Nvidia's Project Shield codenamed Thor is one of those projects that you simply never see coming. Frankly, we didn't quite see it coming, and we don't think many of their competitors did either. With consoles like the OUYA coming out, most people were assuming that Nvidia's involvement in consoles would be limited to supplying chips or helping Valve build a 'Valve Box'.
Nvidia's CEO, Jen Hsun Huang showing off the Shield
With today's announcement, it seems like Nvidia has decided to completely throw caution to the wind and challenge the entire gaming industry. The Shield gaming console represents what is possible when a mobile SoC is backed by an incredibly powerful GPU and the expertise to optimize for gaming.
The Sheid's features some impressive specs, although the price is still unknown. First, it features Nvidia's latest Tegra 4 processor which is supported by three 3400 mAh batteries (that's around the same amount as an iPad). Nvidia's CEO, Jen Hsun Huang, stated in his keynote that the device gets about 10 hours of battery life, which is similar to an iPad as well. The real difference, however, is that this is really not anything like an iPad, in fact it really is the furthest thing from an iPad in almost every way.
The Shield runs bare Android and launches the Shield application separately, allowing for full Android access and usage of the controller without any proprietary interferance. Furthermore, Nvidia continues this pathos with the inclusion of a microSD card slot, microUSB, and microHDMI. There's also a headphone jack for more responsible gaming and media consumption. All displayed on a 720P five inch display.
As you can see in the video that Nvidia made below, it also has a set of tuned speakers among other features, this demo was actually made using Epic's latest Unreal 4 game engine.
The one thing about this device is that it really brings together many of Nvidia's latest technologies and creates a unified usage model. It utilizes some of the technologies from Nvidia GRID
as well as the GeForce Experience
to build Nvidia's own console-like platform. The difference is that Nvidia's console is a mobile chip solution running on a relatively open operating system that connects to a different operating system (Android to Windows PC) and has the ability to play content from both.
The fact that you can play any Android, Tegra Zone, PC or Valve game on the Shield is absolutely amazing. What it does is that it enables users and game developers to create new gaming scenarios that simply did not exist before and it allows for users to harness the power of their gaming computers in ways that they could have never thought before.
The Shield also spits in the face of almost every console manufacturer including Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Judging by the graphics from the games Nvidia was able to show, they're already at or beyond PS3-level graphical capability. It also can do what no current and likely most future consoles cannot do, play back 4K content and display in 4K. That level of quality combined with the portability of a PSVita or Nintendo DS also makes it incredibly dangerous to those console platforms as well. The Nvidia Shield simply is the most desruptive device in the gaming industry since Microsoft's Kinect, which is still having a hard time gaining widespread adoption.
Nvidia's CEO, Jen Hsun Huang playing a Shield game on an LG 4K TV
While we're not entirely sure if this device is what the 'Valve Box' was supposed to be, we can't say that we'd be surprised if it ends up being this. The graphics and graphical capability are absolutely astonishing and we're eagerly awaiting word on pricing and availability, but we've heard that it will likely be available towards the tail end of 2Q 2013.
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