As January sales fast approach one of the big sellers is likely to once again be a tablet device of some sort. In recent years the Kindle and, to a greater extent, Android tablets have become much cheaper than the always ridiculously expensive iPad. For all the games though, what we’ve never had is a cost effective mix of tablet gaming and lounge gaming, with a joypad to boot. The Wikipad is a newly released device with a view of changing minds, providing a 7” Android tablet housed within a sturdy gamepad and a really competitive price tag. Does it work? Sort of.
Let’s start with the tablet itself.
What we get is a 7” tablet which contains on paper what is a very respectable specification. A quad core Tegra CPU, 16GB of storage, single camera, 1080p video playback, 7.1 audio, an HDMI output, dual band wifi and a battery that lasts 10-12 hours. The only thing not mentioned there is the 1GB of RAM which appears to be a very big limiting factor during practical day to day use of the device. Android Jellybean 4.2 or a close variant comes pre-loaded and anyone familiar with Android who has a Google account will feel right at home using the tablet. Everything is where you’d expect it to be and again, as with all Android devices, it’s a dream to use.
Naturally on first boot up the tablet is going to struggle - this is to be expected. For an experienced user logging in with an existing account (in this case due to the use of a HTC One phone) the tablet will be off to a flying start, updating apps, syncing emails and who knows what else. All of this takes it’s toll and almost immediately that 1GB of RAM will be revealed for what it is… not enough. For a newcomer this will be far less noticeable of course, but will come into play the more you download and the more you use the device. There is certainly some lag which is consistent with a lack of onboard RAM, even when you are simply flittering between applications. It’s hugely noticeable when you begin to use the Wikipad’s key unique selling point - the wrap around pad and key mapping utility - to play some proper action games.
As far as games go the ones that come pre-loaded work fairly flawlessly and are great little freebies - Dead Trigger 2 for example runs like a dream with no slow down, and once you’ve mapped the buttons it’s literally a completely different experience. Sadly this cannot be said for all games - whilst The Amazing Spider-Man is game mapper compatible, it runs so poorly your eyes will start bleeding way before you’ve even come close to mapping the buttons correctly.
As well as the performance (lag) the screen isn’t what you’d call premium either. It’s tough to describe but, when actually using the tablet as a tablet, the screen has an odd sticky feeling to it, often resulting in a less than perfect swiping effect through normal usage. This can of course cause random issues like booting up something you didn’t think you’ve swiped and unintentionally closing applications. It isn’t a massive hindrance and for the price is much more forgivable than the general performance.
One key thing missing from the model we were provided was the application that allows you to use the core USP for the Wikipad, the ability to map the surrounding pads buttons and controls to games on the tablet, all of which are designed for touch screens. Therefore, don’t get too stressed when you first pick up a Wikipad; just update the software via the settings section and the button configurator will magically appear on reboot. Utilising this nifty little feature isn’t the easiest thing in the world and the less tech savvy amongst us may struggle - fear not though as the company’s website is a great resource, if a little slow. The site has a fantastic help section to enable you to get up and running quickly, plus and arguably more importantly there is a compatible games section. This contains a filterable list of games that either work with the pad out of the box or can easily be programmed to work with the pad, with a bit of fiddling. Sadly the games browser page is painfully slow on the wikipad itself and it would be great if there were pre-configured game mappings to download for each, but this may be something that comes in time.
Finally the pad itself, once all rigged up to work with your game of choice, always feels a tiny bit ‘off’. Difficult to describe but there always seems to be a mixture of input lag and imprecision. Not to the point where it becomes useless but if you are thinking of the Wikipad as a 3DS or Vita replacement then this is a game changer, pardon the pun. There is nothing more frustrating for someone who buys a device solely for gaming than to experience inaccuracy of movement or even the slightest delay between button-press and result. This, along with the aforementioned performance issues, make the Wikipad very difficult to recommend as a serious handheld contender to the establish Sony and Nintendo offerings.
The Wikipad is a bit of a mixed bag, tough to recommend but equally as tough to not consider at this shopping highpoint of the year. The price point more than compensates for the slightly poor overall tablet performance and the wrap around joypad with custom key mapping is a fantastic feature. Not perfect by any means but a decent entry into the world of 7” tablets and a great little treat for someone, either in the sales or as a post-Christmas pick-me-up.
The Wikipad is £69.99 at eBuyer and available now.