Its first big advantage is its heart – it uses Nvidia’s own Tegra 4 chipset, which I imagine will be commonplace in the latter half of this year but as of right now is the most powerful gaming mobile gaming platform available. The chipset includes a quad-core CPU running at 1.9 GHz and a powerful GPU with 72 cores, making it a step above what’s been available from any other Android vendor. Thanks to that power and Nvidia’s good relationship with game developers, there are likely to be a large host of Tegra 4 optimised titles, as we saw with Tegra 2 and 3 before it. These ’Tegra Zone’ titles will be able to push the boundaries of Android game development, at least in graphical terms, as developers will be able to target the specific Tegra 4 hardware instead of needing to develop for every Android device.
Finally, the form factor of the Project Shield hardware itself seems a grade above what we’ve seen from the Ouya and other Android-based gaming machines. The hardware essentially comes in two pieces – a 5” 720p screen mounted above an Xbox 360-style controller. The controller is filled with all of the necessary bits and pieces – processor, chipset, wireless radios, battery etc, yet still isn’t much heavier than a traditional Xbox 360 controller. The device also has a powerful battery that sits between the iPad 4 and Nexus 10 in size, which should be good for quite a few hours of gaming.
I’m really excited by Project Shield. While it may turn out to be too expensive or it may be outshone by more powerful tablets, traditional next generation consoles or even gaming-focused iPhone accessories, Nvidia’s efforts remain quite extraordinary. Project Shield is expected to launch in the latter half of 2013.