This year at CES we had a big surprise from Nvidia: they unveiled Project Shield, a handheld gaming console that is under development. If everything goes as planned, Nvidia anticipates that it will start shipping Project Shield from Q2 of 2013.
Project Shield is an Android portable gaming console that has the advantage of wirelessly connect to a PC and play different games. The problem is that the PC needs to be equipped with a GeForce GTX 650 (or higher) graphics card and an i5 processor(or higher) plus 4 GB of system memory. Any PC that can satisfy this condition and stream content wirelessly can also be used as a source to play games from Steam. Project Shield gaming console comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The good news is that is a pure version of Android, meaning that Nvidia didn’t add anything on top of it.
To make this possible, Nvidia put inside their console the newest Tegra 4 processor, which they claim it’s one of the fastest mobile processor right now (capable of even streaming 4K videos). Tegra 4 is a quad-core A15 CPU that comes with a fifth, low power, core that is meant to save the battery life of the powered device. The graphic side of Tegra 4 is quite spectacular: there are 72 GPU cores. Besides this, its beeing said that Nvidia used 28nm manufacturing process to manufacture Tegra 4.
This Gaming console consist in two parts: a 5-inch 720p multi-touch retina display(294ppi pixel density) and a controller similar with an Xbox 360 controller. Underneath this controller there’s a 33Wh battery that Nvidia claims it can support five to ten hours of play time or 24 hours of HD video playback.
Between the display and controller, there are two nicely integrated bass-reflex speakers, while between the classical L and R buttons we find some connectivity features: micro-SD, HDMI, USB, 3.5 mm jack and Wi-Fi 802.11n with 2 MIMO antennas.
For gamers and regular tech viewers, Nvidia’s gaming console came as a surprise. We didn’t see it coming and I’m not sure it does pose that special thing everybody was expecting. When you have Nintendo 3DS and Sony PS VITA out there, is hard to be impressed by an Android gaming console. At first it runs an open source OS, which is not a bad thing, but I’m not sure games developers rush right now to build games for Android, rather than focus developing them for Nintendo, PS VITA or Xbox.
There’s also a good thing that Project Shield brings. It adds a little incentive to the Android ecosystem, which some users will surely notice it. For competitors like Onlive or Ouya, Project Shield will be like their first real opponent in this handheld gaming console niche. Unfortunately, we have to wait 1-2 years more to see how each single portable console sales. Until then, game on!