Nvidia planning portable gaming device

The portable game player is based on Android and Nvidia's new Tegra 4 chip

Perhaps taking a leaf from Apple's book, Nvidia kept its greatest surprise at CES for the end of its news conference: an Android-based portable gaming device based on its new Tegra 4 chip.

A working prototype of the device was demonstrated by Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang during the news conference. A launch date wasn't announced.

The device, called "Project Shield," resembles an oversized gaming controller with a fold-up flat-panel display on top.

It has three internal batteries that will provide between five and 10 hours of game play, a high-performance audio system, and a 5-inch display with 720P high-definition resolution.

Connected to Nvidia's Tegrazone Android gaming site, Huang demonstrated some of the gaming features of the device. They included full-screen gaming on a television, multi-player gaming with a user on another of the portable devices, and the playing of a 4K video to a 4K TV. The 4K format is a new video format being pushed by TV makers that features four times conventional high-definition resolution.

The device can also play PC games through the Steam streaming service by taking advantage of Nvidia's Grid, a cloud-based graphics processing system that was also announced on Sunday.

The device marks an expansion of Nvidia's product portfolio, which has traditionally been centered around graphics processing chips and computer graphics cards. But it comes as companies including Microsoft and Google are trying their hand in the hardware business.

Before demonstrating the prototype, Huang showed a computer rendered video of the device, which ended to applause from some audience member.

"I'll take your money shortly," said Huang in response.

Huang will have to work hard to earn sales in the competitive mobile gaming market.

Nintendo and Sony are facing increasing competition for their DS and PSP devices from smartphones and tablets. Nvidia will have to compete with both those companies and the smartphone and tablet makers.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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