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Nvidia Explains Why It's Building Shield Family of Devices

By - Source: Nvidia | B 24 comments

There was really no surprise when Nvidia revealed its gaming tablet on Tuesday. We saw plenty of evidence to support its existence over the past several months, and now that it’s here, we have to wonder why Nvidia chose to take the tablet route rather than build upon the first-generation Shield (the Tom's community seemed divided on this issue). The company doesn’t explain why it chose a tablet form factor in its latest blog, but does explain its interest in Android gaming. (Read Tom's Hardware's full coverage of the Shield Tablet here.)

“So far, Android gaming has largely been confined to casual games. But that’s going to change,” writes Nvidia’s Jeff Fisher. “We see a different future for Android gaming. We’re committed to turning Android into a vibrant platform that can excite gamers and provide the foundation for a vibrant industry.”

That’s where the Shield family comes in. Just like the GPUs that transformed the PC industry back in the late 1990s, Nvidia has released two processors that directly affect and enhance Android games, namely the Tegra 4 and the Tegra K1. This time around, Nvidia isn’t just supplying a chip to make visuals pretty and smooth, but has pushed the change even further by developing actual devices that cater to the Android gamer.

Perhaps that’s why Nvidia chose to create a Shield tablet and standalone controller: to offer a gaming solution that also provides mainstream usage (emails, web surfing etc), a factor that just wasn’t ideal on the original Shield handheld. According to Fisher, both products are “purpose built” to give individual gamers what they need in an Android device.

“Like the PC, Android is an open platform,” Fisher wrote. “Like the PC, Android has a huge installed base of users. But the underlying performance, software tools and resulting content have yet to be delivered.” He also said that Nvidia’s goal is to “turbocharge” Android gaming, to inspire developers to create “never-before-seen” experiences.

“Not so long ago, Android gaming was limited to touchscreen controls on your smartphone or tablet,” Fisher wrote. “You could buy a third-party controller. But it was with the hope that everything would somehow work together smoothly. The Shield portable, the first product in our Shield family of Android gaming devices, changed that.”

Nvidia revealed the Shield Tablet on Tuesday. The hardware specifications show that it sports an 8-inch IPS screen with a 1920 x 1200 resolution. Powering this screen is Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra K1 processor clocked at 2.2 GHz and packing 192 Kepler GPU cores. The tablet also features 2 GB of RAM, and a battery that promises up to 10 hours of video playback.

The specs list also shows a 5MP HDR camera on the front, a 5MP auto focus HDR camera on the back, dual-band Wireless N and Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, and a DirectStylus 2 stylus that can be stored in its own built-in “holster.” Other features include GPS, sensors such as gyro, compass and g-sensor, mini HDMI 1.4 output, a microUSB 2.0 port, front-facing stereo speakers and a 3.5 mm headphone jack with microphone support.

To read Fisher’s full blog, head here.

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  • -3 Hide
    mapesdhs , July 24, 2014 9:24 AM

    The only thing that surprises me about the tablet's specs is the low amount
    of RAM. Somehow 2GB just doesn't seem like that much these days, but
    then I'm not familiar with Android's typical footprint.

    Personally I'm more interested in SLI Maxwell to drive a 4K TV...

    Ian.

  • 7 Hide
    Yuka , July 24, 2014 9:26 AM
    This one is easy to answer!

    Because they haven't been able to sell the chips to 3rd parties thanks to Qualcomm and Samsung :zippy:

    Cheers! XD!
  • 5 Hide
    npyrhone , July 24, 2014 9:41 AM
    A new device with 1920x1200 resolution! Can't believe my eyes! 16:10, come back!
  • Display all 24 comments.
  • 2 Hide
    Bondfc11 , July 24, 2014 9:43 AM
    I am not sure about the tablet. I love the idea, but then pricing everything you need seems to push the price beyond what I would expect to pay. I dunno, but is it me that Nvidia pulled a BMW/Porsche on us by making you buy the cover separately when it seems like an almost must-have for this kind of device? I understand the thought process behind it, but that cover should be part of the base cost (I know not many other tablets do, but this is meant for hands free gaming - with the controller of course.)

    Again, I don't know, just don't know (yet).
  • 2 Hide
    itchyisvegeta , July 24, 2014 9:51 AM
    I really want one that runs Windows so I can play all my Steam games. That or one that doubles as a phone, so I can just carry around 1 device.
  • 3 Hide
    antilycus , July 24, 2014 10:03 AM
    2GB in Windows is bad. 2GB in Linux (Android is Java ontop of Linux) is a lot. Memory management and thread processing in Linux is near the best in the industry. I have full production servers running for years and the "swap" file doesn't even exist because the memory is managed well.
  • 0 Hide
    TechyInAZ , July 24, 2014 10:05 AM
    What the ultimate android gaming tablet will be is one that can run full blown Battlefield x86 on android x86 tablets.

    I like that they made a gaming tablet, since light gamers (like me) also do other stuff like web browsing and productivity, and the regular shield (with the built in gamepad) won't deliver good productivity.
  • 2 Hide
    icemunk , July 24, 2014 10:12 AM
    Quote:
    I really want one that runs Windows so I can play all my Steam games. That or one that doubles as a phone, so I can just carry around 1 device.


    It's not too far off. The Surface Pro is a good step in the right direction.. perhaps a bit big at 12" to be a phone too though, but we'll soon be seeing tablets with 1 teraflop or more of GPU power in the next year or so. The Tegra K1 has 300 gigaflops, which is surprisingly decent, but for PC level graphics we would want at least 1 teraflop. A mid-range GPU on a PC like the 660gtx, or R9 270 produce around 2 teraflops - which can render some pretty nice graphics at full HD resolutions.
  • 2 Hide
    Cazalan , July 24, 2014 11:00 AM
    NVidia can't seem to make up their mind. You can already buy Android game controllers like that for $15. The ones that attach to the tablet are even better.
  • -1 Hide
    red77star , July 24, 2014 11:51 AM
    Better than Surface Pro 3 since it has Intel Video chip which can't run a thing.
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , July 24, 2014 11:52 AM
    Quote:
    This one is easy to answer!

    Because they haven't been able to sell the chips to 3rd parties thanks to Qualcomm and Samsung :zippy:

    Cheers! XD!

    and mediatek and intel...

  • 5 Hide
    Bif Turkle , July 24, 2014 1:29 PM
    Ooo0h another tablet that plays Android games. Wow wonder what I do with the tablet I got that plays silly Meh Android apps now? Another device in an over crowded area for apps that are not really great games. Don't really see the point here.
  • 1 Hide
    Ian Mahaney , July 24, 2014 2:23 PM
    I think people are overlooking that it is an 8" tablet. The only "high-end" android tablet equivalent in the 8" range with a full HD screen is the LG G Pad 8.3 which still only has a Snapdragon 600. I'd love to see some more high-end 8" tablets. I'm looking at you Google...
  • 0 Hide
    mapesdhs , July 24, 2014 3:15 PM
    Quote:
    2GB in Windows is bad. 2GB in Linux (Android is Java ontop of Linux) is a lot. Memory management and thread processing in Linux is near the best in the industry. I have full production servers running for years and the "swap" file doesn't even exist because the memory is managed well.


    I know this well, most of my systems are SGIs. ;) 

    Ian.

  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , July 24, 2014 4:44 PM
    Quote:
    I think people are overlooking that it is an 8" tablet. The only "high-end" android tablet equivalent in the 8" range with a full HD screen is the LG G Pad 8.3 which still only has a Snapdragon 600. I'd love to see some more high-end 8" tablets. I'm looking at you Google...

    Google has the Nexus 7 from 2013 which was the king of sub-$300 tablets until the Shield Tablet came along.

    I am surprised and somewhat sad the N7-2013 did not cause a flood of similarly-spec'd sub-$300 tablets in 2014 like the N7-2012 did. Hopefully the Shield Tablet will succeed where the N7-2013 failed.

    As far as Google's tablet plans for 2014 go, many rumors have been floating around about the next Nexus tablet being a 8-9" device manufactured by HTC.
  • -2 Hide
    soldier44 , July 24, 2014 6:26 PM
    In an era of 2560 x 1600 tablets with 3gb of ram they can do better for a gaming tablet.
  • 1 Hide
    InvalidError , July 24, 2014 7:05 PM
    Quote:
    In an era of 2560 x 1600 tablets with 3gb of ram they can do better for a gaming tablet.

    Excessive resolution on a 8" gaming tablet is just a waste of battery power on pixels most people have no time to dwell on.

    You may bash the Shield for having "only 2GB RAM" but how many other sub-$300 tablets have 2GB RAM and a 1920x1200 display? As far as I know, the N7-2013 was the first and still only other option under a major brand.

    It is pretty hard to blame a company for "not doing something" when they are actually breaking new ground by bringing unprecedented resolution and processing power at a given price point..
  • 0 Hide
    Alec Mowat , July 25, 2014 7:14 AM
    They lost the Xbox and PS3 deal, so they're moving off Microsoft Windows.
  • 0 Hide
    somebodyspecial , July 25, 2014 4:15 PM
    Note they don't rule out shield rev2 here, as he says they serve different audiences (handheld for pure gamer). Also note your xbox360 pad already works (among others) buying this just gives longer life and a few special features. Much more palatable if they drop it to $40 or so eventually.

    Also you come with your own stuff first while volumes are low. Ramping up is needed before something like Google's gamer tablet (coming NOV or so) can be announced. So while volume is low you do YOUR OWN tablet or handheld until yields etc get worked out. Tablets over 1920x1200 are stupid for anything under 13in (I'd probably say 17in, just too slow to do any gaming above this until 14nm/10nm most likely). This needs to be the standard for the next few years until chips can hack the res without choking and forcing devs to screw with every game massively to get them to work (IE turning off dozens of details etc making them nowhere near what they WANTED you to see).

    NV didn't lose xbox1 or PS4, they bean counted it and decided it was a not so profitable deal and would distract from their core products to support them. IE drivers for AMD in phase3, retail 290x cards that wouldn't do their rated speed, etc etc. It also isn't making AMD tons of money either right? We have the first year of launch and AMD still losing money. NV was right and as such has better drivers (DX11 now beats all mantle games for 780ti vs. 290x - see toms article, 780ti wins BF4, Tomb Raider, Star Swarm now etc - Mantle who?), lower heat on their designs etc. I am glad they dodged the XBox1/Ps4 bullet.

    Skipping consoles also allowed them to get 5yrs into android SOCS (experience) and gaming on android going (ecosystem to use your coming NVlink gpus etc on androidL w/64bit etc). Now that desktop discrete gpus are on a SOC, we will see their vision really ramp up and in the end have no need for WINTEL for a LOT of people (which is the whole point). NV's dream is to get android to the point where PC is today (just take an amped up SOC+discrete Pascal card etc and that is exactly what you have, a GREAT android gamer PC), and replace Haswell, Broadwell etc with Denver, r1, r2, r3 etc (whatever they keep calling their in house ARM64 cores from here out). All in a box with 16-32GB ram, huge HD/SSD, NVlink gpu (note the pcie part missing, NVlink replaces it), 500w psu etc etc...A PC box for all intents and purposes. Apps will follow as Cuda and serious cpu power gets over on android (you now have Cuda on android+Kepler, so one step at a time here, but getting pieces all together over time).

    For anyone thinking K1 is having trouble selling, I'll remind you it was in EVERY google device at Google IO. The first 4 revs (T1-T4) were just trials to learn until you got desktop chips (and all experience, drivers, cuda, physx etc) into your soc for EASY game development across mobile/pc. I don't see a qcom/samsung answer to tegrazone, and qcom's gaming site is just replicating googleplay lists, not SPECIAL HD versions FOR snapdragons. Nothing optimized directly for them unlike TegraHD games. Some of you need to think LONGER term plans, not just today. The goal is to take a bite out of Intel's cpus, Kill DirectX and opt for OpenGL at some point and sell their own cpus+gpus into more markets for gamers. In order to grow revenue they need android as they already own 65% of pc gpu and 85% of workstation on PC. The android side comes without a windows lic, and cheaper SOCS vs. Intel $150-350 CPU's. More money can be made adding android gamers. 1.2Billion android devices sell yearly, vs. <20mil xbox1/ps4's combined. Even in the end of xbox360/ps3/wii you had ~300mil sold OVER 7-8 yrs and with most costing gamers $50-60 per game. More easy to sell to cheaper developing nations on android with no MS fee and no INTEL fee and games all under $20. See the point? As a bonus they get more of the pie (CPU, not just GPU on PC's). They will sell between 7Billion-10Billion android devices in the next 4-5yrs. Do the math ;) 

    NV chose the correct path. AMD, probably not. Consoles already down >50% since launch. Just like Wiiu. Steam boxes, and mobile everything will slow them even more as we move to 20nm and we get even MORE power on android with 64bit OS and chips, stacked memory, etc. A simple die shrink of K1 Denver in Q1 would allow 3ghz or more which would allow them to completely blow by xbox360/ps3 (and other tech surrounding it advancing too, stacked memory etc) and cheap games help lessen the need for xbox1/ps4 even more. Hard to justify a purchase of those for all but the most affluent or hard core console lovers going forward.

    I really hope the shield 2 is coming though, with 4GB etc in the 2nd spec sheet that floated, which clearly is the handheld as it's completely different specs than the tablet. He didn't rule it out above, more confirmed IMHO by saying the address different markets.
  • 2 Hide
    suture , July 25, 2014 5:42 PM
    Quote:
    In an era of 2560 x 1600 tablets with 3gb of ram they can do better for a gaming tablet.


    Actually, 2560 x 1600 its not good for gaming, transforms your device in a battery hog and performance goes down like crazy, PS4 and xbox1 are already struggling to run some AAA games at usual 1080p with decent fps
    Tegra K1 is a powerfull chip for mobile gadgets, but running some serious games like Trine 2 @ FHD and decent FPS its already something to show for, and in a decent priced tablet.
    More resolution in those small screens is a waste of power, battery and ofc the tablet priced would go up.
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