The Cover and Controller
I would consider the SHIELD Tablet Cover and Controller to be more than just optional accessories and, instead, classify them as required purchases to really see the purpose, power, and potential that the product offers. Let's start with the cover.
In a similar way to other tablets with covers, the SHIELD Tablet uses a combination of magnets in the device and its cover to make cover seem intelligent. Opening the cover unlocks the tablet and closing the cover locks it, preventing accidental input. You can use it as a kick stand with multiple positions to help create a few different angles of vision.
Rather than attaching through a kind of archaic "put the plastic rod in the slot" method, this time NVIDIA has used magnets again. The strength of the cover attachment is pretty solid as well – holding it by the cover works fine, but more than a gentle jostling up and down will separate the cover from the tablet. Don't test this over concrete.
The SHIELD Controller is pretty impressive and basically takes the same design found on the original SHIELD Portable and removes the screen, adding some useful features along the way. First and foremost, the controls are no longer "sunk in" and instead sit up as you would find in any other console based controller. Clearly the SHIELD Controller mimics the Xbox designs and it does so very well – using it was comfortable and swapping back and forth between gaming on the SHIELD Tablet and my Xbox One didn't cause any unrest. The buttons are great, the thumbsticks are great, the D-Pad is great; the controller is really just an outstanding design built by gamers.
Rather than connecting by Bluetooth, the SHIELD Controller communicates to the SHIELD via Wi-Fi direct, a higher bandwidth and lower latency interconnect. Lower latency is always good, but the extra bandwidth is perhaps a more noticeable shift. Along the back of the controller you'll find the USB port used for recharging it (battery life has been outstanding on my sample so far) and an audio port used to connect a set of headphones with microphone. The SHIELD Tablet uses this connection to send audio back and forth through Wi-Fi direct, allowing you to communicate in multiplayer matches or just skip sending audio out your TV or the tablet.
In the middle at the top there is an array of buttons including the SHIELD button (used to power on/off, take you to the SHIELD Hub menu), start button, Home button and back button. All of which are capacitive. Sounds great in theory, but I did accidentally hit those buttons a few times causing me to pause the game or even exit the game accidentally (ouch). The tiny hole above the SHIELD button is a microphone, used for communication in a pinch or to talk to the Android OS with voice searches like "What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
At the bottom NVIDIA has included a very small, clickable touchpad. This seemed odd at first but came in incredibly handy while navigating some games with less than optimal controller support or even when changing settings in Game Stream games that aren't fully supported by NVIDIA yet. Think of it as way to emulate a mouse or touch screen while you are using the controller at a distance from the tablet. The +/- buttons below it are for volume control on the tablet, in your headset or to mute/unmute the TV output.
The net result is that the SHIELD Controller feels every bit as high quality as your Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller and clearly justifies the $59 selling price. You'll be able to connect up to four to your SHIELD Tablet for multiplayer gaming, though only on Android games as Game Stream doesn't support more than a single controller just yet.