Mobile gaming is hot property at the moment, with dedicated micro-consoles, like Ouya and GameStick bringing Android gaming to the big-screen, while the Nvidia Shield tacks a really good controller onto basically a smartphone. Traditional handheld consoles also litter the market, with the recently released Nintendo 2DS and the Sony PS Vita taking top billing.

Archos entered this product category last year with the original Archos GamePad, which aimed to combine a cheap tablet with built-in game controls. A great idea in theory, especially due to the high volume of great Android games currently available, however it failed in almost every area. The screen was low-res, the battery barely lasted a gaming session and it felt cheap.

Not deterred, Archos is back, hoping this year’s model fares betters, does it? Read on for our first hands-on impressions.

Archos GamePad 2: Build and design

Archos admits the first GamePad had its faults, so it's starting afresh. The 7-inch display is still there (a lot bigger than say the PS Vita), as is the general overall shape, but it feels much sturdier in the hand. The silver colour is gone, replaced by fingerprint loving glossy black and the back is made from plastic, though it feels quite grippy.

On either side of the display, you’ll find an array of buttons. There’s four face buttons, a directional pad, twin joysticks and four shoulder buttons. All of these controls have been completely redesigned over its predecessor, though there is still some feedback issues with the joysticks - they feel a bit too stiff and awkward. Each buttons is clicky, not mushy, and overall it feels fairly well built.

The weight has increased, 400g versus 330g for the original and the Archos GamePad 2 is slightly thicker, though it’s still a slim device that will easily slip into your bag.

Archos GamePad 2: Screen

Coming in at a resolution of 1280 x 800, the IPS 7-inch display is nice and sharp, yet lacks the real punch of the Nexus 7. Pixels are visible, but colours were reproduced well and you’ll get a strong hit of brightness.

Viewing angles have also been dramatically improved, which means you won’t have to be staring at the console straight on, like you had to with the original.

Archos GamePad 2: Features

Archos has teamed with prolific mobile game publisher Gameloft for the GamePad 2, pre-installing both Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 4 on all devices. The partnership also adds support for upcoming titles, along with a load of older games.

Further afield, the Archos GamePad 2 comes with the third generation of the Archos Game Mapping Tool, which helps make use of the controls for games not currently supported. We didn’t get much time to test this feature out, though Archos says there's more FPS optimisation, over 700 gaming profiles and the sensitivity has been dramatically increased.

Gaming aside, this is an Andoid 4.2.2 tablet after all, plus it’s Google certified, so you’ll have access to the myriad of apps available on the Play Store. However, having the gaming controls stuck on all the time severely dampens the usefulness of this tablet in other situations.

Another new application pre-installed is GameZone, which brings together a load of optimised titles, sorting them between fully optimised and the ones where a gaming profile is available.

The meagre 8GB onboard isn’t that impressive, especially as Asphalt 8 comes in at about 1.5GB, though a MicroSD card slot, with App to SD, means you’ll be able to play supported apps and games right off the card itself.

Archos GamePad 2: Performance

Powering the Archos GamePad is a quad-core 1.6 GHz processor, paired with a Mali 400 GPU and 2GB RAM. In the short time we had to play with the device, we were pretty impressed with the performance. Properly optimised games, like Asphalt 8, played smoothly, with lots of high-res textures and very little lag.

Modern Combat 4 didn’t perform quite as well, with a few frame drops and a slightly less appealing visual look.

Swiping through the menus was snappy too, though that’s pretty much compulsory these days.