The Archos Gamepad first appeared back in August, and it was quite appealing even back then. Just in case you haven't heard of it before, the Archos Gamepad is a 7-inch tablet equipped with controller buttons, and it's designed specifically for mobile gaming. When it was first announced, Archos said it would include the latest version of Android which was 4.0 ICS at the time, but it has since been updated with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
Despite the gamepad support, the Archos Gamepad is by no means a high-end device but rather offers a budget friendly mobile gaming option. While I wouldn't outright say it's the best bet for a portable gaming console, the Gamepad does have a pretty solid set of features.
The Gamepad has some pretty nice specs, let's take a look:
- 7" display, with maximum resolution of 1024x600
- 1.6GHz dual-core processor
- Mali 400 quad-core GPU
- 1GB installed RAM
- 8GB of internal storage, with a microSD expansion slot
- mini HDMI output
- Integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- 14 physical buttons with dual analog sticks
- Still operates as a standard tablet with Google Play access
- 10mm thick and weighs 330g total
One of the most desired features is the game recognition and mapping tools that Archos will be bundling with the device. Obviously, there's no point in buying a gamepad enabled tablet if there are no games that support it. Luckily, the tool will allow you to map out functions to the gamepad buttons for almost any Android game.
As you can see from the design, it looks remarkably similar to the PSVita, with exception to the Gamepad being quite a bit thinner; which brings me to my next question. The Archos Gamepad is currently priced at £129.99, which is roughly $208 USD, while the PSVita sells for close to $249.99. Would you actually be willing to purchase an older tablet with lackluster hardware, when you can spend an extra fifty bucks and get a current gen console level device?
Ultimately, it just goes to show the success of the Gamepad will depend largely on casual gamers. Keep in mind, I'm not making an outrageous statement and saying only casual gamers will buy this. Instead, I'm just making note of the fact that most gamers would rather spend the extra fifty dollars and get a real portable gaming console. Then again with titles like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the Bard's Tale, Shadowgun: Deadzone, Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition and more making their way to Android, maybe the Gamepad isn't just a casual gaming device after all.
Unfortunately, the Gamepad is only currently available in the UK where it was just released. There's been no mention of a release date for the rest of us here in the States besides a rather vague 'first quarter, 2013', so it looks like we'll just have to be patient a little while longer.