Nvidia Introduces New Games Console, “Project Shield”

Project Shield Has High Hopes for Gaming

The most surprising thing about Nvidia’s Project Shield isn’t that Nvidia’s trying to build a console of their very own, it’s that ¬†they managed to keep the damn thing a secret long enough to have a press conference where it could actually surprise anyone. That said, let’s get to the meat and potatoes, shall we? Follow me past the break for screenshots and full details on the specs of this Tegra 4 monster.

Nvidia’s new device looks to be the threesome love-child of the Xbox 360’s controller, the Playstation Vita’s massive, beautiful screen, and Nintendo DS’s clamshell design. It’s powered by their new uber-badass Tegra 4 processor, which sports a quad core ARM A-15 design (with, of course, a low power “+1” processing core for low energy stuff) and a staggering 72 graphics cores, all in an energy efficient chip. The LCD is wrapped in a nice, protective clamshell design that’s reminiscent of Nintendo’s DS/3DS family of portables, but without the bottom screen.

The controller, as you can see in the screengrabs above, appears to be a blend of the Xbox 360’s controller with the Playstation’s. According to Nvidia’s size chart, it sits somewhere a little larger than the Xbox 360 pad, but a good deal smaller than the Wii U gamepad, so assuming the weight of that screen doesn’t throw off the controller’s balance, it should feel alright in the hand. It’s well established that the 360 controller has probably the best ergonomics of any games console on the market, so it’s good to see they’re copying from a proven source.

Games will come directly from the Android marketplace Google Play Store (which brings up a question: aside from the hardware, how is Nvidia gonna monetize this thing?) and from Nvidia’s own Tegra Zone. According to Nvidia, in fact, they’re using a bone-stock version of Android Jellybean with no custom skinning whatsoever. That should be nice for uniformity, but it does make me wonder how well that’ll work out for basic navigation.

They’ll be played on the built-in 5 inch, 720p multitouch, capacitive LCD screen that has a Retina Display quality pixel density of 293ppi, which should make just about everyone except Sony and Nintendo very happy. From what they’ve shown so far, games look positively gorgeous on this thing, and the device will even support direct HDMI output to a 4K television. Whether you’ll want to revert back to the age of wired controller gaming is a question that might not be worth asking, but I guess time will tell.

Project Shield boasts what Nvidia is calling a “Custom, Bass-reflex, tuned-port audio system,” which hopefully means the speakers won’t sound nearly as tinny as small portable device speakers tend to.

On the wireless gaming front, Project Shield boasts 802.11n wifi connectivity with a dual 2×2 MIMO antenna, meaning we should see some fairly lag-free performance when connected to wifi routers or access points that also support MIMO.

Perhaps the most interesting and potentially groundbreaking feature of Project Shield, though, is the ability to wirelessly stream games directly from your Geforce GTX powered gaming PC over Wifi with little or no lag. Whether this will work as advertised remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting promise that really does have the potential, assuming that pricing is somewhere that gamers will be willing to tread, to bring PC gaming back into the mainstream and obviate the need for new consoles altogether. Imagine being able to buy one reasonably well powered PC, load it with your games, and trek wherever you want in the house to play. The idea treads close to Wii U’s territory but does still have a significant drawback: the necessity of a wire to get your game onto your big screen.

So what do you think? Does Nvidia have a serious prospect on its hands here, or is it another engineering sample doomed to never see the light of day? Did they just kick Ouya and similar Android based gaming consoles square in the nuts? Should Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft be quaking in their boots? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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