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Hands-on With Archos GamePad Android Tablet

Archos was on hand at CES to showcase its latest line of tablets including the 7-inch Archos GamePad for $169.99, the new Platinum series and the new Titanium series. The company was also showcasing its TV Connect gadget, but time was limited so I didn't get a chance to check out the latter device.

For the uninitiated, the Archos GamePad is packed with a 7-inch capacitive LCD screen with a 1024 x 600 resolution. Also included is a 1.6 GHz dual-core Cortex A9 CPU and a quad-core Mali 400 GPU crammed onto one chip. There's also 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot adding up to 64 GB of extra storage, and a miniHDMI port to connect the GamePad to an HDTV.

My initial impression was that the GamePad is extremely light and thin – a feather compared to the meatier Razer Edge I fondled the night before. That's because the device measures just 15.4-mm thick and weighs just over 11 ounces. This is a good thing, allowing gamers to play for hours without suffering fatigue in their hands and wrists.

On the controller side, the GamePad provides a directional pad, an analog thumbpad and a shoulder button on one side, and the typical four action button layout, analog thumbstick and shoulder button on the other. Everything worked as expected although the thumbpads felt a little stiff and small. The GamePad actually reminded me of a larger PSP, only thinner and much lighter.

One of the real cool aspects about this device is that it features a patented game mapping technology allowing users to assign their own control schemes instead of relying on the developer to implement GamePad support. That said, you can play all Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" compatible game you want, and have the tools to customize the setup to your liking – no need to search for GamePad-specific titles.

To be honest, handhld console makers Nintendo and Sony should be scared. Here in the States, a $169.99 handheld gaming device is about to enter the market and feature (1) a wider selection of titles and (2) games with a far lower price point. Developers like Gameloft and Madfinger Games have proven that Android isn't just a mobile OS: it's a platform playing host to console quality titles.

The Archos GamePad, which is already available in Europe, is slated to launch in North America in March for $169.99. Hopefully we score a unit closer to launch so we have additional time to do a more in-depth analysis. Meanwhile, the full list of specs can be viewed here.

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