The Archos GamePad is a tablet designed specifically for playing games—one of several others coming out some time this year, including the Wikipad, NVidia's Project Shield, and the Razer Edge Pro. The GamePad combines the features of an Android tablet with the physical controls needed for complex gaming. It does a lot of things competently, but that's not quite enough to make it a must have.
Design. The GamePad ($180) has a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1024x600. The screen is flanked by gaming controls: two shoulder buttons, four directional buttons, two slider pads, and six face buttons, as well as Start and Select buttons. The display's overall image quality was decent, but not as good as that of the third-generation Apple iPad we used as a reference. The display's colors were a little under-saturated when compared to those of the iPad, but they were accurate and images showed plenty of detail.
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The GamePad comes with 8GB of internal memory, which is expandable via a microSD slot. It also has a micro USB port for charging and data transfer and a mini HDMI port for outputting the display to a TV or monitor.
Highs. The GamePad has an easy-to-use game-mapping tool for the physical controls: It lets you set a physical button or slider pad to control any part of the touch screen. While the tool will function with any game, its value varies from game to game.
To use the mapping tool, you drag a virtual button anywhere on the screen and assign a physical button press to it. Then when you touch the physical button, it responds the same way as touching that part of the screen would have. The buttons have a satisfying click and are responsive, and being able to play games on a TV screen through the HDMI port is a nice touch.
Lows. While the GamePad has a good number of controls that are responsive, their positioning makes them a little awkward to use. Putting the L2 and R2 buttons on the front of the device makes it a little bit cluttered. And the slider pads are not nearly as smooth as those on the Nintendo 3DS.
Some of the most popular Android games, like Grand Theft Auto, are not compatible with the GamePad right now.
If you tilt the device so that you are viewing it from the bottom, the screen becomes dark and difficult to see. This isn't an issue if you are viewing the screen directly though. The screen also has an odd scintillating effect that was a little distracting at times.
With a battery life that clocked in at only around 2 hours while running a game, it is difficult to call this a truly portable gaming device.
Bottom line. The Archos GamePad is a good idea that isn't implemented particularly well. It's a fairly bare-bones tablet without a lot of bells and whistles. If you're a hardcore gamer, for a little more money you could pick up a Nintendo 3DS or Sony PlayStation Vita, which are dedicated gaming devices. For casual gamers, there are plenty of Android tablets on the market that will give you a better experience, and you can always add physical gaming controls by picking up a controller for your tablet or smartphone.