The Shield Tablet ships with Android 4.4.2 KitKat and is devoid of custom skins, launchers, widgets and other gee-whiz features that do nothing except get in the way. Nvidia’s only additions to the stock Android experience are some Shield-specific settings for the controller and stylus, along with several apps to enable gaming and stylus functionality. Kudos to Nvidia for providing a clean, uncluttered interface.
The home screen includes two folders in the lower-left corner that conveniently hold all of the Google and Nvidia apps, respectively, making it easy to access Google features and Shield-specific content. There are also dedicated buttons for the Shield Hub app and app drawer in the dock.
Nvidia could have created a custom skin to make the Shield Tablet’s gaming- and media-oriented features pervasive throughout the UI. Instead, the company bundles all of that functionality into the Shield Hub app, a design decision that doesn’t intrude upon the general-purpose tablet experience.
The Shield Hub app is simple to navigate and designed to be easily viewed on a TV from across the room. From within the app, you can shop for Shield-optimized games and accessories, and read gaming news. It also provides easy access to more general Android-based titles and media apps like Netflix. Any Shield tested and certified games/apps show up in the appropriate category automatically. Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to manually add Android games or apps, which keeps the Shield Hub from being an exclusive interface while in console mode.
This isn’t the case for accessing PC games via GameStream. Titles added by selecting Preferences, then Gamestream in the GeForce Experience App on the PC appear in the “My PC Games” section of the Shield Hub app.
The Shield Wireless Controller app is simple and self-explanatory. Its sole purpose is to make pairing Shield Controllers with the tablet a painless procedure.
In addition to the Shield-specific apps, the tablet comes preloaded with Adobe Reader and Camera Awesome. For capturing notes and general writing, you get Evernote, JusWrite and Write.
By focusing on simplicity and functionality, Nvidia provides a pleasant and efficient interface for Shield. Other than the inability to customize which apps appear within the Shield Hub, the only other quibble I have relates to color consistency. Nvidia uses a bright green accent shade for both hardware and software. However, Android uses blue for its highlight color. Using Nvidia green throughout the Android UI, as well as its own apps, would yield a more integrated experience.