NVIDIA is one of the best known names in hardware manufacturing and sets the standard in some areas, such as mobile CPUs and graphics cards but it has had less success with complete systems. The NVIDIA Shield handheld gaming console was launched at the beginning of 2013 to much interest but failed to impact the market. It was too unusual a form factor and its key ability to stream PC games never quite worked to the level that was promised.
This year NVIDIA have kept the Shield name but have launched much more conventional gaming tablet. I got a chance to have a look at it at EGX and I was impressed. On first look the Shield tablet looks like any other black 8″ tablet but look a little closer and the whole package is enticing. The tablet itself is a little heavier than you would expect it to be but feels good to hold. As with most tablets these days it is coated with a rubberized finish that makes it quite grippy. Internally as you would expect from NVIDIA the tablet has a top of the link Tegra K1 with 2GB Ram and good connectivity (Micro USB, Micro HDMI and LTE).
The Shield only starts to shine when you add in its peripherals. First the tablet itself comes with a stylus that is comfortable to use and stores inside itself. It’s not an active digitizer but it works better than any passive system I’ve ever used. The stylus is comfortable to hold, feels well made and is very responsive. After that is the case – this is a fold over magnetic one that is similar in style to Apples Smart cover. Finally if you are serious about gaming there is the controller. The Nvidia Shield Controller looks very similar to the Shield gaming system from last year and includes home, back and go buttons. It is also unusual in that it uses wifi-direct rather than bluetooth. This has the effect of decreasing latency but perhaps more importantly allowing a set of headphones to be plugged into the controller directly and the use of up to 4 controllers at once.
As with the first gen shield the Tablet allows you stream games from your PC. This system appears to have gotten much better in the last year, although it is still very much a game by game basis. Some games seem to work perfectly but others which should be perfect for it do not work out. In addition you still need a powerful PC and a good wifi network to take advantage.
All in all the Nvidia Shield Tablet is probably the best specced and most powerful small tablet available now. The stylus, cover and controller add another level to the system and make it a viable gaming system. The problems with PC streaming are still a factor but are becoming less so with every update. The biggest downside is the price – the basic 16GB tablet is £239.99, the cover is £24.99 and the controller is £49.98. The LTE version is £299.99. In all that means it costs £314.98 for the basic or £374.96 for the 32GB LTE version. That compares well to Apples iPad Mini but is still more expensive than the Nexus 7. If you want a powerful Android tablet, want to game and don’t mind that it is not the cheapest option the NVIDIA Shield Tablet is a good option.