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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  • darkich - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    ..
    -there is hundreds of thousands of them.
    - there are many full pc game ports already
    - as far as shooters(genre with the greatest benefit of analog controls) are concerned, the iOS/Gplay library is VASTY superior, with at least ten super cheap titles that are at the same time better than ANY shooter on the DS/Vita.

    Get out of that reality distorted prism and open your eyes already, please.
    Reply
  • nikon133 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    So... do you get heavy hitters on Shield (and in general for Android/iOS), games like:

    Rayman Origins
    LittleBigPlanet
    Mortal Combat
    Metal Gear Solid HD collection
    Uncharted
    Dead or Alive 5
    Street Fighter X Tekken
    NFS: Most Wanted
    Wipeout 2048
    Ninja Gaiden
    Jak and Daxter Collection

    I have noticed some AAA titles in Android Market Place / Apple AppStore, but many of them seem to be dumbed down versions of console/PC counterparts, sometimes not much more than same name. On Vita, most above mentioned games are very close to originals from big consoles.

    Yes they are much more expensive, but there really is reason for that. I do have Android tablet and iPhone, and had iPad for a while as well... but no, I failed to find many - if any - games of same overall quality you can get on PSP, let alone Vita.
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Unbelievable short sightness..
    The uncharted and (ridiculously overrated) fighter games ate pretty much only titles I give to you, in that list.
    And you missed the Assasin's creed title, while at it.

    iOS/Android?
    The crazy thing is, those libraries are so superior there really cannot be a comparison even.
    There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF GAMES ON MOBILE, more titles being released in a day than what comes out in a month on Vita.
    Picking up individual ("casual") titles that have amazed millions of players would take ages, but alright, I'll just try to pick up some of the "highest production quality" ones.
    I dare you to find Vita counterparts to.these:

    - Infinity blade
    - Galaxy on fire
    - Max Payne
    -GTA
    -Deus Ex: The Fall
    - Order and Chaos
    - The Bard's Tale
    - Star Wars: Knights of the Old.Republic
    - Bastion
    - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
    - Six Guns
    - Modern Combat (4)
    - N.O.V.A. (3)
    - Real Racing (3)
    - The Dark Knight Rises
    - Sentinel III
    - Shadowgun: Dead Zone
    - Battle Bears
    - Blitz Brigade
    - Sky Gamblers(personal favorite)
    - NBA 2k 13
    - Chaos Rings
    ..
    And I could go on, and on.
    I hope you realize you've been beaten in your own game now.
    Overall, iOS and Android game libraries are simply beyond comparison superior, offering hundred times more quantity, at a bargain price.
    The reason why it seems the Nintendo and Vita have more quality is because the libraries are tiny and don't get flooded and burried up with thousands upon thousands of casual titles
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    ..oh, and last and the most important..the FUTURE TRENDS.
    Android and iOS gaming will only grow-in fact, it is yet to enter the real revolution, with major studios tasting serious profits on the freemium model and taking mobile seriously (EA, for example, will release frostbite games on Android and iOS next year), and mobile GPU's far outperforming the PS3 console in a less than a year.

    Otoh, Vita and Nintendo DS will simply fade into complete irrelevance.
    Reply
  • nikon133 - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    Uncharted and fighting games only..?

    I will respectfully disagree. MGS Collection, Ninja Gaiden, Jak and Daxter are all premium titles. As well as LittleBigPlanet, one of most original franchises in recent years.

    I didn't compile list of best games, I just listed bunch of games I recall that were well reviewed. Beside Assassin Creed, I also missed

    Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
    MLB 13: The Show
    Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
    Muramasa Rebirth
    Velocity Ultra
    Dragon's Crown
    Guacamelee!
    Soul Sacrifice
    PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
    Persona 4 Golden
    Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
    Doruko
    FIFA 13
    FIFA 14
    Final Fantasy X
    Gravity Rush
    Madden NFL 13
    ...

    ... and I could go on and on.

    True, Vita and GB are missing variety of cheap casual titles, so if one's preference in gaming is tossing birds and piggies across the screen, then it is simple choice.

    But for premium, PC/console-quality titles? No. Not yet, at least. Those are still too few for Android/iOS. And of those that do exist, many are riddled with poor control schemes or poor execution in general.
    Reply
  • darkich - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Which games from my list have you played, and on what device? Reply
  • 5150Joker - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    NVIDIA: Thanks for the review! The check is in the mail! :D

    Seriously, who in their right mind would buy this oversized piece of junk?
    Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Yea and the vast majority of them are that cheap for a reason. Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Those 2 inches matter allot to people. The form factor matters allot to people(bulky controller with flip screen and a fan going vs a sleek tablet like the new Nexus 7) The Nexus gets great battery life too. The power means nothing if it can't be used and I doubt much their will ever be and real support for the thing.

    Its has no future.
    Reply
  • Someguyperson - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I'm really torn whether to get this, or the new Nexus 7. I feel that half my time using a portable device is reading online articles and the other half playing emulators, but I might be leaning towards this guy. $300 isn't cheap enough for an impulse buy though. Reply

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