Android Gaming Adventure – Part I: The Quest

Android gamingNearly a year ago, I bought an ASUS TF700T tablet, one of the best you could buy at the time.  I really love it, especially with the keyboard that attaches to it, increasing its battery life 50% while providing a full size SD card slot and USB port, which can support thumb drives, external hard drives and other USB toys.

One thing that made the TF700T interesting was the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core CPU/GPU, with a 5th battery saving core.  Being a die hard fan of Nvidia for their PC graphics cards, I was excited at the possibilities of them producing a GPU for my tablet to power Android gaming.  To optimize usage, ASUS gave it a remarkable 1920×1200 resolution, which is higher than the standard 1080P resolution of 1920×1080.  It also sports a 1080P HDMI out, permitting you to enjoy the graphics capabilities on your TV or monitor.

To get you started with the best games supporting the Tegra 3, ASUS installs TegraZone, a store for these Android games, as well as a demo app called Tegra Glowball.  After playing a few of these games, such as Conduit HD and Dead Trigger, it becomes clear that Android game quality is now giving the PlayStation and XBox a run for its money.

The Android Console?

The next question is immediately clear.  Can Android gaming replace the PlayStation, XBox or Nintendo consoles?  A tablet or phone is certainly more portable than today’s consoles.  Plus, a tablet or phone is also a tablet or phone, which is also a portable GPS, web browser, music player, voice recorder, eBook reader, and, well, countless other possibilities.

With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, my next question was can I use a wireless controller? Searching, I quickly discovered that you can use the PS3 controller.  You can immediately use it via the USB port on the keyboard dock.

It took awhile to figure it out, but, thanks to an Android update that ASUS just rolled out, I was able to easily connect to it via Bluetooth.  I quickly discovered that many of these Tegra 3 games also supported the controller.

Now that I was able to plug a high definition action game into my TV via HDMI and use my PS3 controller wirelessly, I was witnessing the beginning of the Android becoming a gaming console.  Perhaps more importantly, it was still a tablet, and much more portable than the XBox 360/One or Playstation 3/4.

Android 4.2.1 Bluetooth Issue

One day I paired my controller back with my PS3.  Later, when I tried to pair it with my tablet’s Bluetooth, I couldn’t.  I could still use it via the USB port.  But, with a wired HDMI to the TV, you really need a wireless controller.  Investigating, I discovered that the 4.2.1 update of Android that ASUS rolled out broke certain Bluetooth capabilities, including the ability to pair with a PS3 controller!  While 4.2.2 has been out for some time, and it is supposed  to resolve this problem, ASUS has yet to update the TF700T.  This is despite them rolling out 4.2.2 for many of their other devices, and 4.3 coming out, and now, 4.4 is out!  UGH!!!

Note that an update was scheduled for 3Q 2013, and it is now 4Q.  They have been updating their older devices.  So, this suggests that an update is likely to come… someday.  Hopefully it means they have decided to hold out for better release, perhaps even 4.4.  Currently, they are rumored to be waiting until 1Q 2014.  That’s a long time to get my controller back, ASUS!!

This leaves me with the following options:

  1. Wait for an update.  This could be months away.  There’s also no guarantee it will come.
  2. Roll back to 4.1 update.  I’ll lose any performance or feature improvements in 4.2.
  3. Install CyanogenMod 10.2 (4.3 JellyBean custom ROM).  This permits me to update Android without ASUS.  Downside is it invalidates warranty, and risks bricking the device.
  4. Buy a new tablet.  Can you really have too many tablets?

Buying a new tablet sounds extreme.  But, really, this thought began when I saw the ASUS MeMo 7 quad-core on sale for $100 for Black Friday weekend.  Tablets can do so many things, it is hard to imagine not putting a new tablet to work, while still using the old tablet for what it does best.  I mean, my 10″ TF700T with keyboard is like a laptop, while the 7″ would be a cheaper more portable solution, right?  It could, for instance, be a better screen for my truck.

Racing to the store, I quickly learned the limitations of the MeMo.  The biggest limitation was that you could not connect it to your TV except through Miracast — a notable wireless technology that just isn’t ready for the low latency requirements of gaming.  Not that I was surprised.  But, I learned that what I REALLY WANT is the ultimate gaming tablet that can act as a portable console, outputting to a TV and supporting 1+ controllers.

The Android Gaming Quest

This marks the beginning of a quest to create the ideal Android gaming solution based on a tablet.  In the next article, we’ll continue this quest.  I’ll choose the components, buy them, then test them out, reporting the results.

Continue to…

Part II – Hardware Primer


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About Erik S

With a passion for Investing, Business, Technology, Economics, People and God, Erik seeks to impact people's lives before he leaves. Contact Erik
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