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NVIDIA Debuts SHIELD Tablet and Wireless Controller
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Date: Jul 22, 2014
Section:Mobile
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introducing the SHIELD Tablet

NVIDIA just officially announced the SHIELD tablet (powered by their Tegra K1 SoC) and SHIELD wireless controller. As the SHIELD branding implies, the new SHIELD tablet and wireless controller builds upon the previously-released, Android-based SHIELD portable to bring a true gaming-oriented tablet to consumers. In some ways, the SHIELD tablet and wireless controller are somewhat of mashup of the SHIELD portable and the Tegra Note 7, but featuring newer, updated technology and better materials. You could think of the SHIELD tablet and wireless controller as an upgraded SHIELD portable device, with the screen de-coupled from the controller.

The original SHIELD portable and the Tegra Note 7, were built around NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 processor. The SHIELD tablet, however, is powered by the newer Tegra K1, which features quad ARM A15 cores and 192 Kepler-class graphics cores. Take a look at the SHIELD tablet’s full list of specifications in the table below, sit back and take in our hands-on preview of the device and then we’ll talk a bit about some the SHIELD Tablet's more interesting features…


NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet with Stylus

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet
Specifications & Features


As you can see, the SHIELD tablet’s specifications read like some of the more powerful tablets currently on the market. The device features the aforementioned NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, paired to 2GB of RAM and an 8”, full-HD IPS display, with a native resolution of 1920x1200. There are also a pair of 5MP cameras on the SHIELD tablet (front and rear), 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2 MIMO WiFi configuration, GPS, a 9-axis motion sensor, and Bluetooth 4.0 LE. In addition to the WiFi-only version (which features 16GB of internal storage), NVIDIA has a 32GB version coming with LTE connectivity as well. NVIDIA hasn’t announced which wireless carriers they’ll be partnering with, but the LTE bands supported are compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile.


SHIELD tablet and SHIELD wireless controller

The software on the SHIELD tablet is reminiscent of the SHIELD portable as well. NVIDIA is using a mostly untouched version of Android on the SHIELD tablet. The only additions made to the OS are a few pre-installed applications, and control panels for the SHIELD’s gaming features. The SHIELD tablet will also be receiving regular OTA updates directly from NVIDIA, in the same way the SHIELD portable and Tegra Note 7 have. NVIDIA should actually get a lot of credit in this regard; the company has been regularly releasing new ROMs for the devices, that not only update the OS, but add new features and capabilities.


Frostbyte's Trine 2 is included on the SHIELD tablet

Some of those new features include the ability to stream games directly to Twitch, NVIDIA’s ShadowPlay technology, PC Streaming, NVIDIA GRID cloud gaming support, and access to the new SHIELD hub. The SHIELD tablet is also one of a select few mobile devices that’s been certified to stream Netflix 1080p content. We should also mention that NVIDIA is including a copy of the game Trine 2 with the SHIELD tablet, as well as a copy of an in-house developed app called Dabbler. Dabbler is a GPU-accelerated drawing / imaging apps that leverages NVIDIA DirectStylus 2 technology as well. DirectStylus 2 uses the Tegra K1’s image processing capabilities to analyze data from the device’s touch sensor to discern the difference between a fine-tip stylus, finger, eraser and palm input, eliminating the need for a separate digitizing layer for the screen to support a stylus. DirectStylus 2 is also intelligent enough to discern pressure, so the included blade-tipped stylus can be used to draw fine or thick lines, or when turned over it can act like an eraser. DirectStylus 2 is similar to the original version, employed in the Tegra Note 7, but the latest version benefits from the increased horsepower of K1, in addition to some modified and improved algorithms.


NVIDIA SHIELD tablet break-out

The physical design of the SHIELD tablet is reminiscent of many other slates currently on the market, but NVIDIA has incorporated a number of gamer-friendly features. For example, the SHIELD tablet has front-facing speakers, with a dual-ported bass reflex enclosure. The output from the speakers can get surprisingly loud, and it sounds surprisingly “full”, despite the relatively small size of the speakers themselves. The magnesium frame of the SHIELD tablet is also very rigid and features an integrated thermal shield. There is also a built-in port for the included stylus, and the optional smart-cover can be used as a stand, with support for three positions.
 

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More Features and the SHIELD Controller

The SHIELD wireless controller has a similar layout and feel to the SHIELD portable, but it is a separate, standalone device that will eventually support PCs as well. Although the SHIELD portable gaming device connects to wireless controllers via Bluetooth when in console mode, NVIDIA leverages WiFi direct with the new SHIELD wireless controller. Using WiFi direct results in lower-latency, which is of paramount importance with a gaming controller, and also allows for much greater bandwidth. And NVIDIA leverages the additional bandwidth to stream audio to and from the controller—there’s a 3.5” jack right on the SHIELD wireless controller that’ll accept any standard headset.


NVIDIA SHIELD wireless controller

There are a couple of analog joysticks on the controller, along with D-pad, standard X/Y/A/B buttons, left and right triggers and shoulder buttons, navigation controls, and a volume rocker. On the back of the controller (in addition to the 3.5” audio jack) there is a micro-USB charging port as well. We’re told the SHIELD controller can last about 40 hours on a single charge when not streaming audio, and about 20 hours with two-way audio streaming.


There's a built-in mic, volume rocker, and touch-pad

The buttons aren’t the only input devices on the SHIELD controller, however. There is also a built in microphone for voice control and search and a capacitive touch pad. We saw the voice controls in action and they were surprisingly quick and accurate. We didn’t, however, get a chance to try the touch-pad (NVIDIA was still tuning it).

The full list of features and specifications for the SHIELD wireless controller is available in the table above. There’s not much more to see that we haven’t already covered, but for those that want the full monty, there it is…


The NVIDIA SHIELD tablet and wireless controller will ship soon

NVIDIA will begin taking pre-orders for the SHIELD tablet and wireless controller immediately. The expected ship date in the US and Canada is July 29 and August 14 for Europe. The 16GB WiFi-only SHIELD tablet will be sold for $299. The 32GB model, which also includes LTE support, will sell for $399. The SHIELD smart cover / stand is $39 and the SHIELD controller is priced right in-line with other wireless console controllers at $59.

We’re hoping to have a SHIELD tablet and wireless controller in-hand for some independent testing in the next few days, but from what we’ve seen so far, we’re excited. The build quality of the SHIELD tablet and wireless controller seemed top-notch and the performance of the Tegra K1 at the heart of the device was impressive in the various demos NVIDIA had set up. When the SHIELD portable first hit, it outperformed most of the Android-tablets we had tested up to that point. We expect a similar showing from the new SHIELD tablet, powered by NVIDIA's Tegra K1.
 



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