Archos Gamepad

I've had a soft spot for Archos since my first proper Android tablet computer, the Archos 80 G9. Since the release of that device in 2010 the market has changed drastically. Archos used to rule the sub £200 segment of the market with devices of questionable build quality and software support. Now the French company is in a very crowded market where even Google compete on price with the excellent Nexus 7 (2012) and the Nexus 7 (2013). This month I spent my pocket money on an Archos Gamepad, so lets see what £104 of your hard earned cash gets you.

Archos realise that the market segment they used to rule in Europe and the USA with their inexpensive and relatively good value for money tablets has changed and they now have to differentiate their products. With the Gamepad they have done just that by adding hardware gaming controls to a basic seven inch tablet.

The tech specs are as follows:

Display: 7" 1024x600 capacitive (5 point multitouch)
Processor: dual-core ARM Cortex A9 running at 1.6GHz
GPU: Quad Core Mali 400 MP
Storage: 8GB expandable with up to 64GB MicroSD
Camera: Front facing only
OS: Android 4.1 JellyBean with full access to Google Play Store

On paper the tech specs look good and as well as the usual Android software sets with full access to the Google Play Store Archos include their own media player software (which is excellent) and Gamepad mapping tool. The good news is that it is practically stock Android with no Archos XperiaWizSense.

The screen seems to be a standard LCD unit very similar to the one seen on other first generation Android Honeycomb (3.0) tablets or the current crop of low end Android ICS or JellyBean devices. At 1024x600 it is relatively nice and sharp but the pixel density enthusiast in me does not rejoice. Colours and brightness on the screen are passable, and there is definitely a bit of a contrast ratio issue which seems to be out of control when you change brightness levels. Viewing angles on the screen are barely acceptable, if just one person is using the device once their line of sight goes off a perpendicular trajectory to the screen things go all funky and almost flip to negative.

In terms of gaming hardware you get "Gaming Wings" on each narrow side of the device in landscape orientation. These have a analogue joysticks on each side, directional buttons, action buttons and trigger buttons (on the top edge of the device). These controls are great for gaming and can be easily customised to any game or emulator running on the Android OS. The "Gaming Wings" also house the front facing stereo speakers, which for a device in that price range are better than average.

The front facing camera does the job it has to for video calling using Google Hangouts or Skype, but the lack of camera on the back means you can't show off your foot on the bus and are mostly limited to selfies to upload to your favourite social networks. Not so good if your main occupation is uploading pictures of cats to the internet.

Android 4.1 runs the show, and keeps the Archos Gamepad mostly smooth and responsive throughout the device. I am impressed with the Archos button mapping tool. As with most other Android devices there are plenty of cool games in the Play Store, but the main reason I purchased the device was to play classic video games in an emulator. The gaming controls were the main selling point to me and I was pleasantly impressed by how the buttons were already mapped to my favourite emulator's on-screen buttons.

Playing Nintendo 64, Playstation One, [etc. etc.] games is not that straightforward, but once you get the knack and use the right emulator things get real fun. Native Android games such as my favourite, Carmageddon, are fantastic too.

Battery life is acceptable on a device of low price point but if used with full screen brightness and emulator gaming, don't expect to get more than 3 hours gaming from a charge. In "normal" tablet use, when not gaming, the Archos gamepad gets a respectable 6 hours battery life. The only problem is that it is not suited for normal tablet use in portrait mode since the "Game Wings" get in the way.

The excellent Archos Music and Archos Video apps support the majority of file types and codecs and come preinstalled on the device. I'm particularly impressed by the Archos Video application which can play back HD video streams form my UPnP server through my WiFi home network. It's a shame the low quality screen affects how you view the content. I've noticed that is quite difficult for two people to watch a video at a same time because of the poor viewing angles.

Here's my conclusion: if you can put up with the pants screen and the short battery life and want a gaming device to run emulators on as well and have expandable memory, the Archos Gamepad is the device for you. If on the other hand you want to use the device as a "normal" tablet maybe look at getting Archos' other devices which can be less expensive and offer a slightly better experience. In my dream world Google (or Archos) would release a gaming edition of the Nexus 7 (2013) with Archos' form factor and then I would be hooked.

The Archos Gamepad is available at time of posting for £104 from Tesco Direct and in larger Tesco stores. It is also available from a variety of other online and bricks and mortar retailers.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below.

Ubuntu Edge

Yesterday Canonical, the commercial entity which backs Ubuntu, launched their Indiegogo fixed funding campaign to raise $32m for the Ubuntu Edge project.
Shiny Ubuntu/Android smartphone. Want!
The Ubuntu Edge is going to be a dual boot smartphone running my favourite OSs Ubuntu and Android, with what looks like beautiful and powerful hardware. Initial specs are of a device with 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. The device will be able to be connected to a keyboard/mouse/monitor and run a full desktop environment as well as deliver a powerful smartphone experience.

The Indiegogo fixed funding campaign kicked off yesterday and a day in has already passed 10% of the total goal. I dilly dallied too long and seem to have missed out on the $600 option to get the device in May of next year for a discounted price. I will be making a token $20 contribution and will wait until the device is available through traditional commercial channels to get one.
The idea of a smartphone that acts as a more traditional computer when docked is not new, Ubuntu for Android has been pushing the idea for a while now. I like the idea, almost as much as the Chromebook/Chromebox one.

The smartphone/tablet/desktop computing world is going to be very different this time next year, lets see what Google, Mozilla, Samsung as well as Canonical get up to before then.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below.

Source:  Indiegogo


During the night here in the UK, Polygon launched. Polygon is the SB Nation/Vox Media video game website which was incubated in The Verge for a while and is now out on its own at
The front page at launch
I had registered on the Polygon landing page earlier in the year and received an email during the night to let me know that Polygon had launched. I found the email very amusing and have decided to share it with you. So here's the text from the email:

A long time ago, on a landing page far, far away, you ignored everything your parents ever taught you and entered your email address into a form on the internet. While normally we would join your parents in frowning on this kind of behavior, this one time it seems to have worked out! You asked to be notified when — the new video game website from Vox Media — was live and well, friend ... today's that day.
So fire up your favorite web browser, be it desktop, tablet, or mobile-based, and load up: Polygon
So there you have it! They have launched and already have lots of great gaming related content on the site.

I also found Nilay Patel's article announcing the Polygon launch very amusing. You can check it out at The Verge here: Polygon is here!

Well done to everyone involved in the launch, lets hope this isn't a symptom of The Verge Fragmentation...

BBC Mobile Homepage Beta Is Sleek!

The BBC has released the testing version (beta) of its new mobile website homepage. As with the relatively recently renewed BBC homepage for traditional computers, the design is cleaner, more dynamic and whiter.
BBC Mobile Homepage Beta On Stock Android Browser
You can get the new BBC Mobile Homepage Beta on your mobile device by visiting the following link: . You can also scan the following QR code with your mobile device:
This QR code is for the new BBC Mobile Homepage Beta
I quite like the new BBC Mobile Homepage Beta, I find it to be clearer and easier to use comnpared to the current/older version.
The current/older version of the BBC Mobile Homepage on the stock Android browser
As the "beta" label suggests, this is not the finished product, and it is far from perfect. On the stock Android web browser it works fine at the moment, as with the version of Internet Explorer on my Windows Phone 7 device. It renders fine in Opera Mobile and Opera Mini for me too. Sadly the new BBC Mobile Homepage Beta does not render perfectly on the stock WebOS browser (it is useable, but some bits go missing) and the Chrome Beta for Android 4.0 just doesn't like it.
The New BBC Mobile Homepage Beta on the stock WebOS browser
The New BBC Mobile Homepage Beta on Opera Mobile on Android
The New BBC Mobile Homepage Beta on Chrome Beta for Android 4.0
(Beta + Beta = Fail)
I look forward to this homepage becoming the standard one for mobile devices. I hope the clever people at the BBC also manage to make it more dynamic and scalable so that it adapts to larger screens such as those on BAPs and tablets as well as phablets. Well done to the chaps and chapettes involved in the development and deployment of the page, I still feel like it is worth while paying my TV License.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below.

Shock And Awe Tech News!

This has been an amazingly busy week in the technology business world. I'm bowled over by these two major earthquakes in the tech industry.

Google and Motorola's boards of directors unanimously agreed to the acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google. Larry Page, CEO of Google, said, “Motorola Mobility’s total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.”

Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility, said, “This transaction offers significant value for Motorola Mobility’s stockholders and provides compelling new opportunities for our employees, customers, and partners around the world. We have shared a productive partnership with Google to advance the Android platform, and now through this combination we will be able to do even more to innovate and deliver outstanding mobility solutions across our mobile devices and home businesses.”

So Google will be taking over Motorola. I think the combined company should be called Googorola.

Today there news that was equally as earthshaking to the industry: HP will discontinue operations webOS devices.

I'm personally sad to see the end of WebOS because of how much I love my Palm Pre 2. Oh well, it's not personal, it's just business...

Here are the sources: 

I'm off to weep under the duvet.

What Google Announced On February 2nd 2011 [Android]

On February 2nd 2011 Google held their Android Honeycomb preview event in Mountain View, California. 

There were a few important points announced that I think I should summarise:

  • In Honeycomb (3.0), Google have revamped the Android user interface to be optimised for tablet computers

  • Android's native widgets will be more scrollable and interactive
  • Hardware acceleration of applications will be easy to implement for developers (one line of code)
  • Media capabilities of Android have been improved (new camera application user interface, new media player integration, video calling capabiliteies in GTalk)
  • Android Market website revamped with the possibility to install applications from your computer without needing to plug your phone in (wireless syncing through Google services)

  • Android applications will enable in app purchases

You can view the full presentation here if you have a spare hour or so.

Well, here's to a bright, video cally and tablety future...

Samsung And The Galaxy Tab: Left To Their Own Devices...

In the UK, on November 1st 2010, Samsung launched the Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet computer. Running Android 2.2 FroYo as an operating system, with a 1 GHz ARM processor, 512 MB RAM, 16GB of storage (expandable via microSD), it looked excellent with a  specification sheet like that.

Samsung Galaxy Tab (official image courtesy of Samsung)

I had a chance to play around with the Samsung Galaxy Tab in October at a conference, before the official launch. At the time I didn't get a chance to use it for long, but it seemed good. The same Samsung customised skin from the Galaxy S Android phone had been ported to a larger and higher resolution screen (1024 x 600) and seemed to be very snappy and responsive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab I got to play around with in October next to my trusty T-Mobile Pulse Android phone

Before I go any further, I should state that I work for a retailer that sells the Samsung Galaxy Tab, participated in the set up of the display units in  a store and have been playing around with the device since a couple of days before the launch. This disclosure should preemptively avoid any "Screw you Mike Arrington...!" moments. (If you don't get the joke, watch Leo Laporte losing it here)

After playing around with Samsung Galaxy Tab for over ten days, I've lost my initial interest in the device for three reasons:
  1. Before having an in depth experience with the Tab, I had read about the Google statement saying Android 2.2 FroYo wasn't yet ready for tablet computers, and that it was still aimed at mobile phones. Only after using the Samsung Galaxy Tab for a while did I realise how right that statement is. On the surface all is well with the user interface and the pre-installed applications, but when installing many apps from the Android Market (such as the Engadget one or Robo Defence) the applications are in a letterbox on the large 7-inch screen. To add to that, even though Swype comes as a standard keyboard on the Tab, using a keyboard on the multi-touch  screen is uncomfortable and slow. I really hope the device gets an update to the iteration of Android for tablets.
  2. Screen legibility in a bright environment is ok, but the tempered glass touch-screen is smudged easily and is a very reflective. I wouldn't be able to use this device as a portable web browser/ebook reader as much as I would like to, because my eyes were very tired after demoing it for just over six hours in a strip lighted store.
  3. The price is steep. In the UK, at launch, the Samsung Galaxy Tab was sold at £529. After a week on sale, the price was reduced to £499. Still, when compared in functionality to a netbook with an integrated 3G radio, the Galaxy Tab is double the price.
If you were considering purchasing the Samsung Galaxy Tab, my advice would be to hold on to your hard earned cash a little longer. Android tablet computers are just starting to hit the market, but Google (main input and guide of the Android platform) doesn't think the operating system is ready for these devices. My advice is to wait until the Android platform is slightly more mature and Google endorses the use of the Android OS on tablets. If you do buy one, you may end up doing a Samsung Galaxy Tab reboxing like Jeff Jarvis did with his Apple iPad...

Samsung and other manufacturers (Archos, Toshiba, Advent, etc.) who decided to jump forward into the market before Christmas with Android tablets may just be left to their own devices when it comes to the long term longevity of their products and software updates.

Feel free to let me know what you think and ask any questions in the comments section below.