NVIDIA had a big showing with Project Shield and that was the emphasis of my meeting today with them. Before we get to that, we talked about what powers the handheld in the Tegra 4 chipset.
Tegra 4 is NVIDIA’s next generation mobile chipset. It sounds like it’s got some nice speed improvements over Tegra 3. For starters, the 4-1 CPU setup, meaning 4 A15 CPUs with one “ninja core” for low power operations, which by the way, is also an A15 CPU, makes its return here in Tegra 4. You can expect more than 2X performance in each core over the previous generation.
We now have 72 GPU cores versus 12 in Tegra 3 allowing for 6X the shader performance and a real world improvement of 3X to 4X in games. That should make for some pretty nice graphics for games taking advantage of Tegra 4.
NVIDIA’s i500 LTE modem sounds pretty promising. It’s software based, meaning that if there are bugs that need to be fixed or improvements to be made, vendors can issue an OTA update to the LTE modem.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about one of the only items announced so far to use Tegra 4, Project Shield. This handheld features a 5” 720P LCD touchscreen that is attached to an Xbox 360 like controller, although the stick placement is similar to the PlayStation controller. It runs Android so you’ll have access to all the games in that ecosystem.
But, something really cool is that it will have the ability to connect with a GeForce based computer in your house and stream content and games to it. As long as you have desktop GeForce of at least a 650 and a laptop GPU of at least a 660, you can wirelessly stream to Project Shield and play your PC games on the handheld. Steam’s big picture mode was an example of an interface that can pipe down to Project Shield whereby one can select the game from their library and fire up the game as though they were on their PC. Some folks can do it now if they have a Tegra 3 laptop using Splashtop THD with their PC, but this features a built in controller, of course.
Project Shield is also pretty versatile in that you can also use it as a remote to control say a PC that’s being broadcast on a TV with something like Miracast. You’ll also be able to use it with some cloud gaming services. So it’s not strictly a handheld gaming system as there are a few more functions it’s capable of.
There are the usual connectors such as HDMI and headset so you can output Project Shield to a big screen TV and chat with folks who you are gaming with.
Currently, you can expect about 5 to 10 hours of gaming if you’re using it straight as a gaming machine. For those that stream from the PC, they are aiming for 20 to 25 hours of battery life since it’s only being used to display the stream of the game rather than any computations from running one natively.
I asked about storage options and they are coming in 16 and 32GB flavors as well as a microSD slot for expanding the memory even more. That’s pretty good as some folks, like me, can fill up internal memory and cards quickly with content.
Since it’s an Android device, I asked NVIDIA what their thoughts are on folks rooting the device. They replied that it’s completely open on that side of things so do as you wish. They don’t care if you decide to root Project Shield, which is great news.
While just a codename for now, Project Shield is expected to ship in Q2 from both online stores as well as retail and it’s going to be a NVIDIA branded product. Pricing is now announced yet, but the tech looks very cool and I can’t wait to get my hands on one to try it out.