Nvidia Shield Tablet promises the best small screen gaming experience for $329

Nvidia is ready to put its money where its heart is, assuming that people want a gaming tablet with an optional gamepad.

Unveiled today, the Nvidia Shield Tablet is a C$329 device with a 1200p screen and the first consumer-ready Tegra K1 SoC, the ultra-fast gaming CPU/GPU combo revealed in January at CES. The Cortex-A15 based CPU runs four cores at 2.3Ghz each, with a fifth companion core running at a lower speed for less intensive activities. The GPU is based on the company’s extensible Kepler architecture, with 192 CUDA cores and support for the latest standards like OpenGL 4.4 and DirectX 12.

While the first Shield began its life as a small clamshell screen-gamepad hybrid, the company has learned a hard truth about such a form factor: most people just don’t want bulk. Over the course of the Shield’s brief life, Nvidia added a number of features, including game streaming from a local Kepler GPU-adorned PC and a limited subset of cloud-based games that enabled a whole new type of experience.

The Shield Tablet doesn’t do away with any of those things, but merely separates the screen from the controller, lowering the price and offering casual users a more approachable product.

As detailed in the leak, the Shield Tablet sports an 8-inch 1920×1200 pixel IPS display, 2GB of RAM, either 16 or 32GB of internal storage, dual-band MIMO WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, along with a 5MP rear camera, a DirectStylus 2 pen for precise input, Android 4.4.2 with minimal customization, and a number of included software and games. The 32GB version also includes unlocked LTE connectivity with supported bands 2,4,5,7,17, so Canadian compatibility is assured.

Like the last time, the Shield promises high-quality audio from its stereo front-facing speakers and dual bass reflex port, which purportedly offers the equivalent of a subwoofer in a smaller space.

Of course, while the Shield Tablet is a simple Android tablet, its gaming aspirations lead Nvidia to create a number of ways to use it: a $65 wireless controller and $43 tablet cover, which protects the device and functions as a stand, add $100 to the entry price but allow the device to be used as a standalone console. There is the option to connect the Shield Tablet to a television using an HDMI cable, but most customers will want the ability to play anywhere.

The Wireless Controller resembles that of the original Shield, but appears to be more well-spaced, with a capacitive area for navigating the tablet when it is not within reach. It connects to its station with WiFi Direct rather than Bluetooth, so games should feel considerably more responsive, and the built-in headphone jack reroutes audio from the tablet to a pair of headphones, wirelessly.

The Shield Hub, nee Tegra Zone, houses all the games optimized for the new hardware, and at launch there will be 11, including well-known titles like Half-life 2, Portal, Trine 2 and Anomaly 2.

The $329 16GB WiFi version of the tablet is available for pre-order now through Canada Computers, while the $429 32GB LTE version will be available in the coming months.