WASHINGTON: Tablets are losing their luster to smartphones. The bigger the smartphone you own, the more reason to say “why bother?” to the larger, almost always identically-powered slate that’s just a bigger screen with better battery life, sans cellular data.
And while we’re now using computers more with great machines like inexpensive Chromebooks, the same question applies: Why bother with a tablet at all?
If you’ve ever used one, you know exactly why: Because the larger screens are great for everywhere except your pocket, while smartphones are the perfect go-anywhere tool. But sometimes you’re just at home, or just at the office, or just lounging around and don’t need a small screen that’ll only last a few hours playing that HD version of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
And yet most of today’s tablets aren’t even good at doing that. In fact, while most of the larger smart devices boast better processors, a thinner frame, and few actually significant improvements, The Nvidia Shield Tablet is a pleasure for all of those tablet-esque needs, more than Android competitors or even the iPad. So — surprise, surprise — a gaming company made one of the best laptops earlier this year, and now another one brings us a kick-ass tablet. Gaming for the win!
To say that the Shield Tablet takes plenty of design cues from Apple is an understatement. This tablet, the first from Nvidia, comes after the critically successful yet steep-priced Shield gaming console, now called the Shield Portable. Gunmetal grey with a comfy rubber back and iPad-esque polished edges, the tablet feels great in the hand no matter how you hold it. Though it’s a bit long; large stereo speakers will do that.
The Shield Tab is a stunning device; it’s a beauty from any angle. Carrying it around has drawn more eyes and started more conversations than anything since the iPad first released. The Shield Tablet is heftier, thicker, and taller than the iPad mini 3, and it isn’t even weighted properly by comparison. But those differences are moot; the Shield is 13.8 ounces of metal bliss, accentuated by the beautiful 8-inch widescreen 1,920 x 1,200-pixel resolution display, perfect for a full HD movie without those nasty black bars. With the powerful (albeit tinny) stereo speakers, the Shield is more of a proper tablet than Apple’s.
You can stop rolling your eyes now. We love the iPad mini —it’s just not perfect for multimedia. The Shield Tablet is as good at browsing the web as it is streaming Netflix at 1080p, and it’s one of the only devices to support full HD streaming from the video service. And with a practically stock version of Android 4.4.4 “KitKat,” which the company promises to keep that way with very timely updates for when Google pushes them out, tablet seekers of any kind should consider getting one. Even if you aren’t a gamer.
It’s not wrong to expect a company that specializes in high-end gaming hardware to produce a gaming tablet. In fact, that’s even how Nvidia markets it, and there are more than enough gaming features included, freely. Streaming games, recording gameplay straight to Twitch, high-end on-device gaming, support for up to four players on a single device — that’s no joke.
The gaming stuff is great, but hell, the tablet doesn’t need any of it. It’s crazy fast, even faster (in some ways) than the new iPhone 6, especially when it comes to graphics processing. The Shield Tablet is good enough even absent its gaming specialty. It’s the whole meal The Shield Tablet is good enough even absent its gaming specialty. It’s the whole meal. Gaming is just the dessert that you take because, hey, there’s always room for more.
And it lasts. While streaming games, the tablet lasts between five and six hours, playing high-end games like Trine 2 directly on the device brings it down to a very lowly two and a half hours. Then again, for web browsing, HD video streaming, and general app use, the Shield is the Energizer bunny, maxing out at about 13 hours of continuous use. So if you’re taking an eleven-hour flight, make sure you have a nice, balanced selection of videos, reading, and if you’re good, you can have some gaming for dessert.
Slap on the $30 cover which connects magnetically and you’ve got the perfect iPad mini competitor, one that neatly wraps everything a tablet is supposed to do — music, movies, TV, web, apps, and games — in a pretty little bow. And for a better price, to boot.
If the story of the Shield Tablet ended there, it would be a great one. But it doesn’t, because after all it is a gaming-grade tablet, so what’s the point if we aren’t going to throw some hardcore graphics into the mix.
There really hasn’t been a “gaming” tablet. The few that have tried, like the Wikipad, end up forgotten. And Nvidia has already silently admitted that a tablet is not the way to go for gaming. That’s why the Shield Portable exists.
This tablet, on the other hand, is made to fit in your living room, not just your hand. Think of it like the Android equivalent to an Apple TV that can also stream games from your PC — a tablet that you plug in to the TV when it’s time to play games or when you want to watch a movie on the big screen. And one that you unplug when it’s time to actually use it like a tablet.