Shield Controller: Look And Feel
The Shield Controller is naturally modeled after the Shield Portable, with a similar control layout and feel. Its shape is comfortable, but a bit undersized for my large hands. The balance feels just right; it’s not overly heavy. Gaming controls consist of a D-pad, dual clickable analog sticks, four buttons (X, Y, A, B), two bumpers, and two triggers.
My only complaint about the controls is that the trigger buttons' throw is a bit long. It doesn’t take much travel to activate them, while there’s a lot of extra travel afterwards that doesn’t seem necessary. To be fair, my trigger finger is accustomed to a mouse button, so gamers more accustomed to a controller might not share my opinion.
The controller offers additional features beyond the obvious. Its green, triangular Nvidia button turns the controller on/off, pairs it with the tablet and launches the Shield Hub app. Surrounding the Nvidia button are three capacitive buttons used for navigating within games and the Android UI. Centered below the triangle is the Home button, which functions as the standard Android Home button. Double-tapping it opens the task switcher and long-pressing launches Google Now for issuing voice commands (a microphone is located above the triangular Nvidia button). There’s also a Back button for Android that, when long-pressed, opens the Nvidia Share menu for connecting to Twitch, offline recording and taking screenshots. The Start button may be used for PC gaming functions.
The right joystick controls an on-screen mouse cursor. For finer control, or when the right joystick is unavailable during a game, there’s a small capacitive, clickable touch pad for mouse navigation duties. Its sensitivity is adjustable, and while not as smooth as a laptop track pad, it works well enough for basic navigation. If the tablet is out of reach (like when it’s connected to a TV) and you find it necessary to enter some text, the touch pad works with the on-screen keyboard. That's not ideal, obviously, but it's far better than using a numeric keypad on a TV remote.
Below the touch pad is a momentary rocker switch for controlling volume. Pressing both sides simultaneously mutes the sound, which is the only functionality it provides when connected to a TV.
The front of the controller has a micro-USB 2.0 port for charging the Li-ion battery and a headphone jack that supports headsets with microphones. Having the headphone jack on the controller is convenient; it maintains the absence of wires between you and the tablet.