ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime & NVIDIA Tegra 3 Reviewby Anand Lal Shimpi on December 1, 2011 1:00 AM EST
HDMI Output, Controller Compatibility & Gaming Experience
NVIDIA sent along a Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710 with the Eee Pad Transformer Prime to test game controller compatibility. NVIDIA claims the Nintinendo Wiimote, wireless PS3, wired Xbox 360 and various other game controllers will work with Tegra 3 based devices courtesy of NVIDIA's own driver/compatibility work. The Logitech controller worked perfectly, all I had to do was put batteries in the device and plug the USB receiver into the Prime's dock; no other setup was necessary. Note that this same controller actually worked with the original Transformer as well, although there seemed to be some driver/configuration issues that caused unintended inputs there.
By default the Logitech controller navigates the Honeycomb UI just fine. You can use the d-pad to move between icons or home screens, and the start button brings up the apps launcher. The X button acts as a tap/click on an icon (yes, NVIDIA managed to pick a button that's not what Sony or Microsoft use as the accept button - I guess it avoids confusion or adds more confusion depending on who you ask).
Game compatibility with a third party controller is varied. NVIDIA preloaded a ton of Tegra Zone games on the Prime for me to get a good experience of what the platform has to offer. Shadowgun worked just like you'd expect it to, with the two thumbsticks independently controlling movement and aiming. Unfortunately the triggers aren't used in Shadowgun, instead you rely on the A button to fire and the B button to reload. Other games would use the d-pad instead of the thumbsticks for movement or use triggers instead of buttons for main actions. It's not all that different from the console experience, but there did seem to be more variation between control configurations than you'd get compared to what you find on the Xbox 360 or PS3.
The actual gaming experience ranges from meh to pretty fun depending on the title as you might expect. I'd say I had the most fun with Sprinkle and Riptide, with Bladeslinger looking the best (aside from NVIDIA's own Glowball demo).
Sprinkle is a puzzle game that we've written about in the past. You basically roll around with a fire truck putting out fires before they spread and catch huts on fire. It's like a more chill Angry Birds if you're not sick of that comparison. Sprinkle doesn't make use of external controllers, it's touch only.
Riptide is a jetski racing game that does have controller support. There's not a whole lot of depth to the game but it is reminiscent of simple racing games from several years ago. The Tegra version gets an image quality upgrade and overall the game doesn't look too shabby. I probably wasted a little too much time playing this one during the review process. It runs and plays very smoothly on Tegra 3.
Bladeslinger is the best looking title NVIDIA preloaded on the Prime - it's basically a Western themed Infinity Blade knockoff. Image quality and performance are both good, although the tech demo wasn't deep enough to really evaluate the game itself.
For games that support an external controller, the Logitech pad usually just worked. The only exception was Riptide where I had to go in and enable controller support in the settings menu first before I could use the Logitech in game. I don't believe that better third party controller support alone is going to make Android (or the Prime) a true gaming platform, but it's clear this is an avenue that needs continued innovation. NVIDIA wants to turn these tablets and smartphones into a gaming platform, and letting you hook up a wide variety of controllers up to them is a good idea in my book.
HDMI output was easy to enable; I just plugged the Prime into my TV and I got a clone of my display. I didn't have to fiddle with any settings or do anything other than attach a cable. The holy grail? Being able to do this wirelessly. The controller is there, it's time to make it happen with video output as well.