July 03, 2014, 6:05 AM —
Nvidia's Shield was one of those products that was hyped early then sort of vanished once it launched. From my point of view it was the kind of gadget I'd love to have if someone else was willing to buy it for me. $249 for a handheld Android gaming device just felt too high. I didn't think the company would sell very many of them, but it seems I was wrong.
Nvidia is apparently happy with how the Shield is doing because, according to leaks/rumors, they're coming out with a second Shield device. This one will be a little bit different: it'll be a tablet. In fact it's apparently called the Shield Tablet.
As part of the "Shield" line (and coming from Nvidia) we have to expect gaming will be a focus. The original Shield is basically a gamepad with an Android mini-tablet bolted on, so we can expect the Shield Tablet will have some kind of physical controls as well. About a month ago Engadget posted an illustration of what it suspected was the controller half of a Shield 2.0, but now thinks could be the stand-alone controller for the Shield Tablet. Having the tablet and controller as discrete units seems awkward to me, unless you plan to attach the tablet to a TV or something.
Meanwhile over at The Verge they been sleuthing out some anticipated specs. Their best guess is that the Shield Tablet will be a 7.9" device with a 2048 x 1536 screen resolution, all running on the Nvidia Tegra K1. It'll be running KitKat (Android 4.4) which suggests a launch before this fall's release of Android L. (It's worth reading the comments on that post since not everyone thinks they've got this right.)
The Verge refers to an expected "controller attachment" rather than a stand-alone controller, which brings to mind something like the WikiPad. As cumbersome as the WikiPad looks, it seems like a better system than sticking a stand-alone tablet into a stand and then leaning down to peer at it while you hold a traditional gamepad (I've tried that...not a pleasant experience).
So why another Android gaming device? Well I can think of two reasons. The first is that in Nvidia's case, they also have that streaming service that lets you play PC games on your Shield (assuming your PC has an Nvidia GPU). This means they're not really dependent on Android game developers for quality content.
Second is Google's recent announcement of Android TV and its gamepad accessory. If Android TV (and for that matter, Fire TV) take off it could re-kindle the idea of Android games meant to be played with a physical controller rather than by tapping/swiping a touch screen. The same games that would play nicely on your Android TV should play nicely on a Shield Tablet, too. (And for that matter, on Android micro-consoles like the Ouya.)
Assuming the Shield Tablet is real, I'll be very interested in learning how much it will retail for. Hopefully they'll manage to make it a bit more affordable than the first Nvidia Shield.
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