Overall and Final Verdict
As someone who has invested fairly heavily into android based gaming over the past two years (bot in time and with game purchases) the Nvidia Shield was especially interesting to me. Now that we have covered most of the details on the device itself, I really wanted to reflect a little on where it stands compared to your other options. Just to be clear, as the photos show, the main options available for gaming are the Nvidia Shield, the Ouya, various tablets, and gaming directly on your phone. I spend time gaming on all four of these devices on a regular bases, for tablet gaming I use the Nexus 7 and the Transformer Prime and phone gaming it is generally the Nexus 4 and whatever phone I might be reviewing at the time (as of right now that is the LG G2).
Each of the four platforms give a completely different experience, even when playing the same games. The only platform that is close to the Shield is the Ouya. With an actually gaming controller, it is actually designed to be a gaming platform. Where it fails compared to the Shield is the Ouya proprietary app store. I don’t have a problem with the system having its own app store, but not being able to also use the Google Play Store as well limits what you can actually use the Ouya for. Over the past 6 months, I find myself using the Ouya more as a media player with XBMC and Twitch than anything else. Its only saving grace is having SuperGNES available, sadly if you already paid for the emulator on the Play store you will still need to pay for it on the Ouya. The Shield is worlds above the Ouya as a platform, not even counting having the ability to stream PC games. I really think the next Ouya should just be a console version of the Shield. For now you might be better off picking up a Bluetooth controller and using the Shield in Console mode to get the same experience.
What about on the go? Do the phone and tablet hold their own against the Shield? It really depends on what kind of games you play and where you are planning on playing. I have found that a lot of mobile focused games don’t play very well on the Shield (games that use the touchscreen or are designed to be used in a portrait orientation). In those cases it would be better to be gaming on the tablet or phone. For racing games and games that place your controls on the screen, trying to game on the phone is nearly impossible for me and still not entirely comfortable on the tablet. The only exception to this is using SuperGNES on the Nexus 7 in a vertical orientation. Where the phone nd even the tablet excel is when on the go. Short of Mary Poppins, very few people will have the room on them to bring the Shield along with them all of the time. My wife has packed her Nexus 7 with her in her purse, but generally this is where the phone stands out.
Of all of the platforms, without a doubt the Shield is the most powerful. Really the only reason to go with any of the other options would be a lack of space to pack the Shield in your purse or pocket.
Beyond the comparisons between different android devices, how did the Shield stand up? When I first started gaming on the Shield I expected to just use the shield to play emulated games and stream a couple PC games, but I found myself playing a lot more Android based games than I ever anticipated. A lot of this is because of the work Nvidia has put in with developers like Sega to put out great games with full Shield support. On top of that, the Shield Store and Gamepad Mapping has really opened up the options available tempting me into picking up and playing more android games now that on any other Android device I have owned in the past.
Although I think the software brings it all together, without the hardware the Shield wouldn’t be anything. Nvidia packed the Shield with their latest Tegra 4 chipset and it performed extremely well in my testing, topping the charts by a considerable amount. You also have the built in controller with a button layout just like the ever popular Xbox 360 controller, which means it is both comfortable and easy to learn quickly.
Really the only complaints I had about the Shield at all was in relation to its portability and weight. I took the Shield with us on a few trips including MLG but there are a lot of situations where you just wouldn’t have room to bring it along due to its size where a DS or other portable game console would better fit in a pocket. Its weight was also more than I expected, but it didn’t really become too much of an issue when gaming. The weight is really only worth mentioning because it was more than I expected from its looks.
Officially the MSRP of the shield is just under $300, but if you get in quickly it is actually on sale right now for $250 making this a great deal in my opinion. If you are in the market for a video card you can actually get one for even less. Nvidia is offering another $50 off the price if you buy it with one of their qualifying video card models. If you are looking to game on Android, I don’t think you will find a better system to do it!