NVIDIA SHIELD First-Hand Impressions, Unfortunately Shipments Delayed

We’ve got some good news and bad news to report about NVIDA’s SHIELD portable Android gaming device. First, the bad news. As many of you may know, NVIDIA previously reported that pre-orders were supposed to ship tomorrow to customers. Unfortunately, in its last round of QA work, NVIDIA uncovered a problem with a third-party component used in SHIELD and will be pushing the launch date out into July.

NVIDIA’s exact words on the subject were, “During our final QA process, we discovered a mechanical issue that relates to a 3rd party component. We want every SHIELD to be perfect, so we have elected to shift the launch date to July. We’ll update you as soon as we have an exact date.” If you pre-ordered a SHIELD, we’re sure this isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s always better to catch and resolve a problem before a product is out in the wild.

Some NVIDIA SHIELD Hands-On Action
The good news is we’ve had our hands on a SHIELD device for a little while now and have been impressed so far. Thanks to its TEGRA 4 SoC and unmolested version of Android, the SHIELD offers a very fluid, smooth Android experience. And the build quality and feel of SHIELD is top notch. It’s unfortunate NVIDIA ran into an issue this close to launch, but even so, it’s obvious the company isn’t skimping with SHIELD. It’s very solid and feels good in the hand, though it is a bit heavy.

We can’t give you the full scoop just yet—we’ll have to wait until the final, fixed retail release for that—but NVIDIA is allowing some members of the press to talk a bit about their experiences with a couple of Tegra 4-optimized games, namely Real Boxing and Blood Sword: Sword of Ruin, and also about AR Drone on SHIELD.

NVIDIA SHIELD Real Boxing Game Demo
As a hardcore boxing fan (one of the last I presume), I was excited to play Real Boxing. Well, the game looks as good on the SHIELD in the real-world as it does in all of the demos we’ve seen up to this point. Animation is smooth and the graphics looks great. There is a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of the controls, which rely mostly on the two analog sticks and left and right shoulder buttons, but once you do, defending and throwing combinations works very well.

I’ve fought quite a few rounds in Real Boxing and the only complaint I have so far is that the game is a little too easy in the very beginning. If you take the time to practice and master the controls using the built in tutorial, expect a string of first round knockouts.

Blood Sword Running On SHIELD

Blood Sword: Sword of Ruin also looks really good. It’s a Diablo-like, hack-and-slasher, that’s got some wild, outlandish-looking bosses. The graphics are very good and the this type of game is perfectly suited to the use of analog sticks for controls, but like most hack-and-slash games, it can get a somewhat repetitive. The constant and “uggs and rawrs” from the main character can be a bit grating too, but that’s just my quick, initial impression. I’m more of an action gamer that doesn’t like to think about things (I like to get in, kill some stuff, and get out), but if Blood Sword: Sword of Ruin is your type of thing, you’ll probably enjoy the heck out of it. From the time I spent playing it, the game does seem polished.

Racing AR Drone 2.0s on SHIELD
As for the AR Drone—holy crap that thing is fun to play with. I’m not a great pilot just yet, and I’d still like to tweak the flight parameters before drawing any final conclusions, but this thing is definitely a riot. And I’m not just talking about the flying that’s fun, it’s getting a different perspective on things in the vicinity. The AR Drone streams video from its on-board HD camera to the SHIELD as you fly. Just launching the thing high into the air and peering into trees or over the houses in the neighborhood is really cool. Not to mention the possibilities if you’ve got some hot neighbors you’d like to “check in” on. Just kidding, of course! Maybe. :)

That’s all we’ve got for now. It’ll be a few more weeks at least, but as soon as we’ve got a final SHIELD in hand, expect a more detailed, full review complete with video, more impressions, and benchmarks.