Yesterday I took a look at the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 tablet prototype which was an interesting gaming tablet, but the one that is raising most of the questions for gamers is NVidia’s Project SHIELD game system. Looking like a game controller with a five inch touch screen added on the top of it, NVIDIA promise a platform where Android games can be played and full scale PC games can be streamed to the games system and played through the use of shared processing with your computer. This is an interesting idea but also raises a lot of questions.
As tablets and other mobile systems look to steal some of the fire from consoles and PC gaming NVIDIA may be onto something unique with the idea of streaming to an Android tablet like this and it’s a concept that may just work. With questions though on processing power required from the PC and the pricing of the system itself there may be quite risky for the company and too expensive for the average gamer to consider.
As I said in the introduction Project SHIELD as NVIDIA call it looks like a gamepad with a touch screen added on top. The gamepad itself looks reminiscent to the Dreamcast controller from the now long dead console but does feature everything that you would expect from a console, with added features such as speakers and a few extra buttons such as home and back buttons which are obviously for the Android touch screen.
The black colouring and nice design though does make SHIELD look good and it definitely will catch interest in that respect, but it’s questionable as to how comfortable the controller will feel in your hand, especially when you want to use the multi touch screen features as well. It may take some time to get used to the feel of it, but it does show some potential.
Project SHIELD will come with the Jelly Bean variety of the Android Operating system and will be a fully working 5-inch tablet (other than 3G connectivity, this will be through Wi-Fi which will include connecting to your PC for streaming). This game system though portable in nature is probably designed to be used around the house, especially to play your PC games. The fact is though as well as Android games you’ll have the ability to download all kinds of apps onto the system itself. For games you’ll also be able to use the NVIDIA TegraZone to download games too.
At 5-inch the screen looks perfect for Android games and I’m sure there will be little issues. NVIDIA state it’s also multi-touch which is pretty standard with tablets such as this now. The problem I can see is with the PC game streaming. Games on the PC rely on big screens, rich textures and high resolutions to look good so it’s debatable whether they will really get a lot out of running on a small 5-inch screen. The idea of streaming the games is quite fun, and quite a gimmick but it’s questionable really if you would want to run a game like Skyrim on such a small screen, though it should be noted an HDMI socket is provided to connect to a TV but that defeats the purpose really. If the games themselves look good enough then this may be an interesting concept. It is fair to say that NVIDIA do know what they are doing when it comes to getting the most out of hardware graphically, and with their new Tegra 4 chip it will be interesting what they can pull out of it.
The power for Project SHIELD will come down to what the Tegra 4 chip can provide. This is a quad-core processor so will provide all the performance needed for the Android side of things. Graphically NVIDIA also state the GPU horsepower is six times that of the Tegra 3, so there is a lot promised from the new chip. Future reviews will of course be able to look at just how good the chip is, especially when it comes to streaming. It’s also interesting to note that to work alongside the chip the Android Operating System is unmodified which is fairly unique from manufacturers now.
The interesting part is the specs required for the PC you are wanting to stream your games from (which is its main selling point. System requirements at the time of writing (and are likely to change) are an Intel i5 or equivalent CPU, GTX 650 or 660M(Notebook) GPU as minimum, 4GB or RAM and Windows 7 or higher. A router will also be needed for the Wi-fi element of the system. This is a fairly powerful machine to have to stream from, so again questions are raised again.
There are a lot of questions around Project SHIELD but there is also a lot to be excited about. The gaming system gives you all the best from Android gaming and also provides the capability to stream PC games and play them anywhere around your house. The question is though is there really a need for it?
Another big question will be what NVIDIA are looking to price the system at, which in ways could make or break the success of SHIELD. Gamers won’t want to pay more than they would for a console, and if the price comes anywhere near a cheap gaming PC it’s likely that many will be put off by this. This creates an argument that Project SHIELD would have to be fairly cheap or interest will vanish quite quickly, and in the end if it’s only streaming games from the PC do we really need that? When tablets are coming out that can power console quality games without the need to stream from a powerful PC will they be a more interesting route instead? Time will tell on this one, and it may be a fact that the Android gaming will dominate the gaming system anyway.