An alphabet soup of high-PPI, IPS, and sRGB
On paper, the Shield Tablet's display ticks all the right boxes. It uses IPS panel technology, has a reasonably high 1920x1200 resolution, and stretches across a relatively spacious eight inches. The difference in screen size versus 7" tablets is definitely noticeable, and I much prefer the larger viewing area. The whole area is usable, too, thanks to a full-screen mode that hides the Android notification and navigation bars that usually letterbox the screen. (Swiping from the top or bottom edge brings those bars back into view.)
To be fair, the Shield's longer diagonal results in a lower pixel density than the latest Nexus 7, which spreads the same resolution over a 7" display. Good luck seeing individual pixels from anything approaching a reasonable viewing distance, though. Text and images look crisp and clear even with the Shield Tablet a few inches from my nose. My contact lenses lack a macro mode, so my eyes can't even focus on anything closer than that.
This time of year, I'm always tempted to take tablets outside. And I'm always disappointed. The reflective coating on most tablet displays is a nightmare in direct sunlight. Even with the backlight cranked to full brightness, reflections in the screen are more visible than what's actually on it. The Shield Tablet isn't really any better or worse than other contenders in this regard.
Indoors and in the shade, the backlight is bright enough to overpower the screen's inherent reflectivity. The light-sensitive auto-dimming mechanism works pretty well in those environments, too.
At peak intensity, the screen pumps out 413 cd/m² according to our colorimeter. The brightness is very consistent across the extent of the display, though there are a few brighter spots around the edges. To capture those, I took a picture of a black screen with the backlight turned all the way up.
There's a little bit of backlight bleed in the top right corner, plus hints of it in the bottom right. I didn't notice that when using the tablet for day-to-day tasks, though, and not even when watching letterboxed videos in a dark room. The backlight uniformity is really very good overall.
The display can be configured in two modes: native or sRGB. We measured the color gamut of each using our colorimeter, and you can compare the results below. For reference, we've also included gamut plots from a selection of other tablets and mobile machines. The native Shield config and all the other devices are superimposed against the NTSC color gamut, while the sRGB config is matched up with an sRGB reference. You can click the buttons below the image to switch between the various setups.
The white triangles represent the range of colors produced by the display, while the darker triangles define the reference gamuts. As you can see, the Shield Tablet is short of a full deck in both modes. Although it covers most of the green end of the spectrum, it falls short with reds and more so with blues. The iPad 3 has much more complete coverage, and even the budget Memo Pad offers a greater range of tones than the Shield.
At least Nvidia nailed its corporate color. The green vegetation in my vacation pictures looks appropriately lush on the Shield. My eyes don't notice any obvious deficiencies in reds or blues, despite what the gamut plots show. The colors look good overall, just not exceptional.
Our colorimeter also lets us quantify the Shield's color temperature across multiple gray levels. Ideally, that temperature should be close to 6500K, which corresponds to typical daylight.
The Shield tablet is off the mark in both modes, but the native config gets closer to the daylight illuminant as the gray level increases. The sRGB setup is slightly more biased toward warmer tones. Neither mode is as accurate as the iPad 3, which comes close to the ideal pretty much across the board. The old Nexus 7 from 2012 has a more neutral color temperature than the Shield, too.
Again, however, the screen looks fine to my eyes. Whites have perhaps a slight yellowish tinge, but that's true of a lot of the tablets I've used; the tint is really only noticeable if you're looking for it.
The fact is that most high-res tablets have pretty good displays nowadays. The differences between them are usually only apparent when comparing competing models side by side.
Since Nvidia already has its hooks deep enough into the OS to offer multiple color modes, it would be nice to see additional screen adjustment options in the future. We've already tested one Android slate with color temperature, hue, and saturation sliders that enable users to tweak the display to suit their personal preferences. Surely, Nvidia could offer something similar—or perhaps even more advanced calibration options for artists and photography buffs.