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Monday, March 24, 2014

Archos GamePad 2 review: Android tablet's physical buttons make any gamer a gaming God


Gaming is a popular reason to buy and use tablets, so it should come as no surprise that Archos has released an updated version of the GamePad. We've been playing with one in our office for some time now, here's our Archos GamePad 2 review. See What's the best tablet in the UK?

The pricing of the Archos GamePad 2 is interesting in that it markets itself as the perfect tablet for gaming, yet it comes with a £150 price tag that places it amongst budget tablets - making you immediately question the quality of the hardware onboard.

The Archos GamePad 2 doesn't look like a traditional tablet, instead it has opted for more of a Sony PSP design with a big 7-inch screen filling the centre of the device, surrounded by D-Pads, joysticks and several conventional gaming buttons and triggers located in the purposely oversized bezel. These buttons are nicely spread out with everything in comfortable reach, apart from when you use the lefthand-joystick-and-triggers combination, as this can be a little uncomfortable.

The overall design and feel of the Archos GamePad 2 is okay, the physical buttons feel similar to that of an Xbox or PS3 controller, which is a substantial achievement for the GamePad. It doesn't feel flimsy in your hands, but it is a little on the weighty side, making you doubt how well it will handle being dropped a few times.

What the Archos GamePad 2 ultimately needs to be judged on is how it performs when playing games. From a physical point of view, the GamePad 2 is a lot more comfortable to hold than a traditional tablet, as you'd expect. The physical buttons are also a major plus point for serious gamers, allowing users to get really stuck into a game and hammer quick commands to the tablet without relying on the occasionally questionable receptiveness of multi-touchscreen sensors.


We spent the majority of our time with the Archos GamePad 2 playing three games; those games were Fifa 14, Modern Combat 4 and Asphalt 8 – for those who are not clued up on their games, these are a football sim, a first person shooter and a racing game.

The gameplay was satisfying, albeit not very challenging. The GamePad 2 makes more responsive those apps that are usually reliant on touchscreen input. It does this with the use of physical buttons with the result that you become a gaming god. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to you I suppose, but when playing normal Android apps with the GamePad 2's physical buttons, I couldn't help but feel like we were bringing a gun to a knife fight.

Archos claims that this GamePad 2 is perfect for gaming. This is a bit of a bold claim, as we all know that perfect gaming machines are built for power and that is certainly not the case with the GamePad 2.

First of all its screen is mediocre, and far from the dazzling HD screen we'd expect from a 'perfect gaming machine'. It is 7-inches and posts reasonable pixel figures of 1280 x 800, making it 216 ppi. This is slightly better than the PS Vita's screens (220 ppi), but a long way behind its peers in the tablet world, with budget Android device the new Nexus 7 boasting 323ppi. That said it is an IPS display and looks sharp enough when gaming.

The device comes with an A9 quad-core 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. While this sounds like a lot it under-performed in our benchmarking tests, scoring only an average of 19fps in the Egypt HD Onscreen test. To put that in perspective a good score is around 50 fps, and more frames per second is vital to serious gamers.

We also experienced some serious waiting times - well over a minute of multiple loading screens to merely start a race on the built-in game Asphalt 8 – as well several worrying moments of lag when using the GamePad 2 for more traditional tasks. For a gaming tablet, this is pretty poor, and more reflective of the device's price rather that its tagline.

The onboard storage options are standard, with the GamePad 2 available with either 8GB or 16GB. A nice plus is that there is a removable microSD card slot, which lets you expand the device's available storage by up to 64GB. More importantly the microSD has app2SD support which means you can runs apps from the SD card.

While we haven't fully tested the battery yet, the news that Archos have added a battery that is 50 percent larger than one it would usually use in a 7-inch tablet is obviously welcomed. We have regularly used the tablet, with the screen consistently switched on for three hours at a time and the battery was still going strong during our tests. We will update this review with a full battery test in the coming days.

The Archos GamePad 2 posted SunSpider Java benchmark scores of 1341.5ms, and recorded an average score of 1958 in the GeekBench 2 benckmarking app.

There is only one camera on offer here and that is a front-facing VGA webcam with no flash, which cements the device as one for the selfie generation. Picture quality from this camera would be described as mediocre at best.


The Archos GamePad 2 comes running a plain version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, with no noticeable bloatware. The major difference is home screen layout with the fixed home apps organized vertically on the left of the screen, but other than that it is vanilla.

There is of course a native Archos Game Zone, but while this sounds interesting and also like it might be void of any good games at the same time, there is nothing to get your knickers in a twist about. Game Zone is simply a rebranded version of the Google Play store, which presents to you the same gaming apps but in with a Archos background/layout.

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