GamePad Digital XD Review

John Knight tests out the gaming emulator that’s built into a gamepad which has garnered quite a cult following online, but is it really much cop?

You’ve probably not heard of the GamePad Digital (GPD) XD, but it’s a device that’s been getting a bit of an internet cult following. It’s built into a shell that mostly resembles a Nintendo DS, but runs Android with a software package optimised for gaming (particularly emulation). Although it’s Chinese made the build quality is genuinely decent: everything feels solid, nothing feels like it will break and the analogue sticks are rather good.

New eBay prices range from £160-£190, depending on whether you buy the 16, 32, or 64GB versions, and yes it does have a microSD slot. Price is kept low by leaving out Bluetooth and a camera. Android is old. Kit-Kat 4.4.4 old.

Where the money has been spent is on the things that truly matter: the quad-core CPU, the GPU, HDMI-out, and a generous 2GB of RAM. This combination punches way above its weight in terms of performance— the XD can emulate surprisingly modern hardware, and it runs modern Android games excellently.

The battery life is decent. Expect around eight hours for solid, processor-intensive gaming and ten+ hours for lighter usage. You really can run this thing all day.
Minuses? Well, as mentioned above, it’s only using Android 4.4.4—this is great for optimisation, but only time will tell whether or not needed OS updates will arrive. On top of this is a rubbish Windows 8-style interface that complete novices may enjoy, but anyone remotely experienced will want to change immediately to a standard Android UI. There’s also almost no documentation: the official website is a joke (complete with broken English), and if you want any information you’ll need to search YouTube, blogs and message boards.

Emulating joy The XD also relies on hulking monolith software like Happy Chickto deliver near-instant gaming and emulation.

This is fine for anything 8- or 16-bit, but performs badly for anything more modern. It also seems rather unsafe: things that shouldn’t be available, were.
Our recommendation forget Happy Chick—and install your normal well-known emulators.

So how do the newer consoles stack up? Chances are smooth gaming is entirely possible for your favourite machine, but you’ll probably need to tweak the settings. 3DO is great. DS is great. PS1 runs great, but experiments with PS2 were dodgy. PSP is well worth a go: some run nicely, others awfully (Gran Turismobeing an unfortunate casualty). N64 is mostly bang on, but choose your emulator and settings wisely. Dreamcast can be graphically buggy but otherwise runs beautifully.

We’re going to go out on a limb and say this a future classic, destined to be sort after by collectors. There are handhelds that are smaller, faster, cheaper or more powerful, but the GPD XD is one of those rare things: being greater than the sum of its parts.

You have a button that lets you assign physical controls at any time to replace those awkward Android onscreen tablet controls you get in games, imagine how awful Quake 3would be with those stupid screen-tap controls.

People just want it and it’s very likeable.

When we walked into a local PC outlet, allthe staff members flocked around and wanted a go—many said they were going to buy one.

We feel harsh giving this a 7, but currently there are just too many rough edges: it’s expensive (a brand-new Nintendo Switch is £199) it needs proper documentation provided by a native English speaker; more specific emulators with custom settings; and there are serious problems with ‘bricking’ regarding recharging and firmwares. If GPD fixes these things.

we’ll add a point or two. If it helps, think of it as an eight in waiting!

Specs
Display:5-inch 1280×720 IPS touchscreen CPU:Rockchip RK3288 Quad-Core (ARM Cortex-A17) GPU:Mali-T764 600MHz RAM:2GB SSD:16GB (32/64GB option) Comms: 802.11b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz Ports:3.5mm audio, HDMI, microUSB, microSD OS: Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) Size: 155x89x 24mm, 300g
7 Total Score
GamePad Digital XD Review

It may have become a cult favorite with its Nintendo DS-clone appeal, but it could do with some polish.

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