CES 2013 CoverageBosco -
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NVIDIA's CES booths are always well worth a visit, and this year was no different. With no new graphics cards (officially) on the horizon, NVIDIA's booth this year focused mostly on the mobile side of things with Tegra 4, which brought Project SHIELD along with it. If you remember Tegra 3 from last year, Tegra 4 is basically a faster, yet more power efficient upgrade. Tegra 4 is still a quad-core CPU featuring an additional fifth "battery-saver" core to handle certain tasks, but this time they're ARM Cortex-A15 cores rather than the A9 cores in Tegra 3. In addition, the GeForce GPU has a whopping 72 cores. All this extra power, yet NVIDIA claims the Tegra 4 is up to 45% more power efficient than the Tegra 3, thanks to the second-generation battery-saver core.
Although the Tegra 4 will be available for use by third-party vendors, NVIDIA plans on showing just how powerful the chipset is with its Project SHIELD portable gaming system. Imagine taking an Android phone rotated in landscape and then slapping a gamepad underneath it, and you have a vague idea of what Project SHIELD is. It features the aforementioned Tegra 4, running the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system. The gamepad features dual analog sticks, your typical D-Pad and four action buttons, two shoulder buttons, and two trigger buttons. For games that don't support gamepad controls, the 5" 720p display is multi-touch, as you'd expect. On the back, you get a MicroSD slot, HDMI-out port, USB port, and headphone jack. And of course, no portable gaming system is complete without Wi-Fi. You can also use the 802.11n 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi to stream games wirelessly to Project SHIELD, including your Steam titles. The caveat is that you can only stream PC games if your desktop features an NVIDIA GPU. In fact, as of now, the listed requirements are a rather recent GTX650 or better for desktops and GTX660M or better for notebooks. You'll also have to run at least an Intel Core i5 or equivalent, 4GB of system memory, and Windows 7 or higher.
Project SHIELD is certainly a sweet little portable gaming device, but whether it's worth it is totally up to you. A lot of that will depend on the pricing, which NVIDIA has remained silent on. The Razor Edge is $999.99 for entry level, but it also does a lot more, running a full Windows 8 install. If Project SHIELD isn't priced around $300 or lower, NVIDIA may have a hard time selling these, no matter how impressive they may be.
The last thing we checked out at the NVIDIA booth was a playable 3D demo for Metro: Last Light, the highly anticipated sequel to post-apocalyptic shooter Metro 2033. It was a tri-monitor 3D Vision Surround setup running off dual GTX 690s. You can check out staff member ClayMeow playing it below, using a keyboard/mouse like a PC gaming vet - not any of that gamepad crap. Not surprisingly, the game looked absolutely gorgeous. If you'd like a brief rundown of what actually occurred in the playable demo, you can check ClayMeow's forum post.