Product Playjam Gamestick
Specifications Dual-core 1.5GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor, dual-core 400MHz Mali GPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, microSD card up to 32GB, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Android Jelly Bean operating system
THE PS4 AND XBOX ONE have arrived, and both games consoles hope to revolutionise the games market with their better graphics, advanced motion detection and growing game collections.
A little-known company called Playjam is also looking to revolutionise the market, but has taken a different approach than Sony and Microsoft. Playjam thinks that forking out £400 for a console is no longer necessary, and has launched the £79.99 Gamestick device that it successfully funded on Kickstarter. The Gamestick is a 'sort of' console that hooks up to your TV, enabling you to connect to Google Play and play Android games on television screen.
It's still unclear whether Playjam's Gamestick will manage to tempt customers away from the more expensive Xbox One and PS4 games consoles, but it's fair to say its chances are slim. The Gamestick is certainly a nice idea, but with most Android games designed specifically for touchscreen devices, we think it's still got a long way to go.
The Gamestick comprises two components, a small USB drive that connects to your TV and a gamepad controller that, much like Apple's iPhone 5C smartphone, is unashamedly plastic.
While the Sony PS4 and Xbox One look to dominate your living room with their bold designs, you'll probably forget all about the Gamestick once it's tucked away into the back of your TV, which is a bonus for those who aren't fans of bulky games consoles taking up space.
The Gamestick is essentially a USB stick that measures about 3in long. The device comes coated in a matte plastic material, which features 'Gamestick' emblazoned across it and a quirkly-looking dotted pattern. You'll find an HDMI socket at one end of the stick, and there's also a microUSB slot for charging and a microSD card slot.
We tested the Gamestick on a TV with an HDMI socket, so setting up the device was very easy.
The controller, on the other hand, didn't please us quite so much. Compared to an Xbox One or PS4 controller, the Gamepad doesn't feel very premium. It's made from a low-grade plastic material, and its rectangular shape means it doesn't sit very comfortably in the hand, often feeling awkward after a few minutes of play.
The wireless controller is also very lightweight, so we're not sure it would withstand a few drops on a hard wooden floor. It feels more weighty when the Gamestick is slotted into the top of it, making the device a great travel companion, but often seems too flimsy while gaming.
All of the usual buttons are present, though. There's twin analogue sticks, a D-pad, two shoulder keys, and Home, Back, Start and Power buttons. These buttons give an assertive click when pressed, although we found the two analogue sticks could be oversensitive.
The Gamepad doesn't look too bad, either. We kind of wish Playjam hadn't made it available in just white though, as we found it easily showed signs of grubby fingers and needed a cleaning every couple of days.
The Gamestick's user interface is based on a modified version of Google's Android Jelly Bean operating system, and it's uncomplicated and simple to use. Our only real gripe in setting it up was that we had to grab a laptop to register our Gamestick before we could get into the main interface, which seemed like more hassle that it should have been.
Once in, everything is straightforward. There's a main storefront that showcases "Featured" games, and you can also flick between "Popular Games" and "New Releases", or you can choose to jump straight into gameplay.
We didn't notice many performance issues with the Gamestick user interface, although it did freeze on a couple of occasions, perhaps unsurprising given its recent launch.
Next: Games, performance.