NVIDIA Project Shield Hands-On: A Little Less Weird Than It Looks

Nvidia's Project Shield is a curious little device, attempting to toss its hat into a bunch of rings at once. It's taking shots at handheld gaming, console gaming, tablets and phones. For the most part, it's holding under the strain, but it's hard to imagine going out of your way to use it versus any of those things it's trying to replace.

It's definitely passable and frequently good at emulating PC and console gaming, but it's just a little to busy to be a perfect copy.

The controller is a bit light, and while it doesn't feel extremely cheap, it doesn't have the sort of heft and weight you would expect from a console controller. Despite being rather chunky, it fits relatively nicely in the hand. For all those edges, there aren't any that make it uncomfortable. It doesn't feel nearly as awkward to hold as it looks like it would, which is a pretty big accomplishment considering how it looks.

That said, it has its share of weirdness. The disc-y shape of the controller makes the bumper and trigger placement odd. Literally every time I reached from the trigger to the bumpers, I missed on the first try. Likewise, the way the meat of the controller concaves to accommodate the folding screen makes it very easy to get lost on the way from a stick to a button. And the physical buttons for volume, as well as Android's back and home functionality in the controller's centre make for some crowded real-estate.

It's largely a matter of personal preference, but I had a difficult time getting used to parallel sticks, as opposed to the off-set ones the Xbox 360 controller has popularised. The downward-sloping nature of the controller's centre also makes for an awkward angle on the sticks, which are already pretty low. It's almost impossible to tell whether or not you're clicking them in. All that said, it seems like a gamer could probably get used to the controller after spending a little time with it, though switching back and for from Shield and traditional controllers could make the transition process a little weirder.

Performance-wise Shield worked great. The Tegra 4-optimised, native Android games ran well and looked great on both the TV and the controller's built-in (and notably small-ish) screen. The stock Jelly Bean interface makes navigation as easy as it is on any other Android device, and Nvidia's own game-choosing apps consist of little more than a simple scroll-able list, making the process just as simple as it should be.

Streaming games from the PC went off largely without a hitch, though it's worth noting they demoed this feature with a racing game, which wouldn't demonstrate any lag nearly as clearly as say, a shooter. That said, Nvidia says the lag from PC streaming should be no more intrusive than a that between a console and wireless controller, and there certainly wasn't anything noticeably glaring.

All in all, Project Shield is a bit weird, but considering the wide spread of things it's trying to do, that's not entirely surprising. The weirdness isn't insurmountable though, or at least might not be depending on the as-yet-to-be-released price-point. Project Shield definitely feels like a product that's taking on a lot, but it's not instantly crippled under the load.

Originally posted on Gizmodo from CES


Comments

    really keen for this... whats the game in the last picture?

    Even though i was negative about this at first, this is something i would probably buy as it would complement my new GTX 680 quite nicely.

    The only thing what will stop me would be the price and availability, at most i would pay $300 for this but i fear that having so many features that it will push up its price to between $500 and $800.

    Either way i would like to buy it but is something i can honestly live without.

      How does this compliment a GTX680 exactly?

        because you need to be running a 600 series GTX for the streaming to work from what i've read... so yeah... he's part bragging and part making a point... me... it'll go nicely with my SLI 670's... just sayin :P

          SLI 670s are relatively on par with a single 680.

            lol ... no, GTX670's in SLI would murder a GTX680 in any application that takes advantage of the technology.

            rofl... wow... single 670 is only a couple of fps behind 680 most the time which is why i didn't go for 680's... better value... plus i went for factory o/c'd ones which close the gap even more...

    With shield being able to stream steam games and steambox coming out, do we really need consoles anymore

      Well, you need a series 600 NVidia card in your PC while you stream and you obviously need the PC and this to be on (which will incinerate your electricity bill). And even when the steambox comes out, it'll just be another competitor. The other consoles won't die just because of it. I'm not even sure how many people would even know about it existing. Apart from more devoted gamers and PC gamers in general, who would know about Valve? I still hope it sells well and makes the other hardware companies pay more attention to software pricing.

      Sure do - called company exclusives! Not to mention, I don't plan on buying an Nvidia card and this device still doesn't match my triple wide gaming rig. And while it says it supports Steam etc - I want to see how well every game loads and works with this device.

      Not to mention, Steam itself is buggy at the best of times - and lets not talk about slow.

      Personally, until this device is finished and reviewed - I wont buy into the hype, there is so many "What if" and potential problems.

    It seems too specific, or maybe I just haven't been reading closely enough. From what I've seen, you have to use it as a controller and must always have the controller. It's not a modular system that can be used as a phone while walking around town and then connects into the controller pod when at home. I'd much rather have something like an Ubuntu phone that is a phone when I'm out and about, and a fully fledged Ubuntu desktop instance when I'm at home with an attached Bluetooth controller.

    Last edited 15/01/13 1:07 am

    I HATE X360 controllers, maybe I'm just used to the parallel sticks on PS3 but the way X360 controllers are setup just makes no sense to me. It's almost like the swapped the dpad with the stick on the left just to be different to Sony.

      more ergonomic if you ask me... ps3 is annoying... each to their own though

        I would argue that it is more ergonomic to have the constantly used sticks in the same spot and the seldom used dpad/buttons further up. I always feel a bit weird about using the stick on the left of the X360 controller because my thumb sits slightly different on it.

        I wonder what it would be like having the two sticks up where the dpad/buttons are on the X360 and the buttons moved down?

          Annoying, I imagine. I think you'd end up hitting the right stick frequently when you went for the buttons.

          Nintendo are way ahead of me.

          http://img.tgdaily.net/sites/default/files/stock/450teaser/wiiu-pro.jpg

            lol yep was gonna say... the pro controller isn't bad either... still prefer 360 though haha

    This works in my head for my situation. We have two tv's at home a ps3 and xbox in the lounge and a pc in the bedroom. I'm married so gaming time requires that the family is either occupied elsewhere or I have to kick them out of the lounge and anyone with a wife will know that no one is kicking anyone out of the lounge room. For me, this would allow me to sit in the lounge use the smaller screen to play steam games or use the bedroom tv to do the same effectively allowing me to play my console games (most are on steam) on any tv without having to move the console around. This idea works for me.

    Last edited 15/01/13 10:55 am

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