Smartphones and tablets have quickly become preferred platforms for mobile gaming. There’s just one problem: touchscreen controls aren’t the best fit for arcade-style games that require precise input. The fact that one’s hands inevitably obscures part of the screen isn’t all that appealing, either. Archos’ GamePad tablet combats this issue with proper hardware controls, including dual analog sticks and plenty of buttons.
Between those controls sits a 7″ tablet based on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Archos doesn’t name the underlying SoC, but the processor sports dual ARM Cortex-A9 cores clocked at 1.6GHz. ARM’s Mali 400 MP GPU provides graphics grunt, and I expect it won’t have a problem maintaining smooth frame rates given the display’s relatively low 1024×600 resolution. The screen is apparently capable of displaying 16 million colors, which suggests an IPS panel, and it can track five-finger touch input.
The appropriately named GamePad is 0.6″ thick and weighs 0.7 lbs. It has 8GB of internal storage plus a microSD that can handle SDHC cards up to 32GB. A front-facing camera, Mini HDMI out, and USB port are included, as well.
Although the GamePad appears to be using a relatively unaltered version of Android, Archos loads its own Media Center software onto the device. There’s also a mapping tool that allows touchscreen controls to be ported to the device’s buttons and analog sticks. That’s a particularly important feature given how few Android games have built-in controller support.
The GamePad is now available in Europe for €150, and it’s expected to hit North American shores early next year. A straight exchange rate conversion puts the device’s US price tag below $200.