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Week in Tech: Nvidia's Gaming Tablet, No More Moore

Finally time for a tablet?

Nvidia has wheeled out its second effort at the obviously-not-actually-a-PC-but-does-interesting-things-with-PCs Shield gaming device. And this time it's a tablet. Which is what it should have been in the first place. But doesn't actually mean it's automatically good idea. Still, it's hard to imagine Shield the Second doing much worse than Shield the First, which ended up being given away in boxes of Cheerios (ish) and even then only escaped landfills on account of being handed out by the sackful to shameless media types addicted to freebies. Meanwhile, there's more confirmation that Moore's Law is really no, er, more, some interesting screens get priced up, another interesting screen turns out to be an epic dud...it was ever thus.

So, the Nvidia Shield Tablet. First a quick specs tour. We're talking 8-inches, 1,920 by 1,200 pixels (16:10, yay!) and Nvidia Tegra K1 chips. The latter sports 192 cores. Count 'em!

Actually, that's really 192 shaders which sounds good until you consider that a GeForce GTX 780 Ti packs 2,880 of the little buggers and the starting point for decent Nvidia PC gaming card for a PC (the 750 Ti) kicks things off with 640 so-called cores.

Oh, and Tegra K1 is Kepler and thus not the much more efficient new Maxwell graphical gubbins, which would suit a mobile device like this conspicuously well.

Anyway the point is that Tegra Shield has decent graphics grunt for an Android device, but it's hardly off the map.

Get a load of my magnesium thermal shield...

Then there's a stylus, stezza speakers plus bass ports and a 5MP forward facing camera (Twitch ahoy etc). The whole shebang is 9.2mm thick, weighs 390g and runs Android 4.4.2. Those dimensions makes it slightly thinner and quite a bit lighter than the current standard iPad. That of course is a 10-inch tablet. The iPad Mini is closer in screen proportions and both thinner at 7.5mm and lighter at 331g. But Shield Tegra is by no means a porker on paper.

A few other technical details include DRM compliance extras that allow high bandwidth Netflix streaming (apparently uncommon on an Android device) and 5 GHz 2x2 WiFi for game streaming goodness.

For me, however, what's most important is the possibility that this new Shield might cut it simply as a tablet. I don't have a tablet, currently. I'm really waiting for tablet convertibles to hit a sweet spot for price, portability and performance.

But a tablet that promises exceptional gaming chops along with some fancy features to enhance your PC gaming larks? It's an interesting proposition, at the very least, and contrasts with the first Shield that may have worked tolerably as a portably gaming console but was crap as a generalist touch-screen tablet.

Streamy stuff plus general tablet prowess could combine to make Shield the Second viable

Anyway, beyond the pure hardware specs, highlights include GameStream support for streaming games from your Nvidia-powered PC, Cloud Streaming from, er, the cloud, Twitch with hardware video acceleration via ShadowPlay and console mode that allows you to hook up Shield Tablet and use it like, yes, a games console.

Caveats include wireless game streaming limited to 720p (ethernet gives full 1080p. Pricing is $299 (£229) with the wireless controller (that mimicks the form of Shield 1) yours for $59.

On the subject of Twitch, it's said to be fully integrated including live broadcast of Android gameplay with picture-in-picture stream from the front-mounted webcam. This also works with GameStream mode, thus you can stream your PC games to the Shield at the same time as streaming them to Twitch and all with a claimed neglible hit on performance. Hmmmm.

Another kick-stand contraption? Yep. But the new Shield is genuinely intriguing

As a pure gaming device in its own right, you have to be realistic about Shield Tablet. Compared with even a low-end gaming PC, the hardware is feeble. Then there's the relative dearth of pukka gaming titles for Android.

However, mix in the in-home game streaming and general-purpose tablet functionality and maybe it's a goer. Personally, I doubt it will fly off shelves but then I haven't tried it yet as I was on hols when Nvidia had its first hands-on event. Time for me to spool up the email client and fire it in the direction of Nvidia, methinks.

In other news, Intel has apparently admitted that its next family of CPUs, known as Broadwell, is delayed by six months. In fact, going by Intel's own tick-tock technological deathmarch, Broadwell's 14nm transistors (down from today's 22nm efforts) will be about a year late when it becomes widely available early next year.

Gordon Freeman in the flesh. Oh, hang on...

No real news here, perhaps, but it does contribute to a broader picture of slowing chip production tech development that we've touched on a few times. TSMC, the Taiwanese outfit that makes graphics chips for Nvidia and AMD, has been dead in the water at 28nm for what seem like a aeon, forcing Nvidia to stick on that node for several of its new Maxwell-gen chips.

Admittedly, a bit like oil production the demise of the relentless progress of Moore's Law and thus computer chip complexity and power has been incorrectly mooted many a time before. But it certainly feels near to end-of-line for silicon chips as we know them. A new engineering paradigm may come along and a few are indeed in the offing, but in the short to medium term it may be software efficiencies that keep the wheels of progress turning - think AMD's Mantle API and a broader effort to reduce overheads, that kind of thing.

AOC's super wide effort looks interesting for half a bag of her maj's finest

Finally, a few screens. AOC has priced up the super wide 34-inch (3,440 by 1,440 pixel) u3477Pqu at £499 in the UK (US pricing / availability TBC). It's an IPS panel and that price puts it on a par with many of the new 28-inch 4K TN generation. Interesting.

Then there's the long-overdue Asus ROG Swift PG278Q. 27-inch, 2,560 by 1,440, 140Hz, G-Sync and...TN. Going by the latest TN 28-inch 4K panels, the TN thing may not be the deal breaker it once was for a premium panel and it could all make for the ultimate gaming panel. On the other hand with a UK price of around £700 (so US buyers probably need around $1,000), it will need be TN unlike anything we've seen before - including even those 4K panels.

The Asus Jesus panel. There, I said it again!

Then there's the Viewsonic VX2880ML. It's based on the same 28-inch TN 4K panel as everything else but priced at £430 ($831), it's the cheapest yet. I had a quick look at one yesterday and all I can say is don't walk. Run. Run away from this monitor. It doesn't support 60Hz as far as I can tell, it has some horrible pixel sharpening by default (and that can't be disabled) and the chassis has all the structural integrity of a soggy Trabant after a winter-long soaking. Avoid.

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Jeremy Laird