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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  • ervinshiznit - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Is it possible to run a battery life test with a H.264 encoded video being played back AND streamed over Wifi somehow? I feel like that would be a better simulation of the battery life under PC game streaming without having to sit there and play the game outright until the battery dies (although I'm sure that would be a lot of fun =)) Reply
  • Crono - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    The problem with this kind of gaming device is that it's guaranteed to be selling well only in a niche market.

    It's too big to be portable, not powerful enough to be a console or desktop killer, and not versatile enough or the right form factor to be competitive against tablets. And then there's the obvious fact that mobile gaming is being dominated right now by smartphones and smaller tablets and more traditional handhelds.

    The comparison picture tells a lot: larger than an Xbox 360 controller is too large.
    Reply
  • darkich - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Desktop killer??
    Did you even read about this device at all??
    This is a desktop EXTENSION in the best way possible
    Reply
  • PNN - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    How is it not versatile enough to compete against 7 inch tablets? If you can spare those 2 inches, you get:
    - It's probably going to have more power than any 7-inch tablet released in the next year.
    - Excelente battery life.
    - Kickstand/gamepad
    - Great speakers (except from the BB Playbook, I haven't seen a 7-inch tablet with decent audio).

    Weight is the only major disadvantage over a 7-inch tablet.
    Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Crono's point is that this device is a mobile gaming device. It won't replace a tablet, a smartphone, a laptop, or anything with a virtual/physical keyboard. It's most direct competition is the DS/Vita, which have much higher quality game libraries.

    So who's going to buy this thing? Enthusiast gamers with a need for mobile gaming that aren't satisfied with their DS/Vita. That's a pretty small market these days.
    Reply
  • PNN - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    It obviously won't replace a smartphone or a laptop, not even 9/10/11 inch tablets, but I can imagine people buying one of these instead of an iPod Touch, iPad Mini or a 7 inch Android tablet. It offers similar functionality for a similar price. Again, only if the weight is not too much of an issue. Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    It doesn't offer anywhere near the functionality when you take into consideration the form factors with something like the Nexus 7. And saying it will sell over an Ipad mini/ Wow the bizarre reality some people live in to justify weird tech. Reply
  • PNN - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    You're not getting my point. Bye. Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Form factor is a huge consideration too. You will not fit this in a jacket pocket or small bag as easily as any of the devices you mentioned, and you're certainly not going to use it comfortably with one hand. I'm not saying your point is entirely invalid, but you're arguing this thing will fit into niches where it's not an ideal match. Reply
  • darkich - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    "much higher quality game libraries" ..oh man what a load of horse s!it.
    You are obviously completely ignorant about iTunes and Google Play games.
    There's still so much prejudice going on about that among you pc dinosaurs.

    Let me break it down:
    The vast majority of Games on google Play cost up to 7$
    Reply

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