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Nvidia Project Shield handheld console gets tentative June release date

Nvidia is hoping to make its first handheld gaming device available towards the end of the second quarter, according to reports.

The graphics chip manufacturer, currently hosting the annual GPU Technology Conference at the San Jose Convention Center, said that a "modest" version of its Project Shield console could hit retail outlets by June. Nvidia first showcased Project Shield at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

"This is a consumer electronics product. We'll try to be modest at first, we have no expectations and we expect you to have none, but we're going to sell it for profit," Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was quoted as saying by, apparently distinguishing Project Shield from game systems that are reportedly loss leaders for other companies in the industry.

The Project Shield console is a clamshell, handheld, Android-based gaming system powered by Nvidia's upcoming Tegra 4 System-on-a-Chip (SoC) for mobile devices, which the company also plans to release in the second quarter. Tegra 4 and a variation of the chipset called Tegra 4i (set for a fourth-quarter release) will incorporate Nvidia's own i500 modem for the first time.

The handheld combines a 5in, 720p touchscreen sitting above a familiar game controller with a pair of analog sticks, a D-pad, buttons, and bumpers. The Project Shield system also sports an HDMI port and MicroSD slot, and uses Wi-Fi for Internet access. Battery life, according to Nvidia, is in the 5-10 hour range for gaming and 24 hours for viewing HD video.

Project Shield is "a huge gamble" for Nvidia but one the company felt it needed to take, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group.

"We are getting far closer to the launch of this system which blends concepts of console and portable gaming into a single connected system running Android which could eclipse its predecessors. This is a huge gamble for Nvidia, which pretty much had to step away from the flagging existing proprietary gaming market to pull it off. With the falling interest in the Xbox, it was clear someone needed to shake this industry up and Nvidia clearly is doing that with Shield," Enderle wrote this week.

The Project Shield console can play Android mobile games available on Google Play and has a multiplayer mode for two or more devices. Pricing for the device has yet to be made official.