Shield's Second Lease On Life Impresses
Nvidia isn't calling its October 2013 OTA update a re-launch per se, but from where I'm sitting, that's certainly what it feels like. In my opinion, this mobile gaming platform shouldn't have been released without a game control mapper and working App2SD functionality in the first place. As for the new console mode, it takes Android gaming in the living room to another level. The difference that 1080p makes on a big-screen TV is breathtaking, and surprisingly the Tegra 4 SoC handles it with apparent ease. The holiday bundle discounts and Amazon.com availability are further evidence that Nvidia wants to move these things.
So, if we're calling this a re-launch, am I more impressed now than I was back in July? Absolutely. In my eyes, the Shield went from a peculiar alternative to the most attractive portable game console available. And unlike Chris, who was principally interested in PC game streaming, I still cannot bring myself to get excited about that feature. If I'm at home, I can't imagine choosing a gamepad and television over my mouse, keyboard, and monitor. And if I really want to game on the TV, I have an HTPC for that.
For me, Shield is more about playing interesting titles on the road using Google's OS. Android gaming has come a long, long way, and it's not slowing down. There are some great titles out there, and even more impressive content in the pipeline. I'm not a fan of using a simulated gamepad and buttons on a touchscreen, but with the new game mapper, I suddenly have access to thousands of Android titles developed without controller support. And through the new console mode, I can enjoy a lot of those games on a big-screen TV at 1080p. That's a more intriguing proposition than before, when I was toting the console around with me.
Today, the Shield is a lot better than it was at launch. It's still not perfect, though. While the game mapper works well, I did run into quirks at times, particularly when the analog sticks come into play. If Nvidia's software team can improve that functionality, there'd be little left for me to critique. Bottom line: if I had to choose between a $200 Nintendo 3DS XL, a $200 Playstation Vita, and a $300 Nvidia Shield, I'd spend the extra $100 without much thought. And if I were in the market for a GeForce GTX 770 at $330, a 780 at $500, or a 780 Ti at $700, it'd be difficult not to put the $100 holiday bundle discount to use on a new Shield.