Talking tech since 2003

Last summer, graphics chip maker Nvidia released the Shield, an all-in-one portable Android console and controller whose main trick was being able to stream games from your PC over local Wi-Fi. Today, Nvidia’s back with a new gaming device – the Shield Tablet – and at $299, it might be the best Android tablet available for gamers. The question, of course, is whether there are any gamers who will want to pay around $400 for the full package.

First, the basics: the base model of the Shield Tablet costs $299 alone, and boasts an Nvidia Tegra K1 GPU, a mighty powerful graphics chip, paired with a 2.2 GHz ARM Cortex CPU and 2 GB of RAM, all pumping into an 8-inch display with 1080p HD. These are beefy specs for any tablet, and considering this thing is built for gaming, there’s no question it’ll be able to handle just about whatever someone throws at it. The $299 model offers 16 GB of internal storage and Wi-Fi capability, while a hundred dollars more will double the internal storage and also provide 4G LTE data capabilities. No details are offered about data plans, though I think these days most carriers will offer plans for tablets you bring to their services. And hey! It also comes with a nice little stylus.

But if you want to actually play games, you’ll probably want to get the Shield Controller, which connect with the tablet via Wi-Fi Direct for “incredibly low latency and superior performance compared top standard Bluetooth controllers.” Each one – the Shield Tablet supports up to four at a time – will set you back $59.99. Then, if you want to stand the tablet up, you’ll also need the Shield Tablet Cover, which is another $39.99. It works like the magnetic covers for the iPad in that it doubles as a multi-angle stand. And, really, you should always have a cover for your tablet to protect the screen, right? But all together, we’re talking – minimum, and without tax – $400 for an Android tablet.

Nvidia has done a decent job of positioning this as a viable gaming option, though. It supports Wi-Fi streaming of all your PC games. You can also plug the Shield Tablet into your television via HDMI, and it’s struck a deal with Valve for Android ports of classic PC games like Half-Life 2 and Portal, both of which are exclusive to Nvidia’s gaming devices. The Shield Tablet adds another game to the mix, with Trine 2 pre-loaded.

shield-tablet-standAt the end of the day, though, we’re talking $400 for an Android tablet that plays Android games. Ouya and GameStick seemed like they would usher in a low-priced gaming revolution with their inexpensive micro-consoles, but gamers have by and large ignored them, and subsequently forgotten that they even exist. Why should Nvidia’s more expensive Android tablet succeed where those other devices failed?

Sure, the Shield Tablet is way more powerful, and thus, more capable of offering high performance games. And with so much power under the hood, the Nvidia Shield could be the anti-iPad. But at the end of the day, the Nvidia Shield is a pricey device that doesn’t seem to offer much must-have capabilities. I wouldn’t turn one down if someone gifted it to me, but I can think of a few great gaming options that cost around the same amount (like a PlayStation 4? Or an Xbox One?) that will offer much more utility and longevity.

Maybe I’m missing something important, but it seems like the Shield Tablet might be too niche to enjoy a healthy life. I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was Nvidia’s last foray into making devices. That said, I could be wrong! Does the Shield Tablet get you excited?

[Nvidia Shield Tablet]

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