Nvidia announced a gaming-focused Android tablet on Tuesday, the Nvidia Shield tablet, which is the first tablet launched in the United States running Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chip. Also announced and sold separately is a new Shield wireless controller, which pairs with Nvidia’s hardware through Wi-Fi Direct.
The Shield tablet is sporting some great specs. Its display is an 8-inch 1920 x 1200 screen paired with front-facing speakers, which are a relative rarity on tablets. Of course, the device is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chip, which has 192 cores and can output advanced console-level graphics from engines such as Unreal Engine 4. There’s a 5MP front-facing camera for selfies, videoconferencing, and live streaming to Twitch, a video channel devoted to gaming. Nvidia includes a passive stylus with the tablet, and there’s also a slot for a microSD card to store all those big game files.
But the specs don’t tell the story about this device, which has significant features over similar Android tablets. The Shield tablet hooks up to a TV through the built-in HDMI port, and with the Shield wireless controller, can provide an experience that is very similar to consoles. I saw a demo of Trine 2, which will be included for free, which looked very similar to the experience I’d have on my PS3.
Underpinning that console-like experience is a Wi-Fi Direct controller that costs $60. Why not Bluetooth? According to Nvidia, Bluetooth introduces latency that can be very frustrating while gaming, and Wi-Fi direct allowed the controller to incorporate a headphone jack. Four Shield controllers can be paired with one tablet, which could lead to split-screen multiplayer games, a very console-like experience on the big screen, although there aren’t currently any apps that currently support that many controllers.
The Nvidia Shield can also livestream to Twitch while running graphically complex games. When Microsoft announced the Xbox One, Twitch livestreaming was a key selling point for the platform, although it took months for the feature to be turned on. There’s also a feature for lucky gamers with both an Nvidia GeForce graphics card-powered desktop and a Shield mobile device which lets a computer “stream” a Steam game to the tablet while the desktop computer does the heavy computational lifting, similar to the prior Shield device.
But even if you’re not a hardcore gamer, the Shield tablet looks like it has a lot to offer: It’s a solidly built device with a attractive screen and the fastest mobile processor currently available in the United States (The Chinese Xiaomi MiPad also uses the Tegra K1.) When the Nvidia Shield Hub, a launcher replacement app, is paired with a controller it provides one of the least awkward “10-foot” Android interfaces currently available.
The Shield tablet is Nvidia’s second hardware product, after its Android-based Shield handheld system hit the market late last year. That device has been renamed the Shield portable.
There will be two versions. One version has 16GB of built-in storage for $300, and another with 32GB and LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile SIM cards that will cost $400. The Wi-Fi version is available for preorder today and will hit stores on July 29.