Archos GamePad 2 review

Archos GamePad 2 review

T3 3
  • The first Archos GamePad was an early Android games console. Less than a year later, the GamePad 2 launches into a market saturated with the things

    Archos GamePad 2 review

    Love

    • Comfortable controls
    • Snappy Android experience
    • Micro SD and HDMI out

    Hate

    • Limited support for big titles
    • Screen isn't full HD
    • Slow and boring games

    The first Archos GamePad was a disaster - it was slow, the screen was abysmal, and the controls didn't work properly.

    The maker has quickly released a successor, the Archos GamePad 2, which packs respectable hardware, a new HD-quality screen, and support for publisher GameLoft's games. Is it finally the Android games console we've been waiting for?

    Archos GamePad 2: Size and build

    The Archos GamePad 2 is a 7-inch tablet with game controls adding a couple of centimetres of extra length (or width, as you'll be holding this in landscape mode most of the time).

    It's over a millimetre thicker than the Google Nexus 7 at 9.9mm, but it's still small enough to easily slide in a backpack at 200.5mm x 154mm. The 400g weight is over 100g more than the Nexus 7, but it still feels nice and light.

    The GamePad 2 is certainly a lot sleeker than the Wikipad - its closest competitor that features a really bulky frame for game controls. GamePad 2 is completely plastic and therefore doesn't feel like a premium product, but it feels solidly constructed, and rugged enough to survive being in a bag without a case.

    Archos GamePad 2: Features

    The GamePad 2 is a relatively powerful Android tablet - its quad-core 1.6GHz A9 processor/Mali 400 GPU won't trouble the likes of the new Advent Tegra Note and its Tegra 4 processor, but it's fast enough to run Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean without slowdown.

    It's fast enough to juggle multiple Android applications at the same time, and will play 1080p video without stutter. In this regard, Archos' own Video App is good - it supports most major file formats and even plays media from network storage such as our Synology DS214Play Network Attached Storage device.

    There are third-party apps like MX Player that will also do this on Android, but we liked that it was all included by default on the Archos.

    There are a decent amount of connections on the GamePad 2 - in addition to micro-USB for charging and data transfer, there's mini-HDMI out for playing on a TV or monitor, and a microSD slot, which will take cards up to 64GB.

    We really like the latter feature, which is still a rarity on a lot of tablets, and allows you to buy the cheaper 8GB version of the GamePad 2 and expand the memory cheaply.

    On the wireless side, the 5GHz wireless connectivity offers a fast link to your home network and will help when streaming video to a Miracast device, if you have one. If you're watching on the device itself, the built-in stereo speakers are good, and provide plenty of volume if you want to listen to music.

    The 5000 mAh battery sounds impresses on paper, and is quoted at lasting nine hours, but we found it was closer to seven hours in practice.

    If you're an Android OS fan, it's worth noting that Archos sadly isn't working to bring version 4.3 to the device right now. We were also disappointed that there's no rear-facing camera on the GamePad 2, which is always nice to have, while the front-facing camera didn't impress.

  • The Archos GamePad 2 is the French brand’s second attempt to make an Android tablet that features an array of game controls, but is it any good? T3 goes hands-on...

    Archos GamePad 2 review

    Love

    • Comfortable controls
    • Snappy Android experience
    • Micro SD and HDMI out

    Hate

    • Limited support for big titles
    • Screen isn't full HD
    • Slow and boring games

    Mobile gaming is hot property at the moment, with dedicated micro-consoles, like Ouya and GameStick bringing Android gaming to the big-screen, while the Nvidia Shield tacks a really good controller onto basically a smartphone. Traditional handheld consoles also litter the market, with the recently released Nintendo 2DS and the Sony PS Vita taking top billing.

    Archos entered this product category last year with the original Archos GamePad, which aimed to combine a cheap tablet with built-in game controls. A great idea in theory, especially due to the high volume of great Android games currently available, however it failed in almost every area. The screen was low-res, the battery barely lasted a gaming session and it felt cheap.

    Not deterred, Archos is back, hoping this year’s model fares betters, does it? Read on for our first hands-on impressions.

    Archos GamePad 2: Build and design

    Archos admits the first GamePad had its faults, so it's starting afresh. The 7-inch display is still there (a lot bigger than say the PS Vita), as is the general overall shape, but it feels much sturdier in the hand. The silver colour is gone, replaced by fingerprint loving glossy black and the back is made from plastic, though it feels quite grippy.

    On either side of the display, you’ll find an array of buttons. There’s four face buttons, a directional pad, twin joysticks and four shoulder buttons. All of these controls have been completely redesigned over its predecessor, though there is still some feedback issues with the joysticks - they feel a bit too stiff and awkward. Each buttons is clicky, not mushy, and overall it feels fairly well built.

    The weight has increased, 400g versus 330g for the original and the Archos GamePad 2 is slightly thicker, though it’s still a slim device that will easily slip into your bag.

    Archos GamePad 2: Screen

    Coming in at a resolution of 1280 x 800, the IPS 7-inch display is nice and sharp, yet lacks the real punch of the Nexus 7. Pixels are visible, but colours were reproduced well and you’ll get a strong hit of brightness.

    Viewing angles have also been dramatically improved, which means you won’t have to be staring at the console straight on, like you had to with the original.

    Archos GamePad 2: Features

    Archos has teamed with prolific mobile game publisher Gameloft for the GamePad 2, pre-installing both Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 4 on all devices. The partnership also adds support for upcoming titles, along with a load of older games.

    Further afield, the Archos GamePad 2 comes with the third generation of the Archos Game Mapping Tool, which helps make use of the controls for games not currently supported. We didn’t get much time to test this feature out, though Archos says there's more FPS optimisation, over 700 gaming profiles and the sensitivity has been dramatically increased.

    Gaming aside, this is an Andoid 4.2.2 tablet after all, plus it’s Google certified, so you’ll have access to the myriad of apps available on the Play Store. However, having the gaming controls stuck on all the time severely dampens the usefulness of this tablet in other situations.

    Another new application pre-installed is GameZone, which brings together a load of optimised titles, sorting them between fully optimised and the ones where a gaming profile is available.

    The meagre 8GB onboard isn’t that impressive, especially as Asphalt 8 comes in at about 1.5GB, though a MicroSD card slot, with App to SD, means you’ll be able to play supported apps and games right off the card itself.

    Archos GamePad 2: Performance

    Powering the Archos GamePad is a quad-core 1.6 GHz processor, paired with a Mali 400 GPU and 2GB RAM. In the short time we had to play with the device, we were pretty impressed with the performance. Properly optimised games, like Asphalt 8, played smoothly, with lots of high-res textures and very little lag.

    Modern Combat 4 didn’t perform quite as well, with a few frame drops and a slightly less appealing visual look.

    Swiping through the menus was snappy too, though that’s pretty much compulsory these days.

    Archos GamePad 2: Battery

     

    Another area really needing improvement on the original, the battery in the Archos GamePad 2 is now a 5,000 MAh version, which should last for around nine hours if you’re watching HD video.

    Gaming times will of course vary, though Archos claims that if the title is properly optimised, you should be able to happily get stuck into it for nearly five hours.

    Archos GamePad 2: Verdict

    With an improved display, bigger battery and a great partnership with one of the behemoths of mobile gaming, the Archos GamePad 2 is looking a much better proposition than the original. It really depends, though, how well the game mapping tech works, along with how it functions as a normal tablet and this will really make or break the device.

    Stay tuned for a full review coming soon.

    Archos GamePad 2 release date: November 2013

    Archos GamePad 2 price: £179 (8GB)

    Hands-on review by Max Parker

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