GPD have recently garnered controversy over some of their Win 3 handhelds shipping with inferior Wi-Fi cards. But they’ve shot themselves in the foot twice, with a poorly received compensation offer that also happened to leak the emails of over 100 customers.
GPD have been making a name for themselves in recent years by producing crowdfunded full Windows PCs far smaller than the traditional 13- or even 11-inch size classes. The miniature PCs fit into the realms of ultra-mobile PCs or handheld gaming consoles, depending on who you ask.
Over the past month or so, their Win 3 handheld has been garnering a mixed reception as it makes its way into the hands of backers. The device’s subreddit is awash with reports of problems with controllers, drives and screens, and even devices seeming to come preloaded with malware (which appears to be a consistent issue for GPD).
One that was picked up more recently was that some devices were shipping with Intel’s AC7265 WiFi cards, rather than the newer and more capable AX200 promised during crowdfunding. Those receiving the older cards will find themselves limited to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.2, both a generation behind the standards supported by the AX200.
While they’re not bad by any means, the older technologies are lacking in more than just raw throughput, as WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.1 bring with them significant improvements in congested performance and range respectively, as well as power-consumption gains that would be welcome on such a small device — and performance aside, it’s an issue of backers not receiving what they were promised in crowdfunding, or what others got.
Furthermore, GPD’s response has dug themselves deeper into the mire. An email sent out to affected backers around a week ago has been condemned by owners, offering a mere $30 in compensation — which, at the time of writing, is barely enough to cover the costs of the card itself plus shipping — or otherwise asking owners to replace the soldered component themselves. As further injury, GPD copied every backer who had contacted them about the issue into the email via CC, exposing the emails of over a hundred individuals. All of this makes their own recent promotional material seem particularly ill-advised.
GPD’s Win 3 is the clearest shot yet taken by the nascent UMPC maker at the dominance of the Nintendo Switch in handheld gaming. But rumors abound about a similar device dubbed the Steampal coming from Valve, powered by the same potent RDNA 2 graphics architecture seen in AMD’s RX 6000-series GPUs, as well as the upcoming Switch refresh that could see a sizable performance boost.
Now facing a fight with similar handhelds like the Aya Neo and Onexplayer, and with another two well-resourced competitors waiting in the wings, GPD simply can’t afford to take its market for granted with mistakes like this.