NVIDIA just unveiled their Tegra 4 chip, which was in line with expectations, but they surprised everyone with the announcement of a portable gaming system referred to as Project Shield. The mobile device is shaped like a game controller, but it comes with a Tegra 4 chip inside and features a 5-inch 720p display attached to the top.
Last year I pleaded with NVIDIA to develop their own Tegra controller so developers would support a standard button layout for their games, but I never imagined they would produce a full-blown mobile gaming system. Several other companies have tried to produce an Android-powered game console, but none of them have sold that well.
“Project Shield was created by NVIDIA engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO of NVIDIA. “We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love Shield as much as we do.”
Project Shield will appeal to Nexus lovers, since it runs “pure Android” with no skins. The demo ran a stock version of Android 4.2 Jellybean and all of Google’s mobile services were present, including the Google Play store. In addition to playing Android games, it will also run PC games through the use of a NVIDIA graphics card and their GeForce Experience software. NVIDIA showed off several PC games running through a Steam client, and the graphics and responsiveness were amazing.
Yves Guillemot, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ubisoft, said, “Ubisoft is always excited about new hardware developments, and Project Shield promises to bring both mobile and PC gamers a great new gaming experience. Seeing the PC version of Assassin’s Creed III run on the device is a great example of this, and further strengthens Ubisoft’s long-standing relationship with NVIDIA.”
Even though Project Shield is designed to be a mobile gaming device, it will deliver a great gaming and entertainment experience on the big screen. Games can beamed to a TV through a wired or wireless connection and it can output 4k video through a wired connection. Project Shield also supports Miracast wireless display and several devices will be able to act as “receive targets”. Brian Klug of Anandtech says the upcoming OUYA console will work as a receiver.
Mark Rein, Vice President and co-founder of Epic Games, said, “With Project Shield, NVIDIA brings an uncompromising, high-performance console experience to mobile devices. Amazing games including ‘Real Boxing’ and ‘Hawken,’ which utilize the latest Unreal Engine technology, look fantastic on Project Shield. This is just the beginning, and we’re truly excited to see what more Unreal Engine developers will do with so much horsepower in such a compact gaming device.”
No pricing was announced, but several sites are reporting that Project Shield will launch sometime in Q2. It will go on sale first in the US and Canada, and a worldwide rollout will follow later.
I think NVIDIA could have a potential hit on their hands if they price it low enough, but we will have to wait and see. We would love to see it priced as low as $199, but we wouldn’t be shocked if it goes as high as $399. For comparison, Sony sells their Playstation Vita at $249 and Nintendo’s 3DS now starts at $199.
Head over to Geforce.com for a full teaser video and then let us know what you think. At what price would you be willing to buy a Shield?
Highlights of Project Shield include:
- Tegra 4 processor, the world’s fastest mobile processor, providing unmatched Android gaming performance and graphics quality.
- Pure Android 4.2 Jellybean allows play on Android games and PC games streamed from a GeForce GTX PC.
- 5-inch “retina display” with 1280 x 720 resolution (294 dpi)
- Console-grade controls – the first integrated gaming handheld with full console-grade controls; two joysticks, a D-pad, ABXY buttons, left/right bumpers, left/right analog triggers, Start/Back/Home/Volume buttons, and a multi-function NVIDIA/Power button.
- Integrated speakers: custom, bass-reflex, tuned port audio system delivers fidelity and custom range never before experienced on a portable device
- Customizeable back plate: design your own “shield” that snaps on to the back of the display
- WiFi connectivity: 802.11n 2×2 MIMO game-speed Wi-Fi provides high-bandwidth, ultra-fast wireless for seamless game streaming