Chinese manufacturer JXD is hoping to eclipse Archos with the S7300 GamePad 2, which is billed as a major upgrade of the first S7100 GamePad. The tablet has a 7" TN screen, a 1.5 GHz dual-core Amlogic processor, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal memory expandable via a microSD card slot. On top of that, the S7300 GamePad 2 has a mini HDMI out, a micro USB port for charging and data transfer, a 3.5 mm headphones jack and a mains charging port.
There's a strip of physical controls down either side of the screen, with a layout reminiscent of a portable games console or controller. This tablet even has trigger buttons. The OS is Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and there's no custom interface over the top. The JXD S7300 GamePad 2 is available in black or pearl white.
Before we get started, we'd just like to thank Touch-4U for lending us the JXD S7300 GamePad 2 to review. Note that different distributors may include different selections of games emulators in the tablet. The model we tested came with a good set of retro gaming emulators pre-installed (more on those later). Check before you buy.
DESIGN & HANDLING
The first thing we noticed is that JXD has paid more attention to its tablet's design and build than Archos. With the white version of the GamePad 2, you almost feel like you're holding the tablet/controller of the Nintendo Wii U. The buttons are all nicely built into the casing. It's just a shame that the second triggers—L2 and R2—are quite difficult to reach.
In fact, you often end up pressing L1/R1 instead when trying to reach L2/R2. However, all the other physical controls are well-positioned, falling naturally under your fingers and thumbs.
The two analogue sticks are positioned right under your thumbs, so you don't have to strain or adopt an uncomfortable hand position to use them. Note that JXD has chosen to let the sticks' plastic covers swivel around their central axis rather than fixing them rigidly in place. You can therefore feel the plastic grip pads turning under your thumbs as you use them. That's a bit strange at first, but you soon get used to it.
JXD has thankfully put the two built-in speakers on the front of the device, in a place where they won't end up being covered by your hands or thumbs. That's a nice touch.
While build quality seems pretty sturdy on the whole, the S7300 does sometimes feel quite cheap. The back of the tablet in particular has a hollow sound, and the white model doesn't look quite as sleek as the anthracite grey version. Plus, the GamePad 2 gets quite hot when working hard, which is often the case when gaming, whether with recent Android titles or with emulators. Finally, we could have done without that raised rim running around the edge of the tablet's front face, as it makes the GamePad 2 less comfortable to handle when used for non-gaming activities.
With a TN screen panel and a glossy finish, JXD hasn't exactly pulled out the stops here. TN technology is known for its tight viewing angles, so the screen looks dark when viewed at a certain angle. And this screen is particularly disappointing, as average contrast reaches just 450:1 while the maximum brightness is a ridiculously low 97 cd/m2! The combination of these factors makes the S7300 pretty much impossible to use outdoors when lighting conditions are too strong. You'll need to improvise some kind of shroud around the device when gaming on the train, for example ... or you could just hog the loo.
And it gets worse. We measured the colour temperature at almost 35,000 Kelvins (!) and the average Delta E at 10 (this measures colour fidelity and should be under 3 for colours to be considered "accurate"). There's no one colour that's crazily out of line either, colours just aren't reproduced naturally across the whole spectrum. Touchscreen sensitivity isn't too bad, though, as 164 ms places the S7300 GamePad 2 within average in the current tablet market.
The display resolution is a let-down, especially when many of today's 7" tablets boast 1280 x 800-pixel displays. With its 1024 x 600 pixels, the S7300 GamePad 2 doesn't do a great job of displaying text clearly and crisply, whether on the web or in the OS. However, this resolution is fine for retro gaming, which is ultimately the GamePad 2's main reason for existence.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
JXD uses Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean with barely any add-ons. As with other Android devices, this tablet has several homescreens that can be loaded with shortcuts to apps or with various dynamic widgets. Still, the S7300 GamePad 2 sets itself apart from other cheap Chinese Android tablets by adding a few nice extras for handheld gaming, including emulators and the Game X platform.
Game X is a simple, integrated solution for the various emulators and ROMs onboard here. It brings them together into one single interface with an easy-to-navigate directory system to keep everything organised. You can download ROMS directly in the platform too. These are then grouped by type of console.
Our GamePad 2 came with emulators for arcade games, for the Neo-Geo, the PS1, the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, N64 and Super Nintendo, and the Sega Mega Drive. Game X also imports any downloaded Android games into the platform.
The Amlogic processor isn't the SoC of the century and, when twinned with the Mali 400 graphics chip, it shows its limit with the latest heavyweight titles in the Google Play Store. However, performances and general responsiveness are good enough to keep Android relatively smoothly without an insufferable amount of hangs, glitches or bugs.
Web browsing isn't the speediest of experiences with the GamePad 2. It's still fine on the whole, but loading pages, zooming and scrolling can all be done quicker elsewhere. It's not slow enough to drive you crazy, but there's room for improvement. The screen resolution is a little low for web surfing, though, as pages aren't always that easy to read.
For movies, you'll need to download a third-party app from the Play Store if you need support for a decent range of file formats. But still, with a screen this size and with this resolution, there's no point busting a gut to try and play Full HD content—at least not on the tablet itself. Hooked up to a TV over HDMI, the S7300 can play SD and HD videos without too much trouble.
As mentioned above, the S7300 is largely geared up for retro gaming thanks to its ROMs and emulators. That said, it can still run some of the Google Play Store's more recent games without too much trouble. You'll need to avoid Real Racing 3, which is just far to chaotic on this tablet, but ShadowGun runs like clockwork and is pleasant to play on the GamePad 2.
The only disappointing emulator was the N64 one, as most games (with a few rare exceptions) had a few controls/actions missing. And it can be hard to get by in an FPS when you can't actually shoot ... Otherwise, you'll soon find yourself in retro-gaming heaven. In fact, once connected to a TV over HDMI, the S7300 GamePad 2 effectively becomes a proper little console. Old-school gamers will love it!
With a 3800 mAh battery and a processor that's not designed for power efficiency, it's no surprise to see that battery life isn't up to much here. With mixed use—a bit of web browsing, gaming, e-mailing and video—the S7300 runs out after around 5 hrs 15 mins on average, which is more or less on par with other low-cost tablets.
Gaming and emulator action via Game X runs down the battery more quickly, as the S7300 lasts for between 3 hrs 40 mins and 4 hrs 10 mins of gaming, depending on the games used.
Note that this tablet has a good standby mode, losing less than 10% of its charge after around 10 hours inactive. Charging via micro USB is very, very slow, but it works. With the mains charger the battery fills up in two hours.
With dull colours, a good dose of latency, and general lack of sharpness and detail both in bright sunlight or darker conditions, it's safe to say that the front-facing camera isn't up to much. Face-to-face video chat works fine (using the relevant apps), but those far-flung relations may not be able to see you that clearly.