Nvidia’s Shield Tablet puts gaming first
Nvidia has announced a new, gaming-focused portable in the form of the Shield Tablet. The device, which packs some high-end specs including an Nvidia Tegra K1 GPU, aims to be the go-to portable for gamers, and supports a specially designed controller. Like the Shield handheld that the company launched last year, the new tablet runs on Android, but also has the ability to locally stream PC games.
One of the most important aspects of any tablet is the quality of its display. The Shield Tablet is no slouch in this regard, offering a 1920 x 1200 resolution over its 8-inch IPS LCD display. Its 283 pixels per inch display isn’t going to rival ultra sharp devices like the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 or LG G3, but it makes sense for a device designed to stream PC games, where 1080p is the standard.
Behind the scenes, there’s an Nvidia Tegra K1 mobile processor powering things. The chip features 192 dedicated graphics cores that use the same Kepler architecture as those in the company’s GeForce GTX graphics cards. The K1 is capable of running Epic’s Unreal Game Engine 4, and Nvidia claims that it’s “the world’s most advanced mobile processor.”
The device’s front-facing speakers, which feature the company’s PureAudio and dual-bass reflex technologies, are placed similarly to those on the HTC One (M8) or the Nexus 10 tablet. Once again, this design choice makes a lot of sense given the importance of good audio to the gaming experience. Another nice feature is the inclusion of a microSD slot, allowing for storage expansion of up to 128 GB.
Other than the ability to stream games from a local PC, the tablet will support a number of Nvidia technologies, including the built-in ability to record gameplay and stream it via Twitch. Users in Northern California can make use of the company’s Grid Cloud Streaming service, allowing them to instantly stream titles to their tablet. Lastly, the tablet’s Console Mode allows users to connect their device up to a big screen, though its not yet clear exactly how this feature will work.
Being an Android tablet, the Shield will have full access to the Google Play Store, providing it with a wealth of apps and mobile games for when you’re on the move. The fact that the Shield Tablet can function the same as any other high-end tablet makes it a more appealling prospect than the Shield portable, as it has the potential to kill two birds with one stone.
One of the biggest issues with gaming on a smartphone or tablet is the control scheme. No matter how much time you spend polishing your touchscreen control skills, there’s no substitute for the physical alternative. As such, Nvidia has elected to provide an optional (though we’d say essential) gamepad with the release. The ultra-low latency controller uses WiFi Direct to connect with the tablet and is the first gamepad designed for use with both Android and PC games. The design here is similar to that of the controller section of the original Shield portable system. Up to four controllers can be connected to a single Shield Tablet.
In addition to its gaming credentials, Nvidia is also taking aim at an entirely different market with the Shield Tablet. The DirectStylus 2 will be bundled in with the system, and is the first GPU-accelerated stylus we’ve seen. The company will include a Dabbler app with the system which provides a “hyper-realistic watercolor and 3D paint oil painting” experience. Though the accessory is an interesting addition to the device, it doesn’t quite fit with its gaming first mentality, and we would have expected to see it as an optional accessory, rather than bundled with the system.
One accessory that does make a lot of sense is the purpose built cover, which includes a kick-stand to make the device easier to use as a gaming display. Despite fitting the tablet’s ethos a little better than the new stylus, the case will be sold separately.
Nvidia is yet to provide full specs for the Shield Tablet, but we do know that the device will pack a 5 MP camera, feature WiFi a/b/g/n connectivity as well as the option of LTE. Along with those front-facing speakers, the color scheme and overall design language of the device looks a lot like the HTC One (M8), albeit on a much larger scale.
Despite Nvidia’s enthusiasm, we aren't holding our breath to see Shield Tablets being played all over the place, as handhelds like the PlayStation Vita and 3DS (not to mention smartphones and tablets) still have the casual, on-the-move gaming market cornered. That said, we can definitely see the tablet being popular as an extension of your gaming PC, providing a portable, convenient way to play high-end games in the living room and beyond.
The tablet is available to pre-order now, and is scheduled to release (at least by Amazon) on July 29. It will ship in 16 and 32 GB configurations, starting at a very reasonable US$299. The controller and case will be available separately, retailing for $59 and $39 respectively. Every device will come pre-loaded with a copy of Trine 2: Complete Story, and Nvidia has detailed a number of upcoming titles specifically optimized for the hardware, including War Thunder and The Talos Principle.