The original Archos GamePad didn't attract much attention, despite the fact that it offered what a lot of hardcore gamers seemingly wanted: built-in game controls in the form of dual control sticks and lots of buttons. It was, for all intents in purposes, an Android-powered Sony PSP, though with a bigger screen and a lot more games to choose from.
No doubt hoping for a better reception, Archos just unveiled the GamePad 2, which promises a host of improvements over the original.
I actually thought the first GamePad was one of the most underrated products of the year. Yes, it suffered from mediocre battery life, and the controls had some issues. But for less than the price (at the time) of a Kindle Fire, you got a full-featured Android Jelly Bean tablet that really was stellar for playing certain kinds of games.
The GamePad 2 looks to correct every single shortcoming, starting under the hood: It's powered by a 1.6GHz A9 quad-core processor, a dedicated quad-core graphics processor, and 2GB of system RAM. Archos has also bumped up the screen resolution -- not all the way to 1080p, but at least to a more competitive 1,280x800 pixels. (Personally, I think that's more than adequate for a 7-inch screen. Anything higher is nice, but hardly necessary.)
As for the battery, a definite sticking point in the original GamePad, Archos promises "a much larger battery than normally used on a 7-inch tablet," but doesn't get into specifics. That's understandable, given that games consume more power than most everyday apps, but it would be nice to know at least the capacity of the battery, if not the rated run time.
The first GamePad's dual thumbsticks earned well-deserved criticism for being stiff and imprecise. According to Archos, improving the controls was "one of the main focus points for the...GamePad 2." The thumbsticks now have a concave curvature that should make for a more solid grip, while the buttons have been upgraded with "a vastly improved...click-feeling for a better gaming experience."
Archos has also updated the control-mapping tool that allows you to map any onscreen button or joystick to their physical counterparts. For what it's worth, I thought the first one worked pretty well. It's a way better system than trying to get a Bluetooth-based gamepad to work with existing games.
Speaking of which, the GamePad 2 will come bundled with two of them: Asphalt 8: Airborne and Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, both full versions, both optimized for use with the controls.
On top of all that, the GamePad remains a Jelly Bean-powered Android tablet with 8GB or 16GB of onboard storage, a microSD slot for expansion, a front-facing camera, front-facing stereo speakers, dual Wi-Fi antennas, and an HDMI output if you want to take your games to the big screen.
The GamePad 2 is expected to go on sale at the end of this month, with prices starting at $199.99.