NVIDIA surprised the world last night by transitioning from hardware component manufacturer to game console manufacturer in one fell swoop, introducing the world to its portable game console, Project Shield. A 5-inch "retinal" HD multitouch display sitting atop a full-on game controller that resembles a blend of the Xbox 360 gamepad's curves and the PlayStation 3 DualShock 3's unfortunate analog stick placement, all powered by the newly revealed Tegra 4 quad-core cortex A15 processor. The console's set to ship in Q2 2013, and it promises stunning graphics for the Android games it's made to run, as well as a direct streaming option employing NVIDIA's GeForce Experience application. That means not just Android games, but also full-on PC games, with built-in Steam Big Picture Mode integration. It is, frankly, an impressive package. But the proof's in the pudding, right?
We got our first chance to go hands-on with the device this morning -- our first hands-on with any Tegra 4 device, mind you -- and came away impressed. Beyond being a speedy handheld, the 5-inch LED makes high-def PC games look even more visually stunning. Sheer pixel density alone meant that our test run of Need for Speed: Most Wanted looked even better on Project Shield than it did on the PC running it. More importantly, there was zero perceptible lag.
As for controls, Shield is a bit on the unwieldy side of things. In an effort to make the screen foldable, clamshell-style, with the full gamepad underneath, the analog sticks are sunk into the body. While it didn't make any of the games we tried unplayable, it did feel a bit less comfy than, say, an Xbox 360 controller. The DualShock 3-esque placement of those analog sticks isn't helping either, but sadly that doesn't look like it's changing -- the sticks are where they are for function's sake.
Gallery: NVIDIA Project SHIELD hands-on