Nvidia Shield now available for purchase

Nvidia’s experimental entry into the Android gaming world becomes real today as the Shield enters store shelves across North America.

Available for $299 at select Canada Computers locations (Markham Unionville, Mississauga, Ottawa Merivale) around Ontario, the portable gaming console features dual analog sticks, a directional pad, shoulder triggers, front-facing stereo speakers, a 1280×720 pixel touchscreen and Nvidia’s new Tegra 4 chipset.

Early reviews have been positive, with critics claiming that it does what is advertised — plays games beautifully — but, ironically, lacks a library of Android games that supports hardware controls. Streaming from the PC using a compatible Kepler-based GPU is more fun, though it limits you to playing in the home, while busting out old school emulator titles for N64 and SNES seem to be the best compromise. At this point it appears like the Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita provide better value to consumers.

Nvidia will undoubtedly improve the gaming situation, especially if the Shield sells well, but it’s unlikely to do so without the games to back it up. Shield works as a regular Android PMP, too, but reviewers claim it is awkward to hold in portrait mode and typing is difficult when the shell is open.

We’ll have a review of the Shield available in the coming weeks, but in the meantime check out our hands-on with the system.