OUYALet me begin this by saying that the Ouya console looks really sleek and cool. And it’s tiny. Very tiny. It’s about the size of a small apple or a Rubik’s cube. It even makes the Wii look large. Its presence may go completely unnoticed on one’s TV stand, especially amongst other consoles and media devices.

With that in mind, the Ouya isn’t packing the latest and greatest hardware; it’s not going to hold its own against the big three’s flagship consoles, so if that’s the kind of hardware you’re looking for, you’ll unfortunately be disappointed with the Ouya. Its hardware is comparable to a mid- to high-end phone. I’m sure there are phones out there right now that are more powerful than the Ouya, but they also cost a lot more as well (we’ll touch on price at the end of this post).

It’s running the SoC (System on a Chip) Tegra 3 by Nvidia. The Tegra 3 was released in late 2011 so it’s not the most powerful chip. The Tegra 4 is expected to be released some time before this year’s end. There are half-confirmed statements from Ouya that the console will get yearly upgrades, so it’s possible we may see the Ouya 2 (Touya?) in July 2014 with the Tegra 4 (chances are current controllers would still be compatible, which means updated consoles will probably be pretty cheap if not sold with a controller).

Let’s take a look at some of the specs:

CPU
Quad-core 1.7 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore (ARMv7-A architecture)

GPU
Nvidia GeForce ULP @ 520 MHz (12.48 GFLOPS)

Memory (RAM)
1GB DDR3-1600 SDRAM

Internal storage
8 GB eMMC flash memory

USB ports
1 USB 2.0, 1 microUSB

Networking and wireless connectivity
10/100 Ethernet (8P8C), 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth LE 4.0

It connects to your TV via HDMI 1.4 and is capable of video output in 720p and 1080p, and there’s apparently support for stereoscopic 3D, though there are no games released at the moment that I am aware of that utilize 3D. There are also slots in the bottom of the console for the fan to bring in air and vents at the top to expel it. Some have commented that their console gets very hot, but mine has yet to experience this issue, even with several hours of sustained use.

Some have also complained about problems with the wifi connectivity, almost to the point that the console is unusable (since one cannot download games) but I have not had any wifi connection problems. I have my console wired via Ethernet, but I have tested the wifi on my home network and a friend’s, and both were able to connect without issue and download games.

Two things I think they missed out on is a microSD (or even just a standard SD) slot and gigabit Ethernet. The flash memory would make transferring data extremely easy. As of writing there’s no way to expand the internal storage (to many people’s dismay), but Ouya has confirmed they are working on a firmware update that should allow users to connect external hard drives via the USB port to expand it. The console currently detects external hard drives (though some are reporting issues with this) but you cannot install games to it. You can however access media content from an external drive or store and run ROMs for the emulators.

The gigabit Ethernet may not be a huge issue but I am disappointed that the Ouya is the only sub-gigabit device in my house. Megabit LAN should stream 1080p no problem, though I am not using my console as a media streaming device so I haven’t tried this yet. I am hoping the next iteration of the console includes it, though I am happy with its price point and I am certainly willing to forgo gigabit Ethernet if it means maintaining its price tag; I just would have thought gigabit Ethernet was cheap enough by now to fit in the budget but I guess not.

Which leads me into the last thing. How much will this little bundle of joy set you back? It’s selling retail for $99. That’s right, just a hundred bucks. Some may scoff at the price saying you get what you pay for, but this little box can do a lot, and I think a $99 price point is certainly reasonable. It’s low enough that it’s not a huge risk should you not like it, but I don’t think that will be the case. It may not be selling in droves, but you should be able to sell it on eBay pretty easily if you wanted, especially since buying it overseas is extremely limited right now, if not impossible. Even as a nice, streamlined emulation box or a media box, $99 isn’t bad, plus you have access to all the games that are free to try.

I have purposely left out the controller in this post, as I feel it deserves its own, which is coming up next.