During the Consumer Economics Show (CES) in January, Nvidia made a bold move in showing off a brand new, near-complete handheld console to compete with not only the likes of the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS, but home console systems like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. First impressions were fairly mixed, and while many saw the potential of a handheld device capable of live game streaming from a PC, there was growing concern for the device’s future – and if the Nvidia Shield could learn from the mistakes of the similar systems before it.
After several months of refining, Nvidia has come forward with more details about the new hybrid console device. The prototype shown at CES was powered by Nvidia’s own Tegra 4 mobile processor, and a GeForce GTX 650 graphics processor. Since January, the finalized hardware has moved towards strictly running on Tegra 4’s power, which sports four CPU cores and 72 graphics cores. The graphics boost is essential in displaying not only 720p gameplay on its 5-inch multi-touch display, but for connecting the device to an external display via HDMI — at a maximum resolution that nearly doubles 1080p.
Also updated is the look and feel of the Shield, if only slightly. For example, the directional pad has been raised and should have a more direct tactile feel. The back of the device features mini HDMI out, 3.5mm audio out, mini USB port for charging, and microSD slot for up to 64GB of extra flash storage.
With all that storage, hardcore gamers will no doubt want to fill it up with the latest mobile titles. Games and applications can be downloaded through Google Play and Nvidia’s TegraZone, all of which will be managed with the Android Jellybean operating system. Shield can also utilize its internal 802.11n wifi chip to stream games live from a home PC, provided it is equipped with a GeForce GTX 650 graphics card or better.
As for the price and release date of the Nvidia Shield, pre-orders will be available starting May 30th, with a tentative release date of “late June,” for $349 a pop – $100 more than the PS Vita. The cost is certainly high for a handheld console, and it doesn’t help that the hardware behind the Shield is nothing short of overkill for most Android games. Between that and a rather limited PC streaming capability (which Nvidia says will be a “beta feature” at launch) there is an uncanny valley of usability which may doom the device, but optimism is at an all-time high for Nvidia, who plan on rolling out hardware updates similar to Apple and Samsung smartphone lines.
The Nvidia Shield is currently in the final stages of development, with pre-orders starting May 30th and a release sometime next month.
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