Nvidia has been doing a lot of their own consumer products lately, with the original Shield handheld gaming console and the Tegra Note 7 tablet. Each of these devices was actually surprisingly good and they were very good values for the money, especially if you got them at their cheapest ($199 each). Nvidia has learned a lot of lessons from each device and they’ve done a fantastic job of updating both the Shield and the Tegra Note 7. Their updates are so frequent and regular that I almost feel like they’ve got the leg up on almost every other Android manufacturer out there. They are also some of the first if not the first to release a new version of the Android OS for their devices as it becomes available.
So, it comes as little surprise that Nvidia has today announced the Shield tablet, a converging device that combines the best of the Tegra Note 7 and the Shield portable gaming console into a portable gaming tablet. The Shield Tablet’s core innovation is that it sports a Tegra K1 SoC with a Kepler GPU inside rather than the previous generation Tegra 4 SoC, which was a few generations of GPU architecture behind. Tegra K1 promises to be vastly faster than anything Nvidia has ever made before and it will come in two CPU flavors with the first one being an ARM A15 implementation and the second being Nvidia’s own custom 64-bit CPU design.
The Nvidia Shield Tablet will have an 8″ Full HD IPS display capable of supporting DirectStylus 2 (an improvement over DirectStylus) and will feature a dual front-facing speaker setup much like the Tegra Note 7, but with a higher resolution because the Tegra Note 7 was only 720P and the Shield Tablet is 1080P. However, it will now have bass ports to allow for more bass to come from the speakers, a feature that many gamers will appreciate. It also has two 5MP cameras, one front and one back along with SmugMug’s Camera Awesome app built-into the phone. The tablet will support up to 128GB of SDXC memory card storage and wil come in a 16GB and 32GB versions with built-in memory. The 16GB variant of the Shield Tablet will be Wi-Fi only while the 32GB will support LTE on AT&T and T-Mobile through Nvidia’s Icera i500 modem. It will also have a 20 watt hour battery, which should suffice for about 8-10 hours of medium to light use and probably 5 hours or less of actual gaming.
Nvidia claims that the Shield Tablet will support 4K as it is “4K ready” however they are outputting the video for 4K over miniHDMI which is basically a dead standard in the mobile industry and hasn’t been used by anyone in a phone for a while. The fact that Nvidia chose to go with miniHDMI instead of MHL 3.0 is a perplexing one because with MHL 3.0 they can not only support 4K video streaming but they are also able to charge the device as it plays video back to the TV through the USB port.
The tablet will also feature Bluetooth 4.0 LE and 802.11n Wi-Fi, which is a bit of a disappointment like the Shield portable console was because in order to really get a solid gaming experience you really want to have something like 802.11ac. And yes, it will increase the overall cost of materials, but maybe Nvidia needs to develop their own because the lack of it in this tablet is almost unforgivable at this point.
Nvidia will price the Shield Tablet at $299 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model and $399 for the 32GB LTE model. They will also be selling a flip cover that will also double as a stand for the Shield Tablet as well as the Shield Controller which operates via Wi-Fi direct for $59. What makes this launch even more interesting is that the tablet will be available globally, the first time for any Nvidia Tegra consumer product. First the launch will begin on July 29th in the US (pre-order open today) and then Europe on August 14th and then the rest of the world this fall.
Overall, this tablet looks fairly promising as a standalone product, the real question will be how it will perform as a gaming tablet and whether or not people really want a separate tablet and game controller setup. I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to want to see if Nvidia releases a Shield portable gaming console with the Tegra K1 updated SoC inside. A gaming tablet is cool and all, but I just don’t see very many scenarios where carrying around a controller and a tablet is something a consumer would enjoy.