Project Shield is real. Rumors circled about its existence around late last year. The rumors that Nvidia was making a new portable gaming device that would carry the name and reputation of the famed chipset manufacturer. Nvidia is synonymous with high-end gaming rigs and cutting-edge graphics technologies, so the news was exciting to say the least. Early in January during their CES event, they announced Project Shield, an Android based handheld console with an impressive five-inch multitouch screen and a control scheme similar to that of the Xbox 360. If you haven’t checked it out already, be sure to read Sean Gibson’s exclusive interview with Nvidia about the Project Shield announcement. Touting a new Tegra 4 quad-core processor, microSD slot and up to ten hours of battery life, Project Shield was showing some portable promise to a market limited to overpriced laptops and bulky LAN rigs.
Other hardware features in Project Shield include GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, HDMI output, 16GB of flash memory, 2GB of RAM, 72 GPU cores, a headphone jack, speakers and 802.11n WiFi connectivity. A Google Play account will allow users to stream any purchased music and movies to Project Shield, provided they are connected. Running Android 4.1 Jellybean, the device should be easy to operate for those who own Android phones and easy to update and customize. Pre-orders began on May 20 through Nvidia’s website, GameStop, Newegg and other major electronics retailers. Scheduled for a release in June, Project Shield already has an impressive lineup of optimized games and compatible streamed experiences, including Borderlands 2, Metro: Last Light and Skyrim. The system will come preloaded with Sonic 4 Episode II THD, a Tegra3 optimized version of Sonic 4 Episode II, and Expendable: Rearmed, a dual-stick shooter with great visual effects and destructibility.
The success of the platform remains to be seen, but Project Shield is an impressive piece of hardware. Its feature set and pedigree suggests its not just a half-hearted attempt to merge the casual tablet market with hardcore PC enthusiasts, but rather a device that shares both spaces. The cost of admission is subjective, but if the market does exist, Project Shield is an amalgamation of the best of portable handhelds, casual smartphone games and the Steam marketplace.