If you were gaming in 2013, you may not have realized just how much of a game changer the NVIDIA SHIELD Portable would be. It was an Android gaming system that was before its time, renamed from the original NVIDIA SHIELD to make room for an entire product line of the name, it was a genuinely beloved and useful little gadget.
The powerful Tegra 4 processor set the SHIELD apart from any other Android-powered device. Though it was about the size of an Xbox 360 controller when closed, the hand-held controller folded open to reveal a 5-inch screen. That processor was beyond the cutting edge at the time, but Android-powered gaming had not matured enough to really propel the gadget into “household name” status.
Since 2013, the NVIDIA SHIELD line has expanded to encompass tablets whose resolution could impress even the jaded and an Android TV Box under the same name, SHIELD, though most refer to it as SHIELD TV. But, much to the disappointment of its fans, they stopped production of the Portable.
The Rumors: A Mysterious NVIDIA SHIELD Portable II And FCC Filings
In 2017 the rumors about a second NVIDIA SHIELD Portable model have been running rampant since an FCC filing in 2016 showed an upcoming model. The model specs in the FCC filing called for the use, not of the powerful Tegra 4, but of the Tegra X1 system-on-chip (SoC) boasting four Cortex A57 cores clocked at a maximum frequency of 1.91GHz, that is pretty fast. That chip gives the unit 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal flash memory. The pictures on the FCC filing made it clear, this was a second Portable.
That filing showed that the upgrades were more than just that new Tegra chip, too. This second-gen device would have also seen a resolution and size increase from the original’s 5-inch 720p (1280 x 720) screen to a 5.66-inch 1440 x 810 display. And the Wi-Fi would also have gotten a boost to 802.11ac standard, enhancing the NVIDIA SHIELD Portable 2’s ability to stream games from a desktop PC over a home network over its predecessor.
Then, one a prototype showed up at a pawn shop in Canada. According to Android Headlines, “The console itself is possibly the same one that was certified by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in early 2017.” The same in the FCC filing above. The unit, bearing the codename “loki_e_wifi” may actually be capable of outputting a higher resolution to a TV than it can display on it’s integrated screen. The device itself, due to running an older Android 5.0.1 Lollipop appears to have been built at some point in 2014. The device was never intended for release and had been distributed to game testers. It really makes you wonder how it got onto a pawn shop shelf, but the guy who found it certainly has bragging rights, at least.
— Phandroid (@Phandroid) August 28, 2017
There were some differences between the ostensible prototype and the FCC filing, notably the size of the screen. The 5.89-inch screen, with a resolution of 1,440 by 810 pixels (16:9 aspect ratio) is larger than the filing’s listed 5.66-inch display panel.
Despite those rumors and the mysterious appearance of that apparent prototype of the second generation of NVIDIA handheld gaming consoles, the company will not confirm any plans for a commercial release.
Due to the fact that this handheld console was so early in Android gaming development and never really hit big – it is doubtful they will. But, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is a very intriguing way forward with similar functionality, albeit in two pieces, and a larger screen. The TV box also shows a lot of promise.
NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet
The tablet is a hybrid bridging the gap between handheld systems and multi-use tablets. The tablet came with a game controller, and Android-powered games could be played on it, or you could use it as a tablet.
The tablet made it through at least two incarnations, one with a stylus bay and the second without before the company announced that they were not going to release the K1 version of their tablet. It seems they are instead focusing on their game streaming and TV box.
— Android Community (@Androids) October 16, 2017
The new NVIDIA SHIELD, not the handheld device but the TV box, retails for $199.99 on Amazon. It’s a 4K-capable, HDR-ready video streaming device of which TechRadar said, “Said simply, if there’s ever been a time to take a serious look at NVIDIA already-great streamer, this is the time to do it.”
NVIDIA SHIELD, according to NVIDIA, “is the most advanced living room streamer on the planet, built for the Google-connected lifestyle.” Claiming “the smoothest 4K HDR video, plus the power and convenience to control your entertainment—and your smart home—with just your voice.” They don’t stop there though, billing on-demand NVIDIA-powered gaming “from the cloud, or cast from your PC to your TV.”
Now for the 2017 NVIDIA SHIELD TV specs. Coming in at a svelte 40% smaller than older versions of the device, it has gone from 8 inches to about 5. Shedding the extra plastic cost the micro SD card slot that used to be on the back of the box. It will also only come in one hard drive size – 16GB. Though, NVIDIA said that the 500GB version is still going to be on the market. It will just cost a bit more, be the old 2015 size of about 8 inches and have the name ” NVIDIA SHIELD Pro.”
Hearing that the SHIELD is dropping ports may concern some users, but don’t despair. If you turn it around and you’ll still find Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0a, and two USB 3.0 ports. The box is compatible with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but that Ethernet cable, according to the TechRadar review, gives you the best consistent 4K video streaming or GeForce Now gaming.
The controller for the TV box is also smaller, and boasts 60 hours of battery life, but doesn’t say if that is “standby” or play time.
— Proactive Computing (@PCH3lp) September 28, 2017
Now for the excellent news, a once “optional accessory,” the new NVIDIA SHIELD TV box will ship with a basic remote, for free. With a built-in microphone on the remote, so you don’t have to worry about staying close to your machine and a simple set of three buttons for navigation and a touch-capacitive channel to raise and lower the volume.
All in all, the new TV box is an improvement in most areas over the previous version.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Portable Rumors Refuse to Die
We can not say with any certainty that the 2017 discovery of an FCC filing claiming that the NVIDIA SHIELD Portable 2 will ever actually lead to that release, fans of the system will be ever hopeful that the company won’t abandon the line. The tech developer is usually considered to be in the better chip business, but it would be really cool if they went ahead and continued with this line.
We aren’t saying that they should stop working on their other outstanding products, but is it too much to ask for another bash at the awesome all-in-one portable? (And while we are at it, NVIDIA, perhaps hiring some people to come up with new names… it would be less confusing.)
The system may have a good run now that Android-powered gaming is a more mature niche in the market. But, at this point, the only people who really know are in NVIDIA, and they aren’t talking.
Featured Image: NVidia website promotional image from 2013.