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Summary:

Nvidia surprised and impressed at January’s CES with its Project Shield mobile gaming console. Pricing and availability details are here: If you were expecting something priced to compete with Sony’s PS Vita, you’ll be disappointed.

Nvidia Shield handheld

Nvidia debuted its Project Shield gaming console in January and now the full details are available. On Tuesday, the company announced that Nvidia Shield — it’s no longer a “project” — is available for early pre-orders at $349. People who registered for product updates can reserve their device, while the general public can place orders on May 20. Nvidia plans to ship the first Shield devices in June.

If you missed the original announcement, Shield is literally Nvidia’s play to get directly into the mobile gaming hardware business. The handheld device is shaped like a Microsoft Xbox 360 controller with two important additions: A 5-inch 720p touchscreen display and bass reflex stereo speakers. Inside Shield is Nvidia’s Tegra 4 chip with 72 custom GPU cores and four Cortex-A15 CPU cores. Essentially, this is a mobile gaming console with hardware controls.

nvidia-shield

I was impressed by the device demo I saw in January: Not only does Shield play Google Android games it supports game streaming from a PC, provided that computer has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU inside. Nvidia has also worked with Steam — an online computer gaming distribution company — to get PC quality games on Shield. I’m leery about the price, however.

Sony’s PS Vita is at least $100 below the $349 Nvidia Shield price, and Sony’s game machine isn’t the hottest seller right now. Instead, mobile gaming has increasingly moved towards tablets and smartphones instead of dedicated mobile game consoles.

I know that Shield has all of the whiz-bang features essential to mobile gaming — solid controls, a fast processor and multiple graphics cores, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a 720p display — but I have doubts about the market supporting the $349 price tag. Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I have the chance to spend more time with the device. For now, my enthusiasm for Nvidia Shield is somewhat diminished.

  1. I don’t think you can compare this the Vita or Ouya or even Gamestick for that matter. Instead they are going after gamers who appreciate being able to play PC level games in a mobile environment and not have to deal with a lot of compromises like the other platforms.

    And honestly, when people are dropping $500 for a tablet and Bluetooth controller, $349 is a steal.

    The bigger concern is battery life. With great power comes great power drain and I wonder if this product truly has the ability to survive non-stop flight across the US.

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    1. I didn’t say PC games…I said PC level games with solid graphics and reasonable frame rates. I fully realize this is an Android based system, with all the challenges that come with that ecosystem, but this platform has the ability to provide a gaming experience that goes beyond the mediocre mobile experience we currently enjoy. The Vita comes close, but Sony’s ecosystem sucks.

      Now, what went unsaid is that hardware goes to commodity really quickly in the mobile world, so the premium you pay for this platform may feel completely unpalatable by Christmas. The window of opportunity is quite short.

      You are quite right that it will come down to the games, but Nvidia has actually done a reasonably good job of promoting and encouraging development against its solutions through the TegraZone and NVision. Hopefully, those forces will be brought to bear to support the Shield as well.

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  2. @madlyb
    The thing is, you won’t really get a pc gaming experience on this thing. And here’s why:

    The Shield console can play two types of games: android games and pc games streamed from your computer.

    Let’s first talk about the android games. No developer would be foolish enough to develop a game for android, and then release it exclusively for one device. Hence, Nvidia would have to pay developers a lot of money for them to release games exclusively for the Shield. Not only that, so far, all Hd games for android are sloppy ports from their iOS counterparts, which indicates that developers are far more willing to make games for iOS anyway.
    To make matters worse, the Tegra 4 gpu isn’t all that great. It’s only ever so slightly better than the latest powerVr gpu found on the iPad 4, which is currently the best mobile gpu. I believe the psvita also uses a variant of that powerVr gpu.
    In other words, the Shield will not have groundbreaking graphics, so once again, developers won’t be compelled to make games that work solely on the Shield, since the galaxy s4 and iPad 4, both which sell like hotcakes, would be able to play such games too.
    So, that means that any native(android) game the Shield can, the flagship android phones like the htc one and galaxy s4 can too. So why would you buy a console when you can buy a phone which can play the same games and make calls on top of that?

    Now, let’s move on to streaming from the pc. In theory, this would be fantastic. But, let’s be realistic. Not everyone leaves his pc turned on all the time. If you’re out, you could whip out the Shield and stream from your pc, provided your pc is turned on. Otherwise, you’re stuck playing android games. So, streaming is really only convenient if you are at home, because you can just turn on and off your pc whenever you like and need to. However, if you’re at home, why bother playing on the Shield when you can play on the larger screen of your pc? Also, let’s not forget the fact that most gamers inexplicably prefer consoles over gaming pcs or laptops, so they might not even have a device to stream to their Shield.

    Thus, pricing the Shield above the psvita is the worst thing Nvidia could have done. There’s no incentive for developers to make exclusive content for it, and there’s no incentive for consumers to buy it since the same games are available on other platforms and to make it worse, the Shield is more expensive than the psvita, which has true AAA titles.
    The only saving grace the Shield has over android flagships is the physical controller. But even then, I doubt it would be enough to woo consumers over.

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    1. @John.

      “No developer would be foolish enough to develop a game for android, and then release it exclusively for one device.”

      Don’t you realize that a developer can release the game in android and you’d be able to play it on the shield [as long as the controller support is present]? There’s no extra work for the developers. In fact, I would think that it takes them more time to re-design the game for touch based devices compared to adding controller support.

      “So, that means that any native(android) game the Shield can, the flagship android phones like the htc one and galaxy s4 can too. So why would you buy a console when you can buy a phone which can play the same games and make calls on top of that?”

      Am not sure you play a lot of games but many games [esp FPS and racing games] are much easier using a controller than using touch. Also, Shield is not meant as a replacement for phones like the HTC One and Galaxy S4. And isn’t it good if you can play your games [which you pay for in many cases] on a bunch of devices?

      “Not everyone leaves his pc turned on all the time. If you’re out, you could whip out the
      Shield and stream from your pc, provided your pc is turned on.”

      As far as i know, Shield works only on dual-band wi-fi inside your home. So leaving your PC turned on all the time is not a real issue.

      “Also, let’s not forget the fact that most gamers inexplicably prefer consoles over gaming pcs or laptops, so they might not even have a device to stream to their Shield.”

      The biggest strength of android is that it is free and open for anyone to use [apart from being a good operating system]. This is why it has garnered the market share that it has. And purely based on its market size, it should only be a matter of time before you see developers start making AAA titles available in Android. So this is simply the beginning of a change in the gaming industry that Android has made possible. And I’m guessing this is what Nvidia is betting on with the Shield [and so is Ouya].

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