NVIDIA SHIELD Lands in Late June, Priced at $349

NVIDIA announced the final specs and retail pricing for its SHIELD portable Android-based (“pure” Jelly Bean) console.  The device will sport a quad core Tegra 4 (1.9 GHz) processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB Flash memory (microSD up to 64GB supported).  It will include a range of connectivity features including: 802.11n 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 3.0 (unfortunately not 4.0), mini-HDMI output, and micro-USB 2.0.  The device will also include other common features found on mobile devices like GPS, 3 Axis Gyro and Accelerometer.  The main feature of the SHIELD however is its dedicated “console grade” controller along with its “Retinal 5” 720p display.”  Reportedly NVIDIA will offer Android updates in a timely fashion, a boon for those users who have tasted the foulness of stale Android “desserts” because their device was ineligible for upgrades.

All of these are solid features, that should excite any Android gaming fanatic or perhaps more pointedly the PC Gamer with NVIDIA hardware.  In fact NVIDIA is targeting the latter segment, the “GeForce GTX PC Gamer” who has the following demographics/characteristics: male, average age of 35, is a tech influencer, plays 14 hrs/week, 70% own desktop and notebook (94% game primarily on desktop), 81% build their PCs, and he loves action & Sci-Fi movies.  The ability to stream PC games to the SHIELD, however, will launch as a beta feature and likely support roughly 20 Steam games (requires GeForce GTX 650 or higher PC). 

Preorders start May 20th, although those who signed up for announcements can order starting May 14th.  Initially SHIELD will only be available to North American consumers (US and Canada) through two E-tailers (NVIDIA direct and Newegg.com) and three retailers (Canada Computers, GameStop, and Micro Center). 

To NVIDIA’s credit the company is targeting the right audience, particularly given the high price, but this might also be the device’s downfall.  It’s probably not fair to compare the SHIELD to portables from Nintendo and Sony, which fall closer to the consoles with relatively closed systems (compared to Android), but if not a direct competitor to these incumbents is the alternative actually better?  The SHIELD is novel in some ways, but increasingly it will compete with smartphones and tablets – devices most of the target audience already owns. 

You can already buy a controller like device that cradles a smartphone to mirror a similar form factor as the SHIELD and while it might not exude the same build quality most Android games are meant for shorter play periods so this might not prove terribly detrimental.  It is true there will be SHIELD optimized games and the PC game streaming feature is nice, but the target audience is relatively limited.  Unfortunately the future, that includes cloud gaming (e.g. through GRID), might not come soon enough to push the SHIELD over the top from a value standpoint. 

As it currently stands it is an Android device that is competing with devices most consumers already own, at a price point that exceeds the dedicated portable gaming competition.  If the PC gaming spin isn’t enough to entice core gamers we might see a drop in price much sooner than NVIDIA would like – and we haven’t even scratched the surface of upgrade cycles (e.g. mobile advances much faster than consoles).