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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  • pancakes - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I heard they used Mini-HDMI because it's the most secure when moving the device around (via http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/07/30/nvidia-shi... Reply
  • VulgarDisplay - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I incredulously read the praise being heaped upon this device wondering what type of NDA had been agreed to for such an upbeat review of this odd and all but useless device and then I got to the end.

    I love the passive aggressive way of confirming what everyone already knows about the Shield, there is absolutely no reason to buy this over a smartphone. Don't worry guys, it offers minimal hitching and low latency when played on the toilet a room away from where your PC with no latency and a usable screen is sitting using up energy to stream games to a device that also uses energy. Oh, and don't forget that this brick with a fan is faster than a 10mm thick tablet that has a more usable screen that when paired with a ps3 controller would actually make a more portable gaming package.

    So many of the uninformed are going to be extremely disappointed that the only way that the PC streaming will actually provide a good experience is by using it in the same house as the PC you are streaming from.
    Reply
  • Cohaagen - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    There is absolutely no reason to buy this over a smartphone?

    If you want a smartphone, this is the wrong device. But I'm searching for a fast device, which can handle all Android games now and the next few years and has a good battery life.

    Even the actual Android-flagships Galaxy S4, HTC One and Xperia Z (both much more expensive than the Nvidia Shield) are slower than the Shield.... the PS3 controller not even counted in. Their battery life is worse.

    Due to their 1080p-displays, their performance limit will be reached much sooner by more demanding games... the same goes for the new Nexus 7. I really like the decision of Nvidia, not to follow the ppi craze, 720p is perfectly fine for a gaming device with 5"-display.
    Reply
  • Cohaagen - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Correction:
    Even the actual Android-flagships Galaxy S4, HTC One and Xperia Z (all of them much more expensive than the Nvidia Shield, the PS3 controller not even counted in) are slower than the Shield. Their battery life is worse.
    Reply
  • chizow - Sunday, August 4, 2013 - link

    Yes looking at some benchmarks around the Net, I didn't realize how fast this thing is. It's also significantly faster than the leaked Snapdragon S800 version of the Galaxy S4. Too bad Nvidia couldn't get Tegra 4's thermals under control, it's quite the performer. Reply
  • GrahamAudio - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Is there a camera? Reply
  • blanarahul - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    The last line of the article pretty much sums up everything. I wish they would do something like Project Phoenix. Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the review. The Shield looks like it right for my needs, and I'm glad it turned out to be well implemented. I might buy it at some point (if I have someone to bring it from the US), and finally get to play some of the PC games I don't get to play because my gaming time is usually away from my PC. Then again by that time I might be playing games such as Shadowrun Returns, Broken Age and Deus Ex: The Fall on my Nexus 7 and won't feel the need to buy it. And maybe, just maybe, Kainy will work well enough one day to provide decent PC streaming. Still, it's a tempting device for me. Reply
  • Heavensrevenge - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    I REALLY hope they just say screw developing this too much to waste resources on it beyond now to beat this dead horse, I agree 100% Nvidia should mold this beast device into a super smartphone factor and rip Google Nexus' a new one.
    It's a cool device, but it's ~90% useless to ~90% of people (me included) .
    So if they make a super kick-ass extreme battery life super-phone, I'd definitely buy one of those!
    But Shield will never be in my wish-list of things to get ok Nvidia? If your reading this... Give us the best phones in a year or so and be done with this down-scaling prototype and get past this foreplay to the action of a beast phone which this thing dreams to grow up into.
    Reply
  • JNo - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Sot it's of potential use to 10% of the population? That's still a huge market!

    What's with all the hate. Not every device has to have universal appeal. Those who see the value in it know who they are.
    Reply

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