In the words of my colleague Joe Hindy, the Project Shield is the bomb that Nvidia just dropped over Las Vegas, the host of CES 2013. While the Tegra 4 chip was pretty much what we expected, and the new Icera i500 programmable modem was a reasonable surprise, no one expected Nvidia to come up with a stock Android handheld console that can play Android and PC titles and stream them to your HDTV.
Here’s our live event video documenting the launch of Project Shield (it’s not clear at this point if this will be the commercial name of the device).
If you want to learn more, we’ve compiled all the available information on the Project Shield specs, features, availability, and pricing. Check it out.
Project Shield is powered by Tegra 4, Nvidia’s freshly unveiled quad-core Cortex A15 chip. All the details on Tegra 4 here.
The amounts of RAM and storage have not been announced yet. We assume that the device features 2GB of RAM. Users will be able to expand storage using a microSD slot. Ports include a USB port, a standard audio jack, and HDMI output.
Apparently, the device will support LTE, although at this point the beta version we were shown only supports WiFi.
The Shield comes with built-in Li-Ion batteries rated at 38Whr. Nvidia says that playing PC games on the Shield (see below) will not require that much battery juice, because all the hard work is done by the PC. The Tegra 4 chip is said to be more power efficient than the Tegra 3, which could also contribute to an extensive battery life for the Shield.
Nvidia promises between 5 and 10 hours of gaming for the Shield and up to 24 hours of HD video playback. We have to wonder about the weight of the device, considering how quickly a 3D game can munch through a regular smartphone battery. To achieve 5 to 10 hours of gaming, Nvidia must have fitted the Shield with some extra-large batteries.
Nvidia calls the controller on the Shield “console-grade”, and from the looks of it, the device delivers on the promise. At first glance, you could even mistake the Shield for a PS3 DualShock 3 controller.
The Shield controller buttons and sticks:
- 2 joysticks
- a D-pad
- ABXY buttons
- left/right bumpers
- left/right analog triggers
- Start/Back/Home/Volume buttons
- a multi-function NVIDIA/Power button.
The Shield incorporates a flipping 5-inch display, with a 1280 x 720 (HD) resolution. Nvidia somehow dubiously calls the display on Project Shield “retinal”. In non-marketing speak, the screen boasts a 294ppi pixel density, which makes the Shield better than direct competitors, such as the Sony Vita and the Wii U.
Nvidia also claims that the touch response of the Project Shield’s display is three times better than other, unspecified, devices, thanks to Tegra 4’s Direct Touch technology.
Nvidia highlighted the dual speakers of the Shield, which are “custom designed to take advantage of the controller’s deep body”. Also, the controller features two tuned ports for better bass response. The Santa Clara-based company claims that this speakers setup provides a better sound than many high-end laptops.
Stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and ecosystem
The Project Shield runs stock Android 4.2. Kudos to Nvidia for acknowledging that the latest iteration of Android is a great operating system with a great interface, that doesn’t require tweaking and skinning just for the sake of it.
Because Shield runs stock Android, users will have access to all the 600,000+ apps in the Play Store, all the Google services, and all the media content (music, movies, and books) in Google’s store.
Nvidia revealed that Android games optimized for Project Shield would be made available in the TegraZone portal. These include so far:
- Arma Tactics
- Blood Sword
- Burn Zombie Burn
- Dead Trigger 2
- Real Boxing
Check out one of the first demos of Android title on Nvidia Shield – Dead Trigger 2 courtesy of MobileGeeks:
PC games and Steam
Project Shield’s most amazing feature is the ability to connect to an Nvidia GTX-powered PC and play PC titles. Moreover, because the Shield also acts like a streaming station, it lets you play your PC games on your HDTV, wirelessly.
Here’s how it works – a PC equipped with a GeForce GTX 650 (Desktop) or GTX 660M (Notebook) video card or higher does all the work and streams it wirelessly to the Shield. This is made possible by the fast H.264 hardware encoder that Nvidia baked into its Kepler architecture. The encoder converts the HD gameplay and streams it to the handheld at very low latency. When the user pushes a button, the signal is beamed back to the PC, and the game reacts.
All this is done through Steam, the popular gaming service, meaning that you will need to purchase games through Steam to play them on the Shield. Steam provides the Big Picture mode, which is a UI specifically designed for big screens.
The technology is similar with how game streaming services such as OnLive or Gaikai work, except the server is your own PC. However, at least at first look, Project Shield enables much better looking HD gameplay than the mentioned cloud-based services.
To summarize, the Shield’s unique PC streaming capability will allow you to enjoy your PC games from anywhere in your home, even from your couch while playing on your big screen TV.
According to Nvidia, the following specs are required to stream PC games on the Shield:
- GPU: NVIDIA® Kepler™-based GeForce GTX 650 (Desktop) or GTX 660M (Notebook) or higher
- CPU: Intel Core i5 or equivalent or higher
- System Memory: 4 GB or higher
- Software: GeForce Experience™ application and latest GeForce drivers
- OS: Windows 7 or higher
- Router: Router: 802.11a/g/n (Recommended: 802.11n Dual Band / MIMO Router)
PC games supported
Nvidia says that any PC game that supports controllers can be played on the Shield, and, even if the game does not support controllers natively, users will be able to map controls to the joystick and the buttons of the device.
During the CES demo, we’ve seen the Shield running Assassins Creed 3 flawlessly and beaming it to a HDTV. Another impressive demo was Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which ran without glitches, and with almost no perceptible lag.
PC titles that Nvidia features on its website are:
- Assassin’s Creed 3
- Battlefield 3
- Borderlands 2
- Portal 2
In addition to Steam games, it seems that Nvidia will start offering PC titles through its TegraZone portal. We have nothing official on that, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Check out one of this demo of Need for Speed: Most Wanted running on the Nvidia Shield, courtesy of MobileGeeks:
Nvidia Shield price and availability
Nvidia has stubbornly avoided giving hints about the price of the Project Shield, but at least it conceded an “anticipated ship date” – Q2 2013. In the first stage, the Shield will only sell in the United States and Canada, with more regions to be added “as soon as possible”.
But how much can we expect the Project Shield to cost? Given the technology that goes inside the handheld console, we think that the Shield will cost about the same as a high-end smartphone. However, Nvidia needs to balance its margins with the need to be competitive against handheld consoles, like the Sony Vita and the Wii U, and also against smartphones and tablets. With handhelds costing $250-$300 and subsidized smartphones and tablets hovering in the same price range, pricing the Shield right could be a tough call for Nvidia.
Update: Nvidia now suggests that the Shield won’t be sold at a cost. We think a hefty price tag is very possible.
Stay tuned on Android Authority – we’ll bring you more details as we find them out. Meanwhile, you can check out Nvidia’s press release.[press]
NVIDIA Untethers Gaming With Project SHIELD
Sunday, January 6, 2013
CES — NVIDIA today announced Project SHIELD, a gaming portable for open platforms, designed for gamers who yearn to play when, where and how they want.
Created with the philosophy that gaming should be open and flexible, Project SHIELD flawlessly plays both Android and PC titles. As a pure Android device, it gives access to any game on Google Play. And as a wireless receiver and controller, it can stream games from a PC powered by NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX GPUs, accessing titles on its STEAM game library from anywhere in the home.
“Project SHIELD was created by NVIDIA engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and chief executive officer at NVIDIA. “We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love SHIELD as much as we do.”
Project SHIELD combines the advanced processing power of NVIDIA Tegra® 4, breakthrough game-speed Wi-Fi technology and stunning HD video and audio built into a console-grade controller. It can be used to play on its own integrated screen or on a big screen, and on the couch or on the go.
Tegra 4 at Its Heart
At the core of Project SHIELD is the world’s fastest mobile processor, the new NVIDIA Tegra 4, which delivers enormous power from its custom 72-core GeForce GPU and the first quad-core application of ARM’s most advanced CPU core, the Cortex-A15. These, combined with its battery-saver core and energy-saving PRISM 2 technology, deliver hours of gameplay on a single charge.
Windows and Android Games
Windows and Android are the world’s most successful computing platforms, with massive ecosystems of system and software developers. While not specifically designed for gaming, both open platforms have drawn gamers by the millions. Project SHIELD is designed to allow them to enjoy Android and Windows games in a new, exciting way.
Project SHIELD can instantly download Android games, including Android-optimized titles available on NVIDIA’s TegraZone™ game store, which has already delivered more than 6 million downloads to gamers. It can also be used as a wireless game receiver to a nearby PC equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 GPU or higher.
Project SHIELD’s ergonomic controller was built for the gamer who wants ultimate control and precision.
Retinal Gaming Display
Brilliant gameplay and video are provided by Project SHIELD’s integrated 5-inch, 1280×720 HD retinal multitouch display, with 294 dpi. Plus, Tegra 4 with Direct Touch technology gives it touch responsiveness that is a more consistent, accurate and smooth-flowing touch input experience than a standard touch device.
Tuned Port, Bass Reflex Portable Speaker System
Deep, rich audio is critical for a great gaming experience. And Project SHIELD provides fidelity and dynamic range never before available on a portable device, through its custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system — with twice the low-frequency output of high-end laptops.
Project SHIELD can also access Android apps such as Hulu, Netflix and Slacker Radio, so users can enjoy their movies and music anywhere without expensive, clumsy wired or wireless speakers.
Support by Leading Industry Analyst
Patrick Moorhead, president and lead analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said: “The market has waited years for a breakthrough gaming device that offers the flexibility, quality and total enjoyment of Project SHIELD. Few companies other than NVIDIA have the vision, guts and deep gaming experience to have pulled this off.”
Support by Leading Game Developers
Yves Guillemot, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ubisoft, said: “Ubisoft is always excited about new hardware developments, and Project SHIELD promises to bring both mobile and PC gamers a great new gaming experience. Seeing the PC version of Assassin’s Creed III run on the device is a great example of this, and further strengthens Ubisoft’s long-standing relationship with NVIDIA.”
Mark Rein, vice president and co-founder of Epic Games, said: “With Project SHIELD, NVIDIA brings an uncompromising, high-performance console experience to mobile devices. Amazing games including Real Boxing and Hawken, which utilize the latest Unreal Engine technology, look fantastic on Project SHIELD. This is just the beginning, and we’re truly excited to see what more Unreal Engine developers will do with so much horsepower in such a compact gaming device.”
Bill Wagner, chief production officer at Meteor Entertainment, said: “Coming from the openness of a PC platform, we love how accessible Project SHIELD is, and the flexibility it gives gamers everywhere. Project SHIELD gives us the cutting-edge ability to bring a huge free-to-play PC game like Hawken to the handheld gaming audience.”
Support by Broader Industry
“Shadowgun and Dead Trigger showed how Tegra can redefine mobile gaming on Android. Project SHIELD’s performance has allowed us to bring an even better experience with Dead Trigger 2, debuting first on Tegra 4 devices. Our fans are going to love it.”
– Marek Rabas, chief executive officer of MADFINGER Games
“Project SHIELD has changed how we approach mobile game development. Tegra 4 helped us create Bloodsword — a new game debuting with the highest resolution textures, graphics and shading we’ve ever seen on a portable device.”
– Seunghee Do, co-founder at OneQ Soft
“We are very excited to be part of Project SHIELD, and are quite amazed by the gaming potential of this device. Project SHIELD is by far the fastest mobile device we’ve worked on and it lets us put console quality graphics on a handheld device.”
– Stine Waern, chief executive officer at Ravn Studio AS
“Thanks to Project SHIELD’s performance, we’re able to use the same quality textures and shaders in Rochard as on the PC version. We’re super excited to bring Rochard to Project SHIELD, the first time it’s ever been playable on a mobile device.”
– Jan Achrenius, chief executive officer at Recoil Games
“Put simply, Project SHIELD is an amazing leap forward, enabling us to create console-quality visuals previously unthinkable on a mobile platform.”
– Arden Aspinall, chief executive officer and project lead at TickTock Games Ltd.
More information is available at shield.nvidia.com.
NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) awakened the world to computer graphics when it invented the GPUin 1999. Today, its processors power a broad range of products from smartphones tosupercomputers. NVIDIA’s mobile processors are used in cell phones, tablets and auto infotainment systems. PC gamers rely on GPUs to enjoy spectacularly immersive worlds. Professionals use them to create 3D graphics and visual effects in movies and to design everything from golf clubs to jumbo jets. And researchers utilize GPUs to advance the frontiers of science with high performance computing. The company has more than 5,000 patents issued, allowed or filed, including ones covering ideas essential to modern computing. For more information, see www.nvidia.com.
Certain statements in this press release including, but not limited to, statements as to: the impact, performance and benefits of Project SHIELD and the effects of the company’s patents on modern computing are forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause results to be materially different than expectations. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include: global economic conditions; our reliance on third parties to manufacture, assemble, package and test our products; the impact of technological development and competition; development of new products and technologies or enhancements to our existing product and technologies; market acceptance of our products or our partners products; design, manufacturing or software defects; changes in consumer preferences or demands; changes in industry standards and interfaces; unexpected loss of performance of our products or technologies when integrated into systems; as well as other factors detailed from time to time in the reports NVIDIA files with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, including its Form 10-Q for the fiscal period ended October 28, 2012. Copies of reports filed with the SEC are posted on the company’s website and are available from NVIDIA without charge. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and speak only as of the date hereof, and, except as required by law, NVIDIA disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect future events or circumstances.
© 2013 NVIDIA Corporation. All rights reserved. NVIDIA, the NVIDIA logo, GeForce, Tegra and PRISM are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of NVIDIA Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated. Features, pricing, availability and specifications are subject to change without notice.[/press]