Archos’ me-too Android gaming tablet hit the European market last December, followed by a low-key U.S. rollout in March. You probably missed the whole thing because, well, one: it was critically panned for its shoddy ergonomics, a cheap-looking screen and game compatibility issues, and two: the Android games handheld/console/tablet market’s starting to look like a Rolex knockoff party (only no one’s yet built the Rolex).
Instead of doubling down on its original GamePad, Archos today revealed plans to send in a new hitter oh-so-imaginatively dubbed the Archos GamePad 2.
On paper, it sounds like Archos learned something in the brief span between the original GamePad and this one. For starters, you’ll get a 7-inch IPS (in-plane switching) screen running at 1280 x 800 (the GamePad’s was also 7 inches, but only 1024 x 600 and capacitive). Memory-wise, you’ll see a bump from 1GB to 2GB, and Archos says the battery is notably larger, providing “vastly improved battery life.” The wraparound controller shell’s been tweaked as well: extraneous buttons have been removed, you have four shoulder buttons (two on each side), the d-pad is now a single rocker and the incurved dual thumbsticks are tighter up against the d-pad and face buttons.
The rest is analogous to the GamePad and par for the course: Wi-Fi, mini-HDMI out, microphone, stereo speakers, audio jack, an accelerometer, Bluetooth, micro USB 2.0 and a front-facing webcam.
On the downside, the CPU looks to be only nominally superior to the GamePad’s: a quad-core A9 processor running at 1.6GHz (compared to the GamePad’s dual-core A9 also running at 1.6GHz), working in tandem with the same quad-core Mali-400 MP GPU. The GamePad 2’s a touch heaver, too: 400g versus the GamePad’s 330g.
You can buy the GamePad 2 in two internal storage configurations: 8GB or 16GB, and a microSD slot in both with 64GB card support adds some headroom. It ships running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and does its gaming business through the Google Play store as well as Archos’ own preinstalled GamePad Game Zone app.
Look for it yet this year (Archos is saying “end of Q4″) with a retail price of $199.99.
I know, color me ambivalent, too. Putting together a platform these days, the hardware’s almost an afterthought. You need services and software. And more than just software, you need exclusive biggies no one else has. Or if you can’t corral a bunch of triple-A developers, you need a price that wallops the competition — and $200 doesn’t. (Yes, you can run retro-gaming emulators on these things, but unless you’re planning to break the law or you have a copy of the game you’ve extracted the ROM from personally, they’re so much window dressing.)
In any case, it’s getting pretty crowded out there, Android-wise, with set-top cubes and goofy-looking gamepads with flip-up screens and hybrid tablet-controllers like Ouya, Nvidia’s Shield, Oton (from the EVO folks), JXD, GamePop, Wikipad, Game Stick, Mad Catz’s M.O.J.O. alongside rumors of bigwigs like Amazon and Google itself tinkering away on self-branded game console projects (to say nothing of all the aftermarket case-style or snap-on controllers for smartphones and tablets). You’d almost think there’s some kind of crazy game console renaissance going on, if you didn’t know better.