NVIDIA SHIELD ReviewClayMeow - November 29, 2013
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NVIDIA SHIELD Closer Look:
Unsurprisingly, when the lid is closed, the SHIELD looks like a fairly large, faceless gamepad. The top of the device is fairly mundane, featuring a somewhat trapezoidal silver section amidst brushed black plastic. That silver section is actually referred to as a Tag and is completely removable, attached via magnets. All SHIELDs ship with a silver tag, but NVIDIA sells two custom tags for $20 apiece: a carbon fiber tag and a glossy black tag. If you're into modding, it should be fairly easy to spray paint your own design on the silver one. Other than the tag, the only other discerning feature from the top is a silver plate with the word SHIELD etched into it.
The front of the SHIELD is quite unique. You still get a glimpse of the SHIELD-etched silver plate, but this time you also see an NVIDIA-etched silver plate below it. In between the two is what I can only describe as a grille – it seems that the SHIELD designers were influenced by their relationships with car manufacturers. It was hard to tell if it was functional – providing airflow – or simply aesthetic. Either way, it happens to be surrounded by the only piece of NVIDIA-green visible while the lid is closed. There's also a strip of glossy black plastic that wraps around the whole device and some of the bottom.
The back of the SHIELD contains all the connections. From left to right, there's a microSD slot with a Mini-HDMI port below that, a Micro-USB 2.0 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack with microphone support (thus the headset icon). Just above the Micro-USB port is a small pin hole that contains an LED, which lights up while charging – amber/orange while charging and green while fully charged. Above all the connections are some vents for airflow. You also get your first glimpse of the hinge for the lid, which is very sturdy, as well as the right and left shoulder buttons and analog triggers.
The bottom of the SHIELD is contoured, as you'd expect with a gamepad. While the center has that glossy black, the majority of the bottom is a rubberized black to enhance grip. As you can also see, the bottom sports "Powered by NVIDIA Tegra" alongside government-required info and symbols. It comes wrapped in a clear plastic film to prevent scratching during transport.
Flipping up the lid, we finally get a look at the good stuff. NVIDIA opted to go with the parallel analog stick design, which I personally prefer, but if you're an Xbox fan, it may take some getting used to. As you may have also noticed, the analog sticks are inset within concave sections, which results in them being just a tad taller than the other buttons. This is obviously because the lid wouldn't lay flush otherwise. The analog sticks are textured with four dots in the cardinal directions, and both analog sticks are clickable.
NVIDIA has also opted to go with the ABXY designations for its face buttons, which means using it for games with Xbox prompts should be easy. The ABXY buttons are glossy against a brushed background, just like the directional pad, which is the full circle type. Clicking any of the eight possible directions has solid feedback that feels similarly to the ABXY buttons.
In the center, between the directional pad and ABXY, are your SHIELD-exclusive buttons. The large one in the center with the NVIDIA logo is unsurprisingly referred to as the NVIDIA Button and is used to power on the device and quickly access the SHIELD games screen. Surrounding it is the Volume Button in the top left, Back Button in bottom left, Home Button in the bottom right, and Start Button in the top right. The little dot above the NVIDIA Button is presumably the built-in microphone. The silver sections to the left and right are the integrated stereo speakers, positioned nicely so your fingers will never cover them during use.
Then of course, there's the screen. The SHIELD sports a 5" multi-touch LCD display with a resolution of 1280x720 (commonly known as 720p), which results in 294 PPI. That's quite a nice size and resolution for a portable device, but the rather large black border surrounding it makes it look smaller than it is. In fact, when I first saw it, I could have sworn it was smaller than my Vita, but both are 5" 16:9 displays. I guess this is one aspect of design the NVIDIA engineers fell a bit short on.