NVIDIA, not content to release a new generation of Tegra (4) mobile processor have simultaneously launched a revolution in portable gaming. Wrapping the new chip in possibly the most radical handheld console to date, let me introduce you to Project Shield.
Don’t mistake Project Shield for a fancy new controller; Project Shield is no slave to the likes of Sony or Microsoft. Instead Shield contains a fully featured next generation Android gaming console, fully self contained, display included.
NVIDIA has a surprise for gamers on the go, a complete departure from portable consoles of the past. This is uncompromised gaming in spite of location. The design is also strangely similar to the much rumoured portable Xbox.
The Shield looks fairly similar to Microsoft’s existing Xbox 360 controller, much like an Xbox controller on steroids. The full complement of buttons and analogue controls are present; X, Y,B and A buttons, a D-Pad, dual joysticks and rear bumpers and triggers.
The internals set Shield apart, the included Tegra 4 processor is equal to the best Android processors on the market, vying for the top spot with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 and the Samsung Exynos chips. Internally the Tegra 4 features a Cortex A15 Quad core CPU coupled with the 72 core GPU. NVIDIA aimed for a doubling in performance between Tegra 3 and 4, we will have to wait for the numbers to test that objective. This also puts it at levels of performance only just behind the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Project Shield in full gaming mode features a 5 inch retina display that swivels from the front edge of the controller. The touch compatible display features a resolution of 1280 x 720 (720p) and being an IPS panel will include extreme viewing angles (178), high pixel resolution (294ppi) and incredibly vibrant colours.
Connectors run along the lower front edge of the controller, allowing a HDMI cable to be connected while still hanging onto the controller, slightly annoying but workable. The full list of connectors includes Micro SD card slot, Micro USB, HDMI and audio jack inputs.
WiFi connectivity has been juiced up to 802.11n with 2×2 MIMO game-speed Wi-Fi chips providing high-bandwidth, ultra-fast wireless for seamless game streaming. WiFi is also utilised by the PlayPC functions that allow streaming of PC games to the console over a Wifi network.
“Project SHIELD was created by NVIDIA engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO of NVIDIA. “We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love SHIELD as much as we do.”
Custom bass-reflex speakers are said to pack as much punch as a dedicated sound system, levels of fidelity and range never before experienced by a portable console according to the big N.
The console runs Android Jelly Bean which has allowed NVIDIA to improve battery life for the console to between 5 and 7 hours.
Being a Jelly Bean device there is a massive catalogue of applications and games available through Google Play and NVIDIA’s TegraZone, with an impressive selection of freebies and big name titles.
In the latest press release NVIDIA have announced a Q2 release for the US and Canada. Pricing and world wide availability will be announced closer to the release.
Does NVIDIA have a PSP Vita killer on its hand? On paper the specs are a generation ahead of the Vita and it has a radically useable design. Rumour has it that working units are being demonstrated at CES this week, the hardware is ready. The Android gaming revolution is taking shape, a most unusual shape at that will change the face of portable gaming.