Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

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!

Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

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.

Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

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.

Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

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.

To summarize:

  • 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?

Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

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.

Nvidia's New Shield Console Is Nothing To Get Excited About

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.


The Downsides

  • 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.


    And Nvidia is going to TOTALLY keep porting games to it after launch... right?

      I don't think that was ever their goal with Shield, in any incarnation. It's an end-point for streaming games from PC and it will run Android games, that's all I think it's really trying to be.

        It's got a pretty high price point for that. (And steep competition with the Steam Link)

          You do realize Steam Link will only play Steam games. That leaves out EA games from Origin and Blizzard games from Battle.net, kinda of a huge issue if Valve can't at least get EA back on board.

            You do realise that you can add non-steam games to your steam library and stream them anyway?

        I think it is trying to be Playstation Now as well. I think the market they are looking at is tiny, rather than 'billions' according to Huang. People who want an Android console who don't already have a PC or console. For the extra US$100 over a 'micro console' you get a stepping-stone console between the 360 and the XBone in power, but without the range of games of either. I'm not counting Android games because you could play them on a $99 micro console. In my view, range of 'Shield only' games they showed off was hugely underwhelming.

          You never know, they could eat into Ouya's marketshare. That's when the knives will come out and consumers will be the victims of a full fledged system war.

    Nvidia's goal is to allow android gaming and game streaming inside your entire house and outside with 4g net access using these devices.

    That's their only goal with the shield brand name. This brings the shield branding to your TV. I wouldn't be surprised if the same people who needlessly bought the shield buy this as well.

    Personally I don't understand why anyone would buy this particular 'idea' since steam already has a bigscreen play mode.

    When Nvidia said the world's first Android TV Console, they meant just that. Ouya & Amazon may run on Android but they aren't Android TV, I think you missed that distinction. Now one could consider the Razer Forge TV the first Android TV Console, maybe revealed, but it's not released yet and the gamepad is optional, and as a result calling it a console is questionable.

    I going to go ahead and disagree with this take.

    This device has two key selling features and you likely need to be interested in both to want to buy one today. First, it's an internet media box for the TV with Android games, that's well worth $100. Like the Nexus Player, Razer Forge TV and Amazon Fire TV, but instead of just 1080p it supports 4K. It's also a PC / Cloud game streaming box with a controller, that's also well worth $100. Same price as the Steam Link with Steam gamepad. But it has an edge over the Link as it supports games outside of Steam as well as cloud streaming for those with low end PC's. Combined that makes it easily worth the $200 asking price.

    So I wouldn't dismiss it immediately, it's best in class at what it does. With that in mind, I don't think this first iteration will hit the huge numbers Jen-Hsun Huan was talking about, but it will likely be $100 next year and incorporated into smart TVs and all PC's with Nvidia hardware by the year after that. And you can bet Nvidia will launch 4K streaming before the next console refresh. I really think they are building to something that will compete with the next gen game systems. They're definitely playing the long game, so it's far too early to say "meh".

    Oh and your comment "annoyance of being an Android device" shows some bias towards the product. I'd say most people would rather run Android in their living room than Windows. Who wan'ts to deal with anti-virus,l OS updates, software updates and all the hassle that goes along with a full desktop OS. It's best suited for the desktop and it's pretty clear most people don't want Windows in their living room.

    Last edited 09/03/15 10:36 am

    caterpillarmitch you are a console fanboy go back to playing games in 1080p

    This review is well over 18 months old now, however it is so bad that I had to comment.

    It reads like your typical tablet review, where the reviewer has already decided with no idea of the technology or benefits that the ipad will be the best tablet again this year because it has, a, um bevel maybe, and they love Apple, and OS's that begin with 'i'.

    You cannot compare this device to the fire tv, or a steam box, it performs the job of both fully and to a standard way beyond either of those devices is capable of.

    It streams 4k tv in hdr, it is powerful enough on its own hardware, to run ps3 / xbox 360 style android games in 4k, it is an amazing emulation box, it is a gateway to the geforce now streaming service, which owns ps4 / xbone generation gaming, and ...

    The real point is, it can stream a game from my gaming pc, in my office with low latency, to my living room, where I can play in glorious pc standard 4k, sat on my couch. That blows all consoles away. But if you dont get any of that, then it would be batter to say that you do not understand the shield, it simply is not for you.

    "Better off with a cheap gaming pc", wow, please don't write any more reviews.

    The geforce now service on this device is better than a cheap gaming pc.

    Now if you can check off:

    1. I have a 4k tv.
    2. I pay for 4k tv streaming services.
    3. I have a real gaming pc, gtx or titan based, that can render games in 4k.
    4. I am not afraid to spend some serious money on network hardware.

    You now have the ultimate addition to your expensive gaming rig, a 4k gaming pc remote if you will.

    You see you missed the point, this is not a fire stick, mac tv, tablet of any form, low end pc, end of the market device.

    Its either a console alternative if you have the bandwidth to stream games, and want something better than this terrible generation of consoles, or it is the ultimate add on to your 4k gaming rig and 4k tv, for couch gaming.

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