NVIDIA stock, SHIELD gaming tablet

NVIDIA's SHIELD gaming tablet is powered by the Tegra K1 processor. Source: NVIDIA.

In late July, NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) released the first iteration of its SHIELD Tablet -- a snappy, Tegra K1-powered gaming device with Wi-Fi and 16GB of internal storage. Now, less than two months later, the SHIELD Tablet is about to receive its first big upgrade.

Yesterday, the gaming chip specialist took to its official blog to announce pre-orders are open for an upgraded SHIELD Tablet, including built-in 4G LTE and 32GB of storage. This means users will not only be able to store more games, movies, music, pictures, and apps on the tablet, but will also enjoy its full streaming capabilities anywhere with a 4G LTE connection. It's a fully unlocked device as well, so it will work with virtually any carrier around the world.

There's one catch ... sort of
But the upgraded SHIELD Tablet also costs $399, or $100 more than the basic version. What's more, SHIELD Tablet users who want to take advantage of the 4G LTE connection will need to sign up for a qualifying data plan through their mobile carrier, which typically costs about $10 per month. 

However, NVIDIA knows not everyone will be willing to absorb that cost, which is why it reminded users the SHIELD Tablet is certified on AT&T's (NYSE:T) network. Under AT&T's "bring your own tablet" program, customers can receive a $100 credit when they activate their SHIELD Tablet on the wireless company's network, enough to offset the first 10 months of service. That's not only great for gaming consumers who planned to add the new SHIELD Tablet to their AT&T accounts anyway, but should go a long way toward pushing waffling buyers off the fence.

And make no mistake: This added autonomy through 4G LTE is key to NVIDIA's long-term vision of fostering cloud based, console-independent gaming. That vision began to take shape when NVIDIA unveiled its fast-growing GRID technology in mid-2012, which is unsurprisingly incorporated into the SHIELD Tablet and allows users to stream high-quality, low-latency games anywhere with an Internet connection.

A bigger hit than NVIDIA expected
While NVIDIA remains coy regarding specific sales figures, the SHIELD tablet appears to be performing even better than the company anticipated.

A quick glance at the SHIELD Tablet's purchase page shows a message saying NVIDIA is "currently taking backorders" for the device, its cover, and the SHIELD wireless controller, and that its estimated shipping date is Oct. 1. In addition, the new blog post states that NVIDIA saw "a tremendous response from gamers, consumers, and the media alike" following the SHIELD Tablet's July launch.

That's not to say NVIDIA had small aspirations from the start. In fact, during last month's quarterly conference call, NVIDIA Senior Director for Investor Relations Chris Evenden stated, "To understand the market for the SHIELD Tablet, consider that Newzoo, a research company, estimates there are 1.6 billion gamers in the world today. Many of them are looking to buy a tablet -- an idea supported by the fact that 90% of Google Play revenue is generated by gaming."

That doesn't mean NVIDIA expects its SHIELD Tablet to rival the tens of millions of units sold every quarter by the likes of Apple and Samsung. But while it's performing well by the company's standards, the SHIELD Tablet simultaneously sets an example for what NVIDIA's Tegra K1 chips can do if other manufacturers incorporate it in their own devices. In the end, if the SHIELD tablet continues to succeed, NVIDIA's ever-expanding presence in the tablet world should yield great results for today's patient, long-term investors.

Steve Symington owns shares of Apple and Nvidia. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Nvidia. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.