NVIDIA Shield Price Revealed, Release Date Looms Against Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita

The mobile gaming scene is going to get even more crowded this coming holiday season as NVIDIA gears up to take on the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita with the Shield.

Formerly known as "Project Shield" and now more simply dubbed, the NVIDIA Shield will be available for pre-orders on May 20, and the console will ship to stores in June. The new handheld will cost $349, making it pricier than both the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita.

So what's the secret weapon? The NVIDIA Shield will run on the company's much-hyped Tegra 4 processor, which features a whopping 72 GPU cores, but the device's core appeal is Android. A 720p screen, multi-touch screen, and a full-size controller is tied together by Google's mobile operating system.

"These pieces, put together by a company full of gaming fanatics, add up to an amazing new open platform gaming portable," Jason Paul wrote on NVIDIA's blog. "It's the best way to play Android games. And because it's an Android device, it works with both Tegra-optimized and regular Android games - as well as Android apps."

The NVIDIA Shield will allow users to play Android games from Google Play, TegraZone, and Steam. Additionally, NVIDIA said it is currently working on getting PC-based Steam games up and running on Shield via streaming.

Streaming Steam games on a handheld sounds especially appealing, but until that happens is the NVIDIA Shield worth considering? We'll obviously have to reserve judgment until we get our own hands on the thing (although here were our initial hands-on impressions), but it'll be worth keeping an eye on exactly how Android games function on the device. Traditional games like Sonic should work very well with the Shield's controller, but what about touch-centric Android games? Will they be awkward to play on this clamshell-designed system?

The Nintendo 3DS already boasts an impressive line-up of titles, and while the PS Vita has struggled a bit Sony still has a dedicated base of fans. The Shield will be boosted by the fact that it'll feature a library of thousands of games at launch, but with few exclusives it'll be interesting to see how it fares.

If you're looking for more information on the Shield's features, you can go here and find out more. Here's a truncated feature list:

- Tegra 4- The world's fastest mobile processor delivers rich graphics and unbeatable performance thanks to 72 GPU cores, four CPU cores and 2GB of RAM
- Console-grade controller- Precise control thanks to dual analog joysticks, a full-sized D-Pad, left and right analog triggers, full-sized bumpers and A/B/X/Y buttons
- Multi-touch display- 5-inch, 720p retinal multi-touch display for high-fidelity visuals
- Integrated speakers- Custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system - we think this is SHIELD's sleeper feature
- Wi-Fi- 802.11n 2X2 MIMO game-speed Wi-Fi for game streaming
- Pure AndroidLatest Android Jelly Bean operating system from Google, for access to Android games and apps
- There's more- We put into SHIELD everything we would want in a premium mobile gaming device: 16 GB memory, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, a mini-HDMI output, micro-USB 2.0, a microSD storage slot, a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.

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