Nvidia surprised everyone with the ambitious Project Shield, but Archos already has its own riff off the idea on the market. It’s part tablet and part controller that runs mostly stock Android 4.1 on a 7-inch 1024 x 600 screen. The twist is that GamePad has built in a controller emulator that allows onscreen buttons to the physical controls. We’d like to say it works without any issues, but the various demo units that we tried all seemed to have their own individual problems. Buttons failed to map correctly in certain games, and we had several crashes with Dead Trigger when trying to navigate around the terrain.
The physical controls aren’t terrible: buttons have surprisingly good feedback, but the decision to use analog nubs similar to the Sony PSP is a questionable one. In fact, the whole device reminds us of an oversized PSP, just with a cheaper feel and bulkier frame. The GamePad doesn’t exactly make for a great experience, then, but the modest specs — a dual-core Cortex A9 chip with 1GB of RAM — and budget construction have helped to keep the price low at $169. Nvidia definitely doesn't have anything to worry about, but if you're tempted by the price of the Archos Gamepad then you can order one right now.
Paul Miller and Kimber Streams contributed to this report.