While the Shield Tablet is all that’s needed to play the thousands of native Android touch based games, the Shield Controller is necessary for the full Shield gaming experience. The Shield Controller is naturally modeled after the Shield Portable, with a similar control layout and feel. The wireless controller works with both the Shield Tablet and Shield Portable, and uses Wi-Fi Direct rather than Bluetooth for communication. Using Wi-Fi keeps control latency to a minimum and allows sufficient bandwidth for transmitting bi-directional audio, a necessity when a headset with microphone is plugged into the headphone jack on the controller.
The Shield Controller offers a wealth of functionality specific to the Shield family of products. The controls can be used for navigating the Android UI and various menus, but the on-screen keyboard is still necessary for entering text. There’s a dedicated button for launching the Shield Hub app and Google Voice, working with the built-in microphone, can be summoned for voice control. The buttons can also be used for controlling GameStream and there’s even a small capacitive multi-touch touch pad.
The Shield Tablet inherits all of the advanced gaming features from the Shield Portable. First, there’s Console Mode. Like the name implies, the Shield Tablet can be hooked up to an HDTV via the MiniHDMI port and function like a game console. Up to four wireless Shield Controllers can be used simultaneously while playing Android and PC games. It can also function as a media player for watching Netflix HD and other content on the big screen.
Next, is GameStream, which allows you to play PC games on the Shield Tablet from anywhere over a Wi-Fi or LTE connection. In the article Shield Remote GameStream: How Far Will You Go to Game?, we examine how well Nvidia’s game streaming technology works over several different connections using the Shield Portable.
With GameStream, the game is rendered on the PC, which then uses the NVENC hardware-based video encoder to create an H.264 video stream that’s sent to the Shield Tablet. The Kepler GPU in the tablet then uses PureVideo HD for decoding the stream. Using this process, GameStream can send 720p video over wireless or 1080p video over ethernet with an optional ethernet to USB adapter.
Nvidia Grid, an extension of GameStream to the cloud, is yet another way to enjoy PC games on a Shield portable device. This service functions the same as GameStream, but instead of using your own PC for game rendering, Nvidia’s cloud computers do the hard work. Nvidia Grid is still in beta and currently offers 16 titles, including Borderlands 2. The good news is this service is free for a limited time for Shield users. The bad news is Nvidia Grid is limited to users in Northern California only. Hopefully, Nvidia is able to extend this service as it offers a great deal of potential. Check out the Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Beta page for more information.
Another feature that’s unique to the Shield Tablet is Twitch integration. Using Nvidia ShadowPlay, it’s possible to stream game sessions, complete with voice and video overlay (via the front camera), to the Twitch network for sharing with friends and family. Twitch streaming works with any native Android or GameStream game. This feature isn’t limited to just games either; any Android app can be streamed to Twitch by just pressing a button on the Shield Controller and activating it from the popup menu.
Any gaming device is only as good as the games it plays. Fortunately, there’s already a strong catalog of titles for the Shield Tablet with more on the way. Nvidia enumerates over 400 optimized touch and controller games for Android, including Half Life 2 and Portal.
Trine 2: Complete Story, a FrostByte game bundled with the Shield Tablet, is one of 11 new Tegra K1 optimized games. It uses the same textures and assets as the PS3 version of the game and even includes PhysX support.
For the PC gamers, there’s currently over 120 GameStream-ready PC titles, with the only real requirement being support for external game controllers.
And yes, you can even play Pure Chess.