Archos takes aim at gamers with 7-inch Android GamePad

Between NVIDIA's Project Shield and Razer's Edge Pro, CES 2013 is just bursting with new gaming portables. Archos is the latest to challenge Nintendo and Sony's thrones with its 7-inch Android-powered GamePad handheld.

The Archos GamePad is a $170 handheld running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with real buttons. It has two analog nubs, a 7-inch display with 1024 x 600 resolution, a D-Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons and a pair of shoulder buttons.

Under the hood is a dual-core A9 processor, Mali 400 quad-core GPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage (expandable to 64GB through microSD).

In our brief hands-on with it at CES, we were surprised to find the Archos GamePad to be very light — 11 ounces to be precise — and very thin at 15.4 mm.

Archos has smartly chosen to leave Jelly Bean un-skinned and for basic Web browsing and apps, and so it performs fairly well as a tablet.

The niceties stop there, though. It's plastic construction leaves much to be desired and its display has poor viewing angles from the sides and isn't nearly as crisp as the company's other tablets. We also found the buttons and dual analog nubs to be rather stiff, which made fast-paced first-person shooting mobile games such as Dead Trigger even more imprecise than with touchscreen controls.

While the Archos GamePad already sounds like a dud, it's most attractive feature is a piece of code that allows touchscreen buttons to be mapped to any physical button on the handheld. Re-mapping buttons is as easy as dragging a virtual button over a screen overlay and then clicking the button it should be assigned to. By adding this special software, the library of games programmed with physical button support balloons from dozens to thousands.

For $170, we weren't expecting much from the GamePad. It's trying to fill a niche from Android's exploding growth. Still, we applaud Archos for taking the plunge with one of the first Android gaming handhelds.

Posted on location at CES 2013 in Las Vegas. All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE.

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