Android's addition of native support for hardware gaming controls has lead to a flurry of interest from hardware makers; from controller manufacturers like Nyko to the development of the $99 Ouya gaming console. Tablet maker Archos is the latest company to jump into this market with a new Android 4.0 handheld device called the GamePad, a device whose hardware gaming controls, 7-inch capacitive touchscreen, and low price tag it believes can "revolutionize" Android gaming.
The GamePad will be powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and quad-core Mali 400 MP GPU. The product's real focus is the gaming controls, though, and on that front the GamePad seems to have everything covered: dual analog sticks and, from the look of it, left and right shoulder buttons will be part of the package, in addition to the requisite D-Pad and four face buttons. While we haven't seen it for ourselves, the 7-inch form factor of Archos's tablet also seems like a much more manageable size for a handheld gaming device than the 10.1-inch Wikipad, although the controls on the GamePad look like they’re fixed, unlike those on the Wikipad, which are part of a removable gaming grip.
Archos is sticking with Google, rather than go the Kindle Fire route
The GamePad will be Google certified, too, says Archos, unlike a lot of similar products from the likes of JXD and others. That means users will have full access to the Play store, as well as Google’s own apps like Gmail, Maps, and Calendar. Archos also says the GamePad will have “automatic game recognition and mapping tools,” which it calls "a patented technology that allows any virtual controls to be mapped the GamePad’s physical control buttons."
So far, Archos is only giving European pricing of “less than €150,” about $188 in US currency, a number that likely doesn't include the standard 20 percent European VAT. In comparison, the Nexus 7 is selling in Europe for €199, which is significantly higher, even after adjusting for the tax. Getting the GamePad down to such a low price point is an impressive feat given Andy Rubin’s admission that Google makes “no margin” on sales of the device through the Play Store.
Without more information about the display it's hard to imagine how the GamePad will stack up against other 7-inch tablets on the market, and the value of the bundled controls depends highly on their build quality. The good news is we'll know how it fares soon enough — Archos says that the GamePad is coming in October.