  - Atari800
  - C64
  - SNES  ( some gfx features are missing, but for the great RPGs its good)
  - MAME  ( the older arcade machines. Green Beret works well f.e.)

  I  leave out those other old machines I never tried,  but you can see  the
SNES  emulation as the upper limit of what is possible.  And NO,  there's no

As  a  side note:  Everybody is waiting for "f-day".  That's the day,  when a
certain  developer  will release 13 emulators in one go.  Those emus have  a
great standard, as under the 13 are things like NES, MSX and GBC.

  BUT,  a  big  problem is that most dudes just code C/ C++,  or  port  some
emulators  written  in  C/C++,  which  is of course not  optimal.  Take  the
MegaDrive.  DrMD2.0 uses a 68000 core written in ARM9 asm and it is *almost*
full speed at 144MHz.


  There  is  an Internet forum ( ) where  most  of  the
international  discussions and gossip about the GP32 is going on.  The  GP32
seems  also  widespread in Spain and they have their own community,  but  of
course some of the Spanish dudes are on as well.  Demos aren't too
popular on the GP32, or should I say: "Don't exist at all."?


The  GP32  could be considered a very useful retro-gaming console,  able  to
support  games  up to (and partly including) the SNES.  And of  course  most
Atari  ST  games and demos will play on here.  But don't expect  the  newest
productions  to  work,  well at least the sound on some of these is  not  so

Creature for Alive, 2005-11-16
Alive 11