The Nvidia Shield arrives next month for $349.99, and yesterday I got to sit down with the final version of the hardware. The first thing I noticed was the heft: bulkier than a PS Vita, but no less comfortable.
Where the PS Vita sacrificed bigger buttons for smaller form factor, the Nvidia Shield takes a lot of inspiration from the Xbox 360 controller. In fact, the left and right triggers feel identical to the Xbox 360 and, more or less, so does the d-pad. The one big difference from Microsoft's gamepad is the symmetrical analog sticks. The screen is a 5-inch retinal multi-touch display that does 720p, with an impressive viewing angle in person – though there's hardly much reason to play with the Nvidia Shield at such odd angles. The touch is a necessity for some of the menus seen in games like GTA: Vice City and Dead Trigger. I will say it's kind of odd having to switch between controller and touch at times, but the discomfort is minimal.
The Tegrazone will be the main storefront, a custom wrapping that pulls in data from the Google Play store to highlight Shield-optimized games and sort your own personal library. It also allows you to access the PC games beta side, where Shield owners who happen to have compatible GeForce cards in their PCs can stream their games to the Shield.
Battery life will be around four to five hours for Tegra-optimized games, and ten hours for regular Android games. If the Shield is just streaming video, it'll go about 20 hours before needing to rush back to the electric tap. Streaming PC games will run the Nvidia Shield in excess of 20 hours, since the device is streaming compressed video converted and relayed by the PC's GeForce card.
While I can attest Borderlands 2 was served up in smooth fashion on the Shield in a crowded conference room right next to a PC, it's hardly the best test situation. Still, side-by-side with a 1080p monitor, Borderlands 2 on the Nvidia Shield at least kept a consistant framerate and offered comparable visual fidelity.
Despite these being final retail units, Nvidia wouldn't allow me to leave with a Shield unit to further scrutinize. Pre-orders for the Nvidia Shield open on May 20. Those who already signed up for the notification list can pre-order now.