Hands-on with the smaller, less expensive 7-inch Wikipad (video)

When the Wikipad went from 10.1-inches to just 7-inches earlier this year, subsequently cutting its price in half alongside the size reduction, the gaming-centric Android tablet went from riskily priced potential failure to affordable item of interest in one swift move. $500 for a 10.1-inch tablet with a proprietary gaming controller peripheral? With a Tegra 3, no less? That already sounds outdated, and at $500, it sounds outright crazy. Though Wikipad promises a 10.-1-inch version is still in the works, the 7-incher is headed for retail in the coming weeks, with the aforementioned Tegra 3 quad-core SoC, a 1,280 x 800 IPS screen, Jellybean 4.1, and that enormous detachable game controller (12 buttons in all!). At last week's Game Developers Conference, we had a chance to check out the latest version of the Wikipad just ahead of its retail launch -- for more on that meeting, join us beyond the break.

There is no way to not feel awkward holding the Wikipad when its paired to its controller. With the 7-inches of screen real estate, the Wikipad controller has your hands stretched apart by 8-inches or more -- a real issue if you plan on holding the set for longer than a few minutes. Resultantly, juggling between the controller's many buttons has us worried we'd end up accidentally dropping the handheld.

The bulky controller attachment pairs up the 7-inch tablet easily via micro USB plug, and the mapping worked fine on the few games we played. While the buttons aren't what we'd call high-quality, they're workable enough to far surpass the virtual button offerings otherwise employed in many mobile games. That is admittedly a low bar to surpass. The change from black to chrome buttons isn't an aesthetic choice we embrace, but it doesn't heavily affect the already cheap look of the controller.

Wikipad's central thrust -- the 7-inch tablet -- is ... fine? It's a fairly standard 7-inch tablet, from specs to build quality. There's an expandable memory slot for SD cards (up to 64GB, we're told), a single front-facing camera, and the aforementioned 1,280 x 800 IPS screen in the middle (all of which runs Jelly Bean 4.1) -- nothing thrilling, but all the boxes are ticked. The most thrilling aspect of the tablet is its rubberized back with a grippy ridge, meant to both be grabbed and to amplify the device's speakers. We're just glad it won't go sliding off our laps.

Based on our brief time with it, the Wikipad is hard to recommend. Both the $250 price and the not-so-exciting set of features are working against it, but we'll give it a full review in the weeks to come.