Archos Gamepad 2 review
7 in 1,280x800 display, 400g, 1.6GHz ARM Cortex A9, 2.00GB RAM, 16GB disk, Android 4.2
Android should be a great platform for handheld gaming; there's plenty of games on the Play store and the open nature of the operating system means you can easily emulate classic consoles too. Archos tried to capitalise on this with the Archos Gamepad, but unfortunately it fell short with poor performance, unresponsive controls and a basic screen. The company has learned from its mistakes, and produced the Gamepad 2.
Like its predecessor, the Gamepad 2 is a 7in Android tablet with a full set of gaming controls bolted to either side of the screen, except Archos has overhauled almost every part of the new model. The larger, concave analogue sticks are now more like Nintendo's 3DS sliders than Sony's stubby PSP analogue nub and are more comfortable on the thumbs. Two extra trigger buttons let you play more advanced games, the D-pad and face buttons feel much more responsive, and the new black finish is much prettier than the dull grey of the first model, too.
The 7in screen sits between the two banks of gaming buttons. The 1,280x800 resolution display may not match the clarity of the 1080p Nexus 7, but text and images still look reasonably sharp and it's almost impossible to spot individual pixels from a regular viewing distance. A peak brightness of 290.76cd/m2 is slightly on the low side, to the point that we struggled to see what was happening onscreen when out in bright sunlight, but indoors it coped reasonably well with light reflections. Colour accuracy was impressive too, with great contrast that gave depth to darker images.
The pair of front-firing stereo speakers are awkwardly placed below the analogue sticks, and you’ll almost certainly block them when playing games. With a tight grip, you can end up muffling the sound badly. When they aren't obstructed, they produce impressively loud audio, although there's barely any bass and the high-end sounds rather sharp. It sounds best when the volume is reduced to less than two-thirds of maximum, but for long gaming sessions we'd suggest you use headphones.
An HDMI output is a welcome inclusion for anyone looking to play games on a bigger screen, but unfortunately the Gamepad 2 uses a Mini HDMI output and doesn't include an adaptor in the box. There are also Micro USB and 3.5mm audio inputs on the top of the device, along with Miracast wireless display and Bluetooth for pairing wireless accessories.
With only 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, depending on the model, you'll almost certainly want to add a microSD card once you start downloading games, and the microSD card slot is conveniently placed at the bottom of the device. Annoyingly there's no way to set apps to install to the memory card by default, so you have to move each one manually after installing it to the tablet. Some apps can't be moved at all, and will only run from the tablet itself.