Design and Features
The Shield Tablet comes with an 8-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 (283 PPI), which will support full HD video. Nvidia chose a one-size-fits-all design that seeks to balance usability and portability, unlike consumer products powerhouse Samsung, which seems to have as many tablet SKUs as Tegra K1 has CUDA cores. While there’s bound to be some disagreement over Nvidia’s choice of screen size, I think it’s a reasonable compromise. Using a larger screen erodes Nvidia’s “play games anywhere” philosophy, and would be redundant when using it in Console Mode hooked up to a big-screen TV. The 16:10 aspect ratio also works better for general tablet use, particularly in portrait mode, than the 16:9 form factor that has come to dominate desktop monitors.
The screen is flanked by pair of front-facing stereo speakers, a carry-over from the Tegra Note 7 and a feature I wish more tablets would incorporate. Sound is further enhanced by a pair of separate bass reflex ports.
There’s also a pair of cameras on the Shield Tablet. The rear camera has a 5 MP sensor with HDR and auto-focus. The front camera is also 5 MP with HDR, but is fixed focus.
The overall design of the Shield Tablet draws heavily from the Tegra Note 7, looking nearly identical from the front. Constructed from plastic, it has a nicely understated, all matte black appearance. Ditching the stippled back of the Tegra Note 7, the new tablet adopts a simpler look similar to the Nexus 7, but with a slightly recessed, gloss black “SHIELD” branding.
The power button is located on the top, right side when held in portrait mode, with the volume rocker directly below. There’s also a covered microSD slot situated below the volume rocker. The bottom, right corner has a port for securely storing the stylus.
All of the remaining ports reside along the top edge, including microUSB 2.0, MiniHDMI 1.4a, and a headphone jack.
Wireless connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g/n (2x2 MIMO) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE. It would be nice to see 802.11ac support, but apparently Nvidia feels it can get enough bandwidth via 802.11n.
The LTE version of the Shield Tablet uses Nvidia’s Icera i500 Soft Modem, which includes eight programmable cores running up to 1.3GHz. These specialized DSP cores are paired with a separate RF transceiver chip. Icera supports GSM/GPRS/EDGE, HSPA+ (42 Mbps), and LTE Category 3 (100 Mbps). Since the modem is handled in software, it can be upgraded to support additional standards. Nvidia’s documentation states that the Icera i500 is capable of supporting LTE Category 4 (150 Mbps) with Carrier Aggregation and HSPA+ (84 Mbps), although it’s unclear if the Shield Tablet supports the faster speeds.