NVIDIA Defend evaluation (replace: video!)

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

NVIDIA Defend is a very unusual system. It combines an eight-button console-measurement gamepad with twin analog sticks, and a 5-inch “multi-contact, retinal” display. It runs inventory Android four.2.1. It touts wi-fi PC recreation streaming as its important promoting level. It performs Android video games, it performs PC video games, it does the Twitter and the Gmail, et cetera. With Defend, NVIDIA is aiming to be the Swiss Military Knife of handheld recreation consoles. It slices! It dices! ShamWOW!

It additionally prices $300, weighs almost 1.5 kilos and takes up fairly a little bit of bag area. Its essential promoting level — PC recreation streaming — depends on the consumer already proudly owning a PC with a comparatively fancy ($one hundred forty) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 GPU or higher. Let’s be trustworthy, although: you already know these things, proper? When you’re studying this evaluate, you both already personal all the required gear and wanna know if this can be a worthwhile peripheral on your PC, otherwise you’re morbidly interested by NVIDIA’s (admittedly weird) console experiment. Let’s all head under and attempt to discover satisfaction.

Replace: We have added our full assessment video under — please excuse the lateness! We bumped into some technical glitches on our finish, however we appear to have conquered them. Take pleasure in!

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NVIDIA Defend evaluation

eighty three



  • Quick and highly effective
  • Beautiful display
  • Wonderful media participant
  • Spectacular battery life


  • Heavy, not very moveable
  • Gamepad wants work, thumbsticks too low


The Defend is a pleasing shock and fairly a powerful system. It isn’t the moveable console you are in search of, however it’s additionally a lot greater than that.

Hardware Construct high quality

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Not because the days of Atari’s Lynx and Sega’s Recreation Gear has it taken a lot power to play a handheld gaming system. At simply over 1.25 kilos, the Defend is double the load of its closest competitor, Sony’s PlayStation Vita. For the previous few weeks, it has been the second-heaviest factor in my reporting bag, which features a Sony NEX-C3 and a MacBook Air (the heaviest merchandise). The Defend is not so heavy that I skilled fatigue whereas enjoying, nevertheless it’s far more suited to sofa use than subway use. Just like the Wii U gamepad, the Defend is way extra cozy as a lap-based mostly system than one held within the air. Merely put, it is too cumbersome for cellular use.

Actually, the Defend is about as cumbersome as handheld gaming consoles of yore. Its rubberized outdoors — whereas appreciated throughout lengthy gaming periods — does not make it any simpler to conveniently slip right into a bag whereas on the go. Do you have to select to buy a carrying case in your Defend, it’s going to solely make the hand-held extra cumbersome.

The gadget’s measurement is the primary of a number of main limitations that get in the best way of it being a very “cellular” console. Fortunately, what NVIDIA Defend lacks in portability, it makes up for in utility. The Defend’s weight and bulk are an incredible boon when utilizing it for media viewing. The strong hinge between the HD display and gamepad under allows quite a lot of viewing angles for lazily watching previous episodes of the West Wing, and the rubberized backside retains it from rattling when Jed Bartlet begins yelling (the 2 audio system within the gamepad are mighty loud — extra on that in a minute). That very same profit applies once you use this factor as an Android system: the sturdy, heavy gamepad acts as a basis for the highest show, in order that it does not transfer round if you’re sticking your palms everywhere in the contact display.

Briefly: sure, the Defend is huge. And sure, it is cumbersome. And no, it is not likely a transportable gadget. And that is all completely okay.


NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Crisp, giant, vibrant and straightforward to make use of — there’s not a lot else to say concerning the Defend’s “retinal” 5-inch (1280 x 720) IPS display. PC video games look nice on it, as do excessive-def video and Android video games. Even Tommy Vercetti’s polygonal mug seems to be nice on it. Higher but, the IPS display seems to be nice from numerous angles, and stands as much as the solar’s radioactive rays with aplomb. Extra importantly, as we stated, it is affixed to a robust plastic shell with an enormous hinge. Consequently, the display might be bent to any diploma you fancy and stays in place.

This appeared a minor consideration at first, however has implications for each media viewing and utilizing Defend as a music participant. As a media-viewing gadget, it is a delight to have entry to a variety of viewing angles, and the display is sharp sufficient that it is simply watched from a number of ft away. As a music participant, sharply angling the display presents amplification to the Defend’s already loud stereo audio system. How loud are these audio system, by the best way? They’re delightfully loud, to the purpose that sound will shake your complete gadget throughout notably raucous moments. Used with Spotify or different music options, Defend makes for a imply little moveable music field.


NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Slightly below these audio system is the oblong gamepad: the star of the Defend present. It is…acceptable. For our cash, the Xbox 360 wired gamepad is the go-to choice for PC gaming. Defend presents an sufficient facsimile — button placement is close to equivalent, the one exception being parallel concave thumbsticks (like Sony’s DualShock) — however nothing beats the actual factor. The 4 A / B / X / Y face buttons exist on a flat aircraft, whereas the 360’s are on a barely curved aircraft; the Defend’s parallel thumbsticks are deeply recessed because of the hooked up display — a dramatic distinction; the shoulder buttons aren’t clicky on the Defend, and its triggers have extraordinarily robust resistance.

None of which is to say the Defend is poor as a gamepad; it is simply not as strong as the buyer normal for PC gamepads.

There are different points with management, particularly relating to the thumbsticks. Because of their depth, aiming and controlling the digital camera in first-individual shooters typically feels unfastened. Since thumbsticks are usually above the place thumbs relaxation on a controller, resistance is offered between stick and thumb. When reaching into the Defend to push the thumbsticks, resistance is tough to return by. I even have little child thumbs, so your expertise will differ on this respect. As for the D-pad, it is the closest Defend will get to replicating the 360 gamepad. The truth is, Defend’s is clickier, faster and extra snug than its horrible inspiration.

Efficiency and battery life

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

True to NVIDIA’s claims, our Defend evaluate unit’s 28.8Wh battery lasted by way of about 10 hours of close to-fixed use — from streaming video and video games to media performed immediately from the system, all whereas related to WiFi and repeatedly checking our (essential) Twitter account. The Defend’s battery lasts far longer once we stick to PC / media streaming and do not crank the display’s brightness up all the best way, although by no means past a day and a half. Charging’s dealt with via the micro-USB round again. Going again as much as a full cost from a sub-10 % battery score takes three to 5 hours, which we’re calling too lengthy.

Unsurprisingly, the primary battery drain (by a longshot) is the huge display. Tegra four-enhanced video games can be taxing on the system’s battery life, however we will not see ourselves enjoying any of the video games obtainable for longer than a couple of hours (extra on that within the software program part).

The Defend seems like a recreation controller with a 5-inch display hooked up (and it’s that, in fact), however it’s truly an awesome various to tablets too. As a media gadget, it is prime-notch. The delight and comfort of adjustable, locked viewing angles for the display can’t be oversold; gone are the times of desperately making an attempt to stability your pill whereas laying about.

It is also a rattling quick Android system. Apps and video games load as shortly or higher than flagship smartphones and tablets, and, as we stated, Defend has zero points with multitasking. Utilized in tandem with these loud stereo audio system, we discovered ourselves comfortably using the Defend like a transportable DVD participant from the early oughts, streaming The Every day Present by way of Hulu+ as an alternative of watching previous Buddies DVDs.

In lots of instances, the Defend permits for gamepad enter instead of contact. And with one thing like Hulu or Netflix, gamepad management makes some sense, permitting management with out blocking what you are watching. In relation to textual content entry, nevertheless, that is an entire different story. We used the gamepad for textual content entry virtually by no means, as an alternative choosing the infinitely quicker contact nav. Leaping between the 2 enter strategies turns into second nature, particularly given how a lot quicker features like textual content entry are with the touchscreen. It is fairly cumbersome to carry the Defend’s display with two paws and enter textual content, nevertheless it’s higher than the gamepad various.

Gaming expertise

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Defend walks a very harmful line, making an attempt to attraction to each PC gaming fanatics and technophiles, two teams recognized for notably discerning requirements. However regardless of its Swiss Military Knife-esque capabilities, the Defend does not attempt to be all issues to all individuals. The inventory Android Jelly Bean OS does not drive any gimmick software program, and establishing PC streaming — the marquee software program performance on Defend — is so simple as clicking an “Settle for” immediate in your PC a single time. (Notice: You will want the requisite GeForce GTX 650 GPU or larger, the newest Defend firmware replace and the newest model of GeForce Expertise operating in your PC. The Defend and the PC have to be on the identical community for streaming to work.)

Switching from app to Android recreation to PC streaming to e-mail occurs impressively shortly, with extra time allotted for community connection points than processing. The Tegra four SoC laughs at multitasking; we solely heard the interior followers kick in as soon as throughout a number of weeks of use.

The devoted TegraZone button in the midst of the gamepad works nice alongside the TegraZone customized app NVIDIA masses on Defend. A faucet from anyplace and also you’re capable of shortly entry all of your Android video games, numerous PC video games and Steam’s Massive Image mode. If it is held down, a menu gives a handful of system choices which incorporates shutting off the Defend. The hardware / software program tie-in for straightforward recreation entry and shut down choices makes the Defend really feel like just a little recreation console, and the sport streaming solidifies that emotion.

PC titles

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Recreation streaming isn’t good on the Defend. It is inferior to the Wii U’s gamepad, and it is inferior to enjoying video games instantly on a PC. It sometimes hitches, or encounters “community interference,” or crashes. (It’s in beta, in any case.) And there is some lag. Just like the gamepad itself, Defend’s PC recreation streaming performance is acceptable. In contrast to the gamepad, although, Defend’s PC recreation streaming feels sort of magical.

BioShock Infinite performed on a 5-inch handheld display is, if nothing else, very spectacular. Fight is sluggish sufficient that any enter lag points are comparatively nonexistent, and the luxurious artistry of Columbia’s floating world is all of the extra vibrant when shrunken down. Equally, Want for Velocity: Most Needed runs superbly. Consider it this manner: any recreation that does not require twitch reactions works nicely on Defend. Our makes an attempt at Name of Obligation: Black Ops 2 have been fruitless. Group Fortress 2, nevertheless, was completely positive. And to Defend’s credit score, that connection holds robust additional than Nintendo’s Wii U gamepad. That distance comes with a heavy serving to of artifacting and the occasional lack of sound, however it stays playable.

Defend probably will not substitute your PC gaming setup of selection, however it’s a welcome addition. The controller is not nearly as good as different choices, and the lag is a dealbreaker for a lot of people, however the expertise of comfortably enjoying excessive-finish PC video games on a handheld is actually particular.

Android video games

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Forward of this assessment, NVIDIA despatched over an inventory of video games which might be both “Tegra enhanced” and / or which have “controller help and play nicely” on Defend. Of the prolonged record of video games, we tried roughly two dozen titles, together with heavy-hitters like Grand Theft Auto: Vice Metropolis and (dare we make the pun?) Actual Boxing. Whether or not or not these video games have been any good is a query for an additional assessment — the difficulty we noticed repeatedly with Android gaming on the Defend is inconsistency.

Regardless of being each a “Tegra-enhanced” recreation and promoted within the official Defend-branded retailer, ARMA Techniques cannot deal with all of the button inputs being thrust at it. In its present state, it is utterly unplayable on Defend utilizing gamepad enter. Seashore Buggy Blitz, nevertheless, works with no hitch. The pause button pauses the sport and the command prompts on-display through the tutorial truly correspond with buttons that exist on the gamepad (in contrast to Grand Theft Auto, which is usually a maddening guessing metagame). That final assertion sounds bizarre, we all know, nevertheless it’s consultant of the state of Android video games performed with the Defend’s gamepad (or any Android gamepad, actually).

From recreation to recreation, it is a query of determining which beforehand digital buttons correspond to which a part of the bodily gamepad; none of those video games are constructed with controller help in thoughts, and its addition feels shoehorned in almost each occasion. Even cellular variations of beforehand console-unique video games (GTA, Max Payne) do not work as they need to, having been ported from consoles, to cellular, after which to cellular with console controls.

There’s been a number of mud kicked up over Android gaming within the final yr, between the OUYA, Defend, GameStick and what have you ever. Sadly, it is simply that: a cloud of mud. Android gaming is making its first child steps towards validity, however it’s nonetheless acquired an extended option to go. Within the meantime, the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS’ recreation libraries trounce the inconsistent, typically poor high quality titles discovered within the Play Retailer.

The competitors

NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

Let’s not child ourselves: there’s one main competitor towards the Defend. It is $50 much less, equally highly effective and has a a lot, a lot better choice of cellular video games. Sony’s PlayStation Vita is not an amazing multimedia system, however it’s a very good gaming gadget. In the event you’re stacking up the Defend towards the Vita within the “moveable gaming” class, it is a no-brainer win for the Vita, a handheld that weighs half the Defend, has a bigger, prettier display and is way extra “cellular.” The Vita might be simply slipped in a bag. The Defend can’t.

In case you’re stacking up the Defend towards the Vita as a recreation console, nevertheless, the Defend makes a a lot stronger argument. Not solely does it stream your PC video games (a minimum of the controller-based mostly ones), however it’s a cushty strategy to stream films in mattress. It is an incredible moveable music field. It is good for taking a look at a recipe whereas cooking. The Defend is a wonderful pill alternative, primarily, whereas the Vita is a superb gaming system and little else.


NVIDIA Shield review (update: video!)

At $300, NVIDIA Defend is a tough promote as a transportable recreation console, however a simple promote instead of a equally priced pill. Positive, it does not have a digital camera, nevertheless it does supply extraordinarily spectacular PC streaming, together with large viewing angles. The Defend stays a “really unusual system,” nevertheless it’s one which we really feel snug recommending to hardcore PC players and Netflix junkies alike.

Benjamin Harrison and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this assessment.

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