05
Feb
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So, Android-powered game consoles are a thing. Whether anyone likes it or not, this is a direction that some companies are going, trying to reshape how we think of traditional gaming. It kind of started with the OUYA, a $99 Android console that takes a unique approach to the gaming console, as well as Android itself. It doesn't have the Play Store, but instead OUYA's curated game store where all games are free to try. It's a noble gesture, sure, but let's be frank here: it sucks to have to re-buy all the games you've already bought. No one wants to do that.

Then there's SHIELD, NVIDIA's take on the portable console that can also double as a TV-connected unit with the new(ish) Console Mode. It's more of a traditional Android device in terms of operating system, comes with Google Play, and tries to make the best of its unusual form factor with game- and software-specific tweaks. The list goes on from there with smaller names like GameStick and the multitude of new crowdfunded projects that hit on a regular basis from people who think they can do gaming better.

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Now we have M.O.J.O. (which will be stylized as MOJO moving forward because I don't want to type all those damn periods every time I mention its name) by Mad Catz. For those who may not know the name, Mad Catz is known for its gaming peripherals for both PCs and consoles like Xbox and Playstation – they make keyboards, mice, gaming controllers, headsets, and the like. As far as I know, this is the company's first try at a console of its own. Under MOJO's hood, you'll basically find the same guts as SHEILD: a Tegra 4 chip, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The whole thing's powered by a mostly-stock build of Android 4.2.2, which works fine for what this is. It ships with everything you need to get started: the console, power cable, HDMI cable, and Bluetooth gaming controller that also works with Windows PCs and other Android devices. It even comes with a removable clip that can hold a smartphone, a la MOGA.

MOJO is a small-ish black box with a pleasant blue light on the front. It's an always-on device (there isn't a power button at all), so the light stays on constantly. I haven't found a way to disable it, which may be annoying for some. The unit itself feels well put-together, but the odds are you're going to throw it on a shelf and never touch it again. It's definitely built well enough for that. The controller feels pretty solid (much better than OUYA's, at least), but it's not SHIELD-quality. Aside from the normal game functions, it also has built-in volume and media controls, and offers three different modes: game, mouse, and PC. The two former options will work on MOJO, but the latter is obviously for use on a traditional PC. The biggest downside of the controller? It takes two AAA batteries instead of being rechargeable. Boo!

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After firing up MOJO for the first time, one thing became apparent to me: navigating a software keyboard with a controller is annoying. It takes forever to use a keyboard designed for touch by A) navigating each letter with the D-Pad, or 2) using mouse mode to hit each letter. To better the experience I strongly suggest a Bluetooth keyboard of any kind. It will make it much easier to sign in to different accounts, surf the web, or any of the other things that MOJO can do outside of playing games. 

Navigating Android with MOJO's controller takes some getting used to, as it doesn't work exactly like I expected (granted, that could be because I'm used to how SHIELD does it, which I've found to be very straightforward and intuitive). While in the OS, mouse mode is probably the best way to get to where you're going, though game mode also works. That said, as soon as a game is launched, the controller needs to be switched into game mode. Get ready to flick that little button pretty often when using MOJO.

From there, it's just Android. It's familiar, so navigating it becomes thoughtless. I really wish there were an easy way to hide the navigation and notification bars for a full-screen experience, however. The Play Store is present, but MOJO has faced issues with content. Rooting the unit essentially remedies this quandary, though Mad Catz can't ship it rooted. It's a very straightforward process, however, and worth the trouble. Until Google Play becomes more non-touch-device friendly, rooting MOJO is basically requisite to providing a good experience. Even then, however, I found incompatible apps, like Google+, for example. I was also prompted to update Google Play Services before most of the games that integrate with Play Games would work, but the Play Store showed no update. I ended up sideloading the apk from my Nexus 5 which corrected the issue, and I've been told by Mad Catz that they've been in contact with Google to get the Services compatibility issue sorted out as quickly as possible. 

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Overall, I have mixed feelings about MOJO right out of the gate. It's not what I expected, but at the same time I realize that I probably shouldn't have expected anything different. It's definitely rough around the edges right now, but it's a new product and a whole new realm for Mad Catz. I've talked with them fairly in-depth about this, and I can hear their excitement for the product, so I think it's going to get quite a bit better over time. GameStream is coming eventually, and hopefully NVIDIA will share its button mapping software with Mad Catz, as well. Those two things would make a world of difference.

It's worth keeping in mind here that I've only had the unit for a day, so these are just my initial assessments of the device. The full review should be up in a couple of weeks, where I'll go into much greater detail about what MOJO does well, as well as where it falls short. In the meantime, if there's anything you'd like to see in the full review, drop it in the comments.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • ytcracka

    As a hardcore gamer and a lover of android...I will never understand these. I understand it may be a perfect fit for some people and that is cool.

    • Sean Lumly

      It's probably the fact that you are a hardcore gamer that you don't understand these devices. They aren't targeted to the type of consumer that would build at $1000 gaming rig, but the more casual gamer that wants to take it to the big screen.

      • ytcracka

        Yeah i get that but the price is so close to the PS4 or XBONE its hard to justify that price to play games not really made for such a big screen...but like you said...it is more of a casual gamer console I guess.

        • Sean Lumly

          Yeah, I agree that this device is priced too high (IIRC it's $250, corrections welcome on this point). But I think this will be the exception moving forward. I think these types of devices are likely to be priced between $80 and $120, which is an impulse buy for many.

          • Rodalpho

            I don't see a price anywhere. At $100 it would compete very nicely with the Ouya. Tegra4 smokes Tegra3. Would make a nice XBMC/Plex box, too.

            At more than $100 it competes against bay trail atom small form factor PCs like the NUC, Brix, and that new chromebox. Those can run Steam for in-home streaming, which is super, super sexy.

          • Sergii Pylypenko

            NUC may be below $200, but it comes with no RAM or HDD, and has sucky Intel videocard, so it's still not a gaming device - Quake3 and casual games are pretty much all your choice. Chromebox cannot run games either (even flash games).

          • Rodalpho

            I assumed the user would install linux on the chromebox, obviously. Otherwise steam and HTPC stuff are all non-starters.
            Also FYI, even ivy bridge-class intel HD graphics are faster than tegra4. Haswell integrated graphics comparitively range from a lot faster (4400) to ridiculously faster (5200).

          • renz

            here listing for $250:
            http://www.amazon.com/M-O-J-O-Micro-Console-Android-Not-Machine-Specific/dp/B00FM5IS48

            if you want something similar but for far cheaper price then try looking at Huaweii TRON. tegra 4 (1.8Ghz), 2GB or RAM, 16GB internal storage for $120-$150. the downside is it is for china market only for now:

            http://phandroid.com/2014/01/13/huawei-tron-android-console-hands-on-ces-2014/

          • ReyMaxwin

            This is a high end Tegra 4, Bluetooth 4.0 device, it can probably be made to play 4k. If you want the low end, you have options, but we need options at the high end if android Gaming is to move forward.

            My biggest hold back is that I already have a N7 tablet, which I hook up to the TV and play games with my MOGA. The battery will eventually die, even when its hooked up, and performance is degraded when using HDMI output.

            I can justify $50 for another controller, I can justify $100 for a media player to hook up to my speakers/TV. I can justify $50 more for double the gaming performance of a N7 with HDMI output. I can justify $50 more for a fast device to do casual desktop browsing... Total $250 dollars.... I'm sold! I'll be hooking this to my TV, which I use as external monitor for serious work, but connecting my laptop is a pain... Having an always on browser on my desk is nice.

            $250 for a mid to high end Chromebook class computer is a steal...

          • Sunset Rider

            $250 for this device is a ripoff. It doesn't even come with a screen.

            You can buy a Tegra Note 7 for $200 and guess what? It comes with a Tegra 4 and a micro HDMI port, admittedly with only 1GB of RAM. But you can hook it up to your TV and it would be just as functional as the MOJO.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    I've got one question - why do all these 3rd party controller makers use the Xbox design? Why not use the Dualshock layout? Or make both at least?

    • Tom

      Because it is better. :D

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        That's a highly subjective statement

        • Rodalpho

          Well, sure. But it does have one objective improvement; you can reach the 4-way gamepad with your right thumb. So you can activate those buttons while moving with the left thumb.

          • Cheeseball

            THIS. OMG THIS. I love Playstation games, but the Xbox controller makes much more sense.

    • ProductFRED

      That's actually the OnLive controller design. I think MadCatz bought their inventory of controllers when they went bust and rebranded them.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        It's a onlive design with Xbox button layout

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      Because Xbox 360 controllers are widely considered to be the best by far. You might not agree, and that's fine, but I'm just saying that's why third parties tend to go that route.

  • jonny_the_cat

    I want to like this, so badly. Playing Deus Ex or Nova 3 on a system like this, along with Google Play support, would be perfect. A controller when I'm at home, and pick up the tablet and play while I'm away. It just sounds like the software isn't there yet, which is a shame. I'm hesitant to buy a product which isn't fully developed, because who wants to take a chance that the manufacturer will work out the bugs?

    Decisions, decisions...

    • ReyMaxwin

      I'm with you. I trust that the relatively unskinned android will help them fix the minor bugs. In all honesty, the core android apps are highly controller friendly. I'll be using this as a secondary computer most of the time for my browsing and homework.

      They should probably market this as the more well rounded device this is. I see it more as a Tegra 4 desktop computer, and includes a really nice controller.

    • Sergii Pylypenko

      Deus Ex does not yet support gamepads, it was released very recently though.

    • gwald

      Software and hardware are there now and i'm doing just this with Nova 3, GTA VC, etc.. on the same controller.

  • Kenneth Moody

    I'm really looking forward to the review as i really want to get this device, so i can game on android but on my tv. So i guess the tough choice right now for me is MOJO or ShIELD?

    • gwald

      To use the shield as a console, you should also get a BT controller.
      Also the mojo has zero setting up time, as it's there.
      The mojo is BT4 with 2 usb ports ;)

      The mojo can do what the shield does with a good phone (or tablet:
      Google 7inch mad catz) and with a better controller -
      Shields controller's "L1 and R1 buttons are lousy, being too small and too awkward to access"

      • http://www.maverickcreative.ca/ Joshua Richards

        @gwald You left out the part where the MOJO doesn't have KitKat, so it can't actually use BT4, so you need to use a port for the controller.

  • Primalxconvoy

    Nvidia should also be working closely with ouya, wikipad, moga and the other heralds of hardware controller gaming for android. Together, they could create a defacto standard with which to complete with each other. Then others would join that standard, creating a new market for mobile os gaming. They also need to work (somewhat) with apple, creating games and hardware that either can be used on both systems OR share tools or other things to help ports between the too.

    Unity is strength.

    • QuanahHarjo

      The one that needs to make the "standard" is the Android team/Google. Basic USB gamepad support is built in to Android...it needs to be made more robust and inclusive of wireless controllers. Then everyone else wouldn't be left twisting in the wind trying to make the wheel over and over again. Apple did it with iOS7, Android needs to do it as well.

      • Primalxconvoy

        I agree but I've always felt that Google releases half baked products and it's up to other companies to build upon and refine their work.

        Anyway, i don't think android and ios support joypad controls for the stock launchers do they?

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Hey Cameron, does it support overscan compensation? The feature to resize your video output to fit your TV exactly, because many TVs have thick borders, which cover part of video output.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      IN short: No. And it annoys the shit out of me. For some reason, it randomly fixed the sizing issue once, and I haven't been able to reproduce it.

      • Sergii Pylypenko

        That's sad, Ouya received that feature in the latest firmware update, let's hope they will do the same for Mojo, because lot of games will be unplayable otherwise, with your health bar off-screen etc. Ouya requires developers to resize game content or redesign UI, but they have their own app store, Mojo cannot do that.

  • gwald

    Hi, good right up..
    I got my travel clip on a 7" tablet, its awesome!
    Google 7inch mad catz ;)

  • http://www.modsuperstar.ca/ modsuperstar

    I don't get why this "re-buy" Play Store games garbage keeps getting brought up about the Ouya. It's total misinformation. If you have purchased something from the Google Play store, download the APK and sideload it onto the Ouya. No re-buying required.

    • Justin Case

      Except you know, where most decent paid apps depend on LVL for licensing, and that wouldn't work on Ouya. Next.

  • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

    "Under MOJO's hood, you'll basically find the same guts as SHEILD:"