Review: Nvidia Shield Portable (Hardware)
The Shield Portable features a clamshell design, the bottom half being a controller that holds all the hardware, and the top being a 5” LCD touchscreen (1280x720p @ 294ppi). The controller portion features a similar design to the Xbox 360 controller, with 2 analog sticks in the middle, standard ABYX, LB/RB buttons, and L/R analog triggers. The controller also features various Android buttons, including: a volume button, a “start” button, a back button, a home button and a “Nvidia” button.
On the opposite side of the touchscreen, the Shield Portable has a removable and customizable magnetic “Shield” that when removed shows off your serial number. Underneath the hinge, you'll find a vent for the SoC fan, a Micro SD slot, the Mini HDMI port, the Micro USB port, and the audio port. On the opposite side, you'll find the Nvidia and the Shield logo, as well as a another vent in between.
Personally, I find the design of the Shield Portable “meh” at best. It's not ugly, but it's not going to win any beauty contests soon. Luckily, devices like these aren't meant much for looking at as they are for playing. Weight-wise, it's ~1.25lbs which is about twice as much as most 7” tablets, which can make carrying the Shield Portable a little bit of a hassle.
The Nvidia Shield Portable features Nvidia's Tegra 4 SoC, which was the most powerful mobile GPU on the market until Nvidia released their brand new Tegra K1. Along with the Tegra 4, the Shield has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory, and a quad core A15 which gives the Shield more than enough power to play even the most intensive Android games, as well as emulate the heaviest consoles.
My biggest complaint is with the 5” screen, which only supports up to 720p compared to various cell phones which support 1080p. The 16GB internal storage also leaves a bit to be desired, however the Micro SD slot allows you to expand storage up to 64GB.
The Shield Portable comes with Android 4.2.1, and is currently upgradeable to 4.4.2. The Shield Portable comes with various pre-installed software, such as: TegraZone which is used for local gamestreaming and accessing the list of games supported by the Shield Portable, Nvidia Grid which is Nivida's online streaming solution (similar to Onlive), and a couple of pre-instaleld Android apps.
While officially supported games are few and far between, the Shield Portable is easily held in both horizontal and vertical positions, making any touchscreen game as easy to play as any other device, as well as having a gamepad mapper that allows you to map touchscreen functions to the gamepad.
The Shield Portable, however, makes an excellent portable emulation machine. The Shield Portable plays everything under the sun, including NES, SNES, N64, GB/C, GBA, DS, PS1, and even Dreamcast. Nvidia's Gamestream application allows you to play any PC game that supports XInput controls, including PC emulators such as Dolphin and PCSX2.
+ Hardware is still top of its class
+ Emulation powerhouse
+ Nvidia's Local Gamestreaming
- Lack of officially support software
- Ugly Design
- Requires GTX 650 or greater GPU for game streaming.
out of 10
Overall, playing games on the Shield Portable is an incredibly enjoyable experience. The controls work fine, gamestreaming works very well, and having a portable emulation machine with access to thousands of games makes the Shield Portable a great purchase for any on-the-go gamer.