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back to article Nvidia takes fight to Sony, Nintendo with Android handheld console

Nvidia’s Project Shield seems positively daft at first thought. Who in their right mind would launch a new handheld gaming device today? If Sony and Nintendo can’t win over the millions of folk who play games on phones and tablets with their dedicated gaming handhelds - and very strong gaming brands - how the heck can a …

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Pity...

...it looks absolute pants.

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Re: Pity...

A reason would be nice.

I actually really like the design. By emulating a standard controller they've basically got spot-on ergonomic design, which the PSP had a problem with, and Nintendo never bothered with (seriously, the ergonomics on the DS range are hideous). And the battery life does sound superior to its peers.

The library of games is the real problem; the vast majority of the games on the Play store are pretty shit. Some indie ports have made it to Android, such as the Introversion stuff, but that's still not enough, especially when the Vita lets you play Uncharted.

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Greg,

it looks like a compact (y'know, mirror, foundation and a puff; women's stuff). Maybe a sign that gaming is no longer a male-dominated field, but still...

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Headmaster

Re: Pity...

The reason is to try and flog Tegra 4 and new Nvidia GFX cards, nothing else.

They'll lock this shit down, and make out like streaming is amazing super tech, conveniently forgetting that you can do this on current tablets with Splashtop2 for precisely no money at all.

I use my Nexus 7 to streamplay games from my PC with no issues at all. PS3 controller can still connect to the PC through a few walls, though mouse controlled turn-based games work much better.

Never being separated from Civ 5 or XCOM is one hell of a time-burner.

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Re: Pity...

Can I just have the quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 board out of it please?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Greg,

Maybe a sign that gaming is no longer a male-dominated field, but still...

... its not pink

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Re: Pity...

I'm pretty sure that Tegra 4 will come to quite a wide range of tablets and phones, as Tegra 3 did.

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Meh

Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

...what do you do?

Only trouble for Nvidia is next to zero market and brand awareness with the general population who might buy this stuff.

"Nvidia? Who are they? Do they make cheap tablets or willy pills or something?"

Yes PC gamers I hate to break it to you but you are a very small (but vocal) minority.

We'll see this time next year.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

nvidia dumped by everyone? really? since when?

Didnt realise that tegra3/4 were out of date and no one was using them anymore.

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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

Consoles dear boy, consoles.

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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

Just yesterday, I was reading Tomshardware's appraisal of Tegra 3- in short, it aids stability but doesn't really do anything the higher-end ARM devices can't do- so hopefully for nVidia Tegra 4 will raise the bar.

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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

PC game sales were massively up earlier in 2012, compared with a drop in console game sales. (The numbers I saw were 230% increase for PC games, 38% drop for console games).

So, PC Games are not a very small minority, and never were. They are a major market that generates billions in sales every year.

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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

Well said, Jason, well said - they have revenue but it's far from future-proof.

Nvidia was left out in the cold both by MSFT and Sony, both next-gen console will come with AMD (formerly known as ATI) GPU inside, some maybe even with AMD CPU, taking pretty much all available chip money from the ginormous console market.

Nvidia has no x86 license so he cannot make integrated/Fusion (CPU+GPU) desktop chips like AMD and Intel (though Intel's GPU totally design sucks, even after sinking billions in their abandoned Larrabee project which they are trying to recoup somehow with their new x86-based compute card.)

Nvidia's Tegra design is comparable to Qualcomm's omnipresent, more powerful yet less energy-hungry Snapdragon SoC but still falls short in almost everything eg a current-gen Snapdragon S4 dual-core handily beats a current-gen quad-core Tegra 3 (and it's more than ironic that Snapdragon-family's integrated GPU, called Adreno, was built on ATI's Imageon chipset, later sold to Qualcomm... Adreno -> Radeon, got it, right? :P)

Nvidia's only flourishing business is their traditional desktop/WS market where CUDA is unbeatable - partly thanks to AMD's incompetent, lousy OpenCL support; I've talked to ISVs in the past few months and more than one openly said they will drop OpenCL thus AMD's computing support completely in 2013H1 unless AMD revamps their professional driver development and provides them proper support, in a timely fashion.

NV needs a breakout point and it's nice to see JHH is trying to do something but outside of hardcore mobile gamers this inbred console-gnome is pretty much DoA, I think.

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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

The Snapdragon chipset may well be better, but there aren't any/many games that take advantage of the GPU on Android, unlike the Tegra 3 enhanced exclusives.

I realise that general software will be able to use the better CPU, but there is very little on phones/tablets besides benchmarking tools that shows an appreciable difference in the number crunching.

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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

"Enhanced" would be one word, "weighted for" would be another. Well, two actually.

I don't expect for a minute that any Tegra 3-optimised versions on TegraZone are 'better' for it, just that Nvidia will have guided the dev's hands when choosing which bits to spice up (the bits the T3 can do well) and which bits should be toned down (the areas where it sucks, and this is likely where more effort was expended to ensure high frame rates).

My old Matrox Mystaque came with 'optimised' versions of games. They sucked ass, but this was highly appropriate as the video card did too.

Nvidia has a history of hyping their SoCs up to the nth degree, backed with glitzy demo vids, only to launch an underwhelming product. I see little to suggest that Tegra 4 will be any different and the Adrenos and Malis of this world will continue to run rings around it it many critical departments

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kb
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Re: Well when you've been dumped by everyone else...

One of the big money makers has been the consoles and except for the Steambox which we haven't heard the specs of yet the big three, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony are ALL using AMD for their next gen consoles. The PS4 will have an AMD APU covering CPU and GPU, the Xbox Next will have a PPC with an AMD GPU, and the Wii-U has the equivalent of an HD4670 last I heard, so Nvidia is pretty much trapped in PC gamer land for the most part.

Sure there are some takers for Tegra but since you can get a broadcom HD chip for dirt cheap and more people play videos than games on their tablets its gonna be a pretty small niche. as a PC gamer I can tell you that most of us are buying less cards simply because the consoles hamstring the graphics, heck I'm still running an HD4850 which still plays all the games at native res and with plenty of bling. I'm gonna get an HD6850 not because I need it but because its my BDay in a couple of months and the HD68xx use less power, but frankly I don't NEED the card to play all the latest games like Borderlands 2 with full bling and talking to customers that game they are telling me the same thing, they are using 2+ year old GPUs because they see no point in upgrading.

So yeah Nvidia is in a bad way right now. and its obvious that AMD buying ATI was a smart move as when the previous CEO fired all the engineers and bet the farm on netburst...err I mean Bulldozer its the ATI division that is gonna keep the cash rolling for the next couple of years and having 3 major consoles is gonna be a heck of a nice earner, and with both the X360 and Wii having ATI as well as long as those units are still sold that's more money for AMD, less for Nvidia. So while I don't really have a horse in the console race I have to say I probably wouldn't buy Nvidia stock right now, looks like they are gonna be in for a lean patch.

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Holmes

Re: Android and Linux

I think your post just highlighted why nobody uses Linux.

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Re: Android and Linux

I think it's more cheap, ubiquitous computing being the driver here, not so much the OS (hell, I'm as Linux-mad as anyone, just ask around). The power to hold a decent specced tablet, phone or computer in your hand and run it off batteries in a lightweight, cool, silent device that costs less than a full price game in some cases (you can get Android tablets for £50 if you look around) - that's pretty new in computing but you're already accustomed to it.

I don't think it's all Linux, I think it's a combination of factors - good Linux support from a large multinational (Android - Google), good hardware standardisation (OpenGL, ARM, etc.), cheap LCD screens, large batteries, good battery life, ubiquity of wifi and bluetooth etc.

It's driving a convergence. It's now possible to make something so small that it's hard to use. It's now possible to make something so powerful that nobody will notice next to something only half as powerful. It's now possible to put so much storage into a tablet that we don't need disks of any kind any more. It's now possible to connect to the Internet wirelessly as a routine operation and expect broadband speeds with low latency. All these things converge and without anyone, the project stated would be dead in the water or have to make serious compromises. But now, literally anyone can license an ARM chip (or just buy one), slap it on a board, get to a Linux prompt, have OpenGL graphics of some use, and sell it as whatever they like (anything from the Raspberry Pi to the OpenPandora to the SteamBox to a media centre PC to a tablet computer to a "Surface" heap-of-junk to a smartphone). You didn't used to be able to do that.

That said, it's certainly an interesting time but I think there's going to be a period of massive confusion about to hit. Soon, anything and everything will be running Android or Windows or something similar and we'll have a mish-mash of hardware that's all pretty similar and your smartphone does all the stuff your console can do and vice versa (except phone calls, but we have Skype now), and eventually it will all settle down. In the meantime, it's almost pointless to buy any of them - I have a tablet PC for work that I've barely touched in favour of a "proper" laptop and a smartphone. Between the two I have any combination of raw power and portability that I want. And 99.9% of the junk on the Google Play store I find unsuitable for what I want it for and the stuff I do want is worth paying for - but only a few dollars.

Sure, there's a bit of a renaissance at the moment as people discover how having a device that can "just connect" to the world can alter their lives, but once we're there, it's all just different flavours of the same thing. To be honest, I don't think most people know or care whether their phone is an iPhone, Windows Phone or Android phone beyond designer-labels and fashions. They all do pretty much the same thing (unless you're a developer, etc.) and have the same apps available for them.

And we're literally only a handful of years away from disposable-cost computers now. I bought my 4-year-old daughter a tablet - if she breaks it, she breaks it. She might not get another until her birthday/Christmas/whatever but the fact is that it's almost a throwaway gift between family (my mum and dad have one, and neither of them know the first thing about computers and just play Angry Birds on it).

Linux adds to it, but this sort of thing owes more to ARM, OpenGL, Bluetooth, Wifi, cheap LCD's and even half-decent batteries or even nVidia than Linux.

That said, a world filled with cheap Linux devices isn't something to be dismissive of. Hopefully the "PC" will die a death and then MS will find out that it doesn't have enough of any other market to make a difference and hold us captive. Hell, even MS Office is slowly sliding out of existence and most people can get by perfectly fine with Google Apps and a copy of Firefox.

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@Eadon Re: Android and Linux

I don't think you can describe Android as a Linux distro, in the way you can describe Ubuntu, Mint, RedHat, etc as Linux distros. Android is certainly based on Linux but it doesn't make Linux available to the user. Your main points are correct however.

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Re: @Eadon Android and Linux

@Eadon

We've been here before with you. I agree that there are trends that may allow more people to run Linux as their primary desktop in future - Valve's gaming plans, for example. Another example is the 'software as a service' trend for the sort of professional productivity applications that, for some sectors, are currently scarce in Linux.

If the mainstream CAD packages, for example, do become OS agnostic, I suspect the move will be driven by a, renting compute resources for tasks like rendering, b, using private cloud services to help engineers collaborate on projects and c, paying for features on a 'per use' basis.

For the time being, CAD users will probably get a Windows machine, musicians and video editors a Mac, and many scientists will use Linux. Whatever tool - or 'ecosystem' of tools - works best for you. Viva la difference.

Don't forget that many small businesses use Windows accountancy software, with a variety of trade-specific 3rd party plug-ins, for such tasks as stock control or ordering... migrating that doesn't sound too fun.

In the spirit of diversity, I hope desktop Linux does well... but I can see plenty of room for improvement (just as I do in other systems). If you want to support desktop Linux, then address these issues constructively rather than knock Windows.

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Re: @Eadon Android and Linux

"What do you mean by, it doesn't make "Linux available to the user"? Because what you might think of as Linux may in reality be the GNU layer. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU/Linux_naming_controversy

I have a feeling that everybody else knows exactly what I mean. This one could run and run.

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Facepalm

@frank ly Re: @Eadon Android and Linux

I forgot the golden rule: Never get involved in any argument or even a discussion about Linux; don't even make a statement about Linux (unless you have lots of free time and can dance the semantic tango with experts).

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Re: Android and Linux

"@Himalayaman - Android is a Linux distro"

No, it is not - Android uses a linux kernel and pretty much that's it.

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WTF?

Re: Android and Linux

While I'd LOOOVE to see linux, even with a niche, purpose-built distro, hitting a home run with Steam alas, I have very serious doubts about it.

The utter idiocy at MSFT (=Ballmer et al) that brought this half-baked crap called Windows 8 to the market (and still arrogantly refuses to admit anything despite all the devastating user feedback) created a great window of opportunity but I don't think Valve can do it alone, not to mention within 12-24 months (my estimation, until the angry bald chair-throwing fatty gets ousted and the next CEO brings out a SP to fix W8's missing Start Menu, desktop etc.) Also DX11 is far ahead of OpenGL, make no mistake - I am not even sure if there's any top-notch game engine anymore that runs on OpenGL, let alone the COMPLETE LACK of linux gaming releases...

...so it's fun times for geeks, perhaps but hardly a blip on Windows-based gaming; sadly.

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Linux

Eadon Android and Linux

Actually you are forgetting something

until a linux based system boots to a text screen and uses a CLI, most linux nerds will dismiss it as 'not a real linux system'

And until we join forces and find the basts whos been forcing gnome 3, windows 8 and unity UIs on us (I suspect its the same person), we'll end up with brilliant computer systems based of a variety of operating systems and yet nothing anyone can use

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Re: Android and Linux

I am not even sure if there's any top-notch game engine anymore that runs on OpenGL

The Unreal engine still runs a silly amount of games, and part of the reason is that it runs on a silly number of devices, Linux included. OpenGL != Linux. The same cross-platform angle that lets them work on Linux also lets them work on Mac, iOS, Android, PS3, etc.

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FAIL

A joke?

Wow... they paid somebody to design this?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A joke?

Nah, they requested submissions from some teenage lads... the kind who, whilst sat in the back of maths class, draw cars with rockets fins on them.

It does look a little 'Alienware', doesn't it?

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Re: A joke?

quote: "Wow... they paid somebody to design this?"

"Nah, they requested submissions from some teenage lads... the kind who, whilst sat in the back of maths class, draw cars with rockets fins on them."

To be fair, the MS XBox controllers have been some of the most comfortable I've used, and this looks suspiciously like them. For controllers, you need to get the ergonomics right if you're expecting them to be used for any length of time; avoiding RSI is important enough that comfort >> pretty.

I'll reserve judgement until I actually get to hold one; if it isn't comfortable then I wouldn't buy it at any price, if it is comfortable (and usable) I may well be tempted, depending on the price point.

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Paris Hilton

Content

For the last few years, consoles have been all about the exclusive content.

If you don't control the content, it is a race to the bottom where specs to don't really matter, if you're ending up playing the latest generic Android game.

Couple that with an eco-system where most games are either free or selling for a few dollar, it will be very hard to make the money a modern AAA game costs. (Then again, maybe I have too much faith in some companies that they won't finance one platform with sales from 'the big 3' console vendors)

Then again if they are going for the casual market, this is not the device for it. That market has been taken over by the mobile phone.

So where Valve has the content and the distribution platform (which might make it a credible platform) I don't see this device going anywhere.

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FAIL

Re: Open console is needed

The existing console model is a niche

It's a bloody enormous niche, then. One that generates vast amounts of monetary turnover (profits AND losses) for everyone involved. The mobile console is a bit niche but that's only because games are crap on tiny screens, something even iPhone owners eventually have to admit.

but the golden days of Spectrum, Commodor, Amiga

Ah yes, glorious golden days of closed source software, incompatible hardware, utter lack of interoperability, no repair services, loading via audio tape, POKE 59864, 1 or that game you paid money for won't work...

Golden days my arse. No way you're old enough to remember those.

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Re: Open console is needed

>What is needed is an open console, whereby we return to the bedroom programming days of people publishing >great games as per the Spectrum.

I remember playing Codemasters games on the spectrum, Super Stuntman, ATV Simulator, Transmuter... these days Codemasters spend tens of millions on the latest Colin McRae Rally game - placing cars in sound studios, building models, surveying tracks...

We have had a return to simpler games in recent years- Braid is an example, as is Meatboy. Touchscreen devices aren't good for traditional platform games, but touchscreens and gyros allow for more game types to be explored... a multitouch tablet version of Bullfrog's Syndicate could be superb, offering more control over your squad of cyborg pschos than the single-mouse-cursor orginal.

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Re: Open console is needed

Not many people are making significant profits from consoles games these days. Blizzard. are strong but most are struggling.

EA are. Ubisoft are. Microsoft are (the profit on hardware is debatable but the profit on software is most definitely not). Sony still were as of their last earnings call. Nintendo made a mint on the Wii and their handhelds.

As for closed source and lack of interoperability - yes,. Exactly. That was my point. You expect things to have been better in a "golden age" - they weren't.

And regarding gameplay over graphics, bells, whistle and divers alarums? That's a matter of taste but it's always a mistake to assume that game makers are blind to what they can get paid money for. Currently, people pay for Call Of Modern Warfare IX : Unfeasible Add-On, racing games, free-roamers and the occasional stealth title. Super Meat Boy did comparatively well as many XBox Live games do but it didn't come close to Forza or Madden.

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Re: Open console is needed

"The Xbox - from a business perspective, is disastrous." You're confusing 'business' and 'commercial'. From a business perspective (Microsoft's) the XBox is one of their most important products; just look how many living rooms and bedrooms they are in. Plugged directly in to most people's preferred form of entertainment: their TV.

That aside, I'd take a lot of the profit announcements with a pinch of salt. MS certainly is an odd one in that the hardware has always been sold mostly at loss, but the licensing for the various parts of the system is the real money-maker, and I've never seen anything that has been able to confirm it falls within the "XBox division's" profit centre (i.e., the profits are reported somewhere else).

If it was really losing them money on all fronts, why would they not have made some changes to it? They still plough huge amounts of R&D in to the annual dashboard refresh.

And EA deserve what they get. Their games have focused on pointless sequels for years and Origin is an abomination

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Anonymous Coward

It's a shame that nobody makes games for the Vita - it's a wonderful piece of gadgetry lovely to hold, nice feel, pretty screen, really a great piece of kit. But since it launched there have only been a handful of games and almost none taking advantage of its key feature - the duel analogue sticks.

There are more games in Japan but they made it a complete pig to change between profiles which is, once again, a shame.

All in all the best game on the Vita is Gravity Rush and it's one of the best games I've played in a long time.

As to this thing, I suspect the same will happen to it as all the other hand held consoles.

It's a shame because playing games on touch screens is awful, well any game that requires d-pad/analogue sticks, because the degree of control you have is terrible and it really starts to hurt - even games like final fantasy seem to strain in odd ways.

Oh well.

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A shame maybe, but Sony never appeared to have the critical mass / virtuous spiral of users and developers. Were Sony to aim for the far more modest goal of making an Android gamepad, and certified 3rd party phones and tablets, they would be on to something. They would have a smaller slice of a bigger pie.

As it is, the Xperia S is compatible with some Sony games on the Android Play store, but my Xperia P isn't.

It was mentioned in passing (in the Lego LOTR game review) but gaming-mouse maker SteelSeries has made a game controller aimed at mobile devices. Unlike this nVidia unit, they seem to have considered the way it would be slipped into bags thus and removed awkward protruding parts.

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MJI
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Looks odd, and bulky

Prefer my small handheld console with Unit 13 and Uncharted Golden Abbyss, that is pocketable.

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Anonymous Coward

Den..

I'm out.

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IT Angle

Undecided

Like many other folks, the aesthetics don't really hold much appeal for me.

That said, the ergonomics of this thing could be a very different kettle of fish. I played on a 3DS and found the controls immensely uncomfortable, having rather large hands. Even the PSP didn't get it quite right. A full size X-box control I can use comfortably for several hours of gaming. Maybe it's not something you'd play on the way to work but it'd be ideal for playing on holiday. The screen size should be larger than that of a PSP or 3DS as well.

As always the two things that are going to make or break this are the actual games available - the Xperia Play languishes in my cupboard due to a lack of decent titles - and pricing as well. If the price isn't on a par with either the 3DS XL or PS Vita, this thing will be dead in the water.

By the by, wasn't Razer working on something like this, or was it something else with a screen? Can't remember.

EDIT: Just thought of something else. The PC Streaming feature would be a very nice touch for me - playing Dark Souls & Witcher 2 while laying in bed or even in the tub (with caution ofc) sounds like a might appealing idea, especially considering how heavy my last laptop was.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Undecided

"full size X-box control"?

Well, no such thing as an X-box, but talking about full size and Xbox makes me think of The Duke, the original Xbox controller that you could probably use as a mace to beat a man to death with. Excellent piece of gear.

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Re: Undecided

All good IT hardware should be capable of inflicting horrible injury.

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Firstly, sorry I haven't had time to read the entire article, but the second thing I thought of when I saw the image.. (the first was "great, I hope this turns out to be a decent gaming device"), anyway, the second thing was hopefully they will do a deal with OnLIVE to give access to the OnLIVE games catalogue, presuming it has WiFi built in.

I think whether you like OnLIVE or not, a gaming controller with a built in screen that can play android games and some of the latest PC titles can't be a bad thing surely...

Cheers

Jello

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