Usually we talk about games and not devices that will be good for our gaming desires. But with all do respect, I just can’t miss this little guy that actually is worth all your attention. Why? Well, maybe because it has almost everything one would like to see in a modern tablet and even more. So, without any hesitations I would like to introduce you the Archos GamePad tablet.
This little fellow has been announced a couple of months ago, actually, more like half a year. I can’t say that this is one of those revolutionary gadgets with 8 cores and 4 GB of RAM but it definitely has something to share with its potential buyers and I do believe that even those who happen to have something else at hone (iPad or some Android based tablet) still would like to add Archos GamePad to the list of electronics at home.
Back in the days, when Archos GamePad was a mystery we thought that it would never hit the store shelves. Not because of the thoughts that it was supposed to be bad – just on the contrary: because of the tablet market that is literary garbaged with different devices including Chinese “masterpieces” that come with a battery which can keep it running for 5 minutes max and displays that are not responding even if you hit them with a hammer. Also, a couple of previous Archos’s attempts to change its position on the market have turned into a total failure with pretty bad outcomes and their plan to release a Gaming Tablet looked more like a risky venture then a potential train to success. I am not going to convince you that their newest creation is the best thing that have ever happened in Android industry but if lots of people are looking forward to spend money on this Android gaming device, it already means a lot.
I think I should have started describing tablet’s strongest sides first but I am a realistic person and I got used to get what I see. As I’ve mentioned before, the Archos GamePad is not an iPad killer and, as a matter of fact, it is not a killer at all. But, this is a well made Android based 7-inch tablet with side controls (PSP like) with more than just suitable 1024 x 600 pixel resolution capacity. For instance, the Nexus 7 has 1280 x 800 resolution capacity but it’s a high end Google device and its superiority is out of question. Under the hood you are going to find a dual-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and a quad-core Mali 400 MP GPU. I know that today it is hard to surprise someone with a dual-core heart, but as I’ve said – we are not fighting for the first place, at least – with this fellow. To keep things running smooth, Archos GamePad offers us 1 GB of RAM. As for the other set of features, you will find all the usual stuff that Android tablets come with: Wi-Fi b/g/n connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, G-sensor, microphone, front facing camera (obviously for Skype calls and things alike). The good news is that it has speakers on the front panel, not far from the control buttons. Considering that usually manufacturers put speakers on the back panel, this small but important decision will make everything sound better and louder. Plus, you shouldn’t worry about accidently covering them with your fingers. Now, as for the ports, you can expect to find here a microUSB, a full USB 2.0 and HDMI port for mirroring things that happen on your tablet. With a great TV, HDMI cable and Archos GamePad you can actually create a nice portable Android based console. There is also a microSD card slot that supports appropriate cards with up to 32 GB of storage. This will be a good addition to the original inbuilt 8 GB. The only thing that is still kept in mystery happens to be the battery but I bet there has to be something with at least 5000 mAh to keep things running for 8-10 hours of intensive use. And on the software side you will find it running almost the latest Android OS – Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. As always, Archos promises to bring the next 4.2 version pretty soon.
Ergonomics and Controllers
One of the main reasons why this tablet is called Archos GamePad is its physical controllers. As you can see on the image, they consist of a classical D-pad on the left and four action buttons on the right. Also, a bit lower you will see pretty small but very handy analog controllers. They’ve been made small for a couple of reasons: 1. Portability – you will obviously carry your tablet around and would like to minimize the space it takes in your backpack; 2. Comfort – after all this is a PSP like device and controls have to be comfortable for on the go use. Buttons feel nice in hands and are more than responsive. Also, you do not have to worry about games’ compatibility because thanks to ARCHOS mapping tool even games that haven’t been optimized for controllers can be easily launched and played with them. By all means, this adds a big fat plus in the “Pros” column. Of course, having physical buttons on the device doesn’t disable its touch-screen display and at any moment you can use it if you need to. Probably, the most pleasant part is that even with additional plastic, metal and rubberized buttons, Archos GamePad weights 330 grams only which means that it won’t add lots of weight to your purse or backpack. For instance, the Nexus 7 has 340. As for the size, GamePad is not very different from the other tablets you can find on the market except for the additional side panels with controllers which make him be 229,8 x 118,7 x 15,4 mm. The only thing that is not good about the tablet is that in a portrait mode you might have some difficulties or, better to say, discomforts using the touchscreen and navigate thought the tablet. From time to time you will accidently press buttons but I bet there is a button that will turn the off.
Now, the most interesting part and the main reason why this tablet appeared on the market: Archos GamePad was designed to play games and thanks to Google Certification, you can find thousands of them on the Google Play. Plus, if you need something more, you can always get useful applications to expand tablet’s possibilities. Thanks to its dual core processor, you can expect to see pretty much all the games flying on your device. Though, you should forget about those great masterpieces that can be launched on Tegra chips only. Game controllers will be perfect in any RPG, FPS or whatever alike. Here are some of the titles that you might want to try first: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Max Payne, GTA III, GTA Vice City, Dead Trigger, Nova, Minecraft, Need for Speed, Backstab and a lot more. Technically, any game that feels like playing with physical buttons will be a good choice. Still, I would prefer playing strategies or arcades with the touch-screen. Well, controllers will be pretty useless there anyway. As for the rest features – you should expect it to act like a regular Android based tablet with web browsing, movie watching, reading features.
Now we slowly got to the strongest side of the Archos GamePad tablet. Luckily, nowadays pretty decent devices can be bought for pretty fair prices. Well, let me ask you: how much are you willing to pay for this tablet to make it yours? $200? Maybe more? Well, thanks to your generosity, for this money you will be able to get a tablet and a good set for applications from the Google Play and a big pizza. So far Archos plans to sell its GamePad for £130 which is about $160. I do understand that for $200 you can get the numerously mentioned Nexus 7 but Archos GamePad has something that not a single well done tablet can boast with – decent control system. And if compared with other portable gaming consoles like PSP Vita, I can say with a firm that this is a real deal. Android + decent specs + great price + comfortable controllers = perfect choice.
Even despite all the great ideas packed in the tablet, I still have pretty controversial feelings about it. From the very beginning this device is oriented on people who enjoy playing games. Luckily, those are great today. While it’s a nice tablet, potential Android users looking just for a tablet will probably stop their decision on something else, even despite the fact that if we forget about controls, Archos GamePad will still be a decent tablet. On the other hand, if you plan to buy your kid a PSP Vita, I would definitely stick to the Archos GamePad. Frist of all, because of the great variety of games and applications on the Google Play. Thanks to Android OS you can turn your device into a great gaming and studying station. I can bet that PSP Vita, even with all its great features, can’t beat that. But there is one thing that can’t stop bothering me: gadget’s specs. Those things packed in the GamePad used to be revolutionary a year ago. Now they are just good. And I keep asking myself: why haven’t Archos came up with something a lot more advanced? They should have made a Tegra-3 based tablet with the very same physical controllers, 2 GB of RAM and a bigger battery. Well, of course it will increase the price but at the same time we would be looking at a gaming monster that will be an interesting piece of hardware even in a year or two. I am not judging, I am just saying that the only two things that will save this tablet from losing its spot under the sun now are the price and the controls. But, there is also a thought that Archos GamePad is just a test version to see how it goes and in the future Archos will release something bigger and a lot more powerful. I do hope they will.
To see hot the tablet looks in real time conditions, check out the video below.