Android and Me

NVIDIA SHIELD: Hands on

1 year ago 24

NVIDIA has been showing off the SHEILD in select places, and I got to play with one. I drove an hour to go play with it… and arrived three hours early. I thought to myself, “Was it worth waiting three hours and driving two to play with the SHIELD?” Sure, it is a cool concept, but the portable clamshell console has been done before. Why is the SHIELD so special?

I came in with an attitude I couldn’t describe as fully positive, but left incredibly impressed. I was shown the NVIDIA SHIELD, told about its design and the small details that make it amazing. And I got to finally use the controller I’ve been wondering about for so long. Could a portable controller meet my high expectations? No; it blew them away.

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Let’s start with the design. It’s a simple clamshell design with a 5-inch 720p display and a controller beneath it. It has the D-pad and the ABXY buttons you’re accustomed to, but it adds dual thumb sticks, dual triggers and two bumper buttons above the triggers. Throw in the five center buttons, and you’ve got yourself a fully featured controller a home console would be envious of. Above that are two speakers. On the back, you have a microUSB charging port, a mini HDMI port, a microSD slot, a 3.5mm port and a big vent. Beneath the NVIDIA logo in the front is another vent.

The build quality of the SHIELD is fantastic. It may be mostly plastic, but it has a great feel to it. Plus, there are no creaks. This is no Samsung plastic; it feels really high end. It also doesn’t feel like it’d break within a year, which is great for something portable. And at under 600 grams, it’s lighter than many tablets.

The controller is probably the most important part of any gaming device, and I was amazed by the way it was designed. At first, I doubted the integrity of the thumbsticks. No controller I’ve never used aside from the Microsoft Xbox 360 controller has ever really done thumbsticks “right.” That’s an opinion, but it’s a strong one. I fell in love with the sticks on the SHIELD. They fit my thumbs perfectly and had just the right resistance. They were a pleasure to use. I’m not sure about the longevity of the little dots on them (they wear off within a few years on a 360 controller), but that shouldn’t matter much. The rest of the buttons felt nice and were responsive.

The buttons around the large NVIDIA button are back, home, volume (which pops up on screen volume controls) and a multifunction button that pauses games. And the speakers flanking the buttons are very loud and clear, to say the least. Very impressive for the size.

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The software is stock Android 4.2.1. Of course, it has a few modifications here and there, but it’s pretty much stock. This paired with a Tegra 4, creates a lightning fast experience. There is also the Tegra app, which looks somewhat like a console interface (think Steam Big Picture). This is accessed by hitting the big center NVIDIA button.

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I only played two games on the device, but they were very enjoyable. Riptide GP 2 looked great and performed wonderfully. I opted to keep the accelerometer off and use the thumbstick for a more console-like experience, and it was awesome. I also had the pleasure of playing an emulator loaded with The Legend of Zelda for the SNES. Emulators have full controller support, so this is the perfect emu machine. Gaming was wonderful.

The reps were very nice and told me a bunch of cool info. First of all, the device doesn’t overheat from prolonged gaming. They say the device plays games for 12 hours straight while charging and never have they even gotten overly warm. I can believe it, because even on an 82 degree day, they stayed very cool. Also, the device is wonderfully balanced. It is not top heavy, and it rests in your hands perfectly. Plus with WiFi MIMO, Bluetooth, GPS and many other features, it serves as a fully functional Android device; it only lacks a data connection.

These are just my first thoughts on the device after playing with it for a mere thirty minutes. But in that half hour, NVIDIA managed to sell me on the SHIELD. I will be waiting for the release date at the end of the month to pick one up, because it’s simply that awesome. If you have a chance, head over to one of the locations and try it out. Maybe you’ll fall in love, too. Stay tuned for more content on the NVIDIA SHIELD, and let us know in the comments what you want to see about it!