NVIDIA made a surprise announcement ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Sunday, unveiling Project SHIELD, a portable gaming device for open platforms including both the Android and the personal computer. As an Android alternative, the device replaces the smartphone’s touch screen controls with a sportier, easier to use game handset. As a PC extension, it provides extremely low latency and fast graphics for a superior multiplayer gaming experience.
NVIDIA said SHIELD is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2013, beginning in the US and Canada. Pricing for the device was not disclosed. There was also no word from the company as to whether it would support Apple App Store or Facebook games.
The device shown to reporters is built like a standard game controller but with a flip-up 5-inch, 1280×720 HD retinal display. The device can operate as a fully independent game platform, or it can be used as a wireless client to a GeForce GTX-enabled PC. Either way, it supports existing open ecosystems enabling instant access to a wide variety of available game titles.
“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 CEO of 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.”
The heart of the device is a new and very powerful Tegra 4 processor and a Kepler architecture including an ultra-fast H.264 hardware encoder for real-time streaming. HD gameplay can be captured, encoded, and streamed with very low latency.
The fast streaming capability allows SHIELD to operate as a wireless handheld counterpart to a GeForce GTX PC. Without the low latency, the two devices would not operate in sync and multiple gameplayers would immediately notice a difference.
The brawn behind this capability is the Tegra 4, the world’s fastest mobile processor. It is powered by a quad core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and 72 custom GPU cores – six times the GPU horsepower of its predecessor. Through its second-generation battery saver core and PRISM 2 Display technology, Tegra 4 provides hours of gameplay on a single charge.
The game controller itself features a full console-grade controller with 2 joysticks, a D-pad, ABXY buttons, left/right bumpers, left/right analog triggers, Start/Back/Home/Volume buttons, and a multi-function NVIDIA/Power button.
The integrated, HD multi-touch display features 294 dpi and 921,600 pixels, which NVIDIA claims is the highest resolution and pixel density of any handheld gaming device. In addition, Tegra 4’s Direct Touch technology gives SHIELD touch response three times faster than other touch devices, said an NVIDIA statement.