After months of waiting, I received an email from the folks at Ouya saying my Limited Edition Kickstarter version of their console had shipped. The only major difference between my version and the one shipped to other Kickstarters is the bronze-colored brushed metal finish.
Ouya is an Android-based and powered by a Tegra 3 with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of onboard storage. Performance-wise, this puts the Ouya in the middle range of Android hardware. Nvidia’s Tegra 4 was announced earlier this year, and is headlining a number of devices. The Tegra 4 promises to be 6 times as powerful as the Tegra 3, although generational performance boosts are rarely as grand as manufacturers promise. The Tegra 3 in the Ouya is the highest-end of its ilk, and would be on par with, or slightly better than, a high-end phone from 2012.
I haven’t had a chance to really put the Ouya through its paces yet, but I downloaded a few demos and sideloaded Plex to test it out as a media device.
First things first: the controller. It is sturdy and solid-feeling, but neither revolutionary nor the best controller I’ve ever held. Although I do not question the build quality of the controller, its engineering seems to leave a lot to be desired. The arms go out at a bit of an awkward angle, and the triggers aren’t quite lined up properly to make them easy to press. The action buttons could do with a bit more bounce to them; they feel like they aren’t resistant enough, or perhaps just don’t spring back into place like you’d expect them to. There is a touchpad in the middle. It works, but it is hard to use. There is no indicator of the useable space, but it appears to be quite small. Most games to not seem to use it. More often than not, it just acts like a mouse.
It isn’t all bad; the analog sticks respond like you’d expect them to, and I was able to pull off fireball and dragon punch motions more reliably than on an Xbox 360 controller. However, if you’ve been following the Ouya then you’re probably wondering if reports of controller lag are true. In my experience, it seems to vary. I had no problems playing Knightmare Tower, but wall-jumping in League of Evil felt downright impossible at times. I was able to play through the first mission of Super Mario 64 (via the MUPEN64+ emulator) without a hitch, but SNES games played via SNES9x EX+ all felt like they lagged just enough to throw off my game. I played Super Mario World and Super Metroid, and both felt like their timing was off. I then fired them up on the Wii U’s virtual console to verify my hypothesis, and found it confirmed. This likely means there are some software issues, but that is at least an addressable issue.
Now, the console itself: it’s tiny. It is about the size of a Rubik’s Cube. Like the controller, it is solidly built. It has a power button on the top, and cannot be turned on from the controller(something that became standard in the last console generation). Five ports adorn the back: power, HDMI, ethernet, and two USB ports(one for connecting the console to a computer, one for connecting usb devices to the console itself (ie, usb drives or controllers). I did not test my Ouya with a USB hub, but I have read that it can work with them. An odd hitch: it appears that the Ouya only looks for USB devices when starting up, so you can’t really hot plug devices with it. This isn’t really a huge issue, but it is annoying when you are trying to figure out why a USB drive isn’t working. Ouya’s manual is two pages, and not very helpful.
Although the Ouya has its own built-in store, you can also “sideload” apps via its web browser. I have not attempted to load the Google Play Store on Ouya yet, though I plan to. For now, I just tested the client for Plex, my media server of choice. It works well enough, but it was a little slow to load and playback controls were sparse. I was able to stream near-Blu-Ray-quality 1080p video with next to no hiccups.
I’m working on another article about the games. Expect it very soon.