$349 Nvidia Shield mobile gaming console is high-powered and premium priced

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.

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