Nvidia ships $299 Shield handheld gaming console after delay

Nvidia's Shield handheld gaming console is a controller with a 5-inch popup screen

After a month delay and a price drop, Nvidia has started shipping the US$299 Shield handheld gaming console via its website and online retail stores.

Shield looks much like a traditional gaming controller, but it has a 5-inch pop-up screen that can display images at 720p (1280 x 720 pixel) resolution. The hardware has Nvidia's latest quad-core Tegra 4 chip, which can support a resolution of 3200 x 2000 pixels so games can be played in full high-definition on attached TV sets.

"Powered by the world's fastest mobile processor, Nvidia Tegra 4, Shield introduces an entirely new class of portable gaming with rich, immersive graphics," the company said in a blog entry.

The Shield is available from Nvidia, Newegg, GameStop, Microcenter and Canada Computers.

The handheld gaming console was due to ship in June, but mechanical issues forced Nvidia to delay it by a month. Shield was originally priced at $349, but that was dropped to $299 as the company tried to make the device affordable for a wider audience. Nvidia had originally targeted Shield at gaming enthusiasts or users of the company's graphics cards.

Shield comes with Android 4.1, code-named Jelly Bean, and more than 100 games will be available for download from the Google Play store. Games for the console can also be downloaded from Nvidia's TegraZone store, which lists 110 games.

It weighs 579 grams, and has 802.11n Wi-Fi to play PC games streamed from a nearby computer with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 graphics processor or better. Other features include 16GB of flash storage, stereo speakers, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS capabilities. The device has mini-HDMI and micro-USB slots, and a MicroSD slot for expandable storage. There's also a headphone jack. The game controller looks similar to PlayStation and Xbox controllers with features such as the D-pad, bumpers and A/B/X/Y buttons.

Nvidia's competitors in the handheld console market are the Sony PlayStation Vita and Nintendo's 3DS, which are less expensive. But the graphics company hopes to provide a gaming experience similar to that on Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, which will ship for the year-end holiday season. The PS4 and Xbox One will use chips from Nvidia rival Advanced Micro Devices.

Nvidia also hopes the console could be used as an end device for cloud gaming, in which games are streamed over the Internet from remote servers. Nvidia offers the Visual Computing Appliance (VCA) server for that purpose and has also partnered with IBM and Dell to design servers loaded with graphics cores.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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