NVIDIA Debuts "Shield Tablet" Specs with TEGRA K1 GPU; Shield Controller

By Published July 22, 2014 at 8:58 am

No -- this isn't Maxwell news, though I do have some comments on that below. GPU manufacturer nVidia announced today the unveiling of its new "Shield Tablet," an addition to the existing Shield family. NVidia calls its new tablet "the first tablet for gamers," shipping with LTE and wireless PC game streaming, 720p Twitch broadcast, and GRID integration.

The Shield Tablet fills very similar use case markets as the Shield intends to, though it adds a few features for more non-gaming implementations. One of these includes a graphics-accelerated painting and tinkering application (Dabbler) that shows pigment and paint mixing in real time, along with bleeding and light source adjustment.

Ultimately, though, the new Shield Tablet is targeted at "mobile gamers" who'd like a toy on the go. And I am still of the opinion that tablets are primarily just that -- toys. Let's look at the specs.

NVidia Shield Tablet Specs, Price, & Release Date

Processor NVIDIA TEGRA K1
192-core 2GB Kepler GPU
2.2GHz Quad-Core A15 ARM CPU
Connectivity Wireless only ($300 model) OR
Wireless + LTE ($400 model)
Storage 16GB ($300 model) OR
32GB ($400 model)
Expansion: Micro SD up to 128GB
Display 8" 1920x1200 IPS Display
Features Stylus included with 3D Paint
Shield controller compatibility
NVidia GameStream
NVidia ShadowPlay
GRID Gaming On-Demand Beta
"Console Mode" (connect it to a TV)
Gamepad mapper
NVidia TegraZone -> Shield Hub
4K video playback & encoding ready
Audio Two front-facing, stereo speakers
Dual-bass reflex port
Cameras Front: 5MP HDR
Back: 5MP auto-focus HDR
Wireless, SIM,
GPS
802.11N 2x2 MIMO (2.4/5GHz)
NO wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS / GLONASS
9-axis g-sensor, compass, & gyro
Micro-SIM
Cellular Carriers NA:

Unlocked (AT&T, T-Mobile).
LTE, HSPA+, 3G, 2G, GSM, EDGE.

Outside NA:

Unlocked ("please check brands supported").
LTE, HSPA+, 3G, 2G, GSM, EDGE.
Cellular Bands NA:

LTE Bands: 2, 4, 5, 7, 17 (1900, 1700, 850, 2600, 700).
HSPA+ Bands: 1, 2, 4, 5 (2100, 1900, 1700, 850).

Outside NA:

LTE Bands: 1*, 3, 7, 20 (2100, 1800, 2600, 800).
HSPA+ Bands: 1, 2, 5, 8 (2100, 1900, 850, 900).

* = Certain regions band 1 & voice support enabled.
Display / IO Mini-HDMI 1.4a
Micro-USB 2.0 with host and device support
3.5mm audio support (headphone/mic)
Battery 10 hours HD video playback.
19.75 Watt-hour Lithium-Ion
Bundled Tech / Games Trine 2
NVIDIA Dabbler
Multi-language handwriting recognition
JusWrite
Write
Evernote
Adobe Reader
Camera Awesome
Shield Hub
Dimensions 221mm x 126mm x 9.2mm
(8.8" x 5" x 0.36")

390g / 13.7 oz.
MSRP $300 - 16GB / Wireless
$400 - 32GB / LTE + Wireless
Release Date USA & CAN: July 29, 2014
EU: August 14, 2014
More regions: Fall, 2014.

NVidia Shield Controller Specs

Wireless WiFi Direct connectivity
I/O 3.5mm stereo headphone/mic jack
Micro-USB 2.0 (charging or wired gameplay)
Input Dual-analog joysticks
D-pad
L/R analog triggers
L/R bumpers
A/B/X/Y buttons
Volume +/- buttons (maybe touch?)
Android Home & Back
Start button
NVIDIA power / multi-function button
Capacitive multi-touch touchpad with button
Battery Rechargeable Li-Ion
Compatibility Shield Tablet
Shield Portable
MSRP $60

NVidia Shield Tablet Features, Opinions

nv-shield-tab2Apparently gaming is a truck and laptops... are a sports car?

The "Shield Proper," we'll call it, has picked up game compatibility substantially over its 2Q13 numbers. NVidia reports approximately ~170 compatible Android games with ~130 compatible GameStream titles (streamed from PC), compared to about 60 Android and 25 GameStream titles in July, 2013. We're told that the tablet should offer even greater support of future games given its more familiar architecture to consoles and traditional PCs.

The 192-core TEGRA K1 mobile GPU supports OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenGL 4.4, DirectX 12 (which nVidia has heavily pushed since Mantle's growth), AEP, tessellation, and CUDA 6 (giving way to enterprise showcase potential). NVidia assures us that this list of acronyms and technologies means less porting work is required on behalf of game and software developers.

In terms of its actual uses, the Shield Tablet effectively mirrors the Shield, just with expanded hardware and connectivity. Streaming games from a PC or beta GRID server (effectively "games on demand") is possible, just as with the Shield, and host Android play is also fully supported. NVidia emphasized that the tablet features no reskinning or OS customization; instead, the company opted for a native Android install with the "Shield Hub" application serving as a central shop. The Hub is effectively a glorified Android Market that lists compatible PC Stream and Android game titles, including those hosted on a Kepler- or Maxwell-powered PC.

NVidia takes pride in its compatibility with 720/24p Twitch streaming and ShadowPlay functionality, coupled with a front-facing 5MP camera for picture-in-picture streaming. If you'd prefer to use the 8" screen for portable gaming while retaining streaming ability, it would appear that the Shield Tablet is worth investigation. NVidia boasts 4K readiness for video playback and encoding, but it should be noted that the device is fully incapable of playing games at a 4K resolution. To clarify, this is because the Shield Tablet can export its display to a TV (or other display) with a higher resolution than the tablet's 1920x1200 host output.

nv-shield-tab4

The tablet connects wirelessly to a standalone Shield controller (no screen) with a target latency of 10ms -- about 2x faster than most Bluetooth controllers -- and can stream about 24Mbps between the tablet and controller. The input is about on-par with an Xbox 360 wireless controller.

Two versions of Shield Tablet exist: a $300 MSRP version including 16GB of storage / wireless and a $400 32GB version with LTE support (additional fees from your carrier). A $40 cover (doubles as a "kickstand") is also sold by nVidia, along with a $60 wireless Shield Controller -- which is mostly the same as the Shield's controller layout.

nv-shield-tab3

GN Staff Writer Scott Griffin joined me for this call, and in our brief discussion afterward, we both decided that it's a niche market. I'm just not sure that I can be convinced that I want a tablet like this -- but do feel free to tell us in the comments why you think it'd be a good fit for your gaming needs. Personally, I find tablets largely uninteresting. The artistic uses with GPU-accelerated painting are fun, but a professional artist would likely prefer to couple a GPU-equipped system with a high-end drawing tablet with greater pressure sensitivity. In that regard, I suppose it goes back to what I said earlier: It makes for a fun toy to play around with.

The take-away here is GRID. We've been talking to nVidia about GRID for a pretty long time now, but they haven't felt comfortable enough to show it publicly. This is sort of a quiet / soft-launch of GRID beta with an nVidia device. On-demand gaming has the potential to become a major offering from cable providers (and sites like Amazon, which already has GRID servers). NVidia's vision, as far as I can see it, is that gamers will plug an affordable Chrome Stick-like device (or this tablet) into their TVs, then stream a game on-demand from the service provider.

What about Maxwell, Damn It?! 

NVidia still hasn't said anything about Maxwell since the initial 750 Ti launch, unless you count the 860M and other mobile GPUs. In fact, the GTC keynote entirely skipped Maxwell and looked strictly at Pascal and beyond -- something that surprised the murmuring press in the room.

That said, Maxwell does exist and is on its way. I have personally provided design input to a few different manufacturers on upcoming Maxwell cards and can confirm that something's coming -- it's just a matter of when nVidia is ready for a launch. We've seen some interesting boards so far.

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Last modified on July 22, 2014 at 8:58 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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