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NVIDIA’s power device – the SHIELD Tablet

Last updated: December 4, 2018.

the SHIELD Tablet

The NVIDIA SHIELD had been a personal favorite since 2013, as it is a great reflection of the flexibility of the Android platform. The Tegra Note 7 was NVIDIA’s second device design that really just serves as a prototype for the hardware of other companies. The device has only 1gb of RAM, and thankfully the device does not suffer from this limited capacity. On the other hand, the display of a 1280×800 panel does not stand out and falls behind most displays. The biggest feature of the Tegra Note 7 is called the DirectStylus, which makes the passive stylus have seemingly active features.

The SHIELD Tablet is a combination of the NVIDIA SHIELD and the Tegra Note 7 into an 8-inch – a perfect size – form. It has the controller of SHIELD and the DirectStylus of Tegra Note 7, as well as all the software of both devices such as the DirectStylus launcher, GamePad mapping software, Console Mode, navigation enhancements, and GameStream. The new SHIELD Tablet has significantly better hardware, display, and software. It has definitely improved what its two predecessors already have.

Its specifications include an 8-inch display with 1900×1200 LCD; an Android 4.4.2 operating system; a 2gb RAM; a 2.2GHz 32-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor; a 16gb or 32gb storage; 19.75 Watt hour battery; ports for microUSB and microSD that can support for up to 128gb cards; a 5mp rear and front camera; and several wireless capacities: Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 802.11a/b/g/n 2×2 MIMO, NA LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 17 (1900, 1700, 2600, 700)/HSPA+ Bands 1, 2, 4, 5 (2100, 1900, 1700, 850) for the 32gb model, and ROW LTE Bands 1, 3, 7, 20 (2100, 1800, 2600, 800)/ROW HSPA+ Bands 1, 2, 5, 8 (2100, 1900, 900, 850). It has dimensions of 8.8 inches x 5 inches x 0.36 inches and weighs 390 grams or 13.7 ounces.

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The SHIELD Tablet is perfect not just for gamers, but for power users as well. The device costs $299 for the 16gb variant, and $399 for the 32gb variant, which also includes LTE.

Build Quality and Design

The overall build quality of the SHIELD Tablet is visually appealing. It has a flat lack exterior that is soft-touch and has a glossy black logo that looks sophisticated and clean – a huge contrast to the Nexus 7. It looks nothing like a gaming tablet, and is something that totally screams premium. The tablet is designed for landscape use.

The sides of the device has a bass reflex port that effectively enhances the audio quality, while two openings and magnets for the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Cover can be found at the bottom. Plus a stylus base.

The SHIELD Tablet has two front-facing speakers found on both ends of the device; similar to the style of HTC One M7 or M8. It also has a 5mp front camera that is usable for streaming gameplay to Twitch. The weight of 390 grams is fairly remarkable – and light – and it feels solid: no creaking, no nothing. The only downside is that the power and volume rocker buttons are a bit squishy, so by mere sense of touch it’s difficult to know if you’ve really pressed the button.

Display

The display, though an improvement from the Tegra Note 7, still is not something you would describe as excellent.

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The good points:
– Vibrant colors
– Sharpness is great, thanks to the 1920×1200 panel in an 8-inch frame. The 283pp is enough to make the device good for reading and web browsing. The course games look good, too.

The points to improve:
– The whites are almost gray or yellow, whereas the blacks are not that dark. The white/black reproduction is lying between poor quality and excellent quality.
– The device is lacking in terms of brightness, even when placed at the maximum level. Compared to Nexus 7, SHIELD Tablet needs 70% brightness during the day, while Nexus 7 needs only 30% brightness. It will be difficult to use the tablet outside in broad daylight.
– The ambient light sensor works well, but is still lacking.

Speakers

SHIELD Tablet has two front facing stereo speakers, which is the best speaker placement. This feature is present in the Tegra Note 7, but the speakers of the SHIELD Tablet are way more refined. Plus there are two bass reflex ports found on both sides of the tablet to aid in giving better sound quality, and it’s actually great for games and movies but not so much when you’re listening to music. The bass reflect port looks like this:

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Loudness is very satisfying. The audio system of the SHIELD Tablet is something that NVIDIA can really be proud of, and is perfectly matched for its gaming purpose.

Cameras

The 5mp rear camera works fast – it’s one of the fast Android cameras to date – as it focuses immediately and takes the shot as soon as you click the button. Outdoor shots look great, as well as those taken in good lighting. However, it does not have a flash and photos taken in low lighting are not remarkable. Meanwhile, the 5mp front camera is highly usable for screencasting and streaming for Twitch.

Here are some test shots using the SHIELD Tablet rear camera.

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Storage

The SHIELD tablet is available in 16gb and 32g, but the bigger storage costs $100 more because it also has an additional functionality for LTE. The 16gb storage is a bit of a bummer – being a gaming tablet – because games that are of high-quality usually occupy 1 to 2gb of space, so the 16gb is easy to drain.

The good news is that SHIELD Tablet has the apps2SD feature of the SHIELD Portable, which basically allows apps and data to be transferred to an SD card. This will allow you to free up space (lots of it!) and the best part is that it doesn’t affect the performance (considering that you are using a quality, fast SD card). Avoid the cheap ones found in the market; it will only give you headaches.

Battery Life

The SHIELD has 5 to 6 hours of screen on time if you are not gaming the entire time or you are not running in Console Mode. It has excellent battery life; the deep sleep mode kicks in automatically when not in use, so it can remain idle for several days. Those who are not one of those so-called power users can last for one week with only a single charge, while those who are heavy users will need to charge it at least once every few days. For extreme sessions such s playing Trine 2 game in Console Mode for 1 hour, the battery will easily drain by 40%. Nonetheless, it’s still excellent.

Games

Trine 2 worth $14 is shipped with the tablet. It demonstrates the powerful capacity of the Tegra K1 – Trine 2 is a game that no other processor can handle now.

Performance

To use a gamer language, the performance of the tablet is beast mode. The processor is super fast – the fastest Android device now – thanks to NVIDIA’s Tegra K1, and there’s absolutely no waiting time, be it from launching apps to playing games.

Some performance enhancements:
– The optimized mode which automatically calibrates some applications so that it can perform at its best. Games, for example, can access all for cores of the K1, while less-demanding apps can access only one or two of the cores.
– Battery saving mode

SHIELD Controller

The controller of SHIELD Tablet is very similar to the controller of SHIELD Portable, except that it has a capacitive navigation buttons rather than physical ones, and a small touchpad. It’s among the best controllers found in the market today.

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The controller currently works only for SHIELD Portable and SHIELD Tablet through WiFi Direct, not Bluetooth. WiFi Direct is the connectivity option used because:
1. It has lower latency; half of most Bluetooth controllers. This allows for a better user experience.
2. It allows multi-player connectivity. You are allowed to connect as many as four SHIELD Controllers while in console mode so you and your friends or family can enjoy a multi-player game.
3. It has more data throughput. The controller has a headphone jack so that audio can be transferred to the controller from the tablet. This way, you are no longer required to tether to the tablet. The controller also has headset support for Twitch streaming and if you are playing multi-player.

The good points about the controller:
– Excellent build quality. The buttons are tactile, as well as the shoulder buttons. The triggers are responsive. The SHIELD controller is something that can easily rival Playstation or Xbox controllers.
– Capacitive navigation buttons (home, back, pause) located at the top part of the SHIELD controller. The D-Pad is found in the left, the ABXY pack is found in the right, the touchpad area is found below, the volume rocker below that, and the joysticks are found down below.
– Trackpad is not overly sensitive.

The points to improve about the controller:
– It’s only usable for SHIELD Tablet and SHIELD Portable.

For a $60 controller, it’s definitely worth it.

SHIELD Tablet Cover

The SHIELD Tablet Cover is a feature that has been transmitted from the Tegra Note 7. The one found on the Tegra Note 7 has a spine which slides into a groove on the tablet. This design was simplified, thankfully, in the SHIELD Tablet. The new design of the SHIELD Cover can attach to the tablet with some magnets and notches found on the bottom of the tablet (in landscape mode). It’s has a tight hold and can easily be placed or removed from the device.

The SHIELD Tablet has magnets found on the back corners. This is where the SHIELD Cover can be held securely in place, so that you will never have to worry about it. The tablet’s rear camera can also be used even with the Cover.

The cover can be flipped backwards and attached to the back through built-in magnets. It’s surprisingly stable even in this “standing” position. It can also be folded at the back, like a magazine, and it doesn’t flap around anymore unlike the earlier version with the Tegra Note 7.

Stylus

The stylus of the SHIELD Tablet is another improvement from its predecessors – it is not interchangeable from the stylus of the Tegra Note 7. The SHIELD Tablet’s stylus has a slightly bigger diameter and a smaller lip, while still maintaining the length and the chiseled tip. The stylus has a more snug fit in the SHIELD Tablet, so it’s a bit more difficult to remove, but the good thing is that you’re sure that you won’t accidentally lose it.

NVIDIA Add-ons

NVIDIA has successfully kept a good stock of add-ons to support its hardware and software. Here’s a few of them:

  1. DirectStylus – this brings active-life features like “pressure sensitivity” to the passive stylus. It’s a feature that was carried over from the Tegra Note 7. The options for the DirectStylus can be found at the Settings page, and has an additional option that can disable the Quick Access settins in the navigation bar.
  2. NVIDIA Dabbler – a drawing up that has two-fold use: first, for those who like doing digital drawings, and second, to demonstrate the capacity of the Tegra K1. It allows you to use water color and oil painting into a digital canvas. The program makes use of an accelerometer to duplicate the color on a canvas; all you have to do is move the tablet in whatever direction and the paint will follow.

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  1. GameStream – This is the flagship feature of the SHIELD Portable because it used to be the only device that allows game streaming from a desktop computer to a mobile console. It was brought over to the SHIELD Tablet, and it works well.
  2. Gamepad Mapper – This feature allows the touch-only or non-controller compatible games to be “mapped” to the controller. The touchpad found on the SHIELD Tablet Controller further makes this feature awesome. It is very simple to use: all you have to do is open the game, long press the controller’s start button, and map the keys. The Gamepad Mapper also has a cloud sync so that you can automatically download key mappings.

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  1. ShadowPlay – Being a gamer’s tablet, the ShadowPlay is created specifically to allow you to record your gameplay and stream to Twitch. It’s a feature that’s exclusive to the SHIELD Tablet. It can be enabled through the Share option, and there’s also a toggle option for manual recording, auto-recording, streaming, or screen capture. You also have the option to enable the microphone, front camera, and chat for Twitch. The only downside of this feature is that the audio seems choppy, and sometimes gets ahead of the video.
  2. Console Mode – The Console Mode turns the SHIELD Tablet into a TV-connected console. All you have to do is insert a miniHDMI cable into the tablet, and you can either mirror the display or use console mode. It can work with anything up to 4K. The console mode is another feature adapted from the SHIELD Portable. It works well with the controller’s touchpad. The only thing missing now is the dock with an HDMI connection and power.

Conclusion

The SHIELD Tablet is an improved version of the SHIELD Portable and the Tegra Note 7. Even for a person with high hopes, the SHIELD Tablet does not disappoint. Some things that can be improved are the display and a bigger storage, but overall – battery life, add-ons, and that speedy performance, the device is just amazing.

What do you think of the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet?

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