CES 2013: Nvidia Unveils Shield Gaming Handheld, But Is There A Market?

Posted by on January 7, 2013 at 9:53 am
It looks like every Xbox handheld mock turned to real life.

It looks like every Xbox handheld mock turned to real life.

Last night, Nvidia brought us something new: a gaming handheld. When you think of Nvidia, you probably think of graphics cards or Tegra chips, but a whole new Android-powered console probably wasn’t on the top of your list. Marrying an Xbox 360-style controller to a 5″ multi-touch display, complete with the ability to stream games processing on your PC to your TV, or on the portable’s screen itself, Nvidia has opened a whole new door of portable gaming experiences. But, will it work when other technological marvels like the PS Vita have failed?

Let’s hit up some of the big points:

It’s an Android handheld. Nvidia says the Shield is running completely unskinned Jelly Bean, so you don’t need to worry about bloatware or some nasty skin on top of the OS. Clicking an Nvidia logo button in the center brings up the Tegrazone, which is a specialized store for Android games. Android’s gaming selection still leaves something to be desired, so maybe we’ll see more developments because of Shield. It runs all those Android apps you love, just like it were a camera running Android, although it seems a little odd to hold a controller and use Facebook. Oh well.

Streaming PC games to your handheld. If you’ve got an Nvidia GTX graphics card, you can connect your Shield to it wirelessly and play PC games anywhere. You’re not going to be taking it across the street to Jimmy’s house to show it off, but wherever you’re comfortable, you’ll be able to play your favorite action-oriented games. I only say action-oriented because I sincerely doubt you’re gonna be busting out some Command & Conquer on that thing. Seriously.

Streaming PC/Android games to your (4K) TV. The handheld has an HDMI out, making it easy to sit back and have a ten-foot gaming experience on your couch. I’m not sure how exciting it’ll be to have a big blaring screen blasting your face while you’re staring at your TV, but I’m sure they’ll have a way around that. Nvidia showed off a specific version of Steam on the Shield, meaning you’ll be able to render and move those games over to your handheld as well. The new Tegra 4 chipset is also powerful enough to push 4K resolution content, which will always be completely unnecessary, but it’s there if you like it.

It’s probably going to cost a leg. Considering it’s an Android device not subsidized by games and accessories in the way that the Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita are, you’ll probably pay a pretty penny for the Shield. I wouldn’t count on anything less than $299.99, honestly. I think the Shield will attract an enthusiast crowd as-is, so I don’t anticipate huge casual sales, but I’ll hold out hope for future developments like this.

No real price or date were given, but I imagine it’ll be before holiday. The presentation video was rendered in Unreal Engine 4, which made for cool pans and zooms of the various components of the device. Even over a Twitch stream, the frame rate seemed judder-y, but we haven’t seen the true power of Unreal Engine 4 in some time.

Honestly, Shield makes those other Android home consoles look like crap.

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