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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Review

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Conclusion:

If you're looking for the best Android tablet money can buy, look no further than the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. With a Tegra K1 processor and NVIDIA's constantly evolving SHIELD platform, which includes such great features like GameStream and Gamepad Mapper, there's a lot to love. In fact, the only tablets that truly surpass the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet are a few high-end tablets running Windows 8.1, but you're also talking about ones that are more than double the price.

At $299/$399, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is priced competitively in its class. Sure there are some cheap $100 tablets on the market, but you get what you pay for. The only tablet in the $100 range worthy of mention is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, but despite the Android backbone, you forego the openness typically associated with Android, as Amazon uses a proprietary closed system. The Kindle may be great if you're an existing Amazon Prime member, but if not, the SHIELD Tablet certainly has it beat in every other metric.

Compared to its older brother, the NVIDIA SHIELD Portable, the Tablet is much more mainstream and mostly better for it. As great as the Tablet is for gaming, it's also great for non-gaming tasks, whereas the Portable struggled with its usability. If you strictly want a portable gaming device, the Portable may be better because of its attached controller, but the Tablet provides you with a larger screen, higher resolution, a faster processor, and a better form factor.

The only drawback compared to the Portable is that, if you want to play a game with physical controls, you have an extra, separate device you must carry along with you. Using the NVIDIA SHIELD Wireless Controller in the comfort of my home is great, especially with Console Mode, but using it while commuting to work via train? Not so much. There's also the fact that, if you want that full gaming experience, that means essentially adding another $59.99 to the cost. Throw in the SHIELD Tablet Cover for $39.99, and you've now increased the cost to $398.98/$498.98.

All that being said, there's really only one thing I dislike about the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, and it's largely subjective – the glossy screen. The Tablet's 1920x1200 display is gorgeous in low-light situations, but suffers in well-lit environments. NVIDIA is changing the monitor market with its G-Sync technology; it would be great if its engineers now figured out a way to make a display that can switch from glossy to matte, to meet the demands of all usage scenarios. Until that time, we're forced to deal with the trade-offs associated with either type of screen.

Now for a few aspects I didn't cover earlier, but should still be mentioned to make a fully formed purchase decision. The Tablet's front-facing speakers are certainly acceptable, though you'll likely use headphones during travels or your TV's speakers when in Console Mode. The 5MP front and rear cameras aren't the best on the market, but in this day and age, I think most people have smartphones for that – do you really want to be one of those people obstructing the view of others around you by holding up a tablet to snap a photo? That being said, on the plus side, NVIDIA has included the Camera Awesome app for free, which not only contains various modes and tools, but also some Tegra-only features, such as slow-motion video, enhanced HDR, and integrated stylus support.

As I've previously said, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is the best Android tablet money can buy, and for that reason, I think you probably already guessed that it receives my recommendation. As powerful as the device is, the best part is that it improves upon almost everything I disliked about the Portable – its form-factor is more user-friendly for non-gaming, it weighs much less (13.7oz compared to 20.4oz!), and the screen is substantially larger (8" compared to 5"), making it easier to play games, watch videos, and read text. I think the way I can illustrate just how much I love the device is that I have yet to go a day without using it in some capacity ever since I got it, whereas with the Portable, I set it aside in favor of my PlayStation Vita, only pulling it out when I really wanted to use Console Mode. If you purchase the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, you'll likely have a hard time putting it down as well.

 

Pros:

  • Powerful Tegra K1 processor
  • More user-friendly form factor than its predecessor
  • Ready for the upcoming Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Easily plays buttery-smooth 1080p videos
  • Pre-installed premium apps add value, including Trine 2: Complete Story
  • NVIDIA GameStream (if your PC supports it)
  • NVIDIA GRID Cloud Gaming (if you live close enough to the servers in San Jose)
  • NVIDIA ShadowPlay with Twitch streaming support
  • Console Mode with support for up to four controllers
  • Can increase storage via microSD cards beyond the built-in 16GB/32GB
  • Comparatively good battery life under normal usage scenarios

 

Cons:

  • NVIDIA GameStream requires a GeForce GTX-equipped PC
  • Glossy screen (problem for some people)
  • Using a separate physical controller isn't always feasible
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