Nvidia said today that it would release an eight-inch tablet aimed at hardcore gamers, the Shield Tablet, starting June 29 in the U.S. and Canada and on August 14 in Europe.
The Shield will start at $299 for a 16 gigabyte Wi-Fi-only model and $399 for a 32 gigabyte model that can connect to LTE on AT&T or T-Mobile. Although the Android device will be able to run a wide range of apps, it will be advertised as “the ultimate tablet for gamers.”
In an online press briefing yesterday, Shield Tablet general manager Matt Wuebbling said the market for mobile devices has matured to the point that a company like Nvidia can respond to the specific needs of a niche like hardcore gamers. A trend of homogeneity turning to variety is coming to tablets the same way it came to cars and PCs, Wuebbling said.
And if tablets were cars, Nvidia seemingly wants the Shield to be the Canyonero from “The Simpsons”:
The tablet runs on the company’s 192-core Tegra K1 processor, which Nvidia says beat the iPad Air and Samsung’s Tab Pro 8.4 in five speed benchmark tests. It’s also designed to work with a Wi-Fi-connected gamepad controller, which will be sold separately for $59 — the same price as a new Xbox or PlayStation controller.
“We believe the controller is still the best way to play many games,” Wuebbling said. Nvidia’s Shields are currently the only Android devices that can run Valve’s Half-Life 2 and Portal, thanks to a deal inked in May.
Also, like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Shield is designed to natively broadcast to Twitch — a first for a mobile device. Twitch’s prior mobile initiative has been to partner directly with a handful of games, a la Unity-owned Everyplay.
The tablet is the successor to a handheld device released last year, the Shield Portable, which combined the buttons of a gamepad with a five-inch clamshell screen. Both devices can play normal Android titles as well as computer games streamed from PCs with a high-end Nvidia processor, or streamed from an in-beta cloud gaming service called Grid.
Both Shields can also run in “console mode,” outputting to HDMI while plugged into a TV. Wuebbling said the Shield tablet can pair with up to four controllers, including any Bluetooth controllers that already pair with Android.
An Nvidia spokesperson declined to say how many Shield Portables had been sold in the past year, but noted that sales had “exceeded our internal expectations.” The company’s overall revenue in 2013 fell 3.5 percent, with losses in the Tegra Processor segment, which includes the Shield, outweighing revenue gains in Nvidia’s GPU vertical.