Accessories and Performance Preview

Not all of the changes in the SHIELD Tablet are in hardware, though. The team at NVIDIA has been working on the software features as well.

First, and most importantly, the SHIELD is built to be hooked up to a TV to turn it into console mode. Just as you could with the original SHIELD portable and the Tegra Note 7, you can use the mini HDMI connection to mirror / duplicate the screen of the tablet on the TV. Or, for a more refined look, you can use the only the TV as the display to remove any kind of letterboxing. Since the tablet runs at 1920×1200, rather than 1920×1080 (nearly all HDTVs), the ability to do both makes a clean experience.

The updated SHIELD Experience application presents a 10-ft display to allow users to shop for new games, launch other media applications or browsing the current installed Android games to launch and run. You can of course access your library of PC games with NVIDIA GameStream technology running through local Wi-Fi (and then on to your TV) or out in the wild while running over LTE. 

A brand new feature to the SHIELD Tablet is the ability to stream not just TO the tablet, but FROM the tablet. Now gamers can stream anything happening on the SHIELD Tablet out to Twitch courtesy of ShadowPlay technology. Even better, you can use the front facing camera to overlay your face on the streaming video for a very PC-like experience.

I asked NVIDIA about the performance implications of ShadowPlay on the Tegra K1 part and it seems it will depend on the applications being run. If you are using a VERY GPU intensive title that is using nearly all of the resources of the SoC, the addition of streaming might incur some frame rate drop. If it is a more basic Android title, there should be no experience differences. It sounds like we need to get some more hands-on time before making a final decision here. Oh, and yes, you CAN stream your GameStream sessions as well, essentially streaming your PC games through your SHIELD Tablet.

NVIDIA is also including a new piece of software for artists that have interest in water color, etc. The flagship feature here is that the GPUs are being utilized to simulate the actual fluid of the paints on a fabric/material. I got to use it for a few minutes and it seemed pretty impressive, but was over my artistic capability. We'll have some more demos of this coming next week to show this off.

If you think this tablet might be up your alley, you'll be able to purchase the 16GB Wi-Fi version on July 29th for $299. The LTE 32GB model will be $100 more expensive and will be about 30 days later. If you want the cover, add another $39 (and you do). If you want the SHIELD controller, add another $59 (and you do). Pricing on the tablet seems solid considering the raw performance of the Tegra K1 SoC and the capability that the SHIELD software offers. 

I do think that NVIDIA should be including the cover WITH the tablet as the device is much less interesting without it; how can you use a tablet as a gaming platform without a kick stand? The controller price is in line with other console controllers today but if you want to do four player co-op on your TV, you'll have a significant $240 investment. 

Speaking of performance, I did run a couple of quick tests to see how performance would stack up, including 3DMark Unlimited, ANDE Bench and GFXBench 3.0.

This score is actually a couple thousand points lower than the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9.

Results here for both off screen scores are higher than what we found on the Xiaomi Mi Pad.

These scores are impressive, but we are expecting a sample in the next day or two and of course we'll have a full review with the release date.

Tegra K1 Specific Games

The Tegra K1 SoC offers a huge jump in graphics performance for a portable device. And NVIDIA is working developers to push the envelope on quality for Android games and by integrating full OpenGL, games can offer drastically improved experiences. With the Tegra K1 launch NVIDIA will have 11 Tegra K1 games; titles that utilize technology that only the K1 offers. These include:

  • War Thunder
  • The Talos Principle
  • Trine 2
  • Pure Chess
  • Half-Life 2 (OpenGL, not just OpenGL ES)
  • Portal (OpenGL, not just OpenGL ES)
  • Anomaly 2
  • …more

War Thunder was easily the most visually impressive that I saw. Trine 2 will be bundled with all Tegra K1 tablets going forward, including the SHIELD Tablet. Even though the current SHIELD Portable has Half-Life 2 and Portal already, these versions are using the full OpenGL code path and thus should have improved visuals over the other mobile versions. 

I'm looking forward to trying out these K1 exclusive titles and see how they perform both on the tablet, over streaming and while hooked up to a TV.

Closing Thoughts

Though this is just a preview and announcement, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet creates an interesting debate. Is there a market for a gaming specific tablet? NVIDIA sure thinks that is the case and is betting yet another generation of Tegra SoC on it. Even though the Tegra 4 based SHIELD portable was a unique and interesting product, it's financial status isn't where it needs to be. My experiences at Quakecon this past weekend tell me that gamers actually do like what SHIELD offers but they need to see it and use before they can be convinced.

It's possible that getting more power in a form factor they are more familiar with (tablet rather than controller / portable) means that more people will be willing to invest. I really think that the console-mode for the SHIELD Tablet is the most compelling option. Taking a tablet and controller while traveling, and then making sure you have a stable place to put a tablet and kickstand on that you can sit in front of, is more problematic and requires gamers to double up the luggage. 

As I said before, I'm going to wait until using the tablet myself for a period of time before making a final call. Check back soon for the full review of the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet.

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