Archos GamePad 7″ Tablet Review

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  • Brand: Archos
  • Model: GamePad
  • Website: http://www.archos.com/products/themed/gamepad/specs.html?country=us&lang=en&#a
  • RRP: £130

With me today I have an Archos GamePad which is an Android tablet designed specifically for gaming. It comes equipped with a 7 inch touchscreen display and a very comprehensive gamepad with many different mappable buttons. Under the hood, it has a Cortex A9 dual core CPU, Mali quad core GPU and 1GB of memory which means it should be more than capable of playing most of today’s games.

Archos is a mobile device manufacturer with many products available in several price ranges. They are very well known for offering high performance devices with a low price tag.

As well as offering traditional style products, they also have many which are tailored toward certain roles such as the ChefPad which is aimed at being used in the kitchen. The GamePad is just one of the products they offer to fill the small niches in the market.

Display • 7’’: 1024×600 capacitive 5 points multitouch screen
Application Framework • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Processor • ARM CORTEX™ dual-core A9 @ 1.6GHz
• GPU quad-core Mali 400 MP
• 3D OpenGL (ES 2.0)
Capacity • Flash Memory: 8GB* + microSD Slot (SDHC compatible up to 64GB)
RAM • 1GB RAM
Video playback1 • H.264 HD (up to [email protected] fps)
• MPEG-42 HD (up to [email protected] fps)
• With the above codecs, the device can play video files with the following extensions: AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MPG, PS, TS, MKV, FLV
Audio Playback1 • MP3
• WAV (PCM/ADPCM)
• AAC3, AAC+ 5.13
• OGG Vorbis
• FLAC
Photo viewer4 • JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF
Webcam • Front camera
Interfaces • USB 2.0: Mobile Transfer Protocol (MTP)
• microSD (SDHC compatible)
• mini HDMI output6(Mini HDMI / HDMI cable sold separately)
Wireless technologies • Wi-Fi
Miscellaneous • Built-in speaker
• G-sensor
• Built-in Microphone
Power source • Internal: Lithium Polymer battery
• External: Power adapter/charger
Dimensions & weight • 229.8 x 118.7mm x 15.4mm (9’’x 4.6’’x 0.6’’)
• 330g (11.6 oz)
Software update • Updates can be downloaded at www.archos.com
Minimum system requirements • Microsoft® Windows® 7, Vista, XP, or higher and Windows Media Player 11
• Mac OS. X with Transfer Files application (not included)
• Linux with android MTP tool (not included)
• USB 2.0 interface

 

The first thing we’ll look at is the design of the box, with a large image of the device itself on the front with some icons with the main features beside it. Overall the box is quite aesthetically pleasing but I wouldn’t say it will be catching your eye too easily in a store.

After opening the box we’re presented with a simple black plastic tray and a clear plastic lid. The device itself, which is padded for extra protection during shipping, is sandwiched between the black plastic and clear plastic lid keeping it secure. Underneath there is all of the accessories and manuals including:

  • Power Supply (with several country attachments.)
  • USB Cable
  • User Guide
  • Warranty Information

Next, we move on to the device itself. On the front we see the 7 inch display with a resolution of 1024 x 600. Surrounding the display there are the gamepad controls and a 0.3MP front facing camera which you can use to take photos or use for video chat via Skype for example.

On the top edge you’ll find the volume controls, power button, micro USB port and mini HDMI port. The most interesting of these is the mini HDMI port as they are not offered on tablets of this price bracket very often. It will be very interesting to see how it performs when outputting to a television.

After several days of general use including browsing, gaming and general app use I found the tablet to be quite capable. The weight of the tablet is truly fantastic, considering the extra controls and functionality it still weighs in 10 grams lighter than a Google Nexus 7.

Next there is the display, which I feel is one of the weakest points of the tablet in general, coupled with a resolution which is below 720p HD and poor viewing angles. I’m quite unimpressed and I feel that it could be better.

The overall ergonomics of the tablet are almost perfect. For the most part, there is nothing that feels out of reach when using the tablet in either portrait or landscape modes. The only slight niggle is that I feel the power button should have been placed closer to the corner of the device rather than in the middle.

As for the overall build quality, it’s built solidly but with cheap materials. Its body is made completely of a smooth plastic which will be very prone to scratching. The display does not feel very protected either and I recommend you buy a screen protector to prevent scratching the display.

The gamepad’s quality feels great with the buttons being very securely placed and not prone to wobbling whatsoever unlike the PlayStation and Xbox 360 gamepads. The downside to this being that they feel a little firmer than traditional gamepads; however they are perfectly usable, albeit loud. The only problem with the build quality of the gamepad I’ve encountered would be the caps on top of the tablet being a little loose and prone to spinning if you aren’t putting much pressure on the stick itself.

The first thing which I’m going to go over is the Archos Mapping Tool. This app allows you to map the gamepads buttons to on-screen elements such as a touch screen overlay. In the apps where this is supported it functions very well being smooth and overall is a very solid experience. The only problem I’ve found is that there are many games which don’t have the on screen controls which this mapping tool requires, however as the tablet is equipped with a touch screen display you are still able to play in the traditional way.

Second is the Archos Remote Server app. This app allows you to control the tablet from another Android device. There are several ways in which you can control the tablet the D-Pad, Media and a touch pad. The D-Pad and media function just great and exactly as intended but I find the touch pad is very prone to stuttering, and although it functions, I feel that it’s not as good as it should be. Overall I can’t help but think that this app doesn’t have much of a purpose unless you have you’re tablet plugged into a television and want to play/pause a movie or something similar because playing a game with this remotely would be impossible.

Next is the Archos Video app, a basic media playback app. Overall I found the experience quite enjoyable with a very nice user interface. Some additional playback options would have been nice, but the overall it worked very well. There are many apps on the Play Store which you can download to fill this role and can be configured to suit your exact needs. I chose VLC for my testing. While testing 720P HD playback, the app was very smooth and you should have no problem playing this sort of content via Archos Video.

And in addition to the video app we have the Archos Music app. This app is very similar to the video app, and if the two apps functionality was merged I feel that would be superior. The music app offers a media library for all your music, overall the interface is very clean and functional I have issues in this area. You can also pause, play and change songs from outside of the app with the included widget and the playback bar in the notification area.

Finally we have the file browser and performance monitor apps, they for the most part function exactly as intended. The file browser has a fantastic UI and is an absolute pleasure to use being better in many ways to others on the Play Store. Then there’s the performance monitor, this app allows you to monitor which apps are running and uninstall them from within the same app if required. I can’t help but think the Performance Monitor is a little bit underwhelming as it offers no real statistics about your system.

Don’t forget that you can download any apps from the Play Store and customize your experience. Personally I’m very impressed with the stock Google apps and feel like you would genuinely have a hard time getting better than them in several areas such as the Calendar app.

Overall Archos’ offerings on the app front are very solid and in many ways better than a lot of the ones offered by many third partys, not only this, but they also have given me the best experience versus other OEMs including the likes of HTC and Samsung. I find this to be incredibly impressive and I will likely install some of their apps on to some of my other Android devices.

Over the period of time I was able to test the tablet I tried a plethora of games. My main aim was to test how well the gamepad mapping tool worked, so I tried to test a wide variety of games.

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the tablet was that it would be fantastic for emulating games, so the first thing I did was download the emulator application called My Boy!

The game I chose to test on the emulator was Pokémon FireRed. I was able to fully map all of the keys to the onscreen controls and it worked very well with no hitches whatsoever. Overall very impressed with its emulation capabilities. It also handled 2x speed without issues.

Next I moved onto AndroGens, a Sega MegaDrive/Genesis emulator and my game of choice was Sonic 3. Overall the experience was quite enjoyable, the only issue I could see happening on this specific console is the lack of convenient controls, as many games are designed to be used with all of the controls.

After trying emulation I thought I’d move on to native games to see how they faired, the first thing I tried was the almost legendary Angry Birds. Unfortunately I was unable to bind the controls to the game due to how the game works. I was able to use the game in the traditional way using the touch screen just fine, and there was not a problem with performance as expected.

Next I wanted to try a slightly different game so I tried Dungeon Defenders. After configuring my controls to work with the buttons for movement and attacking I decided to hop into a level. I soon found out that having to use my finger to look around whilst moving with the analogue stick to be quite irritating, but playable. The biggest issue was that the game was getting severe screen tearing whilst playing which was ruining the experience for me.

To top it all off, I played a personal favourite of mine which is Super Hexagon. I found this game to be a very enjoyable experience with the analogue sticks and most importantly it came with native support for the analogue sticks which was rather refreshing as none of the games I’d tried previously did.

On the performance side of things I’m impressed with the amount of grunt it has for the actual components.

One thing I wasn’t very impressed with was the battery life of the device. I found out quickly that it didn’t seem to last long during gaming sessions and that I was soon finding myself charging it again. I believe this is partially why the device is so light, the size of battery may be a limiting factor. There is no word on the actual capacity of the battery on the main site and due to the tablet being a review sample I was unwilling to open it up to find out, but I feel that overall that it seems very weak in this particular department.

The touch screen is next on my list. Certain games I feel the fact that the screen can only allow inputs from five points versus my Nexus 7 being able to do at least ten. Not only this, the touch screen on the Nexus 7 feels significantly more responsive overall.

Overall there are some weak points which I feel are because of the tablet being relatively low end price wise, if Archos were to release a version of this tablet within the £200 price bracket I would be thoroughly interested to see how it performs and which areas of the device they would be able to improve upon, ranging from performance to build quality.

For benchmarks I decided that Antutu, Antutu Battery, Quadrant and 3D Mark would be the best options to cover all bases on the system. The tablet I used for comparison was a Nexus 7, now I’m aware that the Nexus 7 has a higher spec but I feel like it would be one of the tablets being considered by someone buying in this situation.

Antutu

Antutu Battery

Quadrant

3DMark Ice Storm

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme

For the money I definitely feel like the GamePad performed very well versus the Nexus 7 especially as the Nexus 7 costs more than £40 new than the GamePad, so be sure to factor this in before you commit to buying either one of these fantastic tablets.

There are several areas of the tablet that I’m very impressed with and others which I’m a little bit disappointed with. For example, I’m especially happy with the bundled software and the raw hardware performance, but the build quality I must say I’m a little bit disappointed with.

On the performance front there are many positive factors, admittedly it’s not as strong as the Nexus 7 in many areas but that is to be expected when you consider the cost of the device. In every game I’ve tested it was able to cope with the highest quality settings that were available. In addition to this, the tablets memory can cope with many background apps without issue which is beneficial for people like me who enjoy multi-tasking between apps.

One area which I feel the GamePad may be stronger is outputting 1080p content to a HDTV, this is because of the results from the 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, the difference between this and the standard benchmark specifically is the resolution which changes from 720p to 1080p, this leads me to believe that the GamePad would cope significantly better with the increased resolution when outputting 1080p content to a HDTV versus the Nexus 7, the GamePad’s ability to do this through a dedicated mini HDMI port is also beneficial.

The screen is one area which I’m not happy with for several reasons. The most important reason is the viewing angles, you really have to be square on with the screen to see it properly, as even an inch tilted away or forwards can really make a big difference on the viewing angles. The contrast of the screen I feel is definitely on the lower side, but this could probably be improved with an app if you searched around. The actual screen itself doesn’t seem like it is very protected in general from scratches or general surface damage. I definitely think this is down to the cost of the device, as for a device as affordable as this something has to be the weak link.

Overall I think the Archos GamePad is incredibly good value for what it is. There are some weak links but for the most part it is a fantastic product. The controls which I feel are the main selling point of the tablet overall work very well and have proven that some apps even have native support for the GamePad. The bundled applications developed my Archos are very solid and definitely competitors on the play store. Although I’m not happy with the overall build quality, I would put this down to the cost rather than negligence in the manufacturing process.

 

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

If you are looking for a tablet for commuting and long journeys I think it would be perfect due to its great controls and low weights but for home use I would recommend perhaps a larger 10 inch tablet instead.

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