Is the NVIDIA Shield tablet worth the money?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| July 18, 2014


If you’re a gamer like me, when you think of buying a new gaming console your thoughts probably head towards something that include the companies “Nintendo”, “Sony”, or “Microsoft”. Whatever the case may be, I’m willing to bet that your mind didn’t think to include NVIDIA as a company you would think to buy an entire gaming system from. Graphics cards? Maybe. But an actual product to play games on? Probably not the case.


NVIDIA has been well-known for their high performance graphics cards for quite some time now, but it was only recently that they started to unveil actual gaming gadgets of their own. You might remember hearing about the NVIDIA Shield, which came out last year in late July. The Shield was a portable gaming device that had a 5-inch touchscreen display attached to an NVIDIA specific gaming controller. The Shield runs on Android 4.4 and originally cost $299 (now $199). The performance and battery life of the Shield was said to be good overall, but the problem was that the Shield never really came out with any compelling game titles that justified the price of the device. Given that the Shield’s screen was attached to the game controller, the 5-inch touchscreen display didn’t serve as the easiest makeshift tablet, either. Also, compared to other portable gaming consoles, the Shield was considerably less portable (and more expensive) than competing products like the Nintendo 3DS or the PS Vita.


You live and you learn, and while the Shield wasn’t a bad concept, it’s clear that the Shield needed to be more than just a designated gaming console to sell. People in this day and age like versatility, so while a mobile platform like Android or iOS might not make for a bad software base for a gaming oriented piece of hardware, people need to be able to use it for more than that. That’s where the NVIDIA Shield tablet comes in, and to be quite honest this concept seems much more appealing to me.


Tablets are an important part of our society today. Typically they’re more portable than laptops, and a lot of the time due to their touchscreens they’re also easier to use on-the-go. They’re great for browsing the web, checking out social media, checking and replying to e-mails, doing some office work, and also gaming. While I wouldn’t consider Android or iOS to be my top choice for a gaming console, it’s hard to ignore how far gaming has come for mobile platforms. There are some really nice games available on the market, including some Final Fantasy titles, The Bard’s Tale, Grand Theft Auto, and even Sonic the Hedgehog. There are also a number of quality straight-to-mobile games available as well, some that are even graphic intensive. You can also find various emulators in the Google Play store to be able to play some of your favorite childhood games right from your Android or iOS device.


The only problem with gaming on your phone or tablet? Well, you’re missing the controller, and your phone or tablet might not be able to handle some of the more graphic intensive games so gracefully. The NVIDIA Shield tablet takes care of both of these issues by offering the NVIDIA Shield Wireless Controller, which has a lower latency and higher data rate than your average Bluetooth controller (both are good things). The SHIELD tablet also claims to have the most advanced GPU, giving users “amazing visuals” on their tablet. The Shield also features dual front-facing speakers (like the HTC One), a 5-megapixel front-facing camera that allows Twitch streaming, a stylus, and uses the new NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor. If you’ve been looking for a tablet that also serves well for gaming, the NVIDIA Shield doesn’t seem too shabby, especially considering that the NVIDIA GameStream feature lets you stream this to larger screens.


The price on the tablet is about where I would have expected it to be. The 16GB WiFi only version of this 8-inch gaming tablet starts at just $299 - not bad considering the original Shield started at the same price and you couldn’t even use that one as a tablet, really. You can also opt for a 32GB version with LTE and HSPA+ for $399.


Do I think that this tablet is worth the price? Considering the specs and the features, and when put in comparison to other tablets of the same size and price range (Galaxy Note 8.0, iPad Mini w/ Retina) I’d have to say yes, it’s definitely worth the buy if you’re in the market for a tablet and you like to game. If you’re in the mood to game, throw your gamepad in your purse or bag and take it with you. If not, just use it like you would a normal tablet (because it still makes a fine tablet). I mean, you can pretty much do this with any tablet and a regular Bluetooth controller, but with this tablet they’re designed to work together and work well - you don’t always get that result with other brands.


It wasn’t too long ago that I said I thought I was done with the tablet market, but that was before I saw this tall glass of water - I have to admit, I’m actually really looking forward to July 29, when this tablet goes on sale.


Images via VideoCardz