Nvidia unveils Project SHIELD Android and PC gaming console

Nvidia has announced Project SHIELD, a portable gaming console that can play Android games or stream games from the Steam library of Nvidia-powered PCs.

The handheld console comes with the new Nvidia Tegra 4 mobile processor, which combines ARM’s quad-core Cortex-A15 and Nvidia’s custom 72-core GeForce graphics chip, resulting in what the company claims is the fastest processor for mobile devices in the world, while also delivering much-needed power saving features for power-hungry portable computing.

On the surface of it Project SHIELD looks much like MOGA, a handheld Android gaming system, but one of the many key differences is that Nvidia’s device packs everything in, not requiring a user to attach their smartphone to act as a screen and the processing power behind everything.

Project SHIELD has a built-in 5-inch multitouch screen, with a resolution of 1280×720, that folds down over the controller, which is more like a traditional console controller than the ones we have encountered with other handheld consoles from Nintendo and Sony.

Another major feature is the ability to play Windows games, thanks to streaming content. While the operating system is Android Jelly Bean, and users can access games from Google Play or Nvidia’s Tegrazone, the built-in Wi-Fi allows for streaming games from a PC using Nvidia architecture, including titles from Steam, opening up a huge collection of games that Android-only devices do not have.

“Project SHIELD was created by NVIDIA engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO and co-founder of Nvidia. “We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love SHIELD as much as we do.”

The move is a major shift for Nvidia, which is usually powering the systems under the hood of many gaming rigs. Now it is set to become potentially a major player in the handheld console market, taking advantage of the mobile gaming boom to deliver a two-in-one system with potent architecture to power it.

We will likely find out more, such as pricing and a release date, at this year’s E3.