With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just days away, came a big announcement from NVIDIA revealing its Project Shield gaming device.
The gaming device has a 5-inch multi-touch 1280 by 720 pixels display with an Xbox 360 style controller that supports dual control sticks, multiple control buttons and a directional pad. The device is using NVIDIA's latest Tegra 4 quad-core processor that has a 72-core Geforce GPU, running on Google's Android Jelly Bean mobile OS with access to the Google Play Store and Gmail. NVIDIA will also have a Tegrazone gaming store. The device is also capable of outputting a 4K video signal to HDTV's as well. The Project Shield device also has a micro-SD slot, one USB and a standard eighth inch audio jack.
Project Shield is still in the prototype phase, but it is capable of streaming games from a PC that has a Geforce graphics card over Wi-Fi. It appears at this time the requirement is that the PC card be one with a Kepler Nvidia GPU. This would imply a 650 series and higher GPU. This means gamers will be able to play both PC and Android games on the device. Currently in its beta stage there is only Wi-Fi, no LTE as of yet.
Nvidia aims to release the device in Q2 of this year, no word on pricing either at this time.
The Tech-Stew Take Home
Early previews of the device have been impressive, but spec wise even the GTX 680 is still superior with its 1536 cores compared to the Shield's 72. But from a mobile perspective the Tegra 4 is one of the fastest mobile processors out there. In addition its size may keep some from adopting. Although one could argue that devices like the PSVita have a 5-inch screen as well. Let us also examine the Vita's specs. The PSVita runs on a 4-core ARM Cortex-A9 cpu with a resolution of 960x544 while running a GPU which is a 4-core SGX543Mp4+. The GPU in the Vita is a PowerVR series with the Mp4 denoting 4 cores. The PSVita GPU is capable of supporting DirectX 10 and 11. Still, with the Shield device being only a 5-inch screen in a market that is growing towards larger tablet size devices may make some users opt to stick with larger screen native gaming or perhaps wait to see if the rumored Microsoft Xbox Surface (Window RT most likely) sees the light of day.
The irony here is that the Windows RT platform has been rather lacking in performance and it also runs on the previous generation Tegra 3 processor. The Tegra 4 is to offer even better performance and battery life at around 6 times the graphics power of the Tegra 3. This is also the first quad-core ARM processor which should also give the device a boost in performance. The Tegra 4 is of the 32-bit design and can run up to 1.9 GHz. The current Surface RT is at 1.3 GHz by comparison, which could go as high as 1.7 GHz. In some respects the Shield could be a nice push to faster and better Windows RT devices in the near future.
And as always, content on any device is key to success. If the content on the Shield device can play key titles and also do PC streaming that works, this device may fair well in the long run. Either way with growing portable competition with others such as Ouya and even possibly Steam (rumored Steam Box), the Shield will be one to watch in 2013.
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