Peripheral manufacturer Snakebyte is showing off its take on an Android-powered portable console, the Unu. Unlike Nvidia's Project Shield and Archos' GamePad, the Unu doesn't have physical controls mounted onto the device, instead it's going to be a four-piece solution that Snakebyte says will replace your tablet, portable console, and media streamer. For "around $199-$249," you'll get an Android tablet, a Bluetooth gamepad, a TV dock, and a gesture remote.
Included software will let you map touchscreen points to a wireless controller
Unfortunately, we'll have to take Unu's word for that: the company isn't ready to show off any final hardware, and has non-functioning prototypes on display as well as a nondescript Android tablet that it's using to show off its software layer. The Android customization is a pretty light skin that's designed to make Unu play nice with the bundled gesture remote and gamepad, offering a carousel arrangement for app management. Games will come from the Google Play store, but Snakebyte will offer its own curated store as well. For games designed for touchscreens, you'll be able to map touchscreen points to buttons on the included gamepad via an app.
Unu product developer Jens Lawrenz told us that while he wasn't able to confirm the exact specifications of the tablet, it will utilize a quad-core processor from a Chinese manufacturer such as Rockchip. The bluetooth gamepad — again a non-functional mockup — seems ergonomically sound and the buttons and triggers had a good travel to them. Our only criticism of the pad was that it's a little large, but Snakebyte says plans are in place to shrink the controller by around 10 percent to make it easier to handle.
"[Project Shield] is a niche of a niche of a niche."
We asked Lawrenz his opinion of Nvidia's Project Shield and how he felt it affected Unu's chance of success. He told us that while he was very excited and will definitely buy one, he feels that it's "a niche of a niche of a niche." He thinks the console's price point will be too high, and the way Nvidia is positioning it as a handheld console, rather than a tablet, won't attract mainstream buyers. Unu, Lawrenz says, covers all the bases — tablet, console, and smart TV. We won't have to wait too long to test company's claims: the Unu should be out in Europe in Q2, with a US release tentatively penned for Q3.
Clarification: although the mockup pictured above (for some reason) depicts Gingerbread, the Unu tablet will run Android 4.1.