I didn’t take a lot of time with the Nvidia Shield at E3. The environment was terrible to demo hardware, and the initial word on the street was that the system was launching in a bit of a Beta state. Fast forward to this holiday season and I’ve gotten another shot at the hardware. Stopping by during BlizzCon 2013 I sat down with one of the developers at Nvidia for a hands-on look at the most recent updates to the device. At the end of the demonstration I knew one thing for sure…I wanted one.
The newest free update added essentially everything you’d want from a device of this caliber. One of the things Shield does well is handle Android-native applications, but a great many of the games that would be great on the device would normally have to wait for ‘official support’. Introducing “Gamepad mapper”. Gamepad mapper takes touch based games and maps them directly to the controller. By simply holding a button you can map the on-screen controls and push that directional or button press action directly to the buttons and sticks. While Tegrazone currently shows roughly 150 games with official support, a quick check of the community shows well over 1,000 that just work out of the box. I tried out NBA Jam, a game with on-screen native touchscreen controls. As promised, a quick mapping of controls had me dunking with the best of them.
If I’m being perfectly frank, people don’t pay the price tag attached to the Shield to play Android games. The real reason people buy Shield is to stream their PC games to their big-screen TVs, controlling them from a comfortable controller and all without stringing a bunch of wires from their office to their living room. Shield launched with a rudimentary level of support for this function, but the most recent device update gave us what we really want…
The October 28th update to Jelly Bean for Shield also provided a feature called Gamestream. Gamestream delivers native 1080p streaming and Bluetooth controls for over 50 of the hottest games. Just like the Android support mentioned above, there are over 100 more games on Steam that just work with or without official support, with roughly 10 more a month making their way to the official list. The best part is that this is all delivered at 60fps rather than the 30fps support under which the system originally shipped.
The icing on the cake was the price. Shield retails at $299 currently, but if you are looking to get a new graphics card, there is a sweet promo running that gives you up to $100 off the retail price of the unit, but also gives you a copy of Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist all for included for free!
While I want to reserve my final judgment for when I get an in-depth hands-on with the system, I couldn’t conceal that I was impressed with the system. The most recent update delivers on the potential that the system promised, and the pack-in price drop with three of the hottest games if you nab a new graphics card is hard to ignore. Stay tuned for our review of Shield coming very soon. In the mean time, here’s a demo of Borderlands 2 running on Shield. Enjoy!