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Nvidia Shield: Hands-on Impressions With the Final Hardware

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 35 comments

Nvidia's big jump into making a gaming tablet.

At the massive gaming explosion that is E3, Nvidia's pushing hard for its Android-powered gaming handheld known as Shield. Today we went for an extended hands-on with final hardware, which customers will be able to get their hands on in late June.

 

The first thing Nvidia showed us on Shield was its updated TegraZone, which is a section with specially-curated apps that have been optimized for Tegra hardware. These apps, usually denoted with a "THD" in the title, are all obtained via the Google Play Store; TegraZone simply puts it all in one place.

One such THD game is Dead Trigger 2, which gives the Tegra 4 chip inside Shield a chance to shine. The special effects of the Tegra 4 version over the standard game copy make a compelling case for why Sony might want to worry about the Shield compared to its PS Vita. Check out the video below to see what we're talking about.

Dead Trigger 2 THD

We asked if Tegra 3 devices, such as the Nexus 7, would be getting a special version of Dead Trigger 2 but it doesn't seem so. The new generation of Tegra 4 is so far ahead of the previous model that it's a whole new ballgame. This brings up the question of lifespan for Shield. If a Shield 2 comes out, does that mean that the original Shield won't be able to take advantage of next-generation enhanced titles? That's something nobody knows yet – at least not until there is a Shield 2.

Special graphics aside, one very nice feature of the Shield that doesn't require Tegra-specific optimization are the hardware controls. Android has some very nice console-quality (though perhaps from an older generation) games, such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The issue, at least for me, is the control. Perhaps the Sony Xperia Play was ahead of its time, but having physical controls makes gaming on Android a much more enjoyable experience.

Virtua Tennis was downloaded onto the Shield, which supports the physical controller via standard Android APIs, but without any graphical extras. The game played beautifully and replicated the versions found on the home consoles. That's a very compelling feature of the Shield. Sure, the system is $349, making it the most expensive handheld portable, but the games are a fraction of the cost.

For those not interested in playing console games, the Shield's most unique party trick is being able to stream PC games from any machine running a GeForce GTX 650 or better.

We got to try Borderlands 2 on the Shield, and it was impressive. Actually, it wasn't on the Shield, but rather it was being streamed to the device. The GTX 650 in the demo machine would encode the video and then stream it to the Shield, which would send inputs back as a Wi-Fi controller.

Nvidia was clearly confident in the Shield's ability to deliver a low-latency experience, as a first-person shooter like Borderlands 2 would be quick to expose laggy behavior. Playing it right on the machine, lag was almost imperceptible. In fact, the switch from a mouse and keyboard control scheme to analog sticks seemed like more of restriction. Only when comparing the Shield's display to that from the streaming server does it reveal latency, and even then it's incredibly minor.

As a technical proof, Borderlands 2 was good, but what really got us to wrap our minds around Shield's virtues is playing Skyrim on the handheld. The Elder Scrolls isn't as demanding for twitch reflexes, so when we look back and think of the double or even triple digits spent in Skyrim that could have been spent playing on the couch, in bed, in the bathroom, or even out on the deck or patio, it certainly sounds a lot nicer than sitting at a desk. There are always good points to being in front of the full-resolution gaming rig, but the ability to split some of those hours off to alternative places and postures has us very interested.

When not gaming, the Shield also acts as a media player. Nvidia was happy to boast that it has best-in-class speakers integrated into the hardware. They're loud and clear, but they don't pack the punch of even the most basic PC speaker sets (such are the limitations of physics) and those who are serious about sound and gaming will want to use headphones. Then again, if gamer is willing to make the concession of a 720p resolution for the sake of portability and flexibility, then the same will apply for sound. That said, both the screen and speakers are actually remarkably good for what they are. Any comparison to the full desktop hardware isn't fair, and the portability option for when you want it is more than a fair trade.

Nvidia pointed out that the Hulu Plus and Twitch.tv apps can transform the Shield into a video streaming device. The Shield can connect to a Miracast-compatible device wirelessly or via the HDMI output. Gaming through video output isn't recommended due to added latency, but Nvidia did say it is working on improving that.

In the end, the Shield is a very unique Android tablet device. It has all the features of a tablet (except the screen size), plus some very special features that make it unique.

We look forward to testing the device in our labs soon.

ProcessorNvidia Tegra 4 Quad Core Mobile Processor with 2GB RAM
Display5 inch 1280x720 (294 ppi) Multi-Touch Retinal Quality Display
AudioIntegrated Stereo Speakers with Built-in Microphone
Storage16 GB Flash Memory
Custom Tag ColorSilver
Wireless802.11n 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 3.0
GPS
ConnectivityMini-HDMI output
Micro-USB 2.0
MicroSD storage slot
3.5 mm stereo headphone jack with microphone support
Motion Sensors3 Axis Gyro
3 Axis Accelerometer
Input controlsDual analog joysticks
D-pad
Left/right analog triggers
Left/right bumpers
A/B/X/Y buttons
Volume control
Android Home and Back buttons
Start button
Nvidia power/multi-function button
Battery28.8 Wh
Weight & Size579 grams
158mm (w) x 135mm (D) x 57mm (H)
Operating SystemAndroid Jelly Bean OS
SoftwareGoogle Play
TegraZone
Sonic 4 Episode II THD
Expendable: Rearmed
Hulu Plus
TwitchTV
Display 35 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 4 Hide
    Spooderman , June 12, 2013 1:16 PM
    Still don't really know how to feel about this.
  • 1 Hide
    flamethrower205 , June 12, 2013 1:24 PM
    Honestly, this seems kind of lame. I haven't missed handheld consoles.
  • 4 Hide
    jessterman21 , June 12, 2013 1:38 PM
    If they can get it to duck under $300, and the streaming feature works flawlessly with all controller-enabled games, it's a winner in my book. Heck, you don't even need a $200 GPU to play at Ultra/720p.
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 12, 2013 1:41 PM
    Get a PS4 for $50 more and stream content on your phone.
  • 1 Hide
    noob2222 , June 12, 2013 1:48 PM
    in a strict environment designed to show how good it can be, how well does it work in the average home instead?
  • 1 Hide
    chumly , June 12, 2013 2:00 PM
    I just want to try out the streaming feature on my home PC before I decide if this is a good product or not. Freedom from my desk sounds amazing.
  • 1 Hide
    beoza , June 12, 2013 2:00 PM
    In hind sight I think this is how the original PSP should have looked.
  • 6 Hide
    teh_chem , June 12, 2013 2:32 PM
    I take overly-positive review results with a giant grain of salt.

    And I am highly speculative of the real-world PC game streaming capabilities of this; I wonder if the streaming connection is via a local network (i.e., through a router) or via wifi-direct? Leading to the question of whether the streaming is practical for real-time fast-paced multiplayer like FPS's.

    I am excited about the idea of streaming a desktop game to a handheld device, but that would not convince me to buy this. Nor would having access to android/tegrazone games, of which none have impressed me.

    This is a sub-niche product in an already small gaming niche market. They've got an uphill battle, and the price isn't helping them out much, no matter how cheap the games might be.
  • 3 Hide
    cknobman , June 12, 2013 3:55 PM
    Quote:
    Still don't really know how to feel about this.


    IDK, if I paid $349 for it, I would feel ripped off.
  • 0 Hide
    nebun , June 12, 2013 5:29 PM
    ok....battery life?....speed of the CPU/GPU?....those three items are very important
  • 1 Hide
    tului , June 12, 2013 5:32 PM
    Just for games like Skyrim I will get one. I am assuming it only streams from Nvidia cards? Hopefully someone will hack that pretty quickly. Although it's not like I can't grab a 780 now that I've sold my 7970.
  • 2 Hide
    tului , June 12, 2013 5:37 PM
    Quote:
    Get a PS4 for $50 more and stream content on your phone.


    Then you're stuck with a dead end console that you can't upgrade. Not to mention consoles don't have any of the games I want.

    For someone who actually cares about consoles, if you stream to your phone you need to have a controller set up with your phone or you are gonna play hell trying to move in a game. Shield has it built in.
  • -1 Hide
    John Hadley , June 12, 2013 5:54 PM
    When I was growing up hand-held video games had led lights and costed about $20. There's been a lot of inflation since then. Honestly I don't see how a $300+ hand-held gaming device is going to have a sufficient market. Its something like a $500 investment once you buy it and a few games for your kid.
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , June 12, 2013 7:57 PM
    that streaming business seems quite enticing to be completely honest... i don't care about the video apps, but purely as a gaming device? its vita 2.0
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , June 12, 2013 7:57 PM
    this begs the question... can i possibly get something like this but JUST with the streaming capabilities? like having my own cloud server right at my house to literally bring the latency down to 0? like a wii u tablet or a wikipad, but just so i can play on my bed with my computer rendering EVERYTHING? every websites and sht?

    seriously, i would fork money over so fast if someone did this. DO IT, NOW.
  • 1 Hide
    hammer85 , June 12, 2013 9:23 PM
    I don't get it. Why would a person stream from PC to this small screen if one can already play on 1080p PC monitor?
  • 0 Hide
    nitrium , June 12, 2013 11:01 PM
    IMO the 5" screen is just too small. 7-8ish inch would just have made this device so much better.
  • 0 Hide
    bernardv , June 12, 2013 11:29 PM
    A bulky gamepad with a tiny screen attached to it? Looks like some cheap gizmo from the 90s.
  • 0 Hide
    somebodyspecial , June 13, 2013 1:30 AM
    Quote:
    I take overly-positive review results with a giant grain of salt.

    And I am highly speculative of the real-world PC game streaming capabilities of this; I wonder if the streaming connection is via a local network (i.e., through a router) or via wifi-direct? Leading to the question of whether the streaming is practical for real-time fast-paced multiplayer like FPS's.

    I am excited about the idea of streaming a desktop game to a handheld device, but that would not convince me to buy this. Nor would having access to android/tegrazone games, of which none have impressed me.

    This is a sub-niche product in an already small gaming niche market. They've got an uphill battle, and the price isn't helping them out much, no matter how cheap the games might be.


    This is pretty much answered by the borderlands 2 play. Not sure streaming will matter much with games like hawken coming etc but I'd like streaming too:
    "Nvidia was clearly confident in the Shield's ability to deliver a low-latency experience, as a first-person shooter like Borderlands 2 would be quick to expose laggy behavior. Playing it right on the machine, lag was almost imperceptible. In fact, the switch from a mouse and keyboard control scheme to analog sticks seemed like more of restriction."

    It streams from your router via Wireless N. I don't understand your confusion. Software should be able to work around any minimal latency and even in the hands on here they mention anything other than FPS is already great (like a skyrim type etc). Anandtech (who kind of loves AMD...LOL) said the same things. I haven't seen anyone with hands on saying bad stuff. vs. Vita or 3DS for only $50-100 more than those it's a no brainer for handheld gamepad action at higher res etc, not to mention google apps.

    And for your android doubts (or for anyone doubting the looks of said games):
    Ignore comments in it and the list would be longer now, they were written for another post last month or two ago:
    Demon Score (square enix)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.square_enix.demonsgp&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5zcXVhcmVfZW5peC5kZW1vbnNncCJd

    Wild Blood
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftWBHM&feature=related_apps

    Note the unreal engine 3 is just kicking off on mobile, a lot more in the pipe. Also Real Boxing and Hawken (hawken is coming, NV showed it running on T4 already).

    Modern Combat 1-4:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftM4HM&feature=more_from_developer

    Make sure you up the video to 1080p... It rocks. This is PRE-T4. These are made for current crap T3 etc...OLD, some even T2 games below.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftM3HM&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLmdhbWVsb2Z0LmFuZHJvaWQuQU5NUC5HbG9mdE0zSE0iXQ..

    Eternity Warriors 2 (1-5mil installs in the last 30 days...wow):
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.glu.ewarriors2&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwiY29tLmdsdS5ld2FycmlvcnMyIl0.
    WOW, no, there will be no good games on tablets/phones etc. :) 

    Iron Man 3 (impressive to say the least)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftIMHM&feature=related_apps

    Frontline Commando
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.glu.flcn_new&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwiY29tLmdsdS5mbGNuX25ldyJd

    Nova 3 (nova 1 & 2 aren't bad either)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftN3HM&feature=more_from_developer

    Dark Knight Rises:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftKRHM&feature=more_from_developer

    Gangstar Rio
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftG4HM&feature=related_apps

    Shadowgun (still think tablets are crap?)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.madfingergames.shadowgun_thd&feature=related_apps

    Bard's Tale (hey, isn't this a CONSOLE game...LOL)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.inxile.BardTale&feature=related_apps

    ArmA2: Firing Range (not impressive, but this was 2011...LOL)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bistudio.a2fr&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwiY29tLmJpc3R1ZGlvLmEyZnIiXQ..

    Again for Tegra2...
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.slitherine.gbm&feature=also_installed#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwNCwiY29tLnNsaXRoZXJpbmUuZ2JtIl0.

    Renaissance Blood
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Bridea.NC.THD.RenaissanceBlood&feature=related_apps

    Zombie Driver THD
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.exor.ZombieDriver&feature=also_installed#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwNCwiY29tLmV4b3IuWm9tYmllRHJpdmVyIl0.

    Chaos Rings 1 & 2:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.square_enix.chaosrings2gp&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLnNxdWFyZV9lbml4LmNoYW9zcmluZ3MyZ3AiXQ..
    Please realize it's in english when you buy it...LOL

    Blazing Souls Accelate:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hyperdevbox.blazingsouls&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwiY29tLmh5cGVyZGV2Ym94LmJsYXppbmdzb3VscyJd


    Final Fantasy 3 in 3d (2006 game but on current handhelds)
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.square_enix.android_googleplay.FFIII_GP&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwiY29tLnNxdWFyZV9lbml4LmFuZHJvaWRfZ29vZ2xlcGxheS5GRklJSV9HUCJd

    Amazing Spiderman:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftAMHM&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLmdhbWVsb2Z0LmFuZHJvaWQuQU5NUC5HbG9mdEFNSE0iXQ..

    Need for Speed Most Wanted:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ea.games.nfs13_row&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLmVhLmdhbWVzLm5mczEzX3JvdyJd

    Asphalt 7
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gameloft.android.ANMP.GloftA7HM&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwiY29tLmdhbWVsb2Z0LmFuZHJvaWQuQU5NUC5HbG9mdEE3SE0iXQ..

    COD Black Ops Zombie game...Who knew?
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.atv.blackops&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLmF0di5ibGFja29wcyJd
  • 0 Hide
    notsleep , June 13, 2013 1:33 AM
    my arm would get tired holding this 1.2 lb brick. :( 
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