Nvidia Shield Tablet

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Youthful dreams

Playing until your eyes burn? This may take a while with the Nvidia Shield tablet: the display got top grades in the connect lab.

On the PC, the graphics cards from Nvidia are the cream of the crop. There is no gamer who does not know them, and regular users always put Nvidia on the short list when it comes to video editing or desktop publishing, for example. The chips from Nvidia also provide for high speeds in tablets, as the Tegra 4 proved already in the Nvidia Tegra Note 7. The manufacturer provides its own mobile console for game-lovers; however: the Shield Portable, shown in the picture above, is not available in Germany.

But the Shield Tablet is. It combines the advantages of an Android tablet with pen input and a mini game console. The whole thing is topped with a powerful system chip, whose special features include a graphics processor based on the Kepler architecture developed by NVIDIA in 2011. 192 units for the processing of graphics algorithms are available to conjure up even the finest details on your tablet at lightning speed. The Tegra K1 supports, among others, DirectX 11 and, with the Unreal Engine 4, one of the latest platforms for game programming.

Works of art can be produced with the tapered tip of the Direct Stylus 2 and the Nvidia Dabbler app. Outside of the app, the stylus is mid-range in terms of quality, but is a good tool thanks to the software.

Bundle of energy

The 4-plus-1 system made of four powerful Cortex-A15 cores and a less energy-hungry peer for concurrent operations enables efficient energy management: this is how the 5200 mAh battery holds for 6:15 hours in mixed operation – a good value. But because complex games require more energy from the device, it is possible to simultaneously charge the Shield Tablet with a Y-cable while it is connected to a network via an optional USB to LAN adapter. At a proud weight for an 8-incher of 383 grams, it can sometimes be hard on the arm. A controller with an Xbox design provides assistance, which is either available for 60 euros as an accessory or as a bundle together with the tablet at a bargain.

Powerful sound

An appealing sound emits from the front and side speakers which Nvidia literally praises as “almost on the HTC boom sound level”. The connection to HTC is not random: Nvidia Shield was one of the first tablets to receive the update to Android 5 before Christmas and is one of the first models with the coveted lollipop Android. Together with Google’s new Nexus 9 tablet of course, which is built by HTC and is equipped with the boom sound audio technology. A Tegra K1 also sets the pace in the Nexus 9, which, however, is based on an earlier processor design. The two products have 2 gigabytes of RAM in common.

Functionally sophisticated

The two cameras on the front and back of the Shield tablet both have a resolution of 5 megapixels. Although there is no flash, close objects can be captured even in low light: thanks to the low image noise, a black coffee pot is still predominately black in the photograph under the light of a weak kitchen bulb. Nvidia also demonstrates attention to detail in the software: perfectionists can take advantage of the gyroscope in the horizontal camera angle, or the golden section assistance on the display.

Unique selling point: a real treat, Nvidia provides a responsive controller for the Shield Tablet.

Unique selling point: a real treat, Nvidia provides a responsive controller for the Shield Tablet.

Surface and volume

of the software are largely unspoilt. There are a few additions to the basic Google equipment: the games hub, control software for the console mode when connected to a TV and, for the optional controller as well as with Nvidia Dabbler, a challenging MAL app for the stylus pen that can be stored in the device and is included in delivery. The angled pen tip is reminiscent of a calligraphy pen, so it can distinguish between the use of the left or right hand. Outside the Dabbler app, in which the software can also simulate different levels of pressure, the Direct Stylus, however, does not come near either the sensitive writing characteristics of active input pens which are included with the Surface Pro 3 tablet or the Samsung Note series. But it is a welcome tool to for recording sketches or notes in word and image. The tool, labeled with a lasso icon, which appears in the Android navigation bar when you pull the stylus out makes the Shield tablet into a practical work tool, for example for freezing, commenting on, saving or sending research findings from the Internet without further ado. The handwriting recognition function works perfectly, so you do not have to put down the pen to enter addresses in the browser. Overall, the handling is good. Only the buttons for switching on / off fall flat, and hardly respond to pressing.

Worth the upgrade

The manufacturer’s recommendation for the test device with LTE and 32 gigabytes of memory is 380 euros. There is a cheaper model for 300 euros; for a savings of 80 euros, however, not only is the LTE omitted, but the memory is halved to 16 GB, so you have to rely on a micro SD for real resource hogs. It’s worth treating yourself for once. Especially since the Nvidia Shield Tablet is of high technical quality and even the more expensive model is priced below many competitors.

Nvidia Shield Tablet

  • Price: 379 euros
  • Dimensions: 219 x 126 x 9 mm; Weight: 383 grams
  • High-resolution, bright IPS display with excellent contrast ratio
  • Powerful graphics processor
  • HDMI
  • Good endurance
  • Front and side speakers
  • Main camera with low image noise in low light
  • 5 megapixel front camera
  • Android 5.0
  • Heavy
  • No ac-WLAN
  • LTE only available together with large memory

Gaming on the tablet

The crème de la crème for gamers – but not exclusively: Apple’s iPad Air 2, Nvidia Shield Tablet, Google/HTC Nexus 9.
The competition for the Shield Tablet is partially home-made: the heart of the HTC-built Nexus 9 is a Tegra K1 in Nvidia’s new Denver architecture. While the integrated graphics are unchanged, the SoC in the Google tablet has, instead of the four ARM cores, two self-developed ones which are ARM compatible and clocked higher. Like the A8X in the Apple iPad Air 2, they are 64-bit capable. In the performance comparison, the A8X delivered better results than the Nvidia chip. In contrast, the display of Shield Tablet is the undisputed winner (see display diagram).

Let’s play

One for all: the controller controls the games selectively from a tablet or PC – and thanks to the mousepad, it can also easily control the apps of the Android interface.

For 60 euros, Nvidia offers a functionally versatile controller for the Shield Tablet. The volume control, microphone and headset port are practical features of this product. If the Shield Tablet is connected to a TV via the mini HDMI port, whereby the images are transmitted in 4K resolution, you can control the Android screen remotely either via joystick or, more precisely, with a small mousepad.

A sensor button opens the Shield hub on the tablet and also the game store, with games specially optimized for the Tegra device. The Shield hub otherwise starts not only games and multimedia apps installed on the tablet, but also compatible games on a private PC, provided that they are compatible with the Nvidia game stream. However, the ac standard is lacking the WLAN module with 2×2 MIMO support for 2.4 and 5 gigahertz. Due to the lower latency times, the controllers – up to four – are not connected via Bluetooth, but with a direct WLAN connection. Those who are grappling with conventional controllers with charging stations or searching for the longest-lasting batteries will appreciate that the Nvidia controller is charged via a micro USB port. This is also good news when traveling. What it is lacking is a power gauge.
For the current year, Nvidia is holding out the prospect of games from the cloud with Nvidia Grid, which has already been the norm for music and videos for a long time. The cloud servers then also do the rendering so the requirements on private hardware are lowered and installations are omitted.

The contrast ratio of the Nvidia Shield display, which can be adjusted to be very bright if required, is at least “good” in all measured brightness ranges. On top of that, the display diagram certifies high color stability of the high-resolution Shield Tablet, which ranges to the outermost edge in some areas – amazing!

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Table Nvidia Shield Tablet