Nvidia's Shield tablet K1: The best Android tablet you can get under $200

The best Android tablet that I almost missed.

I was recently in the market for a tablet for my young son. Much as it pains me to admit it, I didn't even consider Nvidia’s Shield tablet K1. I thought it was just another 8” Android tablet.

Boy, I was wrong.

The hardware

The Shield tablet K1 has some impressive hardware under the hood. It is powered by a 2.2 GHz ARM Cortex A15 CPU. The graphics of the tablet are driven by Nvidia’s Tegra K1 192 core Kepler GPU. And all of this is supported by 2GB of RAM.

The tablet comes with mere 16GB of storage but you can use a microSD card to expand storage.

The 8-inch 1920x1200 multi-touch Full HD display is sharp and bright. It’s not as pixel perfect as is the iPad Mini, but then the target of the tablet is gamers and games don’t go over 1080p.

It has an 802.11n 2x2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi (something you will need for game streaming), Bluetooth 4.0 LE for connecting to gamepad, and other peripherals.

It comes with an HDMI port so you can use the tablet as controller for your Nvidia Shield Android TV or you can plug it into a TV monitor to play games or watch movies on a bigger screen.

And you get all of this for $199!

Android experience

Nvidia is doing an impressive job with its Shield platform. The tablet received the Android 6.0 Marshmallow Over the Air (OTA) update just a week ago. In addition to stock Android, Nvidia has installed its core apps on the tablet, including the Shield Hub. Since it’s an Android tablet you can install all supported apps, games and services on the device.

nvidia shield Swapnil Bhartiya

Gaming experience

Gaming is what separates Shield tablet K1 from the rest.

Geforce Now is Nvidia’s subscription based game streaming service, similar to Xbox Live. The only tricky part is connectivity; just like Netflix you need good Internet connection to be able to stream games.

Nvidia also developed GameStream technology that brings PC games to Shield devices. If you have a Windows PC with a supported Nvidia card, you can ‘stream’ PC games on your local network and play them on your Shield tablet.

Did I say awesome?

This tablet can also connect with peripherals like mouse and keyboard over Bluetooth. If you are really serious about gaming you can even pair the wireless Shield Controller that came with your Nvidia Shield Android TV and turn this tablet into a game console.

And, unlike Nvidia Shield Android TV, Apple TV and Xbox One, you don't have to leave the games behind when you leave the living room. You can take your favorite games with you.

Getting work done

You can install any Android app from the Play Store that you need for work – Google Docs, Microsoft Office, Slack, etc. And because of it's small size you can easily do ‘two-thumb-typing’ on it. If you are bringing this tablet with you on trips you have all of your work and play needs covered: You can watch movies, read eBooks, listen to music, play great games, and you can also get some work done.

Not perfect

Nothing is perfect and Shield tablet K1 is no exception. One of the reasons I started using Apple’s iOS in addition to Android is the lack of family sharing in Android land. I have purchased a lot of games, movies and apps, and if I want my family members to have access to them I have to share my account details with them. This raises some privacy issues that I detailed in an earlier post. I wish Google and Nvidia would start offering family sharing -- at least for purchased works.

Beyond this issue, Shield tablet K1 is an awesome tablet. I am surprised that I missed it for so long. It is the perfect combination of size, performance and price.

If you have been hunting for a great Android tablet, give Shield tablet K1 a look.

Let the games begin.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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