The Wikipad is an anomaly. It's a 10.1-inch, $500 Android tablet aimed squarely at gamers -- an expensive portal to a platform many mobile game developers have abandoned due to piracy. It's got an IPS display with 1,280 x 800 resolution, an NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30 quad-core 1.4GHz processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (at launch). So ... it's not quite as sharp in the graphics department as some other tablets on the market, nor is it as pretty as its main handheld gaming competition, the PlayStation Vita. On top of that, it's from an engineering firm that you've never heard of -- Wikipad is also the name of the business behind the tablet, and this is the company's first product launch. Oh, and did we mention that the main selling point is an attachable game controller that frames half the tablet in a mess of plastic buttons, joysticks, and speakers? And no, the controller won't be sold separately, nor will it work with any other tablet.
Defying all logic, however, the Wikipad feels like a surprisingly solid piece of equipment (regardless of the fact that the prototype model we used was hand-built). From the light but solid construction of the tablet's chassis, to its grippy molded rear -- which helps both for gripping the tablet without the controller attached and assists sound amplification when the device is laid down -- nothing about the device feels cheap. As a tablet, it's speedy and responsive. Apps load quickly and smoothly, and it's got extra loud speakers for gaming without headphones (or for David Guetta, as was demonstrated to us). The custom skin it was running felt a bit rough -- the apps get reorganized with a gaming focus and slapped onto a flippable cube, which caused some visual stuttering from pane to pane. Another feature of the custom OS is a special 3D game launcher, which includes sections for Nvidia's Tegra Zone, PlayStation Mobile games, GameStop-suggested titles, and Google Play. There are some less than exciting ad banners attached to this launcher, but they're easily ignorable. Though Gaikai is still working with the Wikipad post-Sony buyout, CEO James Bower told us the game streaming service won't be there at launch -- he's hoping it'll arrive by year's end, "but that's up to Sony."