Archos is now selling a 7 inch gaming tablet in Europe for 149 Euros. The Archos GamePad runs Google Android 4.1 and features built-buttons and directional pads on both sides of the screen for controlling video games.
The tablet is expected to make its way to the United States in early 2013.
Archos first introduced the GamePad in August, but it looks like the company has given it a bit of a spec bump since then.
It ships with Android 4.1 instead of Android 4.0 and features a 1.6 GHz Rockchip RK3066 dual core CPU rather than a 1.5 GHz chip.
Under the hood, this is still pretty much a budget tablet. It has a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, Mali 400 graphics, and just 8GB of built-in storage. But it also features a mini HDMI port for hooking up an external display and a microSD card slot for up to 64GB of additional storage space.
The capacitive touchscreen can handle 5-point multitouch, which should be good enough for most Android games.
It’s the buttons on the sides of the tablet (and the 2 shoulder buttons) that really make the Archos GamePad stand out though. Archos provides a utility that lets you map these buttons to perform different actions for each game, using a drag-and-drop interface.
Some Android games will probably work best with touchscreen controls. But any game with a virtual controller should work well with these buttons — which means you won’t need to place your fingers on the screen and obstruct your view while playing.
While Archos doesn’t really talk about emulation on its website, I suspect these buttons will also be extraordinarily useful if you’re using a Nintendo, PlayStation, or other emulator to play games that weren’t designed for touch-based controls.
ArcTablet has already started to publish a detailed review of the Archos GamePad. While the review is a work in progress, the tablet appears to be reasonably fast and well designed.
Unfortunately it suffers from poor battery life, topping out at just about 4 and a half hours while watching videos or about 2 hours of heavy gaming (with the screen brightness at maximum settings).
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