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Ouya hands-on review

We get our mitts on the Kickstarter funded Android console
Mon Jan 28 2013, 18:01

THE ANDROID GAMES CONSOLE called the Ouya first came to our attention midway through 2012 when it appeared on the Kickstarter fundraising website.

Launched on Kickstarter mere hours after it opened in the UK, the Ouya was something of an anomaly.

The project's David and Goliath goal to take on heavyweights Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo with the world's first Android powered games console proved an instant hit and it shortly met its first funding goal. Since then the Ouya team has gone full throttle announcing a host of innovative features that have left us chomping at the bit to get our hands on the device.

For that reason, when we got offered the chance to have a play on the Ouya at the Skills Exchange in London we jumped at the chance. Now, post-gaming session, we're sharing our experience, offering our opening impressions of the Ouya.

Design
The Ouya we got our hands on was a pre-release demo unit, which meant that as well as being made of clear not grey plastic, it ran using the older version of the controller, not the infinitely cooler looking new one.

Ouya Android games console controller

We were amazed how small the Ouya was, at roughly the same size as a large coffee mug. This was especially true given the amount of technology the Ouya packs inside, with the tiny console squeezing in HDMI, USB 2.0 and Ethernet ports plus a WiFi card, Bluetooth and 8GB of flash storage.

Though the controller we used looked slightly different than the new version, it housed the same input options, featuring dual analog sticks, a D-pad, eight action buttons, a system button and a touchpad.

Operating system
The Ouya is powered by Google's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system (OS). However, be warned that the OS has been heavily customised. The development device we played was stuck in the games menu screen.

The user interface in the menu looked fairly similar to the menu seen on other multimedia services like Xbox Arcade. In it, downloaded titles were displayed as tiles and could be accessed by moving left to right using the games controller pad.

Ouya Android games console menu

The similarity of the Ouya's user interface to those of other gaming consoles made it easy for us to jump right in and navigate through its menus with no difficulty. In general we were really impressed by how polished the menu section looked.

Performance
The Ouya is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and boasts 1GB of RAM. Prior to our hands-on time with Ouya, the fairly low memory was a primary concern for us.

After all, similarly specified tablets are notorious for having the odd glitch and stutter when running more power intensive 3D or HD games. However, to our shock, during our hands-on we never once had an issue with the Ouya's performance, even when playing fully rendered 3D titles.

Testing the console, we played a number of preinstalled games, including a first person beat-em-up game that ran on the Unity engine. Even playing a fully 3D game complete with HD 1080p graphics, the Ouya purred along nicely.

Ouya Android games console boxing

That said, to our disappointment, we never got to play any really demanding games running on more hardcore engines. Come our full review we'll really be interested to see how the Ouya handles itself running power intensive Unreal engine games like Shadowgun.

Chances
Overall, having had a brief play on the Ouya we're pretty impressed, with the device offering an enjoyable and disturbingly polished gaming experience.

Add to this the fact that the Ouya runs on an open source operating system and is backed by a creative team that actively encourages coders to tweak and hack the device, we're thinking that this games console could prove a cult hit with the indie gaming community. µ

 

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