We reviewed the original Archos GamePad some time ago, as part of a group on open-source handhelds. Unfortunately, in that instance it didn’t score too well due to some badly positioned buttons and controls, and for some reason, although the hardware on paper was good, it never really performed as well as it should have.
Now, though, we have the Archos GamePad 2, which offers a Rockchip RK 3188 quad-core 1,6GHz processor, along with a Mali 400 MP4 GPU and 2GB of memory. Internal storage is either 8GB or 16GB, but it can be expanded thanks to the micro-SD card slot, which supports cards up to 64GB.
The screen is better this time around as well, with a 7H, 1280 x 800 IPS that displays a decent enough set of visuals for all but the most modern Android game. Naturally, if you’re using this device for retro gaming, then it’s more than enough for some of the 8- or 16-bit era classics.
The design of the GamePad 2 is much improved from the previous attempt from Archos. The poor plastic build quality of the last generation has been replaced with a good glossy-black finish and actually feels quite pleasant and solid enough to endure many happy years of gaming on.
The buttons and controllers were a bugbear the last time around, as we mentioned earlier, and have been addressed to feel better. The D-Pad is a single button and moves well, with better emphasis on being able to hit the diagonals, which were a nightmare on the original GamePad. The raised, thumbshaped sticks are also good and have a decent range of motion while still being responsive. There’s also a set of shoulder triggers, which are made of a transparent plastic; they work well enough, but the design does make you feel like they were more of an afterthought rather than part of the whole design concept. Nevertheless, they do a good enough job and are well placed.
Connectivity comes in the form of Bluetooth and wi-fi, and you’ll also find a 0.3MP front facing camera. There’s mini-HDMI too, micro USB for charging, a g-sensor and 3.5mm audio out. In other words, it’s a perfectly capable tablet regardless of the gaming side of things.
Thankfully, the GamePad 2 uses a stock version of Android 4.2.2, which again is a vast improvement from the heavily customised version of Android found on older models. Too add to that, though, there’s still the Archos GamePad button customisation and mapping software. However, we did find this particular version of button mapping software a little buggy and completely useless when it came to remembering the mapping for the game the next time we played it.
In addition, there’s a Game Zone App, which will match Android games with their 100% compatibility to the GamePad 2’s controls and hardware. The selection isn’t vast, though, and there seem to be a lot of modern games missing from the list.
The performance of the Archos GamePad 2 was good; it ran everything we needed without too much trouble. The problem, however, was with the appalling battery life, which lasted less than one and a half hours.
Overall, the GamePad 2 is a good improvement over the previous model. Battery life is dreadful, but it’s essentially a good tablet nonetheless. However, there are better models available for less.