The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Review
NVIDIA’s SHIELD ecosystem originally started as a simple technology demonstrator and has now become one of the more enticing mobile gaming solutions around. Since its launch the original SHIELD portable has gradually evolved into an all-inclusive gaming platform, albeit in a form factor that isn’t appealing for people that want tablet-like flexibility and portability. This is where the new SHIELD Tablet comes into the equation.
The SHIELD Tablet isn’t NVIDIA’s first foray into the tablet market -the original Tegra Note carries that distinction- so it goes without saying that previous experiences have been strong influencers this time around. With a focus on delivering the ultimate portable gaming experience alongside all the usual features normally associated with high end tablets, this version of SHIELD hopes to accomplish a lot. More importantly, while other tablets like ASUS’ Transformer series have largely been on the leading front of technology and provide a more than adequate Android gaming experience, NVIDIA’s offering is able to do so much more and a very competitive price.
Judging by our hands on preview, NVIDIA certainly seemed to be on the right track with the SHIELD Tablet but that first look was done under controlled conditions. Now we finally have it in the wild and after two weeks of intensive use, our enthusiasm hasn’t been diminished and if anything the excitement has grown a bit because the amount of potential here is nearly limitless.
Form a specifications standpoint, the SHIELD Tablet is everything one could possibly want from a high end handheld. At its heart lies NVIDIA’s new Tegra K1 SoC which combines a 192-core dedicated graphics coprocessor, a quad core ARM A15 CPU running at 2.2GHz and 2GB of memory. While the 2.2GHz processor may not the the fastest on the black anymore, it has proven to be more than sufficient for application acceleration duties.
There has been a lot of talk about the K1’s inclusion of a Kepler GPU and there’s good reason for that: while most tablet SoC’s use third party graphics accelerators, NVIDIA has taken theirs directly from the PC world. This has allowed them to leverage the full stable of advanced technologies they’ve built up over the years, granting a huge advantage over the competition. While in relative terms the K1 has only about 1/3 the processing power of a GTX 750, NVIDIA’s lowest-end Kepler product consumes 55W while the entire K1 SoC, including those 192 CUDA cores requires less than 2W when fully engaged.
Past the obvious processing horsepower on tap here, NVIDIA has thrown in all the usual high end tablet features as well. There’s a 1920x1200 IPS screen, available LTE connectivity, a recessed stylus and HDMI out. Storage shouldn’t be a problem either since above and beyond the 16GB and 32GB capacities, the SHIELD Tablet also includes a MicroSD card slot which is good for up to 128GB of space provided you are willing to invest in a larger add-in card.
While SHIELD Tablet’s capabilities place it in the upper tiers among its so-called competitors, the real selling point here is the feature set NVIDIA is offering. After all, a device is only as good as its applications allow it to be so gamer-specific programs like ShadowPlay, TegraZone, NVIDIA GRID and GameStream have been added. Without those apps, this $299 (16GB WiFi) to $399 (32GB LTE) tablet would be nothing more than another premium-priced Android device without anything to distinguish itself as unique.
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