updated 10:31 pm EST, Tue January 8, 2013
Archos tackles Android from multiple angles, form factors
The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show marches on and Electronista stopped by Archos' booth to check out the French company's newest offerings. Archos of late has been touting a number of Android devices with novel form factors, and we spent a bit of hands-on time with the Gamepad, Archos' dedicated gaming tablet.
The Gamepad is an Android 4.1 device with hardware gaming controls built in. The Gamepad caught our eye last year, with its promise of bringing a more hardcore experience -- or at least the potential for such -- to a mobile gaming sector that is notably light on, well, real games.
The Gamepad packs two thumbsticks, four face buttons, a D-pad, and two shoulder buttons, making it about the equivalent of your standard gaming controller. Inside, it's got a 1.6GHz dual-core processor, a quad-core Mali 400MP GPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, and support for microSD expansion up to 64GB. It also has a 1.2MP front-facing camera and a 2MP rear camera, though we didn't find out if the hardware buttons could be used to control the shutter. Its 7-inch LCD display is somewhat disappointing at only 1024x600, but considering that it's going to be handling Android games, that's not exactly a dealbreaker.
One of the best features of the Gamepad is an Archos-built app that allows users to map touch controls to the device's hardware buttons. It's surprisingly effective and easy to use. Another plus is the fact that one can navigate the Android interface via the hardware controls. That's a small feature, but it should come in handy from time to time.
The Gamepad's chassis is a somewhat thin-feeling plastic. It's not the most reassuring of materials, and we've got the feeling that prolonged use might result in a noticeably warm casing, but the upside is that the device is remarkably light. It's pretty easy to handle, even if it is just a little bit thin for our tastes.
As to actual gaming performance, there's nothing to worry about there. Given the Gamepad's internals, it should come as no surprise that it will probably zip through just about every game you throw at it. The real issue is whether or not your chosen game is really suited to physical controls. We checked out a few platforming games, finding that the characters moved probably a bit faster with the thumbpad than they would with touch controls. That's likely something that can be tweaked, but it might throw you off the first time you start gaming. PES 2012 Pro Evolution Soccer worked much better with the touch controls, giving us hope that other titles will perform just as well.
In short, the Gamepad can pretty well handle the current Android gaming ecosystem, and we're interested to see if developers begin tailoring their titles to this sort of device. We're looking forward to more time with the Gamepad, but our initial impression is that it's going to scratch that gaming itch for a good many consumers.