Every year in January tech enthusiasts look forward to the first tech exhibition of the year, The International Consumer Electronic Show famously known as the CES. It brings with it the latest technology and what gadgets users can expect for the year ahead.
CES has become a platform for most technology giants such as Sony, Samsung, LG, Intel and Nvidia to show off their latest gadgets including phones, cars, TVs, Tablets or in this articles case a whole new gaming system.
So What is Project Shield?
Unveiled by Nvidia, Project Shield (not the final name) is an Android powered gaming console. The whole system has been built into a controller that’s a little bigger than the Xbox 360’s controller but with a 5-inch 720p folding touch-screen.
What makes it even more unique is it allows for streaming of games from a PC through a local network and has support for Steam’s Big Picture mode. Also, Nvidia wants to support it with its upcoming cloud streaming service “Grid”.
Project Shield sports a 5-inch, 720p multi-touch screen display attached to the back of the controller. What is exciting is it has a HD resolution of 1280x720 and 294dpi pixel density coming close to the Retina Display used by Apple.
The screen also contains Direct Touch technology, and claims to offer smoother and more accurate touch functionality, as compared to the standard Android Devices. Keep in mind - the touch capabilities will not work in Steam’s Big Picture mode.
Nvidia wants consumers to get controls that you would usually find on consoles, thus their design is very similar to the XBOX 360’s controller, but switches the left Analog stick with the directional pad, a design used by the PS3’s controller. It’s something that I always wanted.
In the center we have the Start button, volume control, Power/central guide button in addition to typical Android-style home and back buttons.
Project Shield uses the star of Nvidia’s entire show, the new TEGRA 4 processor which will be the world’s fastest mobile processor. The TEGRA 4 is nearly ten times faster than any processor in the market right now. For the tech guys, it carries 72 custom Nvidia GeForce CPU cores, the first quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU, and new tools to extend the battery life of compatible products. The things this beast is capable of doing are far beyond anything we see right now.
The Cover Design:
Project Shield uses a clamshell design - the screen folds down on top of the controller, making the screen and the controller safe when not in use. The interchangeable backplate or Shield as Nvidia calls it is another idea I fancy. It’s more of a cosmetic thing, but who wouldn’t want to customize their gadgets.
The Operating System:
Project Shield runs on JellyBean, the latest version of Android. It also requires the use of TegraZone, Nvidia’s game store. This is because games have to be specially optimized to use the controller, so you can’t just use it with any game that you find in Google Play.
Now here is where things get even more interesting. If a user has a gaming PC which meets the minimum specs required, Project Shield will allow streaming of PC titles over local Wi-fi to the screen and the user can then control the game using the handheld. Thus this opens up the opportunity to play any games that supports the “gamepad support” on Steam.
Streaming to a TV:
Don’t want to play on Project Shield’s screen? Using the built-in HDMI port on the controller, you can stream gameplay to any HDMI display, including the new ultra amazing 4K displays, without any latency. Not only can you stream games, but movies and music as well to your television.
Good audio makes any game more immersive and helps in creating the right kind of atmosphere. You need to feel a part of the gaming world once you are playing and Project Shield has two built in speakers on the front of the controller and also a headphone port. The sound system has been selectively tuned as claimed by Nvidia, to make sure that we hear every explosion possible in a way "never before experienced on a portable device".
Nvidia has claimed a battery life of around 5-10 hours for gaming and upto 24 hours of video playback. Of course game streaming battery life will be less than the actual gaming battery life. This is higher than the handhelds on the market right now as Tegra 4 optimizes the system to save on battery life.
Project Shield has a full HDMI port rather than the mini HDMI usually found on Android devices. There is a micro-USB slot, a micro SD slot and a 3.5mm Audio jack.
So as a gamer I am very excited for this system. Although, there is a lot of potential in the system, it will be important that maximum games are ready for TegraZone.
Right now it is slated for a Q2 2013 release and Project Shield will definitely not be its final name. Its success will depend on the amount of games that will be available when it is released. Moreover, with the Tegra 4 and Android one can imagine games to be consistently pushing their boundries. Add that to the new consoles to be released, it’s going to be a very exciting and a very busy year.
What a great start to 2013!