The Wii U made a splash with its personal tablet controllers. Sandwiching a 6.2-inch touchscreen in between a regular analog stick and buttons, the Wii U's GamePad is like a Nintendo DS' lower touchscreen for a home console, and even lets you play games right on its screen. It streams those games from the Wii U itself, though, meaning it's basically useless when it's out of range of the console.
Imagine a Wii U GamePad that was a self-contained console, and used an iPad-style capacitive touchscreen instead of a Nintendo DS-style resistive one. That's the new 7-inch Wikipad in a nutshell, at least hardware-wise. It's not made by Nintendo, however, and in terms of what games it plays -- and how much it costs -- it's still very different.
Besides being slightly taller and wider and a lot thicker than a GamePad, the Wikipad has one more major difference: The tablet part is detachable. Unlatch it from the surrounding game controller part, and it becomes a 7-inch Android tablet with an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor and 16 GB of flash memory, sort of like Google's popular Nexus 7.
It's still a 7-inch Android tablet when the controller part is attached, though, and that's the biggest difference.
Despite its resemblance to a certain popular game console accessory, the Wikipad is still a tablet running Google's open-source Android operating system, when it comes down to it. It just happens to be one (of several) which includes its own game controller. And while some well-known games -- like a few of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog titles and Square-Enix's Final Fantasy games -- have made it to the Google Play app store, for the most part you'd be playing mobile games, like the included Dead Trigger and ShadowGun: Dead Zone. Which is unfortunate, because most Android games don't support game controllers, seeing as how they were designed for touchscreen-only gadgets like the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7.
On the plus side
Many of top-tier mobile publisher Gameloft's titles support game controllers, which is unsurprising since they tend to be knockoffs of popular console games like Halo and Modern Warfare. And unlike most Android gadgets, the Wikipad is PlayStation Certified, which means it can run PlayStation Mobile games (small minigames designed for the PS Vita) plus a handful of old PSone titles.
Wikipad's website has a list of more than 60 games which currently support its controller. You may have to consult it before playing each one, however, in order to find out which button does what.
Still worth getting?
The Wikipad will be available "from leading retailers in spring 2013 at a launch price of $249," according to the company's press release. That's about $50 more than you'd pay for a similarly-specced Nexus 7, which doesn't have PlayStation Mobile, expandable memory via microSD card slot, or a game controller. The Nexus 7 has 32 GB and 3G options available, however, and you can always buy a separate game controller for it.
A 10-inch Wikipad was announced late last year, but never made it to market. According to Droid Gamers, "some flaws were found during production."
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.