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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  • chizow - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I agree, I think it's an extremely impressive first effort, I just don't know if it will do well enough to warrant future iterations and improvements. Reply
  • danstek - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    This thing has a better WiFi implementation than most laptops and game consoles? What... Reply
  • whyso - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Actually seems like a win.
    The question is if there is a market for this sort of device.
    Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    There's is no question about a market...none exists for this device. Nvidia made this thing to show off the Tegra 4. Reply
  • Dribble - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Users of the PS Vita, Nintendo DS, etc would disagree with you. There is a market, a pretty big one. Reply
  • darkich - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    ..and this device absolutely blows every one of them away. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Literally. With its fan.
    -badum tsh-
    Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Lolz, The 3D DS is doing well because its Nintendo with their long history of portables but its on a pace well behind it predecessor. The Vita? Its a dead machine for now. Sales are horrible. This device costs more and has far less software gaming support. So looking at reality no their is no market for a $300 portable gaming machine. Reply
  • Touche - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    You mean, they made it because nobody else wanted Tegra 4. Reply
  • tabascosauz - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    The 4 and 4i Phoenix FFRDs served that purpose, and they did it fairly successfully. So no, the Shield is Nvidia's entry into the DS and Vita world. Reply

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