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Tegra K1 Gaming is Near: NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet & Controller Preview
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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet and Controller
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by Rob Williams on July 22, 2014 in Mobile

I made a prediction a couple of months ago that the next SHIELD release we’d see would be an upgrade to the original – but with a dose of Tegra K1. As it turns out, I was wrong. However, like the SHIELD portable, NVIDIA’s just-announced SHIELD Tablet and Controller are two products that portable gaming fans should get excited about.

When NVIDIA announced its SHIELD portable last summer, it took no time at all to figure out what the most-requested feature from consumers was: “Please let the tablet be detachable!” Of course, as the device was explored further, it became obvious that NVIDIA couldn’t have designed the SHIELD with that characteristic; the display would have become too bulky, and the innards of the gamepad would have gone underutilized. Both would be poor choices for a portable device.

Despite that being the case, though, NVIDIA didn’t just turn a blind eye to that idea. Today’s reveal of the SHIELD Tablet and SHIELD Controller is proof of that.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet and Controller

As with its SHIELD portable, NVIDIA didn’t want to add another device to the market just for the sake of it. It wanted to differentiate itself – and as we discovered in our in-depth review, it certainly had. SHIELD Tablet is what NVIDIA calls the ‘Ultimate Gaming Tablet’, but it’s also designed to be a great all-around entertainment device in general – like the portable. Let’s dig deeper.

The Hardware

The tablet itself comes in at 8 inches, which makes it a tad larger than the popular EVGA Tegra Note 7 and Nexus 7. What really separates it from those is what’s under the hood: A Tegra K1 processor. We took an in-depth look at K1 in January, so if you’re unfamiliar with what it brings to the table(t), I highly recommend reading that through.

SHIELD Tablet includes NVIDIA’s much-touted DirectStylus 2 technology, and of course the stylus itself. The big differences between the first and second-gen DirectStylus is that the new version allows for GPU-accelerated drawing. One example of that is with a, “new capability where pigment and paint mix and bleed physically, in real time, and the palette is naturally illuminated in 3D as the user adjusts the light source.” Further, the pen is now twice as responsive.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - Kepler-based Tegra K1

I mentioned the Tegra Note 7 before, so I might as well tackle this now: SHIELD Tablet does not replace the TN7. The TN7 at this point is still what I’d consider to be the most attractive 7-inch tablet out there, and at $199, it’s $100 less than the Wi-Fi version of the SHIELD Tablet. For that $100, you’ll gain an inch in size, a much higher resolution, and of course, the significantly faster Tegra K1 processor.

Those who were a little miffed at the lacking of an LTE option on the Tegra Note 7 side might be pleased to know that NVIDIA’s SHIELD Tablet doesn’t suffer the same fate. That model retails for $399, and doubles the storage capacity to 32GB.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - Exploded View

A summary of the hardware specs: Tegra K1 quad-core SoC clocked at 2.2GHz, 2GB of RAM, Wi-Fi+LTE (micro-SIM) or Wi-Fi only (Wi-Fi is 802.11 a/b/g/n MIMO), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS, 9-axis g-sensor/gyro/compass, 8-inch IPS display with a 1920×1200 resolution, front-facing speakers, microSD slot (up to 128GB), a front 5 megapixel camera, a back 5 megapixel auto focus camera, a mini HDMI 1.4a port, a micro-USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone jack (can utilize microphone), and a 19.75Wh battery supporting up to 10 hours of HD playback.

We’re at the ninth paragraph now, so I guess it’s time to mention the SHIELD Controller. This stand-alone gamepad will retail for $59, and shares many similarities with the gamepad built into the SHIELD portable. Rather than connect to the SHIELD Tablet via Bluetooth, like most other wireless gamepads out there, NVIDIA’s opted to use Wi-Fi, as it cuts the latency in half, versus Bluetooth, and boosts bandwidth eightfold. If you don’t want to pick up a SHIELD Controller, or already own a Bluetooth gamepad, you’ll be able to use it with the SHIELD Tablet without issue – as long as the gamepad is suited for Android, of course.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - SHIELD Controller

It’s hard to gauge from a picture just how comfortable this gamepad is in relation to other established ones, or the one built into the SHIELD portable, but I like what I see. It appears that at the front, below the analog sticks, is a battery meter, and while it might not be too obvious, the NVIDIA logo at the top is a Home button. I’m sure this will behave like any Home button on an Android device, but this one has a secret perk: Hold it down, and speak what you want to do. Examples are, “Watch Iron Man“, “Listen to U2 Desire“, “Who’s the best-looking person on NVIDIA’s PR team?“, and so forth.

At this time, the SHIELD Controller will not work on a PC, but it could in time, if NVIDIA wanted to tie it into its GeForce Experience package, or simply release a driver for it. I’m not a betting man, but I’m still going to bet that one of those things will happen.

The Software

With the release of SHIELD Tablet, NVIDIA’s going to replace its ‘Tegra Zone’ app on SHIELD devices (yes – that includes the portable) with ‘SHIELD Hub’. Overall, the mechanics and goals are the same, although SHIELD Hub adds some functionality, such as being able to access media apps without leaving its UI. From this single app, you’ll be able to shop for games, read news, stream games from your GeForce PC, and as mentioned, get quick access to popular media apps, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Twitch.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - SHIELD Hub

A lot of devices support Twitch, but NVIDIA’s taken things a step further with the SHIELD Tablet: It can stream to the service. That’s right – want to beam your session of Dead Trigger 2 or Angry Birds to the world? You’ll be able to. Being able to stream games online impresses few people nowadays, but it’s very impressive to see it being possible on a mobile device.

Because the SHIELD Tablet includes a stylus, it’s not surprising to see that some special software is included – but, it is a little surprising to see that it’s not the same software seen on the Tegra Note 7. With the GPU-accelerated ‘NVIDIA Dabbler’, you’ll be able to create ‘hyper-realistic’ images with the help of the DirectStylus 2 pen. Or, if you have artistic skills on par with mine, you’ll simply draw circles over and over, just because you can.

So what about the games? In the time between the SHIELD portable launch and now, NVIDIA’s said that the catalog of games that SHIELD specifically supports has tripled, and now sits at around 400. Two of those were rather notable, Half-Life 2, and Portal – the latter of which I played straight through on the SHIELD.

As you’d expect, the SHIELD Tablet can play all of those games just fine, but NVIDIA’s dropped some hints (and screenshots) to show what we can expect soon. At GTC this past spring, company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang showed-off Frozenbyte’s Trine 2 running on Tegra K1. It’s almost of no surprise, then, to learn that NVIDIA is going to be bundling a copy of that game on every single SHIELD Tablet. If you enjoy platformers with lots of eye candy, you can’t go wrong with this game.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - Trine 2

In addition to that, the first-person puzzle game Talos Principle, along with popular World War II fighter War Thunder, will be coming to the Google Play store this fall.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - The Talos Principle

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - War Thunder

Now would be a good time to mention that the SHIELD Tablet will be able to support up to 4 SHIELD Controllers, so if you want to plug the tablet in via HDMI to a TV, there are some definite multi-player possibilities there.

One thing to remember is, if the SHIELD portable can do it, so too can the SHIELD Tablet + Controller combo. I took a look at SHIELD’s major software features in my look at the device last fall.

Final Thoughts

The following slide highlights the bulk of what makes the SHIELD Tablet special: It supports LTE wireless, 4K output, over-the-air updates direct from NVIDIA, expandable storage up to 128GB, a built-in stylus, rich media support, and includes not one, but two (front and back) 5 megapixel selfies. Err – I think that means “camera”?

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet - Features

What does SHIELD Tablet mean for the SHIELD portable? Not a thing; it’s an expansion of the SHIELD line, rather than a replacement. NVIDIA considers the portable to remain a “critical” piece of the product line, and it will continue to be supported. While there was no outright confirmation that we’d be seeing a sequel of sorts, the presenter’s wording led me to believe that NVIDIA’s first AIO portable will not be its last.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet and SHIELD Controller Price

On the topic of availability, all three components (including the SHIELD Cover, priced at $39), will be available in the US and Canada on July 29th. Europe, which got the shaft when it came to the SHIELD portable (understandably, I suppose – NVIDIA was diving in head-first where releasing its own direct product was concerned), will see availability in mid-August. Finally, we’ll see support for other regions pop up this fall.

Overall, I’d say that this is an impressive showing by NVIDIA, and as a big fan of the SHIELD portable, this launch gives me big relief that the series didn’t become a one-off sort of deal. I look forward to seeing the SHIELD Tablet in action.


  • Joe

    Is there going to be a original form factor S2? The form factor is what liked; A two piece system is awkward to use while sitting on the couch. I have a Transformer and a Nyko play-pad; it works good for all my retro games, but sitting on the couch it is just awkward — two hands on the controller, tablet balanced on my knees.I was going to get the S1, but read that there was an S2 in the works and decided to wait.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      During the briefing for these products, the presenter said that NVIDIA still considers the original SHIELD to be the ‘ultimate’ in design because of its AIO nature – so I’m going to jump to conclusions and say that we’ll see another portable. Part of that is me just really, really wanting one though. I still play the original SHIELD often.

      As for the awkwardness of this one, I think that combined (tablet+controller), this is more of a niche product than the original SHIELD was, but it wouldn’t surprise me if NVIDIA ended up selling a ton of the tablets on their own. It might be more expensive than the Nexus 7, say, but it has a processor nearly twice as powerful, and it includes a robust stylus solution. I’m willing to bet the audio sounds a -lot- better as well. Beyond that, you don’t even need to invest in NVIDIA’s gamepad if you don’t want to. So as long as you can nudge the tablet up against something and have a Bluetooth gamepad at-the-ready, you can take full advantage of the gaming potential for when you’re in a situation where that setup doesn’t seem quite so clunky.

      • Joe

        I hope they do a tech refresh on the original, which it appears they are calling it the “Shield Portable” now.

        • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

          Same. What are your thoughts on its dimensions? Do you think it could be a little bit bigger? Smaller? I am thinking of the benefits of screen size mostly.

          • Joe

            I think something bigger than 5 inches. I have not had extended play time with the Shield Portable so it is hard to say. I like the full sized controller, it it somehow “feels” better. But connectng a bigger screen to the controller may be problematic. I do like tablet sized screen, heck if they made (or someone else did) a controller like the ones for the razor game pad, or better yet one like the wikipad for the Shield tablet I would love it.

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            I feel like I wouldn’t mind a 6-inch screen on the second-gen portable, but I’m sure I’m alone. That seems larger, and it kind of is, but the screen itself will still be quite light, unlike a standalone tablet that has all of components inside of it. I just love larger screens, and 6-inch doesn’t seem TOO large.

            I honestly wouldn’t mind it if there was a vendor who produced a magnification screen for the thing though, kind of like what they had for the old Game Boys. I might sound like a crazy person talking like this though ;-)

          • http://techgage.com/ Jamie Fletcher

            1985 called, and want to sell you its magnifiers from Brazil.
            http://www.cyberpunkreview.com/images/brazil13.jpg

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            Hahaha. Well to be fair, if I want a big screen, I can just -use- a big screen. But lugging the 27-inch over to bed is cumbersome.

          • Joe

            http://www.patentlymobile.com/patent-bolt/2014/07/microsoft-invents-the-splittable-clippable-gaming-controller-for-future-surface-tablets-and-beyond.html

            This is something that looks promising (not shield related). After thinking it over, as much as i love the “mobile” version I see merit in the tablet and wireless controller, especially if the “console mode” works well, that would let me use ant TV in my house to play on.

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            That’s kind of interesting, but it’s going to result in a truly light gamepad, I think (that can either be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective). I think if you’re going to bring a mobile gamepad, it might not be too big of a deal to have one with a bit of weight to it, but again, opinions will differ on that. For the SHIELD, I’ve been using a NYKO gamepad which isn’t too good, so I am looking forward to trying the SHIELD Controller.

            It’s too bad MS’ gamepad will take a while to get here, because it has some serious potential.

          • Joe

            I have the NYCO pad as well (the smaller portable one) while it “works” your right it feels a bit flimsy. The nViida controller looks like it has some heft to it.

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            Is it the PlayPad Pro that you have? I know there are a couple of variants. It’s “alright”. but I don’t like the thumb sticks too much.

          • Joe

            http://www.amazon.com/Playpad-Android-Bluetooth-PC-Mac-Linux/dp/B0092ZEIN4

            (meant to say NYKO instead of NYCO) This is the one I have and use with my Asus Transformer. I like it, i can even get the controller to work in analog mode for the games that support it, the thumb sticks are too hard and the “Bumps” on them are a bit too sharp. Would have been a better device if the thumb buttons were coated in a thin rubber instead.

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            I have a hard time explaining my dislike for the thumb sticks on this PlayPad Pro, but it kind of feels like I’m controlling pillars… like the actual pillars underneath are too tall, even though that’s not the case. The Xbox 360 gamepad I use on the PC just feels far better, and might have spoiled me a little bit.

            Your gamepad looks pretty good actually, reminds me of the old SNES gamepad in shape.

  • Kayden

    I just signed my death warrant by asking the wife for one.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      Oh boy. Yet another death sentence I’ve set you up to.

  • Bunthann Moeurn

    I am so excited!! Will definitely buy this once its out and that part where you wrote the’ if your artistic as I am, than you would be able to draw a circle over and over again cause you can’….that had me laugh lol

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      Haha, I’m glad that got a chuckle out of someone :P

  • Corey Naish

    …I want a 16:9 model :.

    Honestly? I want a Win8.1 version. I liked the Surface as a tablet. I want a gaming version :D

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      16:10 is still a lot better than 4:3. I’m not sure why NVIDIA chose to go with 19:10, but I appreciate the greater real estate.