The Wikipad has had quite a ride. In January, it was a small no-name Android 4.0 tablet with an unproven processor, a glasses-free 3D screen, an optional game controller attachment, and a sub-$250 price. Eight months later, the likes of Sony and Nvidia are backing a rather different Android 4.1 gaming slate that will retail at brick and mortar GameStop stores for $499.
Update: Check out our hands-on preview of the Wikipad.
Today, Wikipad is simultaneously announcing pre-orders for the tablet at that price, and revealing the final design: Now, it's a sleek black 10.1-inch slate that's just 8.6mm thin — one of the thinnest we've ever seen — and weighs less than 560 grams, or a pound and a quarter or so. Now, it comes standard with a detachable set of game controls, which the company claims are balanced just right. The 1280 x 800 IPS LCD screen is driven by a 1.4GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of storage, with a microSD slot for expansion.
Perhaps most importantly, the company says it will have game support, and not just the standard Android kind. GameStop has pledged to include exclusive "full-length game titles" with the tablet, and company CEO James Bower tells us that the video game retailer is negotiating to bring games from traditional game publishers, though he couldn't say which ones. The device is also among the few non-Sony devices that is PlayStation Certified, which means PlayStation Mobile titles will be available at some point.
Intriguingly, Sony's mysterious cloud gaming initiative will also come to the Wikipad when it's ready for primetime. Bower said that Wikipad's partnership with Gaikai — which got gobbled up by Sony this year — is still a go. "The tablet is optimized for the Gaikai platform, so we're expecting good things in the future," he told us, but deflected questions about when Sony's cloud platform might launch. As far as the hardware, pre-orders for the device begin tomorrow at GameStop, and the tablet may come to other retailers by the end of October as well.
It's promising how many partnerships Wikipad has made in such a short period of time (Nvidia, Sony, and now GameStop), and we're eager to see how the gaming tablet performs for ourselves, but an iPad-matching $499 is a pretty high price for any device, much less in today's climate. The Nexus 7, the PlayStation Vita, the Nintendo 3DS, the just-announced Kindle Fire HD and the Archos GamePad will all be available for under $250. Then again, it's all about the games.