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NVIDIA announced Project SHIELD, a portable gaming device that also signifies a vertical integration move. Put simply, SHIELD is an NVIDIA-branded, Android-based (Tegra 4) portable game device with a 5” 720P display that can play Android and PC games streamed. It will become available in this year in the second quarter 2013” at a price that is yet to be announced. 

Using NVIDIA’s latest mobile processor, Tegra 4, game players can display locally on their own device or display wirelessly to an HDTV. 

The form factor isn’t rectangular like the PS Vita, Nintendo DS, or Apple iPod, but rather shaped more like an XBOX or Playstation controller with a fold-out display.

SHIELD will supply a full console-grade controller with 2 joysticks, a D-pad, ABXY buttons, left/right bumpers, left/right analog triggers, Start/Back/Home/Volume buttons, and a multi-function NVIDIA/Power button.

Now please do consider what it could replace and will compete on:

  • Apple iPod Touch- starts at $299
  • Sony PS Vita- starts at $249
  • Sony PlayStation 3: starts at $249
  • Nintendo 3DS XL- starts at $199
  • Microsoft XBOX 360: starts at $199

There are some big differences in financially though. Each of the devices, except the iPod Touch, is massively subsidized by games that cost between $25-$70. We forsee NVIDIA to price SHIELD more like the iPod Touch, with a higher price point with games to be priced between $1-$20, like Android games are priced today. Buyers can also play any games they may have previously purchased too, let’s say from their Android phones or tablets like the Google Nexus 7.

Very important to stress, none of the competitive game devices can play PC games, and that will be very important to some gamers. PC gamers don’t always enjoy sitting at the table or desk and like to be mobile, too.

5” Retinal Display

SHIELD flips open to an integrated 5” 1280x720 HD multi-touch display. With 294 dpi and 921,600 pixels, SHIELD has the highest resolution and pixel density of any handheld gaming device. In addition, Tegra 4’s Direct Touch technology gives SHIELD touch response three times faster than other touch devices.

Ported Speaker System

Speakers on gaming handhelds have been mediocre at best. Not so with SHIELD. SHIELD’s speakers are custom designed to take advantage of the controller’s deep body. In addition to left and right speakers, two tuned ports provide exceptional bass response. The resulting sound is full and rich, a step above even many high-end laptops.

Availability and Final Words

SHIELD is expected to ship in Q2 of 2013. It will first launch in the US and Canada, with a worldwide rollout to follow.

SHIELD is perhaps NVIDIA’s most ambitious gaming project to date. On the one hand, it’s the most powerful and full-fledged Android gaming portable, on the other, it’s a pocket version of a GeForce GTX PC. What excites you most about SHIELD? Share your thoughts with us below.

The ability to play PC games is accomplished leveraging the same kind of technology that is used in NVIDIA’s commercial VDI (remote desktop) and cloud gaming technology, called NVIDIA VGX Technology. Essentially the Kepler-based technology renders a video of the gameplay as it is happening on the PC and wirelessly send it to the “Shield” or an HDTV. With NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture, they significantly improved their rendering technology so that the gaming latency would be minimized. Shield sends gameplay commands wirelessly to the gaming PC.

NVIDIA sent a shock wave through the gaming industry tonight with its Project SHIELD announcement. Yes, there are many unanswered questions, but regardless of those answers, this is a major disruption to portable game devices, game consoles and devices like the Apple iPod. I give NVIDIA a lot of credit for this disruption as it could payoff big for them but also for gamers.

Project Shield's roughly in the beta stage of development, and currently doesn't include an LTE radio (WiFi only). It's running Jelly Bean for now, but may change by the time it's expected to ship, in "Q2 2013." Still no word on pricing.


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