When the Xbox was first unveiled at GDC 2000, the gaming world stood up and took notice. Despite a rocky start, Microsoft‘s entry into gaming found a foothold and set itself firmly in the history of interactive entertainment. Nearly 13 years later, a challenger has stepped up to claim the award for most audacious unveiling to date. While it may seem to have come from an unlikely place, now that we’ve seen what the future holds, we can’t wait to hold it ourselves.

Nvidia‘s entry to the next-generation console war, codenamed Project Shield has been announced at the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas, and has once again captured the attention of the entertainment world – and for good reason. Powered by the beefy quad-core Tegra 4 processor, Project Shield aims to push the boundaries of handheld and console systems with one fell swoop.

The all-in-one clamshell design houses a 5-inch, 720p multi-touch display with a 294ppi pixel density, and the hardware supporting it is built into the controller itself. The current prototype boasts a GeForce GTX 650 graphics card (to put that into perspective: the Retina display MacBook Pro notebook line currently offers this chipset) as well as a custom audio system that claims to rival Beats and other mainstream choices. In addition, the handheld console will make use of Micro USB for charging, MicroSD for additional storage, and HDMI-out, supporting up to 4K resolution – with wireless connection to HD displays currently in the works. Despite all this, however, hardware is really only the tip of the iceberg.

Nvidia-handheld Project-Shield

Aside from being incredibly powerful and conveniently small, Project Shield is designed with Android in mind (Jelly Bean, specifically) and plans to be compatible with high-quality gaming on Android and Windows alike, with digital download support from the Nvidia TegraZone. Players will be able to use Shield as a wireless receiver for any PC that is equipped with a GeForce GTX 650 graphics card or better, and can also stream titles from players’ Steam libraries instantly. Also compatible out of the box is Google Play — which already provides nearly a million apps to users around the globe — as well as Hulu, Netflix, Slacker Radio and more. Along with everything mentioned above, Shield still claims to boast up to 10 hours of battery life during gameplay with a single charge, and 24 hours of video.

“Project SHIELD was created by NVIDIA engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play. We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love SHIELD as much as we do.” – Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and chief executive officer at NVIDIA

Shield has already found support from Ubisoft and Epic Games, who take this breakthrough in handheld gaming just as seriously. While it has all the right parts, we won’t know how well they work together until closer to the Q2 release timeframe. Though interest is certainly high right now, it’s no secret that many big names in the gaming industry have been struggling. Will Nvidia be able to cope under the stress, and succeed where so many have fallen? The road to success is indeed paved with many failed attempts and false starts, and considering the Wii U‘s steeper-than-usual pricetag, we can only guess as to how much this technology might set players back financially. Times are tough for the industry and its many movers and shakers, but Nvidia has been around long enough to learn from the mistakes of others — and their timing couldn’t be much better.

What do you think, Ranters? With so much happening in the industry, is 2013 to be the best year for gaming yet? Are you throwing your money at the screen already, or waiting to see where Project Shield ends up?

Project Shield was announced by Nvidia at this year’s 2013 International CES in Las Vegas, and is set for release in Q2 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @superkyol.

Source: Nvidia Press Release