Taking the iconic mantra “think different” to a whole new level, Nvidia — a company known for the graphics chips powering some of the best hardware on the market — has released what we think is either one of the coolest or zaniest releases at CES: Nvidia Project Shield. Either way you cut it, the project’s worth further exploration.

The best way we can describe the Project Shield, after convincing ourselves that it’s not a Marvel comic, is the result of a sordid one night stand between an Xbox 360 controller and a half-sized Alienware laptop. It’s an antithesis in an era of ever-slimming gadgets, with a portly design that delivers the same potential as a chunky comedian: sometimes fatter is just more fun.

On the spec side, Project Shield is no slouch. A Tegra 4 processor and A15 CPU run a fully hackable version of Android Jelly Bean; a 5-inch HD screen, HDMI connectivity, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of memory and “game-speed” wi-fi allow users to remotely play PC games like Assassins Creed III, Call of Duty or Portal 2 from properly equipped CPUs without latency. It even works with Steam titles (portable summer sales? Oh dear lord). Nvidia has also been kind enough to pre-load plenty of games from the Google Play marketplace for portable gaming.

If it’s not clear by now, the Nvidia Project Shield’s target user is pretty obvious: demanding gamers on the go, or those who just want a break from the desk. The Android OS means it also doubles as a portable media device for commuting. And while the mouse/WASD crowd may struggle with the controller for a few rounds, returning to Noobdom short-term in return for long-lasting portable Pwnage is a trade off any sensible gamer should be happy to make.

Available Q2 2012