Nvidia puts its SHIELD around tablet gaming

We don't tend to cover product releases here at DeveloperTech, but when we do, it tends to be because we believe they have the potential to be a game-changer. The graphic chip gurus at Nvidia released their intriguing yet limited controller-with-a-screen last year – and now they're back with a much-improved successor.

The follow-up device unleashes the controller from the screen so it can be used as a standard tablet when needed. It runs (almost) stock Android 4.4 KitKat, and its hardware visually appears like a bigger HTC One with its metal-look chassis and dual front speaker set-up. Talking of visuals, we're looking at a 1920 x 1200 resolution presented in a widescreen-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio.

It is what the SHIELD is packing under its hood to push its pixels which is most impressive however, starting with Nvidia's state-of-the-art 192-core Tegra K1. The K1, for comparison, has approximately twice the graphical prowess of the current iPad Air. Nvidia's new SHIELD device also has a "smart cover" much akin to Apple's device which can be used as a stand. This is useful when paired with its controller for gaming on-the-move and allows for far more versatility than its predecessor.

The gaming pad itself is still solid and continues to resemble the Xbox controller. Whereas the previous device used Bluetooth for communication, however, the new iteration uses a high-end Wi-Fi connection for higher data throughput and lower latency which is key when gaming. It also includes a touchpad in its lower-centre and a microphone for chat. The controller will retail for $60 in the US and around the £40 mark in the UK.

Unlike the iPad, the Tegra K1 caters more specifically towards gamers. As such, it has a HDMI-out port which you can link to a bigger screen for a truly console-like experience. Like the previous device, PC games can also be streamed to the device through the aptly-named 'GameStream'.

One of the most appealing software features for mobile gamers is the addition of popular game service Twitch whereby you can stream your gameplay live over the service and even use picture-in-picture from the five megapixel front-facing camera to communicate with your viewers and followers in real-time. This feature will also work on PC games streamed to the device with "negligible hit on game performance" Nvidia states.

It's a surprise the new SHIELD isn't packing the 64-bit version of the K1 which would likely show dramatic improvement over the 32-bit 'A15' version through touting two high-power 'Denver' cores. We can only guess the new chip will be delayed until 2015.

Update: DigitalFoundry went hands-on with the device and assessed its performance: "We saw Half-Life 2 and Portal running on the device, with significant image quality improvements over the same code running on Tegra 4, giving a far more PC-like experience."

"We also saw Frozenbyte's Trine 2 - bundled free with the device - running at 720p in the same 30fps ballpark as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game."

Do you think Nvidia's new SHIELD tablet is a game-changer? Let us know in the comments.

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