Nvidia Shield Review: Tegra 4-Powered Handheld Gaming

Native Android Gaming On Shield

As a portable gaming device, Shield’s construction is solid, and the controller’s feel is on-par with what you'd expect from Microsoft or Sony. For any game that supports physical controls, the benefit is huge. We may get fairly faithful ports of Grand Theft Auto III and Max Payne for Android, but trying to play through them exclusively through a touchscreen is an exercise in frustration. The Shield’s console-style input is far superior.

Where the Shield falls behind competing Android-based gaming devices is in titles designed for a touchscreen. Sure, the five-inch LCD is multi-touch-compatible, but the form factor wasn’t designed to rely on touch as a primary input. Playing games like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, or Cut the Rope is simply better on a smartphone or tablet.

Tegra Enhancements

Nvidia boasts that the power of its graphics hardware allows developers to add special features like real-time lighting effects, depth of field, soft shadows, high-res textures, smoke and particle simulation, along with more geometry than competing platforms.

Sometimes these enhancements result in two separate versions of the same game, the Tegra-enhanced build appended with THD after its title. Others maintain one software package and activate the enhancements using hardware detection.

We took comparison screenshots between games that feature THD enhancements on the Shield and the regular version on a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Riptide GP 2

Tegra enhancements include complex shaders, dynamic lighting, and real-time shadows.

Shadowgun DeadZone

The upgrade in lighting and texture quality here over the standard Android version is apparent.

SoulCraft

Even though the Shield and Galaxy Note II both have 2 GB of RAM, the texture quality and level of detail is a step up on the Tegra platform.

Beach Buggy Blitz

Mind you, not all THD titles exhibit the same levels of graphical differences. In the case of Beach Buggy Blitz, the texture resolution is the same as the standard version (as seen in our animated graphic), but the Tegra enhancements involve special effects like motion blur and dynamic headlights while driving in caves.

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    Top Comments
  • looks ok but not worth the price
    15
  • impressive, especially PC streaming. but for $300, i'd rather pause the game to take a bathroom break. it's gonna take me a library of good android exclusives for me spend that amount of money, and PvsZ or Angry birds don't cut it.
    13
  • Other Comments
  • looks ok but not worth the price
    15
  • impressive, especially PC streaming. but for $300, i'd rather pause the game to take a bathroom break. it's gonna take me a library of good android exclusives for me spend that amount of money, and PvsZ or Angry birds don't cut it.
    13
  • Meh, with the PS4/xbox coming out , and tons of more convenient phones I don't see a market for a tegra4 shield, personally I'm saving my money for a console. The tegra is also too expensive and gimmicky to boot.
    8
  • When you look purely at the performance and specs $300 unsubsidized isn't all that bad considering the hardware you're getting for the price. The problem to me isn't so much price but the target market. How many people are willing to spend that much on a second or potentially third mobile device meant specifically for gaming and entertainment?
    5
  • Looks nice but I can find things better to spend $300 on. In truth I can't see ever streaming my PC games to a 5" screen when I use 3 Asus 27" monitors on my desktop PC. Going from 5760x1080 to 720p does not sound like something I am ready to do. And if I want to game from my recliner I just use my Xbox 360 wireless controller and play the game on my Panasonic 50" 3D Plasma.
    4
  • for U$180, I can get a nice Lenovo Phone. For U$ 500, a good Xbox.. not sure if I need a Shield where I could play anywhere..
    1
  • Not sure why most of your benchmarks were just between the shield and the Nexus 7. I understand that the Nexus 7 utilizes Tegra 3 but the iPhone 5, Note 2, or some other tertiary figues should have been included to provide a better comparison between this device and other current generation products.

    This device feels like a universal Wii U game pad and there is almost zero reason to own one.
    3
  • Considering that Oculus rift will cost somewhere around 300 dollars as well, id rather wait for that to spend my cash.
    Streaming is nice but if you are close toy our pc why not use the PC itself?
    6
  • could be used to run a psp emulator, but phone can do that too.
    1
  • I'm just not seeing much reason to get one right now, not when I'm saving for the Xbox One and PS4. If it was at a lower price and if it supported AMD GPU's for PC streaming, I might get one. But they also need to get some developers to make some good Android exclusives, not just your typical mobile time wasters and ports of older console/PC titles, but some actuallAAA exclusives that are optimized for Tegra 4.
    2
  • for U$180, I can get a nice Lenovo Phone. For U$ 500, a good Xbox.. not sure if I need a Shield where I could play anywhere..
    0
  • When nobody wants to buy your SOC, I guess you have to make up a new product. Not very useful past the initial gimmick.
    4
  • "shield Competes to your Disposable income" Really??
    1
  • What a pointless product. This will be a flop.
    1
  • Shield really doesnt make me want to use it instead PC.
    3
  • Maybe in 3-5 years when mobile graphics really starts to come into their own. $300 for something I'd play while taking a dump isn't good value, I have a phone that can do much more afaik. If I want dedicated gaming I'd play on my PC or even buy a next-gen console for that money in a year's time.

    Side notes, isn't the Tegra 5 about the same power as a current console? That's next year too so assume in 4 years after that it should be 5x the power at least (Tegra 6 is supposedly 2x as powerful so 2.5x the power of Tegra 6 in ~3 years). That'd start to approach next gen consoles power in a handheld device. I'd probably pay $300 for that in 5 years assuming nothing else is better value.

    It's not like this is progression is unimpressive however, 5 years ago we had pitiful mobile processing power compared to today. I'm not expecting similar growth because that'd be crazy - http://cdn2.ubergizmo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/tegra-5-kepler-graphics-curve-640x315.jpg - but still. 20x the growth from today will be possible considering Nvidia's Tegra roadmap shows Tegra 6 being ~10x performance of T4.
    0
  • Great thorough review about a niche product.
    3
  • 134065 said:
    We've been playing with Nvidia's Shield handheld for more than a month, but only recently got access to its killer feature: streaming PC game content. Does Nvidia's foray into the hardware world deserve your $300, or is this expensive toy impractical? Nvidia Shield Review: Tegra 4-Powered Handheld Gaming : Read more


    Can you guys test some movies with HDMI or miracast to TV? This was one of the features I would like to know about before pondering buying. A large part of the point of this thing for me is a portable 1080p player (or even 720p, as most of those look great on 60in or lower anyway). Also with that hdmi hooked up (or miracast) can you play your games out to TV too? I had thought I'd be able to play android games on the big screen (PC too).

    can you guys comment on this stuff? Anything out to TV is stuff your Vita/3DS can't do. I'd think this is a pretty important detail for most but unless I missed it in the review it wasn't even mentioned or tested. I was hoping for some PC to TV comments. Can this output your PC streamed games to TV or does lag etc prevent this? Or are you stuck on the 5in for both android and pc streams?
    3
  • For anyone caring PC mag got substantial numbers from a trio of tablets:
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2415809,00.asp
    Antutu=36489
    geekbench=4148
    GLBench offscreen is 57fps
    So I'd say it should do well in a tablet vs. S800. It destroys S600. Not bad. Those were devices from Feb, so I'm thinking a shipping tab would have to be optimized a little more than a pre-release product but I could be wrong. Hope someone tests the toshiba write soon, not to mention HP's and ASUS's T4 tablets.

    Antutu on the Shield is impressive (though 720p, glad they didn't try 1080p on this thing, 720p gives it plenty of power for what it's designed to do) but the 1920x1200 1.9ghz ref tablet isn't far behind and S800 scores I've seen from devices show about 35k on tablets. That being said I expect S800 to match or beat T4's gpu (though we still need to see actual games benched, not synthetics to truly prove this), but I think most cpu test should favor A15. The numbers out so far seem to show this.

    I don't see T4's lack of OpenGL ES3.0 as any big deal. There are no benchmarks to test it, thus no software that uses it either. In other words, NV was right to dump it to save power/soc space etc and dedicate that to what we will probably use during the devices life. I'll change my opinion maybe after a few games show up with ES3.0 in them. Until then, no point in having it yet.
    0
  • Frankly I can play any game on my very portable $750 laptop with a 750m in more than 720p, and I already need that for school (Like most people).

    And if I want handheld gaming, I'll play Uncharted/Killzone on my vita over Angry Birds any day lol!
    1