2013 is already looking bright for the gaming industry with several newcomers to the casual/living room gaming hardware world, possibly about to shake up the market currently dominated by Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles. Valve brought Big Picture out of beta just in time for the holiday season last month and has plans to release its own console, tentatively known as the Steam Box, that will compete with the next generation Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 consoles. Just an hour ago, Nvidia, best known for making graphics cards, announced Project Shield – its plans to bring out its own handheld gaming console and a prototype of it.
While it could be described as a 5 inch touchscreen strapped to a base a little over the size of an Xbox controller, the Nvidia Shield is no ordinary portable gaming device. The 5 inch touchscreen hosts multi-touch capabilities and 720p HD resolution with 294 dpi, which is right up there with Retina Displays. The screen opens up in a clamshell manner to reveal a pair of sleek speaker grills and set of controls: two analog sticks, a D-Pad, X-Y A-B face buttons and a center cluster of buttons for Start, volume, back and home; and folds flat for protection and portability.
But that’s not even the main feature… the Nvidia Shield’s form factor may look similar to that of a console controller, but it also hosts an array of the latest hardware within that very same shell! Under the hood, you’ll find Nvidia’s brand new, latest Tegra 4 chip… a brand new component that’s 6 times faster than last year’s Tegra 3 chip found in tablets such as the Nexus 7. The Nvidia Shield boasts the ability to run the upcoming Unreal Engine 4 gaming engine, the successor of the ubiquitous Unreal Engine 3 behind many games we’ve seen on PC, consoles and mobile platforms, and Google Android as its operating system.
You can play games and watch videos on the Nvidia Shield’s 5 inch screen when on the go, and when you’re back home, the little handheld marvel is also capable of piping 4K resolution (quadruple the size of current Full HD) over HDMI to your television. If you’re in the mood for something even more mind-blowing than games for Android, the Nvidia Shield will also be able to pair up with Steam and its Big Picture mode on your PC and stream (via home WiFi network) full PC games in their marvelous glory to either its built-in screen or to your television as described above. This allows you to play PC games on any television or monitor as long as your home Wi-Fi can reach that area. For all that to happen, Nvidia does mention your PC has to be decent enough to run those games in the first place (since the Shield merely acts as a streaming client) and stipulates you need to have a Nvidia Kepler-based graphics card (meaning a 2012 GTX 650 or GTX 660M or higher for desktops and laptops respectively).
Nvidia has plants to equip the Sheild with a 33 Wh battery which will allow for 5 to 10 hours of gameplay or 24 hours of video playback. Nvidia does have plans to turn this into a reality, though they haven’t given a price or exact release date yet, you can expect the Shield to ship in Q2 of 2013. Just in time for summer (or winter if you’re in Australia).