As touchscreen gaming continues to grow up and find more intuitive ways of meeting our fingers, there's still a school of thought that believes physical inputs are the way forward.
Enter the Archos Gamepad 2. Launching less than a year after the original, the new gaming-focused tablet has learned a lot from its predecessor's mistakes. It also now comes in a slick black coat, which we much prefer over the first's dull gray.
With a 7-inch HD IPS 1280 x 800 screen, a quad-core 1.6GHz A9 processor and 2GB of RAM, it's also much more attractive on the specs, but can it convince us to get serious about our Android gaming?
The physical design is the biggest cause for celebration on the GamePad 2. Putting it side by side with the original, it's hard to believe that Archos got away with putting something like that out in 2012.
It feels like the GamePad 2 has taken a lot of its design cues from the PS Vita but that's no bad thing - we adore the feel of Sony's handheld and even an enlarged version of that still feels great in the hands.
While thinner than the original GamePad, the new one is heavier at 400g, but we found it comfortable and light enough to hold. Most of the added weight is due to the improved battery so we're not complaining.
Archos has, however, stuck with the slide analogue sticks. While the new sliders are much nicer and akin to the one found on the 3DS, we couldn't help but wonder why Archos hasn't packed it with full analogue.
We asked Archos why and it said that the decision was to keep the bulk down. It's understandable, but the PS Vita manages to offer full analogue while maintaining portability, so we'd happily take an extra bit of thickness to see them here.
Still, taking it for a spin on Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 4 reminded us why physical controls still feel so much better than a touchscreen, and the GamePad 2 makes the experience feel so much more wholesome than the Wikipad.
On another positive note, we now also have an extra shoulder button on each side to bring it up to date with the likes of the Wikipad.
As much as we like the new glossy black look of the GamePad 2, it is a fingerprint nightmare. After a bit of tapping around the screen, we had to keep wiping away those smudges on it before we settled into using the physical controls.
Specs and features
Like the first Gamepad, Archos reckons you'll also be using this as a standard tablet for browsing the web and showing off your holiday snaps when you're not in the mood for gaming.
We're still not convinced that many people will buy this for those more core tablet features but perhaps that sharper high-res screen will change that. We certainly wouldn't have used the first as our travel tablet companion.
There's also a front-facing VGA camera and the speakers are much louder this time, although we found that the sounds was pretty tinny when turned up to the max.
As for the performance of the games themselves, the HD IPS screen does make a notable difference but we still found games suffered framerate drops when we had another task running in the background. This is partly down to Android but if you really are using this for its other tablet functions too, closing down all our other apps when we want a quick game of Asphalt could get annoying.
The GamePad 2 comes with Android 4.2 but Archos told us that it plans support for Android 4.4 KitKat when it finally arrives.
The button mapping tool on the first GamePad was a nice idea but its responsiveness needed a lot of improvement. This has been given a boost on the GamePad 2. While we still like the idea, button mapping in general still feels like an awkward solution to the problem of melding touch and physical controls.
Another area where the GamePad 2 shines though is in its 5000mAh battery. Archos told us that you can expect to get around 10 and a half hours for all-round usage, but this will obviously vary with the types of games you're playing.
The GamePad 2 offers up a mini HDMI out on the top, and will also work with Miracast compatible TVs, however Archos tells us that this doesn't work perfectly with gaming and is better for more simple tasks like showing off photos.
But our main gripe with the GamePad 2 is the price. At £179 ($199.99, AU price to be confirmed) for the 8GB and somewhere between £200 and £220 for the 16GB model (these are the prices Archos gave us although they're not completely set in stone), it's going to come in more costly than a PS Vita or a 3DS.
Those dedicated handhelds might not enjoy the vast libraries of Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store, but their own digital catalogues are growing and do offer a lot more premium titles. The hardcore gamers might enjoy the GamePad 2's design, but we don't think it's enough to convince them to make a big investment in Android gaming just yet.
The GamePad 2 has come a long way from the first, and Archos deserves credit for listening to the feedback. That said, we think it could struggle at its launch cost, which asks a premium price for non-premium games. But it's one of the more convincing Android gaming-focused devices we've played with, and a reminder that, yeah, buttons and stick still rule the show. For now.