The ARCHOS Gamepad is the first Android tablet to add gamepad controls, an attempt to make a handheld console that would appeal more to gamers looking for a cheap alternative to what Nintendo and Sony have to offer, costing only £130.
I have tested the Gamepad for a number of hours using it with games from Google Play and emulated SNES and N64 games. It also seemed appropriate to test the device as an everyday tablet to see how well it handles various apps and looking at areas the Gamepad could be improved.
Build quality and design is obviously very important too given that device is designed for gaming. ARCHOS tablets are usually bulky but solid in design but thankfully the Gamepad is their best product to date in that respect, they have made something that looks like if could have easily cost a lot more than it does without compromising on quality. The buttons on the Gamepad feel sturdy but a bit noisy to use, reading others comments they have said that they wear in and the noise goes. The two thumb sticks are the same as that found on the PSP which for shooting games can be awkward to use but the sort of games you’ll be playing on this device this isn’t really a concern.
The design negatives:
No Bluetooth or GPS.
The screen is one of them old style ones where you can only see the screen if you are looking directly at it face on, move your view at an angle and the screen visibility is poor.
The headphone socket is on the top of the device, it would have made more sense to put it at the bottom so the wire isn’t in the way.
Using the Gamepad as an everyday tablet for browsing, watching Youtube and Netflix, social networking and listening to music over the Cloud the device is flawless. The apps open and run at a snappy pace, though there are a few bugs where the device that ARCHOS need to work on to improve performance. Given ARCHOS track record for updating firmware on their products I have every faith that they will get this device running to it’s full potential very quickly.
On to gaming on the Gamepad. If you wanted to play games that require touch controls like Cut the Rope or Angry Birds then obviously you would just use the touch screen controls, however for games like Dead Trigger you can use the ARCHOS Gamepads mapping app that allows you to map the Gamepads controls to the touchscreen, this works very well indeed. The device has no problems running the latest games on Google Play store that I have yet to find.
Where the device really comes into it’s own is playing the classics using emulators. I played some games on a SNES and N64 emulator, mapping the controls to the onscreen buttons and I was able to play games like Mario 64 with ease using the left thumbstick to move Mario around the area and the buttons to control the actions and camera.
If I was to have a major gripe about the Gamepad it would be the battery, it lasts around 4hrs with everyday tablet use but when gaming the battery lasts just a couple of hours, hopefully ARCHOS can improve this with further updates.
If you want a tablet mostly for everyday use the Gamepad is not for you, pay a little more and get the Nexus 7, but if you enjoy playing mobile games and want to device for playing emulators on then this device won’t disappoint, just be prepared to have it plugged into the mains a lot.