NVIDIA SHIELD ReviewClayMeow - November 29, 2013
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NVIDIA SHIELD vs. The Competition:
As you have seen, the NVIDIA SHIELD is a compelling device, but you may be wondering how it stacks up against the competition? The answer isn't that simple because it really depends on what you consider competition. While the review has been largely factual up until this point, this is where it becomes subjective.
Ouya, I hardly even knew-ya. Sorry, I know that was cheesy, but let's face it, the Ouya is a train wreck (I won't go into details, but Google it if you haven't been following along). About the only thing the Ouya has going for itself over the SHIELD is the price – at a mere $99 USD, it's certainly the cheaper option. But you know what they say: you get what you pay for. The Ouya allows you to play Android games (or any Android app) on your HDTV, but that's it. The SHIELD allows you to do the same thing, but also allows you to game on-the-go as well as stream PC games. It's up to you whether spending $200 more on the SHIELD is worth it, but you should also keep in mind that the Ouya only sports a Tegra 3 processor with 1GB or RAM compared to the SHIELD's Tegra 4 with 2GB of RAM. As such, even if all you care about is Android gaming, the SHIELD is still superior.
Dedicated Gaming Handhelds (PlayStation Vita & Nintendo 3DS):
When pitted against dedicated gaming handhelds like the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS, Android gaming simply doesn't hold up. If you're strictly interested in a portable gaming solution, you're better off with the Vita or 3DS rather than the SHIELD. Not only are the games typically higher quality and more complete experiences, both systems are also cheaper than the SHIELD. The Vita has a MSRP of $200 USD, while the 3DS is $170 USD (or $200 USD for the XL version). Even factoring in the memory card for the Vita, you're still looking at a lower overall cost, which means more money to spend on games. While I do not own a 3DS, I do own a Vita, and no Android game I tried came close to the native Vita titles I've enjoyed. If you are looking for a gaming device to play during a commute to work, you'll likely be happier with a Vita or 3DS. That is unless you really want those emulators, in which case, it's a toss-up.
I placed my Vita on top of the SHIELD's controller for a side-by-side comparison. Sonic is on the SHIELD while Spelunky is on the Vita. Despite the higher resolution of the SHIELD, I do prefer the OLED on the Vita.
All that being said, it's important to remember that the SHIELD does offer up other advantages – mainly the ability to stream PC games and play on an HDTV. So if those aspects appeal to you, the SHIELD suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. That is, unless you have a PS4 and want to Remote Play to your Vita; then it's once again a toss-up.
Tablets & Smartphones:
The SHIELD is like an Android phone in landscape mode with a controller permanently attached. If you already have a smartphone, you may be hesitant to spend money on a SHIELD, but the gaming experience will certainly be superior. While the larger screen of a tablet may be tempting, a high-end one will cost you just as much as a SHIELD, if not more. If you want it primarily as a gaming device, the SHIELD is the clear winner. That being said, outside of gaming and watching videos, other functionality is quite the chore since it can be rather awkward to use the touchscreen. Typing, for example, is absolutely dreadful, so while you can have your e-mail accounts set up on the SHIELD or use Google Hangouts to chat, I certainly wouldn't recommend using it to actually compose messages – the attached controller simply makes holding it like you normally would to touch-type feel unnatural.
The same can be said for any game that you can't use Gamepad Mapper for, such as the extremely popular Candy Crush Saga, or any game that only supports portrait mode (though I did try Release the Ninja and it wasn't too bad). In addition, the SHIELD is not the device you want if you want to read your favorite e-books or e-magazines. As you can see in the image below, I pulled up the PC Gamer review of the SHIELD on the SHIELD, and reading it was near impossible (imagine that on a 5" screen). Of course, if the PC game streaming and Console Mode of the SHIELD appeal to you, those shortcomings may be minor in your mind.
I placed my iPhone 5s on top of the SHIELD's controller for a side-by-side comparison and loaded up Injustice: Gods Among Us on both. I have an anti-glare screen protector on my iPhone and the brightness dialed down, which is why it appears darker. The game looks similar on both, but the SHIELD does enjoy a larger screen.
Notebooks & Netbooks:
I wasn't even going to bother including this category, but then I'm sure someone would ask. When compared to notebooks, even a decent non-gaming notebook will likely provide a better experience than a SHIELD, but then you're also talking about a device that's five to ten times heavier, much harder to lug around, and likely four or five times the price. Netbooks, while small and lightweight, simply aren't made for gaming. Sure you can play a casual game or even some old school games, but if you have a netbook, it's likely for the word processing and web browsing. If you're in the market for a notebook or netbook, the SHIELD is certainly not an alternative – and vice versa.