In coming to the conclusion of this review a few bumps in the GamePad 2 road were uncovered and not all of them are Archos’ own doing. It seems, like the Xenon before it, the Game Pad 2 is aimed at a market that doesn’t exist in any great capacity and as a result, suffers from it.
Starting with the positives from the Game Pad 2, the idea and implementation isn’t all that bad, but the execution is what’s stopping the GamePad 2 from being a genuine contender where gaming devices are concerned. The included “thumb sticks” – Archos’ words, not mine – is a killer. They suffer from the same flawed implementation the Nintendo 3DS ‘nub’suffers from and is just as clunky. When one of the included games (MC4) is crying out for a proper thumb stick, it’s puzzling why Archos didn’t go the whole hog and include them. If you discard the two included games what other games is there that can benefit form the GamePad 2? From a quick glance at the top 10 of both the free and paid sections of the Play Store, there’s is Minecraft, Need For Speed and possibly a Worms game that may benefit from the dedicated controls – 3 titles out of 20. This lack of software to make use of the GamePad 2 highlights the relative infancy of the android gaming market for ‘proper’ games that can make use of the GamePad 2. The software simply isn’t there (yet).
Of course, there is a solid tablet underneath the gaming visage of the GamePad 2 with little to dislike in this regard. The audio visual make up of the GamePad 2 is superb and the wealth of connectivity options isn’t to be snuffed at, indeed, I think this is the first WIDI capable device I’ve come into contact with.
The only downside to the tablet is that it’s essentially 2 inches larger than it needs to be thanks to inclusion of the gaming components that are likely to be oft used and even less likely to be used well. Naturally, the controller will also have bumped the cost up over the core components and it’s hard to say that it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
To bring it back to the glancing PS Vita comparison I made earlier, the cost difference between the two really isn’t much and if you look around, a now EoL OLED PS Vita can be found in some really good bundles that include two solid games from Sony and a memory card to get you up and running and while the app ecosystem is extremely sparse on the Sony console, it does still have Facebook, Skype and Twitter in addition to proper thumbsticks and strong back catalogue of games that make sense on the hardware.
I mentioned further up how Archos seem to be targeting a market that doesn’t exist again with the GamePad 2 and that’s the concluding aura it gives off. £170 is a lot to stake on a device that can only be exploited fully every so often and even then, the experience may not be great. At £170 you’re entering Nexus 7 territory which has inherently better hardware, and perhaps ironically, may be better suited to current and future games than the GamePad 2 if you pick up a plug-in controller. If you want a portable gaming device with some social media capability a PS Vita is worth a look.