Review Index:

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet with Tegra K1 and SHIELD Controller

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

SHIELD Tablet with new Features

It's odd how regular these events seem to come. Almost exactly one year ago today, NVIDIA launched the SHIELD gaming device, which is a portable Android tablet attached to a controller, all powered by the Tegra 4 SoC. It was a completely unique device that combined a 5-in touchscreen with a console-grade controller to build the best Android gaming machine you could buy. NVIDIA did its best to promote Android gaming as a secondary market to consoles and PCs, and the frequent software updates kept the SHIELD nearly-up-to-date with the latest Android software releases. 

As we approach the one year anniversary of SHIELD, NVIDIA is preparing to release another product to add to the SHIELD family of products: the SHIELD Tablet. Chances are, you could guess what this device is already. It is a tablet powered by Tegra K1 and updated to support all SHIELD software. Of course, there are some new twists as well.

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The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is being targeted, as the slide above states, at being "the ultimate tablet for gamers." This is a fairly important point to keep in mind as you we walk through the details of the SHIELD tablet, and its accessories, as there are certain areas where NVIDIA's latest product won't quite appeal to you for general purpose tablet users. 

Most obviously, this new SHIELD device is a tablet (and only a tablet). There is no permanently attached controller. Instead, the SHIELD controller will be an add-on accessory for buyers. NVIDIA has put a lot of processing power into the tablet as well as incredibly interesting new software capabilities to enable 10-ft use cases and even mobile Twitch streaming.

Continue reading our preview of the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet and Controller powered by Tegra K1!!

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NVIDIA's strategy for this SHIELD Tablet release is based around three pillars. First, this will be the flagship product to utilize the Tegra K1 SoC, the first mobile part from NVIDIA to integrate a full Kepler GPU architecture SMX. Even though I wrote a review of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 that uses the Tegra K1 earlier this week, the SHIELD Tablet will be the first product directly available in the US and most of the world.

The second pillar falls on the rest of the tablet. Yes, you still have stylus support (that is updated) and, yes, you can still get a cover that acts as a stand (though you have to buy it separately). The screen resolution is 1920x1200 to enable full HD and you can output to your TV at full 1080p as well. An optional controller accessory (though I think this needs to be part of the total experience) really tells you that the SHIELD Tablet is aimed at gaming and not more generic consumers.

Finally, the last pillar is on software and will surely be the most complicated portion, as it is the furthest from NVIDIA's control. At launch on July 29th, NVIDIA will have 11 Tegra K1 ready games available for demo or for purchase. These are games that will ONLY run on Tegra K1 and utilize the full OpenGL API, rather than the more limited OpenGL ES that all other Android devices today utilize. When I first wrote about the Tegra K1 SoC after CES 2014, part of the focus was on NVIDIA's goal to bring OpenGL to the mobile platform.

That's a big task for NVIDIA, who admittedly had issues getting the adoption rates it wants for its Tegra product line.

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The SHIELD Tablet has some impressive specifications for a tablet. Starting with the Tegra K1 SoC, it includes a full 192 CUDA core Kepler SMX unit. This is basically, with only minor modifications, the same GPU architecture found in the GTX 780 and similar desktop GeForce cards. The frequency hits as high as 2.2 GHz, which is faster than the 1.9 GHz of the Tegra 4. Both a 16GB Wi-Fi (802.11n 2x2 MIMO in both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz) and a 32GB LTE version will be available (pricing and availability on the next page). If you are looking for a 32GB Wi-Fi only model, you aren't going to find it. If you need more storage, there is a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 128 GB capacities.

The display is a very sharp 8-in 1920x1200 IPS screen with multi-touch capability (of course) and the stylus technology is upgraded to DirectStylus 2 that claims improved sensitivity. The front facing speakers found on the Tegra Note 7 continue to exist here, which is a great move in my opinion; rear facing speakers just don't make sense anymore. The cameras (both front and rear) are 5MP.

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LTE and GSM connectivity will work on AT&T and T-Mobile in the US which is a big let  down for me as a long time Verizon user. A mini HDMI port is used to connect the tablet to your TV for console mode and the micro-USB port is 2.0 only and is used to charge the tablet and attach wired devices. 

Battery life was a touchy subject for NVIDIA during my briefing on the SHIELD Tablet and it wasn't really a big topic it brought up. I don't think it's a secret at this point that the Tegra K1 is not as power efficient as some other SoC on the market aimed at tablets. In my testing with the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 review the tablet was able to get over 9 hours of Wi-Fi browsing time, which is decent. The issue is, the Mi Pad 7.9 has a larger battery than the SHIELD Tablet (24.5 Whr vs 19.75 Whr) so we know the NVIDIA device will be more limited -- maybe by as much as 25%. We'll do our testing once the review unit gets in but initial thoughts are great.

The weight specification of 390g (0.85 lbs) is within reason of the Apple iPad Mini Retina (0.75 lbs) but it also appears to be 22% thicker than the Apple device as well. 

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Along with the tablet, NVIDIA is announcing the SHIELD controller, a device that brings the SHIELD Tablet to same gaming capability of the original SHIELD (now called the portable as part of the SHIELD family). I got hands on with the controller last week and it feels even better than the SHIELD portable controller which was already fantastic. Now the interface buttons have been tweaked to include capacitive navigation buttons, the NVIDIA SHIELD button and the controller even sports a touch pad and volume buttons at the bottom. 

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Rather than integrate Bluetooth, the SHIELD Controller uses Wi-Fi direct that has lower latency and higher bandwidth. That bandwidth is used to support analog headsets plugged into the controller, feed audio back and forth to the tablet, much in the same way you can utilize headsets on consoles. 

You will be able to pair up to four of these controllers with a single SHIELD Tablet.

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Another nice addition to the controller is an integrated microphone used for voice control. Just as if you were using the Google voice services to open applications, run searches or locate media, you can hold down the home button and say something like "Open Half Life 2". It's a small thing but it makes the SHIELD Tablet much more attractive as a multimedia up for your TV that happens to be mobile enough to toss in your bag.

Video News

July 22, 2014 | 09:33 AM - Posted by Angry

As a Shield owner I can say I'm looking forward to getting one of these. I've game streamed a TON on my shield, and I've used it pretty much daily as my goto mobile device. My phone has been neglected outside of messaging and other small duties.

I also made my own wireless Xbox 360 adapter....

For those games on Steam and older titles (Like 4x4 Evolution) that don't pick up on the shields controls.

Even two floors away from my Gaming rig it actually has less latency that the shields controls at times. But the bit of latency has never really been an issue for me even with fast games like Grid 2. Its also nice to stream emulators like PS2 that dong exist on android...yet.

This new Shield setup has me looking forward to bigger screen....and not being stuck in landscape mode, my biggest and mostly only complaint on Shield 1.

July 22, 2014 | 10:09 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So it's using full OpenCL and OpenGL, let the full Linux hacking/Sideloading begin, and some real applications, graphics and otherwise, running on the K1. Steam OS, would be great!

July 22, 2014 | 12:27 PM - Posted by Luthair

You won't see SteamOS, that is x86 only. Even if the SteamOS binary were available on ARM none of the desktop games would be.

July 22, 2014 | 12:17 PM - Posted by SteeloYangster

Can't wait for this. I've gotta get one.

July 22, 2014 | 02:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I see the specs claim the tablet is uhd ready. Do you know if this means it can handle HEVC natively? Or do all those gpu cores just grunt and grind to decode it? If it can decode HEVC natively, can it also encode HEVC?

July 22, 2014 | 03:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"GPU Accelerated Style" Yea ok.

July 30, 2014 | 04:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

whats your problem?

Paint with stylus is 3d accelerated

July 22, 2014 | 08:37 PM - Posted by Alamo

i didnt see any appeal, in the first shield, and i still dont see it for this one.
if i wanted a handheld console i would go, for other platforms that has games and exclusives like PSvita or 3DS, not crappy android games...
ppl are buying 4K monitors, to then stream on a tablet ? still doesnt make sense to me.
streaming outside, my isp suck...
i dont see why nvidia insist on the console part, to me thats not what will sell tegra, what they need is other manufacturers to pick it and integrate it on their tablets, if they are not too greedy on margins, and if after the tests power consumption is good, tegra might finaly benefit to nvidia.

July 22, 2014 | 11:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is less appealing to me than the original shield. Can't easily use this on the can, in bed, or in the car... the only times I would use a shield. I was really hoping for a better version of the first shield in the controller form factor.

July 23, 2014 | 09:28 AM - Posted by duttyfoot (not verified)

curious to see how well this new shield does. can someone please remove this annoying spam post

July 23, 2014 | 01:12 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Jeez guys give me some time to remove the spam.  They are automated and 24/7 ... I ain't!

July 23, 2014 | 01:55 PM - Posted by Cyclops

Finally, a tablet that can run Minecraft on 240P.

But in all seriousness shoving 192 cuda cores into that thing is an achievement.

July 30, 2014 | 04:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

yet cant even run newer tegra games like trines in native 1080p or even at 60fps

July 27, 2014 | 01:05 AM - Posted by Martin Trautvetter

Instead of taking the write-down on R&D for K1 (because no volume OEM is buying it), this ego-driven, second-generation money-pit gets designed?

This is such a desperate and hopeless product, coupled to an asinine strategy that requires Nvidia to throw money at developers to write SOC-specific games for an SOC with ZERO market share.

WTF? Why don't they learn?

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