No one's going to argue that the performance of mobile chips has come a long way in the last few years — just check out the work that's being done on Real Racing 3 at the newly-formed Firemonkeys. Even so, convincing the more passionate of console gamers there's more to mobile than Angry Birds and Draw Something has been an uphill battle. But, with the announcement of the Android-powered Ouya and its wildly successful Kickstarter, that battle's become a little easier.
Over at Eurogamer is a lengthy article dissecting the grunt of NVIDIA's Tegra 3, the quad-core chip that will power the Ouya. The processor contains an ARM Cortex-A9 and an ultra-low power NVIDIA GPU with eight pixel and four vertex shader units. In comparison, modern PC GPUs feature what's called a "unified architecture" — all of the units, or "cores", can be used for pixel or vertex shaders. NVIDIA's own 500 series of GeForce chips come with 512 such units. But these finer details aren't that important if the hardware performs, right?
Comparing the Ouya to the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 is a mistake — while it's labelled as a "console", the hardware inside has more in common with today's tablets and smartphones. With that in mind, in an attempt to get an idea of the capabilities of the forthcoming Ouya, Eurogamer's Digital Foundry put Google's Nexus 7, and ASUS's Transformer Pad TF300 and Transformer Prime through their paces. All are equipped with NVIDIA's Tegra 3, specifically the T30L variant, which is as close a comparison as you can get to the slightly more powerful T33 that will supposedly feature in the Ouya.
Eurogamer tested NOVA 3, Dead Trigger and Grand Theft Auto III among other titles, both on the screens of the devices and via HDMI mirroring. As expected, mirroring had a big hit on performance (pushing twice the pixels will do that), but ran acceptably otherwise. Tegra-optimised versions of Shadowgun and Sonic 4: Episode 2 managed to run fine while adding additional eye candy, with Eurogamer going as far as to say that Sonic 4 "comfortably holds up against the XBLA and PSN equivalents running on far more powerful hardware".
Summarising its findings, Eurogamer believes that the Ouya will be roughly equivalent in performance to the original Xbox, plus a few extra bells and whistles courtesy of simply being more modern technology. The site's greatest concern was that when Ouya does eventually hit, its hardware will be outdated — a common issue for any mass-produced console. What makes this a bigger problem for the Ouya is that the Tegra 3's successor could be as much as ten times as powerful and comparable in grunt to the Xbox 360.
From all indications, I don't think those keen on the Ouya really care how much it sticks with next-gen, or even previous-gen, consoles. The price for starters is a lot more appealing than anything Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo has to offer and the benefits of a naturally "hackable" console cannot be overstated.
Tech Analysis: How Powerful is Tegra 3? [Eurogamer]