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GameStick Hands-On: Android Gaming on Your TV for $79

PlayJam’s big play to get into your living room isn’t so big at all. The company's KickStarter-funded GameStick is not much larger than a standard USB drive, but it lets you play any number of Android games on your HDTV.  The best part is the $79 price. The GameStick isn't launching until July, but the company lets us take one for a quick spin to get a sense for how much fun you'll get for your money.

Packing a 1.5-GHz dual-core Amlogic 8726-MXS CPU, a dual-core Mali 400 GPU and 1GB of RAM, the GameStick isn’t the most powerful Android gaming machine out there, but it’s no slouch. It also couldn’t be simpler to use. Just plug the stick into your TV’s HDMI port and get gaming. The device includes 8GB of flash memory, which is expandable to 40GB with a 32GB microSD card.

During our time with the device, we navigated GameStick’s custom, heavily-simplified UI, complete with full player profiles and a fully functional online store. We didn't experience any lag or slowdown through the GameStick's proprietary controller. This game pad communicates with the GameStick through Bluetooth 4.0. That also means the device is compatible with any Android-ready, Bluetooth game controller.

MORE: 12 Best Android Games

The controller we played with was a handmade prototype, so while controls were responsive and precise in some games (like the top-down, twin-stick shooter "Expendable: Rearmed") they weren't as accurate in others (e.g. "Shadowgun"). 

What might be more important to some is how the games look and perform. So far, so gorgeous. It seems that the ARM A9 and the MALI - 400 can pump out vibrant particle effects, heavily textured surfaces and smooth frame rates. Sticking it to up to four mutant soldiers and a giant robot--whizzing gunfire and all--in "Shadowgun" resulted in no visible slowdown.

PlayJam has handpicked every game for the GameStick since its KickStarter debut earlier this year, and the company plans to continue down that path. PlayJam plans its own proprietary game and app store, meaning no Google Play for this thumb-sized game console.

Expect the GameStick to hit Amazon, GameStop and GAME retailers worldwide this July for a cool $79.99. For those keeping score, that’s 20 bucks cheaper than the imminent Ouya.