NVIDIA’s Shield is a handheld gaming system that runs the open source Android 4.2 operating system. But there’s open source, and then there’s open source.

Most Android phone and tablet makers only release as much source code as they have to by law (usually based on any changes they make to the kernel, for instance), and often wait as long as possible before releasing it.

NVIDIA is releasing pretty much everything, and just a week after the game console hit the streets.


You can download open source and binary drivers for the NVIDIA Shield from the company’s developer page — and that’s where you’ll find complete factory images for the device.

That means developers have the tools necessary to change the behavior of the operating system, create custom firmware, or restore the NVIDIA Shield’s original software if something goes horribly wrong.

Technically you’ll void your warranty if you root your device, unlock the bootloader, or install custom firmware. So if you try to ship NVIDIA a damaged unit for repair and the bootloader’s been unlocked, you might run into trouble. But in a blog post, NVIDIA’s Andrew Edelsten suggests that the company only included that clause to protect itself “if folks start to abuse the hardware through software modifications.”

In other words — if you root your device, install a custom kernel, overclock your device and subsequently fry the CPU you’re probably out of luck. But if you simply wanted to install Titanium Backup, odds are that NVIDIA won’t give you a hard time.

Still, rooting and installing custom firmware aren’t for everyone. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might be best off just running the stock firmware from NVIDIA. It’s pretty close to Google’s stock version of Android anyway, and offers a decent experience for gaming, web surfing, and other activities.

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2 replies on “NVIDIA Shield portable game console is hackable: NVIDIA releases source code”

  1. Microsoft could learn a thing or two from this.
    Maybe not open source, but if they unlocked the bootloaders on those Win RT white elephants they might sell some to enthusiasts.

    1. There are a lot of $99 clearance HP Touchpads running Android these days… but unlike HP, providing a cheap, hackable device for people to put a Linux distro on is probably the opposite of what Microsoft wants to achieve. I have a feeling they’d mark them down to 30 bucks or steamroller them in a New Mexico landfill first.

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