I've never had the burning desire to play Angry Birds on a screen larger than 10 inches, but if you have, you may just be the target audience of the Snakebyte Vyper--a portable, Android-based all-in-one entertainment system that turns a 7-inch tablet into a smart TV with the help of a docking station. (Follow CES 2014 live, and get the latest CES news here.)
Vyper sounds fancy, but it's really just a tablet rocking some neat accessories. For $200 you get the tablet, a docking station, and AirMouse remote; for $50 more you get a Bluetooth game controller. The idea here is that you can pop your tablet in its docking station and mirror its contents on a TV screen, allowing you to watch videos, play games, and access all of your favorite mobile apps in your living room.
The tablet itself is fairly average--it's got a 1.6GHz quad-core processor, a 7-inch, 1280-by-800-pixel touchscreen, and 8GB of internal memory (expandable by 64GB via MicroSD card). It also has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, a mini HDMI port, and runs Android 4.2 with a custom overlay. It doesn't look particularly sleek or sexy, but that's probably because it's built as part of a system, not a standalone product.
The rest of the system
The tablet slides into an upright dock, which connects to your HDTV via HDMI cable (included). As soon as the tablet is docked, it mirrors its custom overlay, which is designed to look more like a smart TV menu, on the TV screen. The overlay features sections for music, video, and pictures, and can even pull and organize media from other sources. (A USB flash drive plugged into the TV, for example) You can also access games, online services such as Netflix and Hulu, and any other apps you've downloaded from Google Play.
You can interact with your tablet-TV combo with the AirMouse remote or the game controller. The remote throws a cursor on the screen, so you can click and drag through menus, or you can use the more traditional physical arrow buttons. You can also use the remote for casual games, such as Angry Birds--think clicking and dragging a bird for launch--but with most games you'll probably want to switch over to the game controller.
The game controller is comfortably designed and feels a little like a PlayStation 3 controller. Vyper can support up to 8 controllers, which seems... enthusiastic. (There are only, I don't know, like two 8-player games on Google Play).
And that's the biggest issue with Vyper as a gaming machine -- it's still just an Android tablet, supporting Android games. I like Android games, but I play them more for the convenience than the epic gaming experience. For less than $250 you can pick up a last-generation game console (such as a PS3) that can also double as an entertainment hub.
Vyper is a neat idea, but I'm not sure it has an audience, especially with dedicated Android consoles like Ouya making the rounds. We'll find out soon enough--the package launches on January 31.