Software

To start, as of this writing Shield comes running Android 4.2.1, which isn’t the absolute bleeding edge version of Android, but just behind. The upside is that NVIDIA promises frequent updates for Shield through the normal update mechanism. The bootloader is also supposedly unlockable, although I haven’t tried. The best part is that the UI is entirely stock, with just a few Shield-specific addons here and there. The stock part is especially important to enthusiasts, for whom this is always a major point of contention. I sort of err between the two, but stock Android here does work well.

The only real issue with Android as a platform on Shield is with landscape. Since the original Motorola Droid, landscape has been an increasingly marginalized view. Unless you’re in media playback or web browsing mode, it seems like most applications expect the user to be in portrait.


 

 
Chrome has this initial status screen, and Netflix has portrait views

Obviously since Shield is held the way it is, there’s no way to easily interact with portrait mode applications in landscape, they’re just 90 degrees rotated. I’ve yet to run into anything game-stopping, it ends up being mostly initial views or setup pages that are rotated. On Shield, NVIDIA has customized things so that these portrait-only applications can be installed, they just show up rotated and full screen (no status bar). Also NVIDIA has used the Y button as a menu button inside the Android UI.

Navigation inside Android uses either the controller or touch screen. The left analog stick and D-Pad work like arrow keys, the right analog stick works like a virtual mouse, and A button works like tap. I have no issue navigating the Android UI this way, it works fine basically everywhere, and you can always use one hand to tap on the display. NVIDIA has also customized the stock browser controls to play well with Shield, left analog stick scrolls up and down nicely.


Settings has a Controller tab for example with Shield specific options

The other touches are nice too, for example the bumpers scroll through the launcher pages or home screen widget panes, just like you’d expect from using a 360. The controls inside Android are logical and totally make sense.

At the center of Shield is basically NVIDIA’s console button, which is a big glowing logo. This works like the power button if held down, otherwise it launches the onboard Shield game, store, and PC game streaming component. The leftmost tab is essentially a launcher where you can see games that you’ve got currently installed, middle tab is a list of Shield optimized titles that NVIDIA has vetted (and play store link), and the right most tab is the PC streaming component we’ll get to in a moment.

Introduction and Hardware Gaming on Shield - Android, PC, AR Drone 2.0
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  • fr33h33l - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Nice review as always and good to see Shield and Tegra 4 finally shipping.

    I am curious though as to what has led to the (so far) low adoption rate of Tegra 4, especially in contrast to the almost performance-wise equivalent Snapdragon 800. Was it just a matter of time-to-market, or was it deal negotiation issues, or as some say (without providing conclusive evidence) that Tegra 4 is inferior to Snapdragon 800 in power efficiency?

    Does anyone have more insights (as opposed to unsubstantiated rumors) into this?
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Previously mentioned Amazon reviews for the Toshiba Excite Pro indicate overheating issues and poor battery life. That's not as good as a proper analysis but I'd hesitate to call it unsubstantiated. Reply
  • fteoath64 - Saturday, August 3, 2013 - link

    A lot of people are curious about this same question :"Is Tegra 4 is inferior to Snapdragon 800 in power efficiency?". I would agree that it is a yes but not by much. The issue for both chips are that they are overkill (in battery sapping rate) for phone implementation and more suitable for large tablet and console use such as Shield. I think the issue of T4 is its TTM just kills the market opportunity and also the fact that Qualcomm has had multiple solutions to match/counter the old T3 design wins and hence snags them all!. It is a pity for Nvidia but the market is rather brutal due to fierce competition. Even Intel cannot muscle themselves in with the new Atom chip. Not that it is good enough or low priced (huh!). This T4 device at least gives the market some sort of benchmark in comparing its performance in detail over the coming weeks. The S800 tablets are not as forthcoming as we hoped so there is plenty of time to determine some much wanted data.
    It is interesting to see the SnapDragon S4 Pro chip being used in Nexus 7 and Moto X, new Droid range as well especially when the flagship S600 was doing so well. Is there a radical price difference , I wonder ...
    Reply
  • WeaselITB - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Didn't see it in the review, but I'm curious how well it performs streaming PC game to Shield to HDMI cable plugged into a TV. Cabling get in the way? Problems with battery life in this scenario? How well does the high-res PC compress down to stream to the Shield, then upconvert back to 1080p for the TV? What about transition from sitting on the couch with the cable plugged into the TV, then unplugging the cable to walk into the kitchen, any glitches with transitioning back to the in-device screen? Reply
  • marraco - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I wish I had a PC client for streaming, so I can run my GTX 670 and play on my laptop/netbook Reply
  • marraco - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    That would rule out AMD cards for me Reply
  • pandemonium - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    I just don't see the point in spending money on a mobile gaming device any more. With all of the smartphones and tablets out there, this is going to be a difficult sell to anyone but the most enthusiastic of fans.

    Also, my PC is built for gaming and the ecosystem isn't really going anywhere (contrary to popular belief that it's been dying for years and years...). Plus, there's consoles.

    It may be awesome, but not for the current day and age. If this came out in 2006, it would've made a killing.
    Reply
  • darkhawk1980 - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    The only comment I have is that when I played around with this at PAX East 2013, the screen mechanism felt VERY flimsy. I'm not sure if it was because of the fact that these were demo units that were (obviously) very used at that point or what, but I felt like if I closed the screen the hinge would make the screen break in half. It just didn't provide a good feel as it closed, like the hinge was too tight. It reminded me of my MSI GT70's screen at times, where I'm very careful closing it since it is rather delicate.

    All that aside, it did seem like a good device and was fun to use, but I just don't feel I'd use it as much simply because I enjoy having a tablet for real use.
    Reply
  • bertiebond - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    so.. its got a screen, it has speakers, it has a a mic, it has wifi..
    so it just needs 3g and you can stick it next to your ear and start making calls ?D
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    SIDETALKIN' Reply

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