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.


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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • esrever
    looks ok but not worth the price
  • Hazle
    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.
  • beta212
    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.
  • dragonsqrrl
    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?
  • bryonhowley
    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.
  • vaughn2k
    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..
  • slomo4sho
    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.
  • cats_Paw
    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?
  • edwd2
    could be used to run a psp emulator, but phone can do that too.
  • shikamaru31789
    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.