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Home > Android Tablet Reviews > NVIDIA SHield Tablet & Shield Wireless Controller Review


NVIDIA Shield Tablet

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: WiFi-only and unlocked LTE 4G GSM models
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

What's Hot: Game streaming and Grid cloud gaming are great uniquely great fun and cutting edge. Very fast tablet, clean Android OS, nice full HD display, front-facing stereo speakers.

What's Not: Heavier than average, battery life when gaming is short.


Updated July 2016 to add K model info. Reviewed August 29, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

NVIDIA's line of Shield Android gaming tablets has become much more promising with their first Shield tablet and the introduction of the K1 CPU with Kepler graphics. The 8" NVIDIA Shield tablet is portable enough to take with you, yet it packs more processing and graphics power than any other Android tablet on the market (save the Xiaomi MiPad with K1 that's not widely available in the US). In fact, the GPU surpasses the HD 4000 graphics in the first gen MS Surface Pro on some benchmarks. Nice.

NVIDIA Shield tablet

The first Shield was an innovative but decidedly niche device: a gaming controller with a 5" display grafted on top and the Tegra 4 CPU (with fan!) crammed inside. It was much bulkier than an Android smartphone and wasn't the sort of thing you could pull out at work without looking like you were definitely goofing off. The Shield tablet looks like an everyday tablet and despite its gaming prowess, is also a general purpose tablet. Nobody will stare if you take it out at work or on the train. It runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat with very few UI customizations and it works with all Google Play apps including the app store. Anything you can do with an Android tablet, from email to web to watching movies and working on Office documents you can do with the Shield tablet. That helps offset the pain of the $299 price for the 16 gig WiFi model: it's not "just" a portable gaming console.

The NVIDIA Shield tablet has a 1920 x 1200 IPS display with 16:10 aspect ratio. The tablet has 2 gigs of RAM, 16 gigs of internal storage and a microSD card slot that's compatible with cards up to 128 gigs. It supports moving apps to SD cards (handy given how huge 3D games can be), though not all games support moving to cards. Dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n with MIMO and 2x2 streams should help game streaming quality, and the tablet has Bluetooth 4.0 LE, USB host via the micro USB charge/sync/host combo port, and GPS with GLONASS. The passive DirectStylus 2 is included as one of the best capacitive styli on the market. In September NVIDIA will release a 32 gig model that adds unlocked pentaband 4G LTE.

NVIDIA Shield tablet

The tablet is a bit heavier than the competition at 13.4 ounces, but it feels well made. The back is fairly grippy matte polycarbonate, and the tablet has ample front-facing stereo speakers. It has a micro USB port for charging, data transfer and USB host (keyboards, mice, game controllers and flash drives) and a mini HDMI port. It also supports wireless display, though the system is really set up for HDMI output while using WiFi for game streaming and the WiFi Direct Shield Wireless controller. The tablet has front and rear 5 megapixel cameras.

NVIDIA added the Shield Tablet K, which is the same tablet for a cheaper price. What's the catch? It ships without a charger so you'll have to use a USB cable and a computer to charge it (or a third party charger). The non-K model includes a charger.

What Sets the Shield Apart?

Clearly, Android games aren't the most interesting thing about the Shield: it's NVIDIA's own game streaming, Grid cloud gaming service and ever-ready Twitch support for the tablet's front-facing 5MP camera and mic. Heck, even the $59 wireless Shield controller has a mic. Steam game streaming (actually the dreaded Origin is now supported too) has come a long way since we reviewed the Shield handheld. It's now a less geeky and tricky experience with good results on a solid WiFi network. NVIDIA Grid means playing a selection of PC games for free. Grid computers in San Jose handle all the computational work and your tablet is a thin client. In layman's terms, that means the tablet is the display, audio and controller interface to that big computer in the sky that's actually running the game. Console mode lets you plug the tablet into your HD TV via the mini HDMI port, so you can use the TV as your gaming monitor (you must have a controller to enable this mode).

NVIDIA Shield tablet

Granted, you can play today's most demanding Android games nicely on competing high end tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S that sells for $100 more but nets you an ever higher resolution Super AMOLED display and a slimmer, lighter design. But the game streaming, free PC games via Grid, built-in Twitch support and ShadowPlay game recording are unique to the Shield. If you're a hardcore gamer looking for a mobile, or couch-friendly solution, the Shield tablet has definite appeal. Though it still feels more like a look into the future than a final product with an immense library of high quality PC or NVIDIA K1-optimised games, it's worth the price of admission for an enthusiast. And we must admit that NVIDIA is doing some amazing things here: game streaming has gone from a balky affair to a truly playable system in the past year. I lost an hour of my life playing Tomb Raider 2013 (streamed from my gaming PC) in what seemed the blink of an eye because it played that well and was so much fun.

Yes, the Shield tablet plus the $60 Shield controller will set you back $360, nearly the cost of an XBOX One or PlayStation 4. But you can't take your console on the bus or to work, can you? It's an interesting comparison of what money buys, but it's not really a practical comparison. And if you're on a tight budget and already own an XBOX game controller for PC (the USB wired model), you can make do without NVIDIA's controller.


Deals and Shopping:


NVIDIA Shield Tablet Video Review


NVIDIA Shield Wireless Controller Review and Game Streaming Demo Video



But you're here because you are into games. And the tablet doesn't disappoint in most respects. It's currently the fastest Android tablet available in the US, and we don't expect the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 with Adreno 420 graphics to dethrone it. The graphics are particularly impressive here, as they should be for gaming: 192 core Kepler graphics gets the job done nicely. That won't be a panacea for 3D games that aren't particularly well optimized for Android; great hardware can only compensate so much for kludgy code. But even balky games like Asphalt 8 and some Valve ports that lack keen optimizations play better than we've seen on lesser hardware.

Game streaming using NVIDIA's list of GameStream-approved games is really a fluid and impressive thing. There's a large number of supported titles and as long as you have a decent 802.11n or ac dual band network. Hint: despite what NVIDIA says about networking requirements, a solid 2.4GHz single band router can do the trick as long as you have a good signal. You must have a gaming PC with an NVIDIA GTX card (GTX 650 or better) and have NVIDIA's GeForce graphics drivers and Experience software installed on the PC. That means you'll already need to be a serious gamer with a decent gaming laptop or desktop to use game streaming. The Shield doesn't do the computing for gaming; rather your gaming desktop does the hard work, then streams the video, audio and controller streams to the tablet.

NVIDIA Grid cloud gaming is a free beta service that relies on servers in California to run the games, and there are a few good titles like Borderlands 2, Saints Row 3 and Red Faction: Armageddon. You will need a fast Internet connection of at least 10 mbps with short ping times to NVIDIA's grid server farm. I spent a few hours playing Saints Row 3, and the graphics were high quality with good frame rates and excellent control response times with the NVIDIA Shield controller and the XBOX 360 PC USB controller. The connection dropped once, but the game picked up where I'd left off (yes, you get cloud saves). This is a beta service, and NVIDIA adds new games occasionally. I expect it will remain free for Shield portable and Shield tablet owners for some time.

For those of you who like to do Steam ShadowPlay or Twitch, the better than average 5 megapixel front camera is ready to capture your beautiful face as you game. NVIDIA's beta GeForce Experience offers Twitch integration with ShadowPlay too. It's easy to start recording your game using the wireless Shield controller: hit the Android back button twice.


  Quadrant AnTuTu 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited Sunspider JavaScript Test (lower is better)
NVIDIA Shield Tablet 21,414 51,838 30,364 510
NVIDIA Shield Portable 18,854 41,288 N/A wouldn't run
Dell Venue 8 7480 21,314 43,926 18,343 596
Nexus 9 13,728 56,937 26,307 926
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 21,513 32,927 13,475 468
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 23,355 34,890 13,785 396
LG G Pad 8.3 11,913 22,644 6480 (Extreme) 982
Google Nexus 7 (2013) 5339 19,981 7304 (Extreme) 1058
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7" 20,382 n/a 16,657 (Extreme) 572
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7054 16,214 3299 1024
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 7450 20,517 10,101 (Extreme) 1501
Google Nexus 10 4959 13,658 n/a 1308
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 14,515 33,947 13,458 472
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 9181 17,239 4615 920

Geekbench 3: 1119 single core, 3407 multi-core



If you're a long time user or fan of Samsung's Super AMOLED phones and tablets, you might not love the Shield's IPS display at first blush. Color gamut is good but not as wide, and the Shield tablet lacks those hyper-luscious colors. Nonetheless, it's actually a lovely display with good colors and excellent contrast that makes some scenes look absolutely luminous--particularly those with high contrast dark settings and vividly lit main elements. It has a Sony Bravia-like quality with natural colors. The 1920 x 1200 resolution is 16:10, a little taller than standard widescreen full HD 1080p, leaving room for the Android soft buttons at the bottom. Brightness is good at 390 nits, but not super-bright. It's plenty bright for indoor use; though some PC games that tend toward the dark side will have you raising brightness.

Shield Wireless Controller

The Shield controller isn't cheap, but it's a well-made, weighty controller with absolutely posh buttons that are crisp and responsive without being stiff or clacky. It has the usual two joystick, one d-pad arrangement plus requisite shoulder buttons and X, A, B and Y buttons. The controller uses WiFi Direct rather than Bluetooth to reduce latency. In use, we felt no controller lag. The right joystick felt just right in games, while the XBOX 360 controller had too much acceleration (the left was fine on both). NVIDIA makes it easy to connect the controller to the tablet: just launch the Shield controller app and it pairs the two together.

The controller has capacitive Android back and home buttons near the top and a game start button. Press the green NVIDIA logo to wake up the controller and launch Shield Hub (your gaming hub) on the tablet. Shield Hub lists PC streaming titles in your PC's library, has access to Grid cloud gaming, a list of media player apps on the tablet and Android games. It picked up many but not all Android games that we'd installed on our tablet. There's also a mini trackpad of sorts nestled between the two grips and volume controls as well as a microphone for Twitch and Google voice command. That's handy if your tablet is sitting 10 feet away plugged into your TV.

DirectStylus 2

NVIDIA's second-generation stylus (the first was in the Tegra Note) is one of the best capacitive stylus experiences. If you're right handed, it manages to "fake" palm rejection using clever software and the powerful GPU in the Shield tablet to discern capacitive knuckle or hand contact from the included stylus. If you're left handed like me (despite a left handed option under settings) it falls apart and does a poor job of ignoring your left hand touching the screen. If you're right handed it works admirably and makes the tablet a viable note-taking companion.

The pen has a rubbery, angled tip, so you can write or draw fine lines with the pointy tip or wider lines using the entire surface. It also registers pressure so you can achieve variable line width, but the palm rejection and pressure sensitivity don't compare to active digitizer solutions like the Wacom digitizer used in Samsung Galaxy Note Android products or N-Trig used in several Windows 8 convertibles like the Sony Vaio Flip and Microsoft Surface Pro 3. If you're right handed, it's quite useable for note taking and annotations, something we can't say for the average third party stylus for iPad or Android tablets. NVIDIA includes a launcher with a few pre-installed selections including Evernote, two note taking programs and their own capable Dabbler art program.

Battery Life

The tablet has a 5300 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. Battery life is highly variable, given the gaming vs. regular tablet use cases. When using it as you would any 8" tablet, battery life is similar to the competition at 8 hours of mixed use (video playback, web browsing, email, music playback and social networking at 50% brightness with WiFi on). When gaming, be it highly demanding Android titles like the very graphically pleasing Portal, Half Life 2 and bundled Trine 2 tailored to the NVIDIA K1 CPU, or game streaming with a PC or Grid cloud gaming, battery life is 3 hours or less. Thankfully, the Shield Wireless controller doesn't use the micro USB port, so you can play plugged into AC. Temperatures don't get wildly higher when the tablet is both charging and gaming (unlike the Tegra 4 in some Android smartphones). The back of the tablet gets quite warm when playing demanding Android games, but streaming and Grid gaming don't heat things up.


We love the NVIDIA Shield tablet because it dares to do what most manufacturers won't: take a risk on future computing paradigms. Though the Shield tablet is powerful as Android tablets go, the really interesting story here is game streaming and grid computing via NVIDIA Grid: either your own gaming PC or NVIDIA's server farms are doing the heavy computational work, and the Shield tablet manages to be a mostly reliable thin client to play those games. The tablet acts as your display, speakers and controller while the game is actually running elsewhere. Interesting and compelling. That said, the Shield tablet stands alone nicely as an 8" widescreen full HD tablet with a fast processor, good display, a very useable (if you're right handed) capacitive stylus with better than average speakers. The Android implementation is clean and up to date, and NVIDIA is responsive with updates and tweaks. For $299, it's a lovely higher end tablet at a palatable price. I'm sold. Though we wish the gaming controller was included in the price, we understand that NVIDIA wants to keep the list price low, and they understand that not everyone who buys the tablet is a hardcore gamer. Happily, if you are a gamer on the cheap, controllers like the XBOX 360 USB PC game controller work quite well, though you may have to tweak a few settings here and there.


Price: $299 for 16 gig WiFi-only model, TAB for 32 gig LTE 4G model. Shield wireless controller is $59.99 additional.


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NVIDIA Shield tablet


NVIDIA Shield tablet


NVIDIA Shield tablet


NVIDIA Shield tablet


NVIDIA Shield tablet


NVIDIA Shield tablet

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Display: 8" IPS capacitive touch screen with passive DirectStylus 2 included. Resolution: 1920 x 1200, 283 PPI. Has ambient light sensor, 3 axis gyro and accelerometer.

Battery: 5300 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 2.2 GHZ NVIDIA K1 (ARM Cortex A15) quad core CPU with companion 5th low power core and 192 core Kepler graphics. 2 gigs RAM, 16 or 32 gigs internal storage.

Size: 8.8 x 5.0 x 0.36 inches. Weight: 13.7 ounces.

Cellular: LTE 4G model has unlocked LTE for GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile in the US are the two big GSM carriers).

Camera: 5MP front and rear cameras with HDR.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and GPS with GLONASS.

Software: Android OS 4.4.2 KitKat with light NVIDIA customizations (NVIDIA Hub for Android games, multimedia, PC GameStream and Grid cloud gaming). Standard suite of Google Android applications including web browser, email, gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, Search and the Google Play Store. Trine 2 game is bundled (full version).

Expansion: 1 SDXC microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 128 gigs.


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