Nvidia Shield Tablet review: the ultimate gamers' tablet?

Nvidia has launched what it calls the first truly gaming-focussed tablet. But does it deliver on its promise?

LAST UPDATED AT 16:14 ON Wed 23 Jul 2014

The original Nvidia Shield was a hybrid device that attempted to fuse a mobile phone-sized screen with an Xbox-style games controller. The result was "truly strange", Engadget said, but it received surprisingly positive reviews – although not strong enough to convince the company to launch the Shield outside the US.

Instead, Nvidia is has come up with a new gizmo to send to foreign shores – the Nvidia Shield Tablet – which separates the screen from the controller, to create a more traditional standalone tablet and gamepad. So does it work?

A tablet designed for gamers

"This is the ultimate tablet for gamers," Chris Daniel, a senior product manager at Nvidia, told the BBC at a launch event in London. Nvidia claims that the Shield Tablet, which can be used on its own or in conjunction with a computer, offers "near-console" graphics quality when connected to a TV and used to stream PC games. 

The eight-inch tablet and a bespoke wireless controller have been received positively. The device's powerful processor and graphics circuit mean that games "run smoother and look better than they do on rival tablets," says Trusted Reviews.

Mobile controller

The Nvidia Shield Tablet's wireless controller will be sold separately for £49.99, but it won't be much use without the £239 tablet. It's configured more or less like an Xbox controller, except that the left analogue stick is swapped with the D-pad.

It has an inbuilt microphone and a jack for a stereo headset, as well as a multi-touch touchpad to emulate some of the functionality of a touchscreen. Several controllers can be paired with the tablet at once, allowing multiplayer gaming.

Gamespot's Mark Walton describes the controller as "decent" but says that "even for someone like me with large hands, it didn't feel as comfortable as, say, an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controller". 

LCD screen

The 1920x1200 LCD screen is "clear and bright," Walton says, "and with a 9.2mm thickness and a 390g weight, it's comfortable to hold too". One of the problems with mobile gaming is how to hold both a controller and a tablet at the same time. Nvidia has solved this by offering an optional cover with a kickstand (£25), which means the device can be propped up on a table, but this still doesn't solve the problem of how to use the device on a commute to work. 

Game streaming

Games can be played on the Shield Tablet in a variety of ways:

  • Android games can be played on the device, with a library of 400 that have already been optimised for the Shield controller
  • Local PC games such as Titanfall, Skyrim, Batman and Borderlands 2 can be streamed through a feature called Nvidia Gamestream. Doing this will require a pretty speedy router, though, and some extra hardware for your PC
  • Cloud PC games including Saints Row and Grid can be streamed online
  • Console-style gaming is made possible by connecting the tablet and controller to your home television

The Shield Tablet's versatility makes it the "Swiss Army knife of gaming" says Forbes's Patrick Moorhead.

So will it sell?

Keza MacDonald, UK editor of the gaming site Kotaku, told the BBC that while she finds the machine impressive, she thinks it won't have a very wide appeal.

"It will remain niche, but Nvidia has always sold to a niche – very tech-savvy people who want the shiniest thing," she said. "For gamers who want a tablet, this will be attractive."

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