Last night at the 2015 Game Developers Conference, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said he was announcing three things — a revolutionary television, a game console and a supercomputer. He actually revealed an Android console, the third Nvidia device in two years to carry the Shield name. Yay?
Having teased the announcement for the better part of a month, I was on the edge of my seat during yesterday's Nvidia presentation. When Huang claimed they were revealing three things I grew wary — I've heard this pitch before. In fact I heard it earlier this year, when Razer announced its Android microconsole, the Forge TV, a device which plays Android games, runs Android entertainment apps and streams PC games remotely from gaming rigs. And a while back when Mad Catz released the MOJO.
One thing that does three things is not three things. I can bake, play a little guitar and am an avid comic book reader. That does not make me three people. I realise this is a piddling point, but it really set the tone for the evening.
Where were we? Oh yes, I started out on the edge of my seat. Then I scooted back a little. By the end of the conference I was completely off the seat and in the other room watching television.
Introducing the Nvidia Shield!
Not that one. That's the first Nvidia Shield, a portable Android gaming device released in 2013. It's a fun toy to play with, and its (increasingly common) ability to stream games from a PC is handy, but it's not the most practical machine.
No, not that one either. That's the Shield tablet, which took over the name when it was released last year. It one-upped the first Shield with a more powerful Tegra K1 processor and a much more practical form factor. It's still one of the most powerful Android tablets on the market.
As of last night, this is the Nvidia Shield. It's powered by the latest-generation Tegra system-on-a-chip, the X1, which features the same Maxwell graphics processor used everywhere Nvidia wants to impress someone. It connects to a television and plays Android games, including some Android ports of popular PC games exclusive to the Shield. It can stream PC games, like the other Shields, and access Nvidia's GRID game streaming service, which is basically Onlive on crack.
- 1st Shield: Integrated touchscreen and controller.
- 2nd Shield: Integrated touchscreen.
- 3rd Shield: A box.
My conclusion? Nvidia came up with a cool name and can't decide which product to stick it on. Next years' Shield will be a blender. 2022's Shield is a finger-painting of a duck.
Pick a fucking product and stick with it already. It does nothing for consumer confidence to watch this brand shift each year into something new, and it annoys the shit out of me.
The World's First Android TV Console
There have been Android TV consoles before, haven't there? How can Nvidia call this the first?
It's a technicality. While there are indeed Android-powered boxes which connect to your television and play games and stream video, they are all very small. We call them microconsoles. They have been around for a couple of years, with companies continuously telling us how great they are and consumers failing to get incredibly excited.
The Amazon Fire TV? That's a microconsole. It runs on a modified version of Android, plays games, streams movies, all of that. The Razer Forge TV is a microconsole that does all of that as well, only without the modified Android build.
So what makes the Shield 3.0 a full console? Um. It's bigger? Not so micro? It allows them to say it's a world's first?
Honestly it's a bit of a stretch. Maybe they figured the "micro" was what was causing hardly anyone to care about this sort of technology, especially now that most TVs have a lot of the capabilities built-in and Android developers are more comfortable developing for the less-powerful phones everyone has than the super-powerful consoles barely anyone does.
I'm getting ahead of myself here.
It's a Very Nice Device
Our sister site Gizmodo got to put their hands on the Shield yesterday evening, and they think it's quite nice.
There's no doubt that this will be a powerful little set-top box. If the Shield tablet is any indication, the new Shield will be a super-fast Android device fully capable of running any game that doesn't require the use of a touch-screen. It will stream video at 4K where applicable. It will stream PC games from any number of places.
If you were in the market for an Android microconsole and have access to double the standard $US99 price point similar systems run for, you will not be disappointed.
- There's really not a huge market for Android consoles, micro or otherwise.
- Jen-Hsun Huang began his presentation last night by telling the audience how more and more smart televisions are coming with the ability to run Android apps like Netflix and Hulu and such built right in. Now here's a box that does the same thing!
- Like the previous Nvidia Shield, the new Shield can output video at 4K resolution. I am imagining the Venn diagram featuring folks looking for an Android console and those with 4K television sets, and the overlap is looking very tiny.
- It runs special native versions of Borderlands and Crysis 3, which is great, even if they aren't looking as good as the console or PC versions. It also streams PC games from your home computer. Games like Borderlands and Crysis 3. Several Borderlands games are already available on the Nvidia Grid streaming service.
- For a relatively small amount more you can purchase a small gaming PC for the living room that does all of these things without the annoyance of being an Android device.
Redefining The Future Of Redefining
The original invite we received to Nvidia's GDC briefing said that the company's CEO would be presenting something with the "potential to redefine the future of gaming." That something is a more powerful version of the device Nvidia released last year, which was a more powerful version of the device they released the year before.
Either this is the slowest redefinition ever, or Nvidia has to learn how to set expectations a little lower.