NVIDIA is known in the industry for processors, graphics cards and other supercomputing technology. What NVIDIA isn’t well-known for is making great mobile devices. We saw the company take a stab at making its own mobile device with the handheld controller/phone/tablet hybrid that was the NVIDIA SHIELD, while we also saw a more tempered effort with the Tegra Note. Neither of these was a household hit, though they showed great potential for something much greater.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is designed to showcase the very best of what mobile gaming has to offer—way beyond simple touch-based games like Angry Birds and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. (And, yes, it can run emulators just fine, which you can pair up with the $60 SHIELD wireless controller.) Like its SHIELD predecessor, NVIDIA’s new tablet can play the most intensive mobile games on the market; games like Portal, Half-Life 2 and Trine 2. These are games we mostly associate with the PC and console markets, but now they’re available to play anywhere you go.
But the SHIELD Tablet isn’t just notable for the games you can download; it also features a GameStream Mode, which allows users to stream compatible games from their PC right to NVIDIA’s device. So long as you have GeForce GTX 650 or higher on your desktop, you should be good to go. This mode currently supports over 100 PC games, including Left 4 Dead 2, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and many others. Simply input a four digit number from your computer onto your tablet, and you should be streaming in no time if you’re on the same Wi-Fi network.
We tested out a few different titles in GameStream Mode, but really put the SHIELD Tablet to the test with Batman: Arkham Origins, which is definitely a more intensive game. We’re happy to report that there’s very little, if any, lag when gaming through GameStream Mode. The experience was a little wonky with subtitles turned on for some reason, but otherwise it’s fast and fluid, and is perfectly acceptable to play a fast paced action game like that. The SHIELD Tablet’s 8-inch screen might be a tad small for such a visual feast like Arkham Origins, but it’s amazing that you could play a game like that on a mobile device.
Finally, we also gave NVIDIA’s beta GRID service a shot, which is essentially a Netflix for gamers. There are a lot of “perfect condition” requirements attached to GRID for it to even work, but it’s pretty great when it does. For instance, GRID beamed off NVIDIA’s servers in San Jose, CA, so the company suggests you be on the West coast for the optimum experience. You also need an Internet connection of 10Mbps down, and a home network with 40 ms or less ping time to the GRID gaming servers, along with a 5GHz Wi-Fi router.
For us, GRID works beautifully down in Irvine, CA. Right now, GRID is in beta, so the service is free at the moment. However, after the service spends more time fine-tuning everything, a subscription cost will likely be associated. Hopefully it’s not too much per month, but there’s an obvious draw that will no doubt find an audience, especially considering you can play games like Borderlands 2 wherever you have a fast Internet connection.
From a gaming perspective, the SHIELD Tablet is a pretty tremendous achievement. It plays some awesome Android games, you can stream games from your PC, and you can also access a Netflix-style service and play some amazing titles from anywhere you have fast Internet. We’re still putting the SHIELD Tablet through its paces, so we’ll have a full review up soon. For now, check out all of the device’s cool gaming capabilities above.