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NVIDIA Shield Wireless Controller - worth the $60 price tag?

The NVIDIA Shield Controller allows for a great experience, but is it worth its $60 price tag? We find out!
August 22, 2014

The follow up to last year’s NVIDIA Shield handheld gaming console may have taken a more traditional tablet form factor this time around, but to take full advantage of the gaming prowess of the Shield Tablet, you still need a pretty good controller. Luckily, NVIDIA has made one, specifically for this tablet.

Is it worth its steep $60 price tag? We find out, as we take a closer look at the NVIDIA Shield Wireless Controller!

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Unboxing the Shield Wireless Controller is pretty much a standard affair, as all you get is the controller, the documentation, and a microUSB cable to charge the controller. The Shield Controller is supposed to provide the best gaming experience on the Shield Tablet, and once you get it in your hand, it does feel like NVIDIA has created something special here.

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There’s no denying that the Shield Controller is a large device, but packs a lot more into what otherwise looks like a regular controller. You get a standard button layout that you’d find with any such controller, but the top portion, around the NVIDIA logo, comes with capacitive home, recent apps, and back buttons. The NVIDIA logo at the centre can also be pressed to open NVIDIA hub, allowing you to access all of your games right from the controller itself.

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Down at the bottom of the face of the controller is something quite special as well. The silver area at the bottom is actually a touch-sensitive area that feels like a lot like a mouse trackpad. A cursor shows up on the screen, and you’re able to use the trackpad to navigate around, and click on things, within the Shield Tablet interface. There is also a volume controller at the bottom, with the Shield logo in the middle.

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At the top of the controller is where you will find the microUSB charging port and a headphone jack. Connecting a standard pair of headphones, you will be able to listen to all of your games or other media from the tablet through the controller itself. Not having to tether yourself to the tablet is great, especially if the tablet itself is tethered to your TV, and this provides a good wireless audio solution.

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It has to be mentioned that the Shield Controller is not a Bluetooth controller, and connects to the Shield Tablet using Wi-Fi Direct. While these allows for a fantastic performance as far as the experience on the Shield Tablet goes, what this means is that unfortunately, this controller will work only with the Shield Tablet. This is a little disappointing, as we would have liked it to have been compatible with multiple devices, especially when you consider how good this controller is.

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The controller really shines when it comes to actual use. NVIDIA promises a console-like experience with the Shield Controller, and this does hold true. The response time is great, there’s no lag between the presses on the controller and what is happening on the screen, and the controller itself handles very well, and is definitely of a very high quality.

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And this is where the question of the high price point comes in. While the NVIDIA Shield Tablet is a fantastic media consumption device and obviously a beast when it comes to gaming, it also comes with a reasonable price tag, which makes it all the more popular. But to get the most out of the tablet, a great controller is required, and while the Shield Controller is definitely up to the mark, its $60 price tag is very steep.

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If you don’t want to spend that much on a controller that will not work with any other device, there are some alternatives out there that are pretty good. One example is the Nyko PlayPad Pro Bluetooth Controller. The PlayPad Pro was developed in conjunction with NVIDIA, and is supposed to work very well with Tegra devices, which holds true for the most part. The Bluetooth connection is strong, and the response time is good, but the Shield Controller does outshine the PlayPad Pro in terms of performance. That said, if you aren’t looking to spend $60 on a controller, the Nyko PlayPad Pro, priced at just $20, is one of the better alternatives available.

So there you have it – a closer look at the NVIDIA Shield Controller. If you do decide to pick one up, it works really well with the Shield Tablet, and the experience it provides is certainly worth the steep price point. Now that the set is complete, stay tuned with Android Authority as we bring you a comprehensive review of the NVIDIA Shield Tablet, that will be up shortly!