09
Jan
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NVIDIA's Shield portable gaming system is easily the most anticipated product to come out of CES. Today, we finally got a chance to go hands-on with an early build of the device, and got a few hands-on videos in the process. Let's break down the videos first.

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Playing Dead Trigger 2

Hardware Impressions

Steam Integration Demo (Black Ops II)

So, what did I think? NVIDIA clearly took its time designing a controller that you'll actually want to use and hold. The batteries are located at the bottom of the unit, to counterbalance the weight of the display. The control sticks are an absolute joy - they felt as smooth as butter. I was able to get a degree of control in Dead Trigger 2 that I've only ever experienced on a console. It become immensely more playable, and thus, enjoyable. The bumpers and other buttons - including the D-pad - felt a little sloppy. NVIDIA says this is something they're well aware of and that these early demo units are not indicative of how the final buttons will feel (eg, they'll be a lot better).

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The Shield is undeniably on the heavy side, but I don't think anyone will find holding it particularly tiresome. One issue, though, is that because it's a little hefty and you have games designed for play on larger tablet screens, sometimes UI elements and scale force you to hold the admittedly large Shield closer to your face than I find comfortable. It's a minor concern in the grand scheme of things, I suppose.

As far as build quality, I'd say it felt like I was holding something on par with your average Xbox 360 controller - solid, high-quality ABS plastic. The units we were playing with were also pretty beat up (see overhead photo of the controls), and they seemed to be handling the abuse without much issue. The removable face plates are magnetic, by the way (see images), and are swapped quite easily.

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Steam integration is what you're probably really chomping at the bit about. OK, so we did play with it. It works. The first time we tried, though, it didn't - the controller wasn't recognized by the connected PC. But when it did work (on our second try), it was fantastic. Black Ops II popped up on the Shield and ran great - no frame skipping, and a high frame rate generally. On the issue of latency, 2-3 minutes just wasn't enough time to be sure how gameplay will be affected by what little there was. It seemed totally playable to me (a lot better than OnLive), and I like to think I'm pretty picky compared to the average person in that regard. There was noticeable latency, sure, but it was very, very minor. And I expect that will likely be further reduced by the time the Shield launches. As it is now though, again, I would say it is definitely playable.

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After this hands-on, I have high hopes for Shield, and am looking forward to spending a lot more time with one once they're on the market. Is this going to be the device that revolutionizes mobile gaming? That's hard to say. There are a lot of factors to consider - price, release date, competing products, critical reception. But I will say this: I think Shield is the most serious Android gaming product to come along to date, and has the best chance of anything out there to change the landscape in a significant way. Whether or not it actually will, well, we'll just have to wait and see.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Alex

    The design looks so dumb, or unorthodox at least lol, but the steam integration is definitely cool, i wouldnt see a use though...

    They are targeting an incredibly niche market

  • https://twitter.com/#!/SydHaven Syd

    Can you please include the fullscreen button with the embedded videos.

    • Michael Johnson

      They're there for me. Regular Youtube videos, bottom right as always.

    • luander

      I think that when you are using the html5 version of youtube it does not have support for fullscreen mode. To check whether you are using the youtube html5 go to youtube.com/html5

      • https://twitter.com/#!/SydHaven Syd

        This is upsetting Since some videos are still using flash on youtube but yet embed with html5 and forgo the fullscreen bug or not. :/

  • Tony

    Do the control sticks "click in" as in can you press them in like on a 360 controller?

    • David Hart

      Yes, It's mentioned in the videos.

  • http://twitter.com/mugabuga Max Anderson

    So is nVidia's marketing strategy still to make the experience on other chipsets worse instead of making theirs better by bribing devs into making THD versions?

    • ProductFRED

      Actually their marketing strategy has always been to make the experience on other chipsets [somewhat] worse BY bribing devs into making THD versions that use proprietary code incompatible with other chipsets. Some games will run if you use ChainFire 3D and the Tegra plugin to trick apps into thinking you have a Tegra chipset in your phone; in other words the app is capable of running on any hardware. Other times, developers will use Tegra-specific code that flat out will not work at all on other hardware. Look at Shadowgun vs Shadowgun THD; in the THD version, there are ragdoll physics and physics-based water movement in maps. The regular version doesn't have those. Riptide GP has motion blur and water splashing on the screen in the THD version. Dead Trigger has ragdoll physics and water droplet effects.

      It's all marketing bs. They may be good with computer GPUs, but they're not doing anything to help Android.

      • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

        It's a little dirty, but it's a big part the devs' faults too. That said, I personally try to avoid anything THD

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    My concern about this thing is -- is it supposed to be a portable or not? I don't think too many people will carry this around as it's definitely not very portable. If not, then it's mostly a stay-at-home console. In this case, the price is going to be a problem -- see, after you buy a console, additional player control only costs you the price of a controller. With the Shield, the first unit will probably cost as much as the next gen console. Additional unit will cost just as much. It's a very expensive setup!

    • verte

      you're right , this one won't be portable.
      for portable gaming I'd better stick with smartphone or psp/vita.

    • Cherokee4Life

      its portable in a sense. I could put this in my Messenger/laptop bag quite easily. Will I buy one though is another story. I am not sure. It would be cool to have but I don't know if it will be worth the money for how much I will use it... I have a Bluetooth controller for my phone and tablet already and will be getting OUYA when it ships so I already have a few Android devices to play games on...

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      It's portable, in the sense that you can throw it in a bag. Personally, I had a DS that I ended up not using all that much because I already had a phone that I "had" to carry with me, and usually just didn't want to, or have room to, lug around another device all the time. I actually found that I spent as much time playing the DS at home as anywhere.

      I have to admit I'm pretty interested in this thing, mostly for the Steam integration. However, if Steam could release a standalone Android app to do the same thing, that would be perfect. I have Splashtop, but the latency is just too much, let alone control issues..

  • Kenny O

    I feel like this is something I have to hold in my hands and try out before I know if I like it or not.

    (that's what she said....)

  • brutalpanther

    Oh man i'm rock hard right now.when is thing available and how much.oh who cares ill sell something.lol

  • defred34

    Gimme one or $199~!

  • Justin Terry

    GAH i wanted an archos gamepad but this just blew my mind even more. Anybody here know if it will have button mapping?

    • defred34

      PG confirmed it as no. Older Tegra games will have to be updated to add native controller support if they are to be played on this thing.

      Nevertheless, root and you'll be good to go!

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      i kinda like the razr gamepad....looks promising

  • Sootie

    Shut up and take my money!

  • http://twitter.com/zervin Zack Ervin

    Now the new series of Tegra 3 Asus devices may have their memory throughput problems, BUT I will say Dead Trigger + PS3 Sixaxis via Bluetooth is some of the best gaming on Android. It has gotten to the point where I refuse to play a shooter if it doesn't support gamepads. Let's not even get started on tablet+tv+sixaxis+snes/nes roms lol.

    • defred34

      How can I set up my Xbox 360/PS3 controller to my tablet? Any help would be welcome. Does it auto-detect, or must I plug in by USB first time round?

    • GraveUypo

      i have to agree. dead trigger on a ps3 gamepad just feels right.
      too bad it is more of a minigame than an actual game

  • carbon

    the design seems not appealing. but that's ok for me.

    biggest problem to me is that hinge. clamshell design won't be comfortable to play on bed, upside down. no matter how firm, the hinge will wear over time.

  • http://twitter.com/Erroneus Erroneus

    So it's a portable+screen for use in your own house, because nobody will be carrying this around in their pockets. I don't see the market for this, sure it's cool that you can connect to steam and play your android games with a good controller, but it's a hefty price to pay.

    Vs. Vita / 3DS it's not really portable for use outside the house, it properly has better graphic then the 3DS, but 3DS has never been strong on the graphics department.

    Vs. a high end phone, it's still not really portable, it's not a phone and the only thing going on for it, is the great controls, which you can get similar controls for your phone with one of the keypads for phones, eg. the very compact and portable PhoneJoy.

    Also it's going to have a PR problem, will Nvidia advertise for this in the same way eg. Sony did for Vita and can they land deals with 3rd party devs to creat high value games for it. Sure we have a few high value Android games, but nothing come close to the Vita and 3DS in production value. And since this "Project shield" aims to be for the hardcore gamer and not those, who get enough out of more simple, though fun mobile games for their phones, Nvidia might have a problem here.

    I hope Nvidia get some form of success with this, as I don't want them to see break their neck over something like this, but as a gamer, I really don't care about "Project Shield", as I'm not willing to spend those kind of money for a controller, when I rather have a highend Android phone and a gamepad for it.

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      ever hear of a backpack?

      • reala

        and a full size 45caliber pistol.

        • HopelesslyFaithful

          IL did just kick their ass kicked in court by posner so i will soon probably carry a 9 mm pistol on my waist or in my backpack. Wouldn't mind throwing a MP5 in my backpack ^^

      • http://twitter.com/Erroneus Erroneus

        If you need a backpack for a device, it's not very portable. Where does it end then? Why not just then carry around a ultrabook pc.

        They are aiming for the portable / phone market Nvidia with Shield, but they made a product which really isn't easy to carry around, that is a huge issue.

        • HopelesslyFaithful

          well i always carry my backpack with me so doesn't really matter to me

    • Matthew Fry

      I don't lug my Nexus 10 around either but when I come home I don't pull out my phone, I pull out the tablet. IMO In the end, what will make or break this device is a) games b) price and c) polish. In that order.

      • http://twitter.com/Erroneus Erroneus

        Same here, also use my tablet at home, but a tablet have so many advantages, that I would not give up my tablet for a Shield.

        If controls are an issue on the tablet, there are tons of ways to use a gamepad with it, which is easy when at home.

  • Simone

    What about the PC streaming feature? Will it be released for other devices too? Considering that nVidia Grid will be available on any device able to launch their client (as shown during the conference), I don't see so many difference in doing the same thing in a LAN environment (furthermore is the evolution of Splashtop THD, so we already have a version fully working on Tegra devices). Any words by nVidia about this?

  • John_Merritt

    I just simply do NOT get the PC streaming "Feature". Perhaps if your PC is at home and you are away somewhere, THEN it becomes something to look at, but at home ? Seriously ? Why not just play the game on the PC ? Why would I _not_ sit down infront of my 24" LED IPS monitor, I5 2500k 4.5Ghz, 16Gb RAM, 2Gb Zotac GTX 660 gfx card, and play Black OPs 2, or Far Cry 3, _ON_ the PC using mouse+keyboard ? Why play it on a tiny little screen with a controller ?

    Perhaps I'm just getting old, but I would only use this as a ANDROID gaming machine using apps, not streaming PC games from a local PC.

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      i see it as a nice way to play your favorite games on the couch or in bed or when the wife is bitching at me in the living room....pull it out and start playing some games ^^

      EDIT: as always to each their own

    • marcusmaximus04

      Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom but don't want to stop playing. No problem, bust out the SHIELD, continue playing from exactly where I already am the whole time.

  • RealityCheck2013

    Looks like a yucky Xbox 360 pad :D I do like the screen on the pad tho. Hopefully the DS4 PS4 pad could have something like that?

  • br_hermon

    I posted the following comment in another article about the Shield but really feel as though it's worth saying again...

    It's innovations like this that make Android so much better than iOS, if only from a developer standpoint. Think about it, devs want to put their games on a platform that people will buy their app on. On iOS you can play your games on your phone or tablet, that's it. But thanks to companies like Nvidea and OUYA, you can play those same games on your phone, tablet, game console, handheld, Android on a stick, etc.

    Apple chooses to keep their ecosystem closed and because of it rely solely on their own hardware sales to help push content sales. With Android, because it's open, game developers don't need to worry if enough Android phone sales happen, they know there's an ever increasing number of other devices out there that can play their game.

    At the end of the day for any type of developer, it boils down to one thing, How can I maximize profit? The answer, by getting your app out in front of as many people as possible and getting income from either sales or in-app-advertising.

    What's just as great about all this is the fact that hardware companies are now working with developers more and more. NVIDIA wants to sell more chips and hardware, so they need your games to wow the customer. The better the game, the better for NVIDIA. And ALL this is possible because Apple closes its doors while Android leaves them wide open! With awesome innovations like the SHIELD, I hope this and many more just take off like rapid fire. further destroying the misconceived value of the iOS development over Android.

    • Cheeseball

      I agree with your view 100%. The problem with Android though, and this has been said many times, even by the moronic iOS fanboys, is the hardware and software fragmentation.

      Software = phones are stuck on/still coming with Gingerbread (2.3.x), bad implentation of binary blobs (closed-source drivers) for certain manufacturers (Yeah, fuck you MediaTek /venting)

      Hardware = Various SoCs with varying performance and features (e.g. Tegra's texture compression support, Mali-400 MP's lackluster fill rate, Adreno 2xx's weird NEON-implementation, etc.)

      If we could just have a complete set of hardware standards it would be a great help for the platform. For example, like what we have with Cortex's ARM series, and how Qualcomm's Snapdragon's are "Cortex-compatible", or having a GPU that supports these "certain types of texture compression", or "this certain amount of MAM *must* be integrated into the SoC", etc.

      Apparently, this is how Apple does it with their hardware. And, unfortunately, due to their walled-garden mindset, iOS is archaic and outdated (but simple).

  • Trudy

    While the pad looks much better quality than the one on my Xperia Play, there's a reason the Play has become my most used portable console (and I probably play games on it more often than on my Xbox 360 too) despite its dated hardware. I just can't see myself lugging this thing around.

    Steam streaming is neat though, and I'd kill to play something like TF2 on my phone from the couch. I really hope that's something that finds its way to more Android devices.

  • tjennhw

    10 ms latency on an fps is too much. It looks like you're getting at least that much and on the demo LAN. I'm thinking that there's definitely a market for this, but it's the people who've never heard of splashtop.

    • GraveUypo

      you can't tell if theres a 10ms latency from a 30fps video because the interval between each frame is 33ms. and a latency up to 66ms is right withing tolerancy. obviously not ideal, but you can still play it. (just turn v-sync on with a double frame buffer and you'll see what 60ms latency on controls is. it's kinda annoying, but manageable. and that's with the game running at 60fps.)

  • GraveUypo

    i don't like this...
    i like it, but i don't like nvidia i want it to fail.
    damn :<