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Gaming oriented Nvidia Shield Tablet wins early praise

Jul 23, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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The Android 4.4.3-based Nvidia Shield Tablet won early praise with its Tegra K1 SoC, Kepler-based graphics, new stylus, and WiFi Direct gaming controller.

This week Nvidia announced its rumored tablet form-factor update of the Tegra 4-based Nvidia Shield, now called the Shield Portable. Early previews of the $299 Nvidia Shield Tablet have been kinder than those mixed bag of opinions doled out for the original.



Nvidia Shield Tablet
(click image to enlarge)

GameSpot, was “pleasantly surprised” with the tablet, and an AndroidCentral first look says the tablet “looks and feels great, while packing all of the right specs and features to make it a contender in the 2014 tablet space.” AndroidCentral goes on to say: “With the addition of two first-party accessories, it turns into a fantastic mobile gaming rig that could be a go-to choice for gamers that are serious about what they do.”

The 8-inch Nvidia Shield Tablet features a quad-core Cortex-A15 based Nvidia Tegra K1 system-on-chip, which is much like the Tegra 4 except for one big difference that is crucial for gaming: it adds an impressive, 192-core Kepler GPU to a Tegra 4-like design. Sadly, Nvidia has posted only 11 games that are said to be optimized for the SoC.



Front and rear views, showing the folding stand
(click images to enlarge)

According to a Trusted Reviews first-look, the Tegra K1 “gives the Shield Tablet graphics processing power far in advance of any rival tablet, iPad mini 2 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 included.” The story goes on to say “Games should run smoother and look better, and it’s easier to convert games designed on/for PCs to work on the Shield Tablet. Given the Xbox One and PS4 are basically PCs, that could include games on those platforms, too.”

The Nvidia Shield Tablet is equipped with a modest 2GB of RAM, the same as the previous model. The $299 WiFi version, which is now available for pre-order, ships with 16GB, while the upcoming $399 4G LTE model ships with 32GB. Both integrate microSD slots.




App, rear, and edge views
(click images to enlarge)

The 8-inch touchscreen features 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution, and is available with a DirectStylus 2 stylus, which together with the new Nvidia Dabbler app, supports the creation of “hyper-realistic watercolor and 3D paint oil painting” effects, says Nvidia. The new stylus is “twice as responsive as its predecessor,” and together with the Kepler GPU, offers “a new capability where pigment and paint mix and bleed physically,” says Nvidia.

The tablet offers not one, but two, 5-megapixel cameras, each to a side. Front-facing dual bass reflex speakers are available, along with a mic and the usual sensors.

In addition to the optional 4G LTE, you get 802.11n 2×2 WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and GPS/GLONASS. Like the portable, the tablet offers mini-HDMI, micro-USB 2.0 and 3.5mm headphone jacks.



The cover enables using the tablet in several positions
(click image to enlarge)

An optional, magnet-enabled tablet cover, meanwhile, doubles as a flexible, multi-position stand. AndroidCentral notes that the $39 cover costs more than most. However, “you’re getting something worth your money in terms of quality and functionality that you just won’t get out of a third-party case down the road,” says the story.

The tablet is considerably lighter than the portable model, at 390 grams, although the latter’s 579 grams includes the built-in gamepad controller. The tablet offers up to 10 hours of operation, but only 3-5 hours of gaming, says Nvidia.

 
Controller features WiFi Direct


WiFi Direct controller
(click to enlarge)

The optional ($59) wireless controller unit (shown at the right) is a fairly standard Xbox style controller, sharing many features with the controls on the Shield Portable. It stands out, however, with its microphone, and the use of faster WiFi Direct instead of Bluetooth, featuring half the latency at 20ms. Up to four controllers can be used with the tablet at once.

“The lower latency is noticeable when playing intense games,” says AndroidCentral, “particularly when streaming from your PC with GameStream.” GameSpot, however, criticizes the controller for its “mushy” D-pad and large size.

The Nvidia Shield Tablet features several firsts for a tablet, according to Nvidia:

  • Nvidia GameStream — GameStream, already available on the Shield Portable, streams games from PCs or notebooks equipped with Nvidia GeForce GTX- powered GPUs.
  • Nvidia GRID Cloud Streaming — Initially available in beta form only in Northern California, GRID streams a library of PC games, and saves them in the cloud.
  • Nvidia ShadowPlay for Twitch — The new ShadowPlay game-capture tool lets users save and stream gaming segments to the Twitch platform The 5-megapixel front camera image of the gamer is overlaid on the Twitch gamecast.
  • Nvidia Console Mode — The Console Mode streams content to a TV for play via the Shield wireless controller or any Bluetooth controller.

GameSpot was particularly taken by the ShadowPlay integration with Twitch, the increasing popular video platform and community, which lets you watch other people play games better than you can. However, the story frets over a possible near future where people are Twitch-casting from coffee shops.

 
Summary of Nvidia Shield Tablet specs

Specifications listed for the Nvidia Shield Tablet include:

  • Processor — Nvidia Tegra K1 (quad-core Cortex-A15 @ 2.2GHz with 192-core Kepler GPU (4K Ultra-HD ready)
  • RAM — 2GB DDR3
  • Storage:
    • Built-in flash — 16GB (WiFi model) or 32GB (4G LTE model)
    • Expansion — microSD slot for up to 64GB
  • Display — 8-inch, 1920 x 1200 capacitive multitouch IPS
  • Cameras — 5-megapixel HDR front-facing; 5-megapixel autofocus back-facing
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11n 2×2 Mimo WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    • GPS/GLONASS
    • 4G LTE in separate SKU via micro-SIM
  • General I/O — mini-HDMI; micro-USB 2.0; 3.5mm headphone jack with mic
  • Other features:
    • Speakers with dual bass reflex and mic
    • Gyro, accelerometer, compass
    • DirectStylus 2 with 3D Paint
    • Optional cover
    • Optional Wireless Controller
  • Gaming features — Nvidia GameStream; Nvidia ShadowPlay; GRID Cloud Gaming Beta, Console Mode, Gamepad Mapper
  • Software — Google Play, Trine 2: Complete Story; Multi-language Handwriting Recognition, Nvidia Dabbler, JusWrite, Evernote, Adobe Reader, Camera Awesome
  • Battery — 6,700mAh; 10 hours of web browsing; 3-5 hours of gaming; 19.75 Watt-hours; optional AC adapter
  • Weight — 390 grams
  • Dimensions — 221 x 126 x 9.2mm
  • Operating system — Android 4.4.3 (“KitKat”)

 
Further information

The WiFi-only version of the Nvidia Shield Tablet is available now for $299. The 4G LTE model will be available soon for $399. The controller costs $59 and the cover $39. More information may be found at the Nvidia website’s Nvidia Shield Tablet product page.
 

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