My recent acquisition of the NVidia Shield has really got me charged up. I wrote a four part review discussing it in great detail, but I know not everyone wants to consume that much literature on the topic, so here is the quick guide version of why you should own an NVidia Shield.
Ten: It’s Android
The latest and greatest Android with hundreds of thousands of choices available immediately.
… and it isn’t JUST Android. It is KitKat Android with very little tampering by NVidia. It has full access to the Play store and Google Apps – plus, it isn’t riddled with manufacturer “bloatware”.
Nothing feels cobbled together – the NVidia Shield stuff added to the OS feels seamless; as if it was always there. It is the way an Android implementation should be done.
Nine: Great Hardware
The Tegra 4 processor is a beast.
For you tech spec geeks, the Tegra 4 clocks in at 1.9Ghz and is powered by an ARM Cortex-A15 CPU. It features 72(!) GPU cores and can support up to 4k resolutions.
You will truly appreciate the Tegra 4′s ability to reduce power usage and save your Shield’s battery – by using a single core for light loads and a full four core GPU burst when needed by graphically intensive games.
For storage, there is 16GB of flash memory built in with a microSD card to back it up. Of course the standard stuff is here; 802.11n 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS capabilities. 3-axis gyros and accelerometers are present as well.
The battery is a three-cell lithium at 7350 mAh and will last you anywhere from 5 to 8 hours depending on usage.
Eight: Insane Screen
The Shield sports a high quality 5-inch 1280×720 with 294 PPI. It is multi-touch and very responsive.
The quality has to be seen to be believed.
Many people give high marks to the PSVita 5″ screen which has a lot lower specs; 960 x 544 with 220 PPI. The Shield easily blows it away – making it the best portable screen I’ve seen.
Everything is crisp and colorful – even small text is readable.
Needless to say, if you liked the PSVita screen? You’re going to LOVE the Shield screen.
Seven: Fantastic Controller
The NVidia Shield controller is so good, you might forget you’re playing a handheld gaming system.
The triggers are top quality. The shoulder buttons have great spring but are a bit recessed. The d-pad is fantastic four directional, once you wear it in a bit.
The analog sticks are amazing. Smooth, responsive – never grinding or sticking. Thumbs are totally comfortable on top and of course, each one acts as it’s own button by clicking down on them (great for coin ups in arcade emulators or other low use scenarios).
The remaining four ABXY buttons are incredible. Responsive, clicky-but-not-too-clicky – not mushy at all. They feel durable and comfortable for long time play.
Gameplay is king and controls are queen, and this queen trumps other Android controllers hands down.
Six: HDMI Out/Console Mode
Other devices have promised and (half-assed) delivered “TV Out” but it has always been an obvious last minute thought.
The Shield, though? You can tell HDMI Out was part of the original equation.
No hassle (except that it’s miniHDMI and you probably don’t have one of those laying around), just plug it in and start playing on your TV. NVidia took it a step further, adding a “console mode”, allowing you to kick up the resolution and make the unit more like a TV-based console.
Oddly enough, you can pair up another controller (like the Nyko Playpad Pro) to the Shield, plug it into your TV and play wirelessly – just like an actual game console.
Five: Internet Game Streaming
Currently in beta, this is a very nice selling point currently available – that could blossom into something even better for a certain group of gamers that flit around from game to game a lot.
Using the Nvidia Grid service, all you have to do is hit an icon, and you’re presented with 10-15 games that are free to play and stream directly over the internet to you. If you’re familiar with On-Live, you’ll understand how this works.
No cost, no subscription. Just free games like Alan Wake, Darksiders, Dead Island and more. It works remarkably well and for free? This is a great reason to own a Shield and could be even better in the future for those that don’t care about actually OWNING games.
Four: PC Game Streaming
This means a lot to me; streaming PC games from your PC to your Shield.
Much like the Wii U’s “off screen experience”, you can play your favorite PC games on a smaller screen in full 1080p with the best graphics – streamed from your gaming PC over WiFi.
Now I can get the off screen experience with the diversity of PC gaming and the cheap online digital deals that are out there.
Three: Unsurpassed Emulation
If you’re into emulation of consoles like NES, SNES, N64, Genesis, Playstation 1, Dreamcast or portables like Nintendo GB/A/DS – or even old computers like Commodore 64, Amiga, Spectrum, MSX – the Shield has you covered, thanks to the rich availability of Android-based emulators out there.
Even the Mother Of All Emulation, MAME is present – giving you access to thousands of classic arcade games like Donkey Kong and PacMan. The hard-luck cases like STUN Runner and NARC play amazing on the Shield.
Couple all this with a top notch controller and gorgeous screen and you have what is likely the best portable emulation system out there.
Two: Game Mapper
Mapping controls of Android games to real, physical controllers has been a hit and miss (mostly miss) challenge since the beginning. The Shield fixes it properly.
Gamepad Mapper is insane. Load the game to control. Hit the PLAY button on the Shield. Drag and drop controls from the pop up menu – hit the button to assign? Boom you’re done.
The Mapper automatically saves (and reloads) the mapping based on the game you’re playing. It is so fast and easy, it will blow you away.
You can easily download pre-made mappings from the Mapper community with a single touch. Chances are likely that you’ll never have to make your own. You can even simulate a mouse environment, using the analog stick and your choice of buttons to act as a click.
This functionality is so well integrated into the system, you would swear it was built into Android. Google would do well to license this immediately.
One: Industry and Future Support
If you buy some Chinese knock off “Android Game System”, you aren’t going to get the kind of industry and developer support you’re going to see with the Shield.
Having a Tegra processor gets you access to the “THD” games out there (and it even enhances some non-Tegra games) – plus, developers of games that feature physical controls are including the Shield support native in their games now; without the need for downloading or creating mapping profiles.
NVidia has a great deal of investment in the Tegra line and its integration with it’s desktop GPUs. They are the industry leaders in GPU and aren’t likely to go anywhere.
If you’re a PC gamer looking for some portable love, this might just be your salvation. If you love Android and want to game on it – this is your single, best destiny. If you’re a handheld junkie that just has to have it all – don’t leave this one out of your collection.
You will believe a handheld can fly…