After about 45 minutes of casual sexism and awkward pauses, NVIDIA's Jen-Hsun Huang dropped the bomb. Project Shield is a handheld gaming console running pure, unmodified Android (Jelly Bean). At its core is the newly-announced Tegra 4 ARM chip, but that's not all.
Update: Official video of Project Shield:
The device looks like a standard wireless controller with a flip-up screen. Around the back are I/O ports, and there's no proprietary nonsense here. HDMI, USB, microSD, and an audio jack. This isn't just a render, either – the device was shown off on stage. Jen-Hsun Huang used Project Shield to push a 4K video over HDMI to a 4K TV as well. The screen is reportedly a 5-inch "retinal" display, which in this case means 720p, with 296 dpi. Both the gamepad controls and the touchscreen can be used to navigate the Android UI.
Because this is running a full version of Android, all the games you see in Google Play (and more specifically Tegra Zone) will be available on Shield. New Tegra 4-optimized titles like Hawken and Dead Trigger 2 were demoed on the device. Both looked impressive, and I expect a lot of NVIDIA's efforts in 2013 will be directed toward getting more Tegra 4-exclusive titles on Android.
Shield will also be capable of running some VNC-like wireless technology to stream desktop games rendered on a PC to the handheld and a TV. NVIDIA had some issues getting this running in the demo, but it was cool once it happened. It's looking like a killer product, but no official price or release date were mentioned. However, various sources are talking about Q2 2013 retail availability in the US and Canada. Update: NVIDIA confirmed the Q2 timeline via an email.
NVIDIA Untethers Gaming with Project SHIELD, World’s First Gaming Portable for Open Platforms
LAS VEGAS—CES—Jan. 6, 2013—NVIDIA today announced Project SHIELD, the world’s first gaming portable for open platforms, designed for modern gamers who yearn to play when, where and how they want.
Created with the philosophy that gaming should be open and flexible, Project SHIELD flawlessly plays both Android and PC titles. As a pure Android device, it gives access to any game on Google Play. And as a wireless receiver and controller, it can stream games from a PC powered by NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX GPUs, accessing titles on its STEAM game library from anywhere in the home.
“Project SHIELD was created by NVIDIA engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and chief executive officer at NVIDIA. “We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love SHIELD as much as we do.”
Project SHIELD combines the advanced processing power of NVIDIA Tegra® 4, breakthrough game-speed Wi-Fi technology and stunning HD video and audio built into a console-grade controller. It can be used to play on its own integrated screen or on a big screen, and on the couch or on the go.
Tegra 4 at Its Heart
At the core of Project SHIELD is the world’s fastest mobile processor, the new NVIDIA Tegra 4, which delivers enormous power from its custom 72-core GeForce GPU and the first quad-core application of ARM’s most advanced CPU core, the Cortex-A15. These, combined with its battery-saver core and energy-saving PRISM 2 technology, deliver hours of gameplay on a single charge.
Windows and Android Games
Windows and Android are the world’s most successful computing platforms, with massive ecosystems of system and software developers. While not specifically designed for gaming, both open platforms have drawn gamers by the millions. Project SHIELD is designed to allow them to enjoy Android and Windows games in a new and exciting way.
Project SHIELD can instantly download Android games, including Android-optimized titles available on NVIDIA’s TegraZone™ game store, which has already delivered more than 6 million downloads to gamers. SHIELD can also be used as a wireless game receiver to a nearby PC equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 GPU or higher.
Project SHIELD’s ergonomic controller was built for the gamer who wants ultimate control and precision.
Retinal Gaming Display
Brilliant gameplay and video are provided by SHIELD’s integrated 5-inch, 1280x720 HD retinal multitouch display, with 296 dpi. Plus, Tegra 4 Direct Touch technology gives Project SHIELD touch response that is three-times faster than that available on any other touch device.
Tuned Port, Bass Reflex Portable Speaker System
Deep, rich audio is critical for a great gaming experience. And Project SHIELD provides fidelity and dynamic range never before available on a portable device, through its custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system – with twice the low-frequency output of high-end laptops.
Project SHIELD can also access Android apps such as Hulu, Netflix and Slacker Radio, so users can enjoy their movies and music anywhere without expensive, clumsy wired or wireless speakers.
Support by Leading Game Developers
Leading game developers expressed strong support for SHIELD.
Yves Guillemot, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ubisoft, said: “Ubisoft is always excited about new hardware developments, and Project Shield promises to bring both mobile and PC gamers a great new gaming experience. Seeing the PC version of Assassin’s Creed III run on the device is a great example of this, and further strengthens Ubisoft’s long-standing relationship with NVIDIA.”
“With Project Shield, NVIDIA brings an uncompromising, high-performance console experience to mobile devices,” said Mark Rein, vice president and co-founder of Epic Games. “Amazing games including ‘Real Boxing’ and ‘Hawken,’ which utilize the latest Unreal Engine technology, look fantastic on Project Shield. This is just the beginning, and we're truly excited to see what more Unreal Engine developers will do with so much horsepower in such a compact gaming device.”
“Coming from the openness of a PC platform, we love how accessible Project SHIELD is, and the flexibility it gives gamers everywhere,” said Bill Wagner, chief production officer at Meteor Entertainment. “Project SHIELD gives us the cutting-edge ability to bring a huge free-to-play PC game like ‘Hawken’ to the handheld gaming audience.”
More information is available at shield.nvidia.com.