Unlike ZTE’s Grand X — billed as “an advanced gaming phone,” when in reality it was simply “a smartphone” — the Archos GamePad is something truly different, as it adds hardware gaming controls to a normal 7-inch Android tablet.
The result is what looks like an over-sized PS Vita, as the big screen is flanked by D-Pad-style physical direction buttons and analogue sticks, plus a sprinkling of single action buttons too. That’s in addition to a pair of shoulder buttons visible in the picture, plus any touchscreen controls too.
Archos promise that thanks to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich being the standard operating system, touchscreen-based control systems will be automatically mapped to the physical controls, so the vast majority of games will be playable using them.
Also with Ice Cream Sandwich, support for third-party controllers was written into the OS, and any games that have been developed using these tools will be instantly compatible with the GamePad.
In the past, several Archos tablets haven’t been Google certified, and therefore didn’t come with the app store installed. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the GamePad, and Google Play will be onboard and ready to go.
Powering the Archos GamePad is a 1.5Ghz dual-core processor paired with the Mali-400MP quad-core graphics processor. The Mali GPU is also found in devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, so performance should be good.
The resolution of the 7-inch screen is a mystery, as is the amount of RAM, internal memory, and all the basic specs too. It’s part of Archos’ IFA 2012 line-up, so we can expect more details over the coming days.
Sounds good… How much?
At this stage, if you’re at all interested in the GamePad, you’re sure to be asking “fine, but how much is it going to cost me?”
How does less than £130/150 euros sound? That’s a touch over $200 at today’s conversion rates, but we’d expect it to be less than that if it goes on sale in the USA soon. The $200 Google Nexus 7 is £160 in the UK for example.
A Sony PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS is yours for between $200 and $249 at the moment, but a new release game will set you back at least an additional $30. If you spent that in the Google Play store, you’d come away with at least 20 if you did so wisely.
This, combined with the potentially low price, the larger screen, access to the rest of Google’s products — and an emulator or two — makes the Archos GamePad a really interesting proposition. It’s due out in October, with international availability to be confirmed.