There are a lot of different 7-inch tablets you can buy. Our current favourite is the Kobo Arc, which skirts a fine line between multipurpose tablet and dedicated e-reader. The Archos GamePad takes a different approach, adding thumb controls to the edges of a touchscreen to make this tablet a gamer’s friend.
Designed along the same lines as the PlayStation Vita and Nvidia’s Project Shield, the Archos GamePad has a 7-inch touchscreen with a 1024x600 resolution — not great, but not terrible either. Next to the touchscreen on either side of the GamePad, there’s a four-button pad, a couple of shoulder buttons, and a thumb-level joystick.
These controls can be mapped to correspond to areas of the touchscreen — so if you’ve got a racing game that needs you to tap on the left of the screen to brake and the right to accelerate, you can use the GamePad’s control mapping app to set everything up. We found some titles, like Real Racing 3, weren’t compatible with the GamePad’s controls, but there are apparently over a thousand titles that Archos supports.
Beyond the physical gaming controls, the Archos GamePad is a largely normal Android tablet. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is reasonably modern and versatile even if it isn’t as feature-packed as the most up-to-date Android 4.2 release.
The Archos GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor running at 1.6GHz, and accompanying Mali-400 GPU. This combination is powerful enough to run most games on the Google Play Store without any slow down, although the Archos Mapping app that constantly runs over the top does seem to impact performance slightly.
There’s only 8GB of internal memory to store media on, though, so we’d suggest the Archos GamePad makes more sense as a dedicated Android gaming tablet rather than a multipurpose device for watching movies and TV shows and listening to a library of music.
We saw the Archos GamePad for around $180 at Expansys, which sells the tablet in Australia.