July 23, 2014, 6:15 AM —
That $300 gets you a tablet with an 8", 1920x1200 resolution display. There's 16 GB of storage on-board, plus support for a MicroSD card. The processor is the 2.2 GHz ARM Cortex A15 CPU with 2GB RAM. But the kicker is the new Nvidia K1 SOC with its "Kepler" GPU, which brings with it compatibility with DirectX, OpenGL and various other APIs intended to make porting a game to the platform easy (or at least easier than with other mobile architectures).
Other somewhat unusual features are front-facing stereo speakers and an included stylus.
If you want to spend a little more, there will be a $399 version with 32 GB of storage and LTE support, but that one isn't up for pre-order yet.
Since this is a gaming tablet, Nvidia has launched a $60 wireless controller to go with it. It connects via Direct WiFi which is supposed to make it very low latency. There's also a $40 cover/stand, so to get completely kitted out for gaming is going to cost you $400: the same as buying Playstation 4 or Xbox One. I don't think that total price is a coincidence.
So what can you play? Well, regular old Android games of course, but there are also more advanced titles being ported from the PC. The Shield Tablet comes with a copy of Trine 2 and Nvidia is heavily promoting ports of Portal and Half-Life 2. There's a list of featured titles on Nvidia's site.
You can also stream Windows games from your PC to the Shield Tablet, assuming the PC is equipped with a suitable Nvidia graphics card (roughly speaking, a GeForce GTX 650 or better). Alternatively Nvidia's Grid streaming service is in beta, so that might be an option going forward.
The Shield Tablet can output to a TV via HDMI and in this 'console mode' it'll allow four controllers to connect at the same time for couch-based multiplayer games.
So that's the vision; a gaming tablet that can pull double duty as a living room console, replacing you Playstation, Xbox or Wii. I have to say I'm dubious of the vision. I'm not sure there's a huge demand for dedicated Android gaming tablets, any more than there's a huge demand for Android-powered micro-consoles.
That said, just as a $300 8" Android tablet (with stylus), the Nividia Shield seems like not a bad deal. An 8.9" Amazon Kindle HDX with 16 GB of storage lists for $379 (though it does have that beautiful 2560x1600 display). Google's 16 GB Nexus 7 is $229 but that tech is a year old at this point. The Shield is the first K1 device to hit retail, as far as I am aware.
We won't know for sure until the Shield Tablet launches, but judging by the specs it might be a good choice for anyone in the market for an Android tablet. All the gaming functionality might just be gravy. I suppose a lot will depend on what price-points other K1 based tablets hit the market at. It's hard to imagine they'd be cheaper than $300!
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