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OUYA review: Average games console, but a hacker’s dream

We review OUYA, the £99 Android games console that wants to take over your living room. Is it still relevant with the Xbox One and PS4 just around the corner?

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With $8.5 million in crowd funding and an extensive marketing campaign to rival that of its console counterparts, OUYA is without doubt the pioneer of the new generation of Android gaming consoles.

Unboxing the OUYA reveals a small silver square alongside a smart looking controller. Both the controller and console are light, a bit too light infact, but they both have a nice aesthetic quality to them, even if the OUYA might be smaller than you first thought.

Around the back of the console are a range of ports which ramp up the variety of connectivity options available to you. There’s the standard power port, full USB, microUSB and also a HDMI port to boot. Due to the consoles small stature, having both the power and HDMI cable plugged into the console when you begin playing is a real eyesore.

Turning on the console for the first time requires you to pair the controller and console together. The process is easy enough and there’s also the choice to pair up to three other controllers at the same time. There’s a rather lengthy setup process from here on in, with the console requiring a couple of software updates before you can get stuck in.

After creating an account, you’re annoyingly taken to a credit and debit screen, where you’re required to enter all your details. There’s no getting around this screen, you need to enter your payment details before you’ve even seen the main menu.

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Once the setup is complete its on to the storefront, which is spread into different sections to make it easier to find and play the games you want.

Although the current crop of games aren’t near the amount first promised, the selection of offer is varied enough to keep you interested. All genres are covered and having the ability to demo any game before you part with your cash is a great addition. Prices vary from game to game, but even some of the more expensive titles cost less than they do on the Google Play store.

After downloading a title you’ll soon discover OUYA’s number one problem, lag. Any action you implement on the controller is often delayed by a few seconds before appearing on screen, it’s a real issue and fundamentally ruins the gaming experience. On the 40 or so games we tested on OUYA, the lag issue was apparent on nearly 90% of them.

The saving grace for OUYA is that because it runs on Android, you always have the ability to hack it, and some praise has to go to the developers for enabling users to tinker with the little box.

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There’s already a thriving community of people out there producing apps and other content for the OUYA. Emulation works like a charm and upscales most games well, with popular emulators SuperGNES and MD.emu working without any issues. XBMC is also working without fault and acts a gateway to stream various media files through the tiny console.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll also find it’s entirely possible to add ClockworkMod to OUYA, again opening up even more avenues for you. The list of hacks and customisations is growing at an alarming pace and it’s only a matter of time until we see the likes of Netflix and Gmail ported across.

OUYA is marred by problems which certainly hold back being able to recommend it as a must have games console. But for £99, many people may invest in one for the variety of hacking opportunities available to them, with a community of hackers constantly growing and looking for new ways to get more from the little box.

If you’re on the hunt for a pure Android games console, you may want to look elsewhere, but for a box that can be opened up to perform and run so many other things, then OUYA is seriously worth considering.

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