Before NVIDIA brought out the Shield TV, a replacement for set-top TV boxes and media centre units, it had lined up a new version of the Shield handheld console, set for a worldwide release sometime in 2015. It was going to be identical to the home console, but in a handheld form factor ready for mobile gaming or streaming from a desktop computer. NVIDIA saw big potential in the Android gaming market thanks to new technologies and software on the horizon, and were ready with a device that would’ve been quite tempting. But suddenly, without notice, it was dropped from the company’s roadmap without any replacements on the horizon.
A prototype of the Shield 2 has now been found in a pawn shop in Canada. It’s likely one of the few remaining Shield prototypes in the world, and might have unreleased hardware within its innards that NVIDIA instead reserved for the Shield TV.
The console was bought by a redditor by the name of “FwrigginRwootbeer”, who traded in an old Shield handheld for the prototype, unaware that it had never been released and was extremely rare. The unit’s existence was confirmed by AndroidPolice.com, so it’s a genuine prototype.
Smaller and slimmer than the original Shield portable, the Shield 2 kept all of the video outputs and hardware buttons as the original. The battery pack stayed the same size, but battery life was now better thanks to a jump to the Tegra X1 chipset and more efficient ARM core designs.
The display is an IPS panel with a resolution of 144×810 pixels. The hardware internally is a quad-core 1.9GHz ARM Cortex-A57, with 3GB of DDR3L RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage for games and applications. The GPU was based on the Maxwell family, with around 256 shader cores and an unknown number of ROPs and texture units. The prototype shipped with Android 5.0, although it might be possible to upgrade that if a skilled tinkerer decides to upgrade it to Android 7.0 Nougat.
FwrigginRwootbeer says he likely won’t hold on to the console because it has no software support and no guarantee that there aren’t any bugs in the system. NVIDIA hasn’t asked for the console back yet, so they probably wouldn’t mind if he kept it, either.
As for why this was never released, who knows? Some rumours say that NVIDIA wanted to get out of the handheld market and jump on the craze of cable-cutting in the US with a cheap alternative that could also play games. Other rumours point to the Nintendo Switch as one reason for NVIDIA abandoning the project because the Tegra X1 chipset finally found a home.
Hopefully Sony decides to pick up this market with a future version of the Vita based on Android.