I’ve been intrigued by the Nvidia Shield since its release as having a high quality screen strapped to a proper dedicated controller is my idea of the perfect gaming portable. While not necessarily pocket-sized, I personally do not rely on excessively small or unobtrusive gadgets, as I travel around with a backpack virtually all the time anyway being a university student.
So while we’re on the topic let’s talk about the physical design. The nVidia Shield, like I said, basically consists of a full-size gamepad with standard face buttons and dual-analog sticks, attached to a clamshell screen. And what a screen. While admittedly it does bear a what would usually be considered substandard resolution of 1280x720, at the 5” size I really don’t think it matters in the context of this device. Obviously many 5” smartphones have 1080p or even 4K screens now, but since the Shield is meant to be used for gaming and not reading text, I think the incredible colour response and quality of the panel more than make up for this.
I love the general black and chrome aesthetic that nVidia have chosen to run with, and it feels incredibly sturdy and well-built. The top of the device is consumed by the panel and controls, while on the rear you’ll find a microusb connector for charging and a miniHDMI port for output to a larger display such as a hotel room TV, at which point full 1080p output is supported. This is also accompanied by a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. And better yet, the unit comes packed in this rugged yet stylish case.
However, the aspect that drew me to this device above all others was PC game streaming. This will only work for more modern nVidia graphics cards, so a team green exclusive, but my god, what more could you ask for as a gamer on the go? Assuming a decent wifi connection of about 10MB down and 2 up, I can access my powerful desktop PC from the Shield and play my Steam library wherever I am. This means I can play full blown titles like Dark Souls and Tomb Raider on a portable! And even better, through a bit of technical jiggery-pokery you can get not only PS3 and PS4 remote streaming through the nVidia Shield, but PS2 and Gamecube emulation on the go as well, with your home PC doing all the actual emulation horsework. That’s right, portable Bloodborne. Now obviously it can be pointed out that a gaming laptop for example provides this same experience for the most part, but remember the form factor we’re talking about here, and it makes the Shield very competitive.
The impressive 28.8Wh battery will net you around 6 hours of continuous local gameplay or 10 hours of streaming, although obviously your mileage will vary depending on exactly what you use your Shield to do. I’ve been experimenting with portable gaming devices for years, and until now my machine of choice has been a modded PSP-3000, which just falls slightly short for me because of the somewhat cheap feeling design and the cramped controls.
I was very close to making the move to the Playstation Vita, but general lack of support and similar controls to the PSP ultimately made me trump for the nVidia Shield, and I’m so pleased I did. It’s a marvellous device, still pretty expensive and somewhat hard to find, particularly in the UK where I live. But definitely worth it.