An Experiment: Gaming Performance, Tegra 2-Porting
No matter how Tegra 2 performs, Nvidia is to be commended for its effort in advocating game development on mobile hardware. And let's draw a distinction between the masses of graphically-unimpressive titles and the ones that do legitimately cool stuff with 3D.
Unfortunately, the games most likely to sport truly impressive graphics are often exclusive to Tegra 2-based devices. That's a real problem if you're on a different hardware platform. It's even worse for the Kindle Fire because Amazon's Appstore offers an even poorer selection of games.
There is a technical reason for this limitation, beyond Nvidia's habit of swinging its marketing around like a baseball bat. Software developers writing for Tegra 2 often use Nvidia's proprietary 3D libraries. As such their games just won't work on Android-based devices powered by TI or Qualcomm SoCs.
As an experiment though, I extracted the APKs for Riptide GP, Sprinkle, and Shadowgun from our Motorola Xoom and installed them on the Kindle Fire. Note that Riptide and Sprinkle started as Tegra 2-exclusive games on Android, but were eventually ported to iOS.
Unfortunately, Shadogun crashes immediately after we select game difficulty.
Riptide is playable without any problems, but screen shots always end up with artifacts.
We haven't featured Sprinkle in any of our hardware reviews, but it's similar to Angry Birds. The difference is that you use a water cannon to put out fires that threaten villagers. While the concept sounds cheesy, the water effects are downright impressive, making the game more enjoyable. On the Kindle Fire, we still get tearing effects in screen shots.
Game play is smooth, but as you can see in the video below, water effects are incorrectly rendered. Instead of one continuous stream, we get a lot of individual bubbles.
The mobile game compatibility landscape looks a lot like the desktop scene did 15 years ago, when titles were more inherently tied to a compatible 3D accelerator. Things won't really change, though, until game developers and SoC vendors all agree to abide by a common gaming framework and driver architecture.
If you're planning to root and install games on your Fire, make note of our experience with these three titles. Some will work. Some won't. And others simply don't look quite right.