Nvidia is getting ready to drop its Shield mobile gaming device next month, and we got some hands-on time with the final production model here at CTIA in Las Vegas. Since we last saw Shield at MWC in February, Nvidia has refined the device’s look, widening the gap between the joysticks and making them more recessed, improving the D-pad and upping the quality of the trigger buttons.
Overall, the new Shield has a sleeker look to it and a more balanced feel for gamers. But will it be worth $349? We won’t be able to answer that for sure until we bring you our full review, but we can say that this gaming console is a lot of fun to use.
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The promise of Nvidia’s Shield is let gamers play their favorite Android titles on a dedicated device, not to mention stream Steam games from their PCs over their Wi-Fi network. During our hands-on time we blasted zombies in “Dead Trigger 2″ and were rather impressed with the capabilities of Shield’s Tegra 4 processor. Water offered dynamic reflections, and particle and smoke effects looks fantastic. Nvidia says the Shield can produce graphics better than Sony’s PlayStation Vita and nearly as good as Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
We also checked out how Shield handles streaming PC games. We streamed “Borderlands 2″ from a PC to Shield and noticed no lag between either device. The Shield’s 720p display looked excellent, and the dual speakers sounded thunderous. The benefit of using Shield to stream games from your PC is that you no longer have to sit hunched at your computer chair to enjoy your favorites. But as most PC gamers will note, Shield requires you to use a pair of joysticks. And while this is great for games like “Tomb Raider,” it’s not exactly optimal for first-person shooters like “Battlefield 3″ or “Call of Duty.”
The biggest question is whether Nvidia can get consumers onboard with a $349 Android gaming platform. Although you pay more upfront for a Shield than a Vita, you pay significantly less for Shield games than Vita games: $9.99 versus $60. That said, Vita games generally offer more full-featured gaming experiences than Android titles. And while it’s great that you can stream games from your PC, this capability is limited to your home network.
Overall, the Shield is looking and feeling better since we first previewed it. But the Android game lineup will have to be pretty stellar to justify the premium. It’s up to Nvidia to get as many developers as possible to fall in love with its new platform.