Finally Another Potential Dark Android Winner: The SHIELD K1

shield-tablet-k1-in-boxThere is something to be said for niche products: They build communities around them, and having a community around a product gives it longevity, and–while some would find this ironic–it gives a product more options. Also, there is something to be said when a company doesn’t put out a million different products, and they stick with what they’re good at, or at least they concentrate on fewer things (part of why Apple’s products work so well, I think).

NVIDIA is one such company that has really been pushing the boundaries of what computer and mobile devices can do for a long time now. In fact, the top choice for a tablet at the Dark Android Project is still an NVIDIA-powered (and ASUS-built) tablet: The 2013 Nexus 7. They’ve been opening up a lot of their software and firmware as late, as well, so they get points for that, too. Their Tegra processors are some of the most powerful chips on the consumer market, and if you have one in your mobile device, you know you’re in pretty good shape.

Over the past couple of years, NVIDIA has started making its own mobile devices (thought not a smartphone…yet), and they’ve been tip-toeing in that realm nicely, as they’re not even ankle deep and they already have some winners. The unique NVIDIA SHIELD controller/tablet hybrid is still something of a wonder, and owners love it. The SHIELD TV (particularly the 500GB model) is probably the best device you could connect to your television/monitor today.

Unfortunately, NVIDIA’s first foray into the tablet realm with the SHIELD Tablet was a little rocky. There was a massive recall over the battery overheating and other issues. Not to say it was a bad device, I think it was a fine one and was very powerful and had lots of unique SHIELD-line abilities.

Now NVIDIA has re-released their SHIELD Tablet, and they’ve rebranded it the “SHIELD K1”, which is a pretty cool name, in my opinion, and it describes exactly what you’re getting here: an Android tablet with a very ballsy Tegra K1 processor in it. Not much has changed since NVIDIA’s original tablet, but there’s nothing wrong with that as it was already a great machine. One difference, though, is the price. The SHIELD K1 comes at an impressively low $199. Part of the reason for that price is an oddity, though…it doesn’t come with a charger. While some may find this strange, it’s likely you already have a million chargers that all fit the same USB type, so not having to ship one, and at a mass scale, does allow for a much cheaper price for the consumer, so I don’t really see this as a problem (and they will sell you a “world charger” if you really need it, which is cool, since, if you’re going to buy a charger, it may as well be one that works anywhere in the world).

The eight inch 1080p screen (1080p = good battery life) and the front-facing speakers–along with that K1 processor–are great, too, but only offering 16GB of onboard storage (with an included microSD card slot) is on the lower side of what I like in a device (but it’s good enough), and the 2GB of RAM will serve you fine, certainly, but that’s also on the low end these days, too (3GB or 4GB is preferable). And of course there’s the stylus, which works rather uniquely well with the tablet due to some inhouse NVIDIA technology.

As far as the viability of this tablet for a Dark Android device, I think it’s high. NVIDIA does very well in keeping its devices up to date with the latest Android versions, and since it’s marketed as a “gaming tablet” (much like the Acer Predator 8 that I appreciate), it’s a niche product, so that means people will be developing custom ROM’s (like CyanogenMOD and others) for it, and AOSP would likely do very well with it, even if all of that hasn’t become a reality yet. So this is definitely a buy for that reason. And it doesn’t have a fingerprint reader, so that popular security hole is plugged, thankfully.

But I would warn that NVIDIA will likely release an updated specs sequel to this tablet in the near future. That new SHIELD tablet will likely have the even more powerful Tegra X1 processor instead of the already impressive K1 processor provided here. And it will likely have more RAM. Those two facts together are worth waiting for if you’re willing to wait, or willing to pay more than the $199 price tag for the SHIELD K1 (and, I’d venture that the release of the SHIELD K1 was to repurpose the recalled older models, and to create an in-brand price comparison between the K1 and the coming X1 tablet model to make the X1 seem more valuable, which it genuinely is, marketing trick or not). NVIDIA even recently released the Jetson TX1 processor, so maybe they’ll skip right to that, but either way you’re in for a little bit of wait.

If you don’t want to wait, and you want a good tablet, or you want to get in on creating a Dark Android device, the SHIELD K1 is a solid choice.

Carpe lucem!