Ouya: This isn’t the Droid Console You’re Looking For

When Boxer8 launched its KickStarter campaign for the Ouya gaming console, many were thrilled to the tune of generating $8.6 million off of over 60,000 backers on the crowdfunding platform by the potential this little Android-powered box held.

Basically, if you want to elevate the smartphone gaming experience to your HD monitor or TV and want a dedicated Android gaming machine, then the Ouya is the only product on the market to offer that right now. Should you buy it, though? Let’s take a closer look at this new console to find out.

The Games

Let’s face it gaming consoles are as much defined by the games you can play on them as they are by the hardware. Game consoles launch sales and, in turn, initial rate of adoption is heavily influenced by the titles on hand on Day 1.

Even when the Ouya managed to get a fairly large games library upon launch, there’s very little on the Android ecosystem right now that will push the right buttons as far as casual and hardcore gamers go. For the casual crowd, there’s nothing they can play on the Ouya that they can’t play on their smartphones. There are some exclusives that should help make things more interesting, and there’s OnLive! game streaming as well.

Overall, there are far more lower-quality games compared to the true hits, and we can’t help but think that this will hurt the console in the long run. At least, the game streaming should keep things fresh and the promise of independent development and support from big game companies like Square Enix will also help sustain the console.

The Hardware

Most of the initial reactions to the console basically say that the Ouya is money well spent, and a big part of that figures in the hardware department. There’s a lot to be said about good design, and at least in this aspect, the Ouya succeeds with flying colors.

It’s elegant and very compact a cube that measures a shade under 3 inches, smaller than a business phone (read more) unit or an Internet router. The understated aesthetic really goes well with most modern furnishings. Heck, you might say it looks nothing like a gaming console, so at least it stands out from its competitors this way.

Inside, you have the quad-core Cortex-A9 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, backed by 1GB SDRAM, and there’s a ULP GeForce graphics unit from Nvidia to make sure that games run smoothly and properly. Of course, the console was designed to be easily moddable and to make installing add-ons convenient.

The controller has been substantially improved, at least when compared to initial prototypes; so that’s not going to pose any problem. But there are still some things like the d-pad that can be made better. For compatible games, users can also use standard controllers for other gaming consoles.

Software and UI

The user interface of the Ouya looks really clean, and the design doesn’t try too hard to look sophisticated. You have all the stuff arranged neatly in rows across the screen, and each item has big-enough thumbnails. Some settings can be a bit troublesome to get to and set up, although the overall learning curve isn’t all that steep. The submenus consist of Play (games), Discover (the app store), Make (developers go here), and Manage (system settings).

There’s a heavily modified Android 4.1 Jelly Bean version running the software, and rooting is highly encouraged. There’s also a web browser on the unit, and there should be other apps for streaming services like Netflix, Vevo, and YouTube.

Not Quite There Yet

Overall, the Ouya is a solid step nay, a leap for Android-based gaming, and this open platform could be a portent of things to come for gaming consoles in general. There’s still a long way to go before the Ouya can be considered a serious gaming console, though. You do get what you pay for, and right now you’re still better off with heavyweights like PlayStation and Xbox.

As we wait to see how the console performs in retail sales and how the company can weather shipping troubles of Kickstarter backers, it just might be best to wait for the better, more mature sequel. If you want, you can just get an HDMI cable and plug your Android smartphone to your HDTV.

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