Nvidia Shield Review: Tegra 4-Powered Handheld Gaming

Shield Vs. Galaxy Note II And Moga Pro

The Competition and Alternatives

The Shield is a very different Android-based device. If you’re looking at what $300 buys in Google’s ecosystem, you have a number of choices. But anyone considering a Shield likely has a specific set of wants and needs.

Rather than comparing the Shield to other $300 devices running Android, we thought it’d be more appropriate to look at its main purpose: gaming. Obviously, nobody is going to buy Shield because it’s ideal for email or streaming movies (it really isn’t).

Nvidia Shield vs. Moga Pro

It’s most natural to compare Shield against other Android devices, and Chris is doing a bunch of that today as well. I've used Samsung’s Galaxy Note II as my personal smartphone since its release. Its Exynos 4412 Quad is not the fastest SoC available. But that’s what I own and play my Android-based games on.

While it’s not exactly fair to compare a $600 phone (at launch) to a dedicated gaming device like Shield, an Android-based smartphone is already a sunk cost for many of us, and it supports a lot of the same software. Where the Shield sets itself apart from even the highest-end smartphones and tablets is those physical controls. To level that playing field, we’re pitting Shield against a gaming attachment.

The Moga Pro is a $50 controller that features the same array of buttons and joysticks as Nvidia’s Shield (though the Moga features an Xbox-like d-pad and analog stick arrangement, while the Shield has the two analog sticks positioned next to each other like Sony’s PlayStation). It has an integrated clip that opens up wide enough to accommodate my Galaxy Note II, and connects via Bluetooth and HID.

This little add-on hugely improves the fun factor of Android-based games. Unless you’re playing a title designed for touch, like Cut the Rope or Plants vs. Zombies, physical controls add a lot of precision. Additionally, you don't have to deal with your fingers blocking the screen.

On paper, the Moga doesn't give up much compared to Nvidia’s Shield. Practically, though, the Shield is a big step up in terms of build quality. The Shield’s buttons offer a firmer click, and the triggers and analog joysticks have more satisfying resistance. But we'd give the Moga’s d-pad the nod, which could be important if you play a lot of old-school games through emulators. Overall, the Shield feels like what we’d expect from an OEM controller, while the Moga Pro definitely has more aftermarket appeal.

Also favoring Shield is weight. While heft isn't something you generally want from a portable, the Shield's 588 g (as measured by Chris) helps balance it better than a Moga Pro-wrapped smartphone. Holding the Moga Pro involves keeping it upright so it doesn’t tilt back and out of your hands, if only because the accessory is light, and most of what you feel in your hands comes from the phone. For the record, the Moga Pro itself weighs 190 grams without a smartphone. In contrast, the Shield’s weight is more evenly distributed. Moreover, its screen also tilts to any number of angles between closed and almost 180 degrees back. The Moga Pro only locks in at one angle.

Because the Shield is a separate device, you won't worry that your gaming habit is draining your phone’s battery, and whether you’ll be able to make calls later in the day. Although Moga is working on a new version of its controller that will also act as an external battery pack, it won’t be available until later this year. Then again, if you’re traveling with the Moga Pro, you’re carrying a significantly lighter load than the Shield.

It's hard to get any more specific about gaming, since so much depends on the Android-based device you’re using with the Moga Pro. The Galaxy Note II’s screen is half an inch bigger, but its built-in speakers are vastly inferior to the Shield’s front-facing drivers. The Shield is going to carry forward a victory when it comes to battery life, though. Even the Galaxy Note II's power source is rated at 11.78 Wh, which pales in comparison to Shield’s 28.8 Wh.

As far as gaming control under Android goes, anyone with a decently-powerful smartphone can get a lot of what makes Shield special from the $50 Moga Pro. Those Tegra-specific visual enhancements are nice, but you’ll have to make the call if they’re worth buying a separate device.

One final interesting thing to note is that the Moga Pro comes with a tablet stand, so at some point in the future you might be able to match the Moga Pro with a larger Tegra 4-powered device for even more flexibility.

53 comments
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  • esrever
    looks ok but not worth the price
  • Hazle
    impressive, especially PC streaming. but for $300, i'd rather pause the game to take a bathroom break. it's gonna take me a library of good android exclusives for me spend that amount of money, and PvsZ or Angry birds don't cut it.
  • beta212
    Meh, with the PS4/xbox coming out , and tons of more convenient phones I don't see a market for a tegra4 shield, personally I'm saving my money for a console. The tegra is also too expensive and gimmicky to boot.
  • dragonsqrrl
    When you look purely at the performance and specs $300 unsubsidized isn't all that bad considering the hardware you're getting for the price. The problem to me isn't so much price but the target market. How many people are willing to spend that much on a second or potentially third mobile device meant specifically for gaming and entertainment?
  • bryonhowley
    Looks nice but I can find things better to spend $300 on. In truth I can't see ever streaming my PC games to a 5" screen when I use 3 Asus 27" monitors on my desktop PC. Going from 5760x1080 to 720p does not sound like something I am ready to do. And if I want to game from my recliner I just use my Xbox 360 wireless controller and play the game on my Panasonic 50" 3D Plasma.
  • vaughn2k
    for U$180, I can get a nice Lenovo Phone. For U$ 500, a good Xbox.. not sure if I need a Shield where I could play anywhere..
  • slomo4sho
    Not sure why most of your benchmarks were just between the shield and the Nexus 7. I understand that the Nexus 7 utilizes Tegra 3 but the iPhone 5, Note 2, or some other tertiary figues should have been included to provide a better comparison between this device and other current generation products.

    This device feels like a universal Wii U game pad and there is almost zero reason to own one.
  • cats_Paw
    Considering that Oculus rift will cost somewhere around 300 dollars as well, id rather wait for that to spend my cash.
    Streaming is nice but if you are close toy our pc why not use the PC itself?
  • edwd2
    could be used to run a psp emulator, but phone can do that too.
  • shikamaru31789
    I'm just not seeing much reason to get one right now, not when I'm saving for the Xbox One and PS4. If it was at a lower price and if it supported AMD GPU's for PC streaming, I might get one. But they also need to get some developers to make some good Android exclusives, not just your typical mobile time wasters and ports of older console/PC titles, but some actuallAAA exclusives that are optimized for Tegra 4.
  • vaughn2k
    for U$180, I can get a nice Lenovo Phone. For U$ 500, a good Xbox.. not sure if I need a Shield where I could play anywhere..
  • Chetou
    When nobody wants to buy your SOC, I guess you have to make up a new product. Not very useful past the initial gimmick.
  • The Grave Digger
    "shield Competes to your Disposable income" Really??
  • iam2thecrowe
    What a pointless product. This will be a flop.
  • tadej petric
    Shield really doesnt make me want to use it instead PC.
  • blubbey
    Maybe in 3-5 years when mobile graphics really starts to come into their own. $300 for something I'd play while taking a dump isn't good value, I have a phone that can do much more afaik. If I want dedicated gaming I'd play on my PC or even buy a next-gen console for that money in a year's time.

    Side notes, isn't the Tegra 5 about the same power as a current console? That's next year too so assume in 4 years after that it should be 5x the power at least (Tegra 6 is supposedly 2x as powerful so 2.5x the power of Tegra 6 in ~3 years). That'd start to approach next gen consoles power in a handheld device. I'd probably pay $300 for that in 5 years assuming nothing else is better value.

    It's not like this is progression is unimpressive however, 5 years ago we had pitiful mobile processing power compared to today. I'm not expecting similar growth because that'd be crazy - http://cdn2.ubergizmo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/tegra-5-kepler-graphics-curve-640x315.jpg - but still. 20x the growth from today will be possible considering Nvidia's Tegra roadmap shows Tegra 6 being ~10x performance of T4.
  • ubercake
    Great thorough review about a niche product.
  • somebodyspecial
    134065 said:
    We've been playing with Nvidia's Shield handheld for more than a month, but only recently got access to its killer feature: streaming PC game content. Does Nvidia's foray into the hardware world deserve your $300, or is this expensive toy impractical? Nvidia Shield Review: Tegra 4-Powered Handheld Gaming : Read more


    Can you guys test some movies with HDMI or miracast to TV? This was one of the features I would like to know about before pondering buying. A large part of the point of this thing for me is a portable 1080p player (or even 720p, as most of those look great on 60in or lower anyway). Also with that hdmi hooked up (or miracast) can you play your games out to TV too? I had thought I'd be able to play android games on the big screen (PC too).

    can you guys comment on this stuff? Anything out to TV is stuff your Vita/3DS can't do. I'd think this is a pretty important detail for most but unless I missed it in the review it wasn't even mentioned or tested. I was hoping for some PC to TV comments. Can this output your PC streamed games to TV or does lag etc prevent this? Or are you stuck on the 5in for both android and pc streams?
  • somebodyspecial
    For anyone caring PC mag got substantial numbers from a trio of tablets:
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2415809,00.asp
    Antutu=36489
    geekbench=4148
    GLBench offscreen is 57fps
    So I'd say it should do well in a tablet vs. S800. It destroys S600. Not bad. Those were devices from Feb, so I'm thinking a shipping tab would have to be optimized a little more than a pre-release product but I could be wrong. Hope someone tests the toshiba write soon, not to mention HP's and ASUS's T4 tablets.

    Antutu on the Shield is impressive (though 720p, glad they didn't try 1080p on this thing, 720p gives it plenty of power for what it's designed to do) but the 1920x1200 1.9ghz ref tablet isn't far behind and S800 scores I've seen from devices show about 35k on tablets. That being said I expect S800 to match or beat T4's gpu (though we still need to see actual games benched, not synthetics to truly prove this), but I think most cpu test should favor A15. The numbers out so far seem to show this.

    I don't see T4's lack of OpenGL ES3.0 as any big deal. There are no benchmarks to test it, thus no software that uses it either. In other words, NV was right to dump it to save power/soc space etc and dedicate that to what we will probably use during the devices life. I'll change my opinion maybe after a few games show up with ES3.0 in them. Until then, no point in having it yet.
  • CaptainTom
    Frankly I can play any game on my very portable $750 laptop with a 750m in more than 720p, and I already need that for school (Like most people).

    And if I want handheld gaming, I'll play Uncharted/Killzone on my vita over Angry Birds any day lol!
  • Cy-Kill
    'There's a microSD card slot on the back, but don't expect to offload apps onto the additional storage: Google nuked that "app2sd" ability a few updates back.'

    Why does Google hate microSD expansion, has anyone figured out why Google removed it, they really should bring it back to Android, and stop the hate for microSD!
  • tuanies
    351210 said:
    'There's a microSD card slot on the back, but don't expect to offload apps onto the additional storage: Google nuked that "app2sd" ability a few updates back.' Why does Google hate microSD expansion, has anyone figured out why Google removed it, they really should bring it back to Android, and stop the hate for microSD!


    I'd imagine it had something to do with most micro SD cards only being class 4 at the time. The slow speed and poor user experience probably forced them to can the feature. There are Class 10 micro SD cards nowadays but the average consumer just picks a random micro SD card and less likely to care about speed. The people working at Best Buy, Frys and mobile providers don't know any better either. So its easier to kill that feature than to have people complain about slowness when apps are installed on SD.
  • Thinking outside of the box. I just bought a Nexus 7 Gen 2, and using a bluetooth gaming pad and a wireless TV connection I could run the same games natively at 1080p without having the computer portion even in my hands. Add to that the 32GB Gen 2 is only $270 and doubles as a fully functional "PC" when using a bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse. I don't really see $300 worth of value in this device when phones and tablets can overlap the same role with a few extra pieces of kit.
  • CommentariesAnd More
    The Shield certainly is a good combination of the mobile gaming platform and PC Game streaming platform. Certainly 90% of the gamers dream to be able to sit on their couch or lie on their bed and play games. But only 1-5% would shell out 300bucks for it. Nvidia has forgotten we are in an age where gaming isn't what makes the majority buy an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 , etc. Nvidia's attempt to bring android gaming and PC game streaming in an handheld gaming device certainly is a revolution , but it needs a revolution for itself , to make sense and be a device not just for showing off , but be used for its sole purpose of gaming. Hopefully the next Shield will have something more better and a better price tag forcing me to buy one :)