So I’ve owned the NVIDIA Shield tablet (16Gb WiFi version) for a few months now and thought that it was time for a review. It replaced my old, but tried and true, Nexus 7 (2012). I took a leap of faith on this one, as I’d normally wait a while before getting a product that has just been released. The initial reviews had come out though, and they all more or less praised it to the skies, so it felt like a safe bet. The hardware was top notch, and so was the almost vanilla Android dist that it came with.
First let’s have a look at the hardware specs of this beauty:
|Screen||8 inch @ 1920×1200 (283 PPI) IPS LED|
|Dimensions||221 x 126 x 9,2 mm|
|Cameras||5MP with auto focus in back, 5MP in front|
|Speakers||Stereo, front facing|
|Stylus||Yes, with pressure sensitivity|
|Processor||NVIDIA Tegra K1, 2.2GHz|
|Wireless||802.11n 2.4/5GHz, Bluetooth 4.0LE, GPS/GLONASS|
|Connectivity||Micro-USB 2.0, Mini-HDMI out, MicroSD slot, 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack|
When you first pick it up the first thing you’ll notice is its weight. It’s not a particularly large or thick tablet, but it definitely weighs like one. Luckily, the weight mostly adds to the quality feel, even if it’s a bit more than you’re used to. The back is covered in a soft touch coating, and the front is almost completely covered by glass, except where the two speakers run along the top and bottom of the device.
The NVIDIA Shield tablet packs some impressive hardware for its price point. The Tegra K1 chip is one of the fastest SoC on the market with a Cortex-A15 4-core CPU running at 2.2GHz, bundled with the 192 core Kepler architecture GPU. It comes with all the usual bells and whistles that you would expect from a modern tablet as well., such as front and back cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, WUXGA resolution, mini-HDMI out and (thankfully) a MicroSD slot to expand your storage capabilities. It also comes with a pressure sensitive stylus that can be used right out of the box with the “Dabbler” app that comes preinstalled.
The screen is very crisp, bright and vibrant. A feature which I’ve come to appreciate a lot is the wide brightness range that you can choose from, more so than any other tablet I’ve tried. This has reduced the eye-strain I experienced when watching Netflix before bed with my old Nexus 7, which wouldn’t even go half as dim. This being said, there is one issue with the screen, albeit not much of a problem in my opinion, and that’s the back light bleeding in the corners. I know some people will do a 180 and turn around at this point, so it’s an important observation. It doesn’t bother me particularly, but it’s noticeable in low light with dark content on the screen.
There’s one major thing bothering me about the hardware, though. The physical buttons. They are terrible, just atrocious. Someone didn’t prototype the hardware as they should have, and I’m willing to bet that a future revision will have resolved this issue. Basically they are completely spongy and way to shallow to be comfortable to press. Everyone who has tried my tablet has complained that they can’t press the buttons and I just have to explain that “no, you just have to press harder until something happens”. This is a known problem with the design and has probably been mentioned in every review I’ve seen so far.
The Shield tablet comes with a very plain Android dist, much to my liking. They’ve tacked on some features, but they’re fairly unintrusive so they don’t bother me the slightest. Honestly though, I haven’t even really used any of the advertised software features that sets the Shield apart from other tablets, namely the whole “gaming” part. I don’t use console mode, I don’t have an NVIDIA card so I can’t try out the streaming from PC feature, nor can I test streaming from the “GRID” since I’m in Europe. I also don’t use Twitch, so I haven’t tried out streaming my gameplay (of which there has been little). I can see some of you yelling out “then why did you buy a gaming tablet!?”, and the answer to that is simply that this tablet gives some serious bang for the buck compared to other tablets on the market today.
It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows though; the way NVIDIA handles software updates is both a blessing and a curse. They are pushing out updates often enough, more so than any other manufacturer I know of; it even got Android 5.0 Lollipop before the Nexus devices did, which is very nice. The problem lies in their QA process, or the lack of one. When I first got the device, it was so riddled with bugs that it was in fact unusable. I tried to return it at the store of purchase, but they wouldn’t take it back. At the time I was frustrated and angry, but soon enough after a few updates things were already starting to look up. Today the NVIDIA Shield is in fairly good shape, but the pattern I’ve noticed so far is that for every few major bugs they solve, they seem to add a new one (albeit less severe). At this point, I’m just happy that I can use the WiFi and that it doesn’t freeze every 5 minutes.
Like I mentioned just before, today the NVIDIA Shield tablet is in pretty good shape software-wise. Hardware-wise there’s no doubt, it’ll kill anything you throw at it without a problem and it’s competitively priced to boot. A good buy!