nVidia Shield Tablet Review


Many tablets can do gaming, but few (if any) can do it like the nVidia Shield Tablet. It’s processor is primed for any game available on the Google Play Store and beyond. It has features that make it a great micro-console for your living room and an excellent traveling companion. However, some additional purchases may have to be made to complete the set (i.e. the NVidia Controller).




Black plastic covers the majority of the nVidia Shield. Some may think an all-plastic construction would look cheap, especially when there are much finer, shinier things (i.e. aluminum) to make up a tablet. But I thought it gave the overall look and feel a robust quality, and the plastic soft-touch back only tipped the scales further in the Shield’s favour. If you’re going to be holding it for a while, you should at least like the way a device feels in your hands.

At 13.7 ounces and 0.36-inches thick, the Shield Tablet isn’t going to beat out the iPad Air 2. After all, more graphics power requires more space. But those worried about its weight while playing shouldn’t fret. For the 4 hours I played The Walking Dead 2, my arms never felt fatigued. Of course, the tablet is better used with two hands rather than one.

The Shield Tablet comes with a micro-SD slot that can add 32GB to the already available 16GB. It will come in handy if you really want to take advantage of the Shield’s gaming capabilities, but apps take up a lot of space. After downloading three games to the Shield, there was about 5GB left, so you’ll either want to invest in a micro-SD card or look at the larger 32GB version.

It also comes with a 5 mega-pixel front and rear-facing camera. While the rear is nothing the write home about, the front is certainly better than average, which is where it counts if you intend on streaming through Twitch. You could even just record locally with nVidia ShadowPlay, a video capture program. There’s endless features for hardcore gamer to tinker with here.

There’s even a stylus to take notes, draw—you name it through a series of pre-installed programs. What’s more, nVidia included a stylus holder.


The Shield Tablet comes with an 8-inch 1,920 by 1,200 pixel IPS display, which looks stunning. It’s not quite as good as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4’s AMOLED screen, which has better contrast and 359ppi—much higher than the Shield’s 283ppi. But it’s still great for gaming.

The Shield Tablet comes with a mini-HDMI port that allows you to stream games to your HDTV. It can output video at 4K through Netflix, and supports games at 1080p. However, you’ll need to purchase a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable separately. This additional display feature, and an investment in a mini-HDMI cable bumped the Shield Tablet up from portable gaming device to micro-console.

Streaming Games

The nVidia Shield Tablet comes with the added benefit of being able to wirelessly stream games from your PC to your Shield Tablet. For those of you that store your gaming desktop away from the comfort of a couch, NVidia GameStream allows you to connect it wirelessly to the NVidia tablet where you can roam anywhere within their local Wi-Fi network and play. I was able to turn on my gaming PC and stream Borderlands 2 onto my tablet where I hooked it up to the living room TV. However, NVidia has some particular restrictions, like a GeForce GTX 650 or higher GPU, 802.11a/g router (at minimum), and Windows 7 or 8 operating system. Check here for the full list.

Think of nVidia’s Grid system as something similar to PlayStation’s Now program or the Netflix of gaming. You can stream games from nVidia’s servers to your Shield Tablet. The program is currently in beta where users are able to play from a selection of 16 games, like Grid, Borderlands 2, and Darksiders II, for free until June 30, 2015. Grid required quite a bit of bandwidth to stream smoothly over Wi-Fi. Being in close proximity to the router and having a good internet connection (at least 10Mbps) is necessary to get the best out of the Grid streaming app. When the screen was filling up with enemies and effects, the controls felt like I was running through mud at times. Other times, play was smooth and uninterrupted.


Some Parts Not Included

The nVidia Controller does not come with the Shield Tablet, but without it many of the features, like Grid and GameStream, would have to go unused. While the Shield Tablet is a capable machine without the controller, games felt better with it. I may stand alone in this opinion, but if given the choice to use a real gamepad or a touch screen, I’ll choose gamepad every time.

The controller does feel good in hand; some may feel it’s a tad oversized. The design is similar to that of the Xbox controller with some Android variations that support home and back navigation. Below the dual-joysticks is a touchpad to scroll around a screen like a mouse and below it a volume up and down rocker. In the middle of the controller, between the trigger buttons is a headphone/microphone jack.

The controller connects via Wi-Fi Direct. nVidia claims this method allows for better response times over Bluetooth ones. During my time with the controller, I felt no lag between my button presses and the tablet.

NVidia also has a tablet cover for sale that doubles as a screen protector and a way to prop up the tablet while playing. It would have been a welcome addition, but I managed with propping up the Shield Tablet against a pillow or coffee cup to play games. It seems like NVidia missed a great opportunity to bundle these two accessories together.


Performance and Battery

We come to the meat of the review. How does the tablet stack up in the gaming arena?

It comes with an NVIDIA Tegra K1, which has a 2.2GHz quad-core A15 processor and a Kepler GPU, plus 2GB of RAM. These are specs that you’ll find in most Chromebooks or small notebooks, but not in a tablet.

The Shield never buckled under pressure in real-world tests when given games to stream or playing them locally. But the Shield’s greatest asset is also it’s weakest link. As of now, the amount of Shield-enhanced games are few and far between. It doesn’t seem like developers are lining up to create games that tax such a niche GPU, when the mass amount of Android tablets out there aren’t supporting Kepler graphics. This fact does add another dimension to the Shield and that’s longevity.

The Shield lasted over 4 hours of continuous play at 50 percent brightness and 60 percent volume while playing with the controller. Without it, you may be able to get closer to NVidia’s estimated 6 hours. After a couple weeks of testing, the Shield averaged about 2 days of normal use that consisted of gaming, web browsing, and standby time. Not the best, but not bad either. It also holds its charge well in standby.

Bottom Line

If you want a portable gaming solution and a micro-console for your living room, the Shield is your best bet. However, it’s important to consider investing in the nVidia Controller if you want to get everything out of this gaming machine.


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Natalie Shoemaker

Natalie found her passion for writing about tech when she started with PCMag. She has also written for Geek, GDGT and TechnologyTell.

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