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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  • PC Perv - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Sure weight balance matters.. for first 10 minutes or so. And no doubt it will be easier to hold something with evenly distributed weight than, say, something to heavy. But that doesn't mean it's absolute weight dissipate in the air because of shape. You will be holding 579g of weight no matter what. If you think 579g is "light," then I have nothing more to say. But the reviewer's bias is palpable.

    I'm looking forward to encountering someone holding this abominable. Hopefully he didn't buy this junk after reading this irresponsible "review." Look how this dude goes length to convince readers how this ugly is somehow "elegant."
    Reply
  • tabascosauz - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Who are you to hate on Brian?

    Do you seriously think that a portable game console will weigh the same as a 290g Nexus 7? It's a first step for Nvidia and it's performed well, so how did Brian write an "irresponsible review" and "convince readers how this ugly is somehow elegant"? He already said that he spent 2 hours playing BL2 and didn't feel too uncomfortable, what else do you need? Do YOU have a Nvidia Shield?
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    3DS XL: 336g
    PS Vita (3G): 279g

    Not to defend the original poster too much, but the weight is very high for a product of this sort of category and that is indeed something that can only be properly assessed by a longer period of game-play.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    They are much less powerful, feature fewer and different (in my opinion, a bit inferior) controls, have much less battery life in them and are much less versatile. :) To think the Shield is a hand held console the kind Sony and Nintendo make is very misguided imho. Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Neither are designed to be very comfortable to hold for an extended period of time. Neither are ergonomic to your hands. Reply
  • PC Perv - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Here is the question I pose to you: when do you think this author will realize this thing is heavy and ugly?

    Answer: when the next iteration of the Shield comes out. (If it does come out, lol) when the next version sport slimmer, lighter body then he will gush over how much improvement NV have made. He will THEN tell you how NV's first "attempt" was rather clunky and heavy (per "some" users). Until then he will be "oblivious" to the ugliness and monstrosity of this "Shield," and keep asserting how "elegant" and comfortable it is, blindshading potential buyers.

    Of course he already knows all this. But in this type of "reviews" often there is something else is at work.
    Reply
  • spugm1r3 - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    Most people don't know how heavy or bulky something is, in particular if it is a joy to use, until the next iteration. I used to own an iBook that weighed just shy of 6lbs. It was hardly top of the line, but I loved it. Now, even Apple's most powerful portable is less than 5lbs.

    Other portable gaming consoles (3DS, Vita) play portable games or, at best, portable versions of console games. This plays PC games, in particular, PC games that are not exactly visual lightweights.

    Honestly, some tech websites I could understand your cynicism, but Anandtech generally does a pretty good job of keeping it honest.
    Reply
  • Subzero0000 - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    579g is definitely "light". There, I said it.

    I've been using iPad2 for almost 2 years, and I tend to feel it too"light" personally.

    As for the Shield, you will hold it with two hands anyway. That weight would means nothing to a full grown man.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/relative
    3.

    You're entitled to your opinion but that doesn't make it valid for everyone else. ;)
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    I'm not going to argue the semantics of what you wrote, you questioned whether weight is relative to shape, in the hands, and yes of course it is. Overall the impact of total weight is relative sure, but you also seem to miss the fact people have different tolerances and preferences. Some contemporary and relevant examples today include the 360 controller vs PS3 controller and the iPhone vs. Samsung Galaxy. You will find people on both sides of the fence who prefer or abhor the different weight characteristics of each, based purely on personal preference.

    As for the commentary on aesthetics, you do realize that is one of the most subjective criteria out there right? That's about as subjective as people's tastes in cars, or even computer chassis. Yet in your criticism of Brian's choice of words, you do realize you come off as every bit the extremist in your own choice of words right?
    Reply

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