Nintendo Switch vs Nvidia Shield K1: the weigh-in

Is the ageing Shield slab a better buy than Ninty’s new machine?

“Hang about,” we hear you say, “why are you comparing a brand new console with a gaming tablet from 2015?”

A very valid question. The answer? Nvidia’s Shield K1 was a go-anywhere gaming machine very much in the same vein as the Nintendo Switch - and a very capable one at that.

In fact, if rumours are to be believed, Nvidia recently canned an ultra-portable updated version of the Shield - tentatively dubbed the Verge - because of how close it was to the Switch in functionality and, as we subsequently learned, Nvidia hardware is inside the Switch.

So why is it worth comparing the two now? Well, while we’ve yet to properly put the Switch through its paces, we do know some of its limiting factors - namely, a meagre launch lineup and a high price tag: £280 (S$490) for the console alone.

Contrast that with the Shield K1, which can be scooped up for less than S$270 - saving you more than S$200 over the Switch - and there could well be a fight in store.

Read on for a closer comparison between these two gaming slabs.

Nintendo Switch vs Nvidia Shield K1: Power

Nintendo machines have never been known for their power. Pitching a Switch against a PS4 would be like throwing Mario onto the track with Usain Bolt. Fun, but not exactly fair.

Both the Switch and the Shield K1, though, are meant to be about pick-up-and-play gaming, so you might expect their power potential to be similar, at least on paper.

Take one look at the Shield K1 and it’s clear - even 15 months since its release - that it’s quite the powerhouse. A quad-core Tegra K1 chip delivers 2.2GHz of processing power, paired with 2GB of RAM - and it’s speedy indeed.

Nintendo, of course, is famously coy about releasing hard specs. Most evidence suggests the chip in the Switch is a custom Tegra unit, while tests run by Eurogamer clock CPU speeds at a little more than 1GHz (across four cores). More intriguingly, it seems that graphics performance drops when the console is in tablet mode, rather than docked.

OK, so Ninty fans will say that it’s not an equal benchmark, as Switch games will be platform specific and will therefore run better on the fixed hardware - and the titles we tried at the launch event certainly ran fluidly. But we’re talking about bang-for-buck modular consoles here - and the Shield K1 walks it.

Winner: Nvidia Shield K1

Nintendo Switch vs Nvidia Shield K1: Screen and battery

When news first hit that Nintendo’s next console would be part-tablet, few new what to expect - not least, given the peculiarity of the Wii U. Thankfully, the Switch is quite the pleasant slab to use.

In essence a 6.2in tablet with controllers stuck to either side, its 720p resolution is surprisingly low, though it wasn’t noticeably poor on first usage - probably in large part thanks to the cartoonish graphics of many of the launch titles.

Battery life is similarly middling on the Switch. Depending on settings, the cell can survive for anywhere from 3.5 to 6 hours, which should cover most train journeys and short-haul flights, but it’s no gaming goliath.

What of the Shield K1? Well, it’s a proper gaming tablet with a display to match: an 8in LCD with a 1920x1200 resolution, the Shield’s screen offers solid saturation and brightness - not to mention decent viewing angles - for an LCD panel on a S$270 tablet.

As for battery life, the Shield K1 packs a 5200mAh cell, the life of which again varies dependent on activity. Nvidia reckons its theoretical maximum is around 10 hours and, while it’s less in real-world conditions, the Shield will trump the Switch’s 6.

Winner: Nvidia Shield K1

Nintendo Switch vs Nvidia Shield K1: On the TV

Easily the biggest selling point of the Switch is how modular it is: stick it in the dock and you get fully fledged TV gaming that’ll have you waving Wii-style in front of the big screen.

The thing is, while games do seem to transition comfortably from tablet to telly, they’ll only do so at 1080p. Again, this won’t matter that much if what you want is fun, cartoonish games to entertain - but it does limit the Switch’s credentials as a future-proof platform, at least on resolution.

If you want proper big screen gaming from a portable system, the Shield K1 is the one to opt for. Yes, cabling it in with a Mini HDMI lead isn’t as neat as the Switch’s bundled dock, but it will kick out a 4K resolution.

That said, there’s more to living room fun than pixels - and the Ninty box is much closer to a home console than the Shield. While the latter does offer multi-controller support for some titles, the Switch’s raison d’etre is getting everyone involved with the Joy Cons (though additional sets will cost £75, around S$135). This one’s too close to call.

Winner: Draw

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