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Archos GamePad review: Archos GamePad

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The Good Low price; Decent specifications.

The Bad Poor gaming interface; Bad screen; Weak battery life; Incompatible with some big games.

The Bottom Line Uncomfortable controls, poor battery life and a dire screen make the Archos GamePad a bitter disappointment for Android joystick junkies.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

3.5 Overall

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Like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the Archos GamePad is an attempt to bolt a proper gaming controller to an Android-based device.

It's a 7-inch tablet running Android 4.1 with physical buttons and sticks bolted onto its sides, and boasts a dual-core CPU and quad-core Mali 400 graphics processor. There's 8GB of internal storage onboard and an expansion slot for a microSD card.

The Archos GamePad can be bought directly from the manufacturer for £130.

Should I buy the Archos GamePad?

As the number of worthwhile Android games has grown over the past few years, the viability of a dedicated gaming tablet has risen. Just this week we've seen the unveiling of Nvidia's Project Shield, and the Wikipad and Razer Edge have been in development for some time.

French company Archos has beaten them both to the punch with the GamePad -- although as is often the case, being first doesn't always equal success. At £130, the Archos GamePad is attractively priced -- roughly the same as a Nintendo 3DS, in fact -- but from that point onwards it's all downhill.

Image description
Those dedicated gaming buttons might look appealing, but they're annoying to use and uncomfortable to boot.

The physical controls are painful to use and don't offer the kind of precision you'd expect. The LCD screen is cheap and nasty, and the battery life is laughable. Worst of all, the GamePad won't run some big-name Android titles, including Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series.

The idea of a gaming tablet is certainly very appealing, but we'd advise that you wait for other, better examples to come along instead of dropping any hard-earned cash on this.

Design and display

If you've ever handled an Archos product before, the GamePad won't hold any genuine surprises. The silver plastic casing is robust enough, but it positively drips with cheapness and is nowhere near as desirable as the iPad mini or Kindle Fire HD.

Your eyes will naturally be drawn to the legion of buttons, pads and sticks that festoon the tablet's bodywork. As well as dual analogue slider nubs, you've got six action buttons, two shoulder triggers, Start and Select keys and a four-button D-pad.

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The GamePad is slim and light, but the plastic casing feels cheap.

The arrangement looks sensible enough, but that D-pad is a real bone of contention -- because it's four separate keys, hitting diagonals is difficult, and performing a single sweeping motion (like a quarter-circle required to perform Ryu's fireball in Street Fighter II) is nigh-on impossible.

It's one of the worst pads I've ever had the misfortune to use -- and I used to own an Atari Jaguar. The analogue nubs fare little better. Although they mimic the single nub seen on the PlayStation Portable, the movement is stiff and awkward.

The Archos GamePad's 7-inch 1,024x600-pixel screen is another crushing disappointment. The 170ppi resolution is distinctly lacking when compared to the likes of the Nexus 7 and iPad mini, and viewing angles are abysmal. Colours also look washed out and drab.

Processing power and gaming

With a dual-core CPU at its heart and the same graphics processor as the Samsung Galaxy S3, you'd expect reasonably decent performance from the Archos GamePad. This is true to a degree, although it naturally can't compare to the likes of the Nexus 7 when it comes to raw power. The big issue here is that the GamePad doesn't seem capable of harnessing its strength without throwing a hissy fit every now and then.

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