In Short

The NVIDIA Shield Portable — known as just "Project Shield" at first, then "NVIDIA Shield" at launch — is an Android-powered handheld gaming device that bridges the gap between modern tablet-style Android devices and older handheld consoles of the past. It was the first Shield (and Android-powered) device from NVIDIA, launched in June 2013, later followed by the Shield Tablet in July 2014.

The Shield Portable is basically the shape of full-sized and featured console gaming controller, with a flip-up 5-inch 1280 x 720 (294 ppi) display attached to it. Despite the looks, the Shield Portable isn't quite as bulky and unwieldy as it looks, and is comfortable to play long game sessions on without issue. Powering the Shield Portable is an NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor (the top of the line at time of launch), paired up with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of SDcard-expandable storage, 802.11 MIMO Wifi, Bluetooth 4.0 and HDMI out.

The Shield Portable runs a relatively vanilla build of Android with a few customizations to make it work best with controller input and always in landscape mode, along with a few tweaks to get the best possible gaming experiences out of it. At launch it ran Android 4.2, but has subsequently been updated all the way to Android 4.4.2 as of April 2014.

With access to all Android apps and games through Google Play, as well as the Shield Hub (formerly known as TegraZone), the Shield Portable is actually a fully-functioning Android device that multitasks and can be used for anything a phone or tablet would be — it's just clearly made for games as a primary use. Add in the ability to hook up the Shield Portable to a TV and act as a console, as well as the ability to stream games from a home PC with GameStream, and this is a real gamer's dream if you have the right equipment.

The Shield Portable proved to be a very capable gaming device for games that were properly tailored to handle its precise controller input rather than touch, and NVIDIA spent a good amount of time getting big name titles to be properly Shield-ready over time.

While the Shield Portable launched at a seemingly-high price of $349, it dropped in price over time to a very enticing $199 by the spring of 2014 as it came around on one year old.