Review: Nvidia Shield

Better known for its graphics cards and mobile processors, Nvidia has made its move into the handheld gaming space with a device that looks like an Xbox game controller with a 5-inch screen attached.

The Shield boasts powerful hardware, starting with the Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor, the same one powering the next generation of smartphones.

At 294 pixels per inch, the display is sharp and smooth. Colours are bright and sharp but when placed beside the PlayStation Vita, the latter had warmer, more vivid colours.

What really impressed me were the built-in speakers, which delivered gaming audio with punch.

The Shield does everything that an Android smartphone does, except that you cannot use it to make calls.

With the built-in Wi-Fi, you can connect the Shield to your home router or tether it to your smartphone to access the Internet.

Google Play Store is available and you can download any Android app using the device.

I could also surf the Net using the mobile Chrome browser, check my Google Calendar and Gmail.

The device supports multiple users, so it can be shared with your family members. All of them can have their own wallpaper and sets of apps.

As a gaming device, it works with all Android games on the touchscreen. Some games will also work with the gamepad. These Shield games can be bought from the Shield Store.

The device comes preloaded with two Shield games - Sonic The Hedgehog 4 and Expendable: Rearmed. I also had a go at the Diablo-clone Soulcraft and an awesome pinball game called Zen Pinball.

The impressive gamepad controls are as good as those of the Xbox 360 game controller. They come complete with dual thumbsticks, bumpers, triggers and D-pad.

The biggest problem, however, is the weight of the device. It is more than twice as heavy as the Xbox 360 gamepad and the PS Vita, which weigh only about 260g each. My hands felt tired after about 30 minutes.

Another drawback is the limited number of games that can take advantage of the Shield's gamepad controls.

In the Shield Store, I counted fewer than 10 games.

But the Shield does have one advantage over the Vita - it can stream PC games from a PC to the Shield. If you are playing Assassin's Creed III on your PC, you can continue the game using the Shield while having lunch or answering the call of nature.

For this to work, the Shield must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your PC, and the PC must be running a Nvidia graphics card of GTX 650 grade or higher.

Unfortunately, I could not get this to work despite spending hours swopping my AMD Radeon graphics card with a GTX 650, and installing the beta drivers and software.

Once connected to the PC, the Shield managed to detect that I was running Steam on the PC, but repeated efforts to launch Steam on the Shield failed.

It is likely that the connection failed because the software I used was not the final launch version. This feature should work properly when the device launches.

If it works as planned, then the ability to play PC games on the Shield's screen may be a strong inducement for gamers who want to play their triple-A PC titles, such as Bioshock Infinite and Assassin's Creed, on a handheld console.

This surely beats compromising with scaled-down mutations made for less powerful handhelds such as the PS Vita.

However, this works only when you are at home as the Shield must be connected to the PC. Also, PC games which work well with the gamepad are limited, as most PC games are designed for the keyboard and mouse.

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