Back in mid-September, NVIDIA announced a new platform called Tegra Note that aimed to not only bring $200 Tegra 4 slates to the market, but excellent stylus support using NVIDIA's DirectStylus technology, a "groundbreaking" camera experience, and superb audio as well. That's a tall order in a $200 device, but NVIDIA has proven that when it sets out to achieve a goal, it's generally successful at delivering on the promises made.
The first time I went hands-on with the NVIDIA SHIELD, I knew I was playing with something awesome. At the same time, I knew there was so much hidden potential under its hood – like the ability to play all those games not optimized for controllers. You know, like NBA JAM or Paper Monster. I desperately craved one thing: button mapping software. Hell, I made that desire pretty clear when talking about the new Archos Gamepad 2.
Last year, NVIDIA announced a then-groundbreaking tablet design called Kai. It was essentially a reference – a blueprint, if you will – for manufacturers to design and build extremely affordable tablets. The plan was clearly laid out, but the platform itself was incredibly flexible so the manufacturing costs and retail pricing could fluctuate as much as the design of the tablets themselves. Google's 2012 Nexus 7 was just one of the tablets that took advantage of Kai.
If you're a SHIELD early adopter, you may want to head into the settings menu and grab the latest update – it's a good one. Update 59 brings improved PC streaming stability, along with support for more PC Games, like FIFA 13, Call of Jaurez: Gunslinger, Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, and several other. There are now 31 officially supported PC titles. Not bad.
Aside from that, it also adds support for Tegra developer tools and possibly the most anticipated feature: the ability to move apps to the SD Card.
SEGA's Crazy Taxi was a very welcome addition to Android's gaming lineup last month, and no less so for a wide array of controls. The game came with standard on-screen controls, tilt steering, and support for HID and MOGA controllers. It was strange, then, that the game was incompatible with the controls on NVIDIA's SHIELD. Other SEGA games had already been updated for the launch. But today Crazy Taxi was updated to version 1.2, complete with SHIELD-friendly controls.
The Nexus 7 2013 is awesome in just about every way, building on the strengths of the original to become an easy choice for the best 7" Android tablet on the market at the moment. But there's at least one company that isn't altogether happy with it: NVIDIA. Their Tegra 3 chip powered the first Nexus 7, but Google switched to Qualcomm for the new version... a decision which hasn't come without problems of its own.
With SHIELD, NVIDIA made the decision to support the open source/root/Android modding community and embrace the hack-centric nature of the platform by making the device unlockable and easily modifiable. Now, it has made the necessary files available to really open it up for devs: the open source binary drivers and stock recovery image. Together, these files will not only allow developers to start tinkering with the device, but also flash everything back to its stock state should something go awry.
When I first experienced the NVIDIA Shield's ability to stream games from a PC to the handheld unit wirelessly at CES back in January, I was floored. While it is remarkably similar to the Splashtop game streaming functionality NVIDIA demoed at CES 2012 (which never really came to fruition), Shield streaming feels like an even bigger step forward. This is basically NVIDIA's "look at what we can do" technology - it's what happens when they can have a high degree of control over the gaming experience.
NVIDIA’s SHIELD is a gaming device that defies classification. The full-sized controls and Android software make it more than a portable gaming device, at least on paper, but it doesn't compete with (or complement) more conventional mobile form factors. SHIELD is something entirely new.
The only way to evaluate a gaming machine is on how it plays games, and in that respect, SHIELD is amazing... at least in a few specific circumstances.
NVIDIA's Android-powered SHIELD gaming device launches tomorrow, after a shaky start with a month-long delay. But the boys in green have put the time to good use, wooing a huge list of developers to create an impressive library of titles compatible with SHIELD from day one. Here are our picks for the best SHIELD-compatible games, and the full list of 127 free and paid games available at launch.
A lot of the games in the official NVIDIA list are a bit off: there are duplicates for free and paid games, Tegra versions and non-Tegra versions, and "free" games that require in-app purchases for access to the full title.