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NVIDIA Shield Android TV console hands-on

At GDC 2015 NVIDIA took their wraps off another Shield product, only this one is built for TV. The Shield console will fully leverage Grid, a service whereby NVIDIA will host games on their servers and beam them to your home for playing. The real MVP of the show is NVIDIA's new Tegra X1 processor, which will sling 4K video about willy nilly and handle graphics twice as well as the K1 chip found in their Shield Tablet.

Before we start waxing about how much we love the idea of the Shield console, let's get a few skeptical points out of the way first. No, they haven't announced how much the basic 720p/30 FPS or premium 1080p/60 FPS subscription tiers will cost for the Grid cloud gaming service. We know there's going to be some free content associated with each tier, but details will become clearer later. We also know that some games will be available a la carte, and will not be subject to additional fees as long as you purchase within the Grid store. NVIDIA's repeated references to Netflix and Spotify as revolutionaries in streaming media that they wish to emulate set an expectation for pricing, but that's about all we have to run with for the time being.

Secondly, there are some performance hiccups. These are early days, so the occasional stutter or subpar framerate can just as equally be an issue with an individual developer as it could be with NVIDIA's system. None of the problems I've seen at GDC have convinced me that the Grid service will suck permanently right through launch and maintenance patches, and the overwhelming majority of what I've seen has been mindblowingly impressive.

NVIDIA Shield console and controller

Finally, I'm more curious than I am worried about how internet service providers will react when if they start seeing a ton of users streaming 1080p at 60 frames per second because gamers decided that's how they'd rather play. The FCC has already shown they're on the side of consumers when it comes to stuff like preferred traffic lanes, but if NVIDIA really wants to become the Netflix of video games, these are the kinds of Netflixish hurdles they may very well face if Grid becomes a huge success.

That said, let's get to the good stuff. You can get a sense of the broad strokes of the Shield console from the original announcement and from the video above. The appeal of many of the features speak for themselves, but as a gamer, you're basically getting the best of all worlds together: the big screen and hardware controller of the console experience, the light and innovative titles available on the Android games market, and the latest killer PC games through a cloud system that does all the heavy lifting for you, or accessing your personal PC Steam library directly and shunting games to the big screen.

NVIDIA Shield console and remote

Nevermind the technology for games, this is a highly attractive device for something running Android TV. Very few (if any) Android TVs have done a great job of catching the eye, but for serious cinephiles rocking a 4K screen with limited convenient streaming options, the Shield console will really be able to open some doors. The touch-sensitive remote control accessory is perfect for everyday users, many of whom would feel odd with any kind of Xbox-style controller in their hands. The remote audio access alone will provide utility that many TV watchers don't easily get a chance to enjoy.

Between the enabling X1 chip and the high visibility NVIDIA is able to provide them, we're seeing a lot of excellent games finding their way from console to Android. Doom 3 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel are just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, NVIDIA can just host the original PC title on Grid, but having a fully realised port means good news for everyone, not just the guys with a Shield.

There's an earnest hope here that a product like the NVIDIA Shield console could offer all of the luxury of high-end PC gaming with the convenience of consoles (minus a drawer full of discs), and break into the heretofore unsuccessful cloud gaming business. That hope may wane to the tier of "overly optimistic" as the Shield console approaches launch in May for $199, but we are more than happy to watch NVIDIA try to prove the skeptics wrong.

Simon has been covering mobile since before the first iPhone came out. After producing news articles, podcasts, review videos, and everything in between, he's now helping industry partners get the word about their latest products. Get in touch with him at simon@futurenet.com.
22 Comments
  • I like what Simon sez but idk about this one. Posted via the Twerking Nexus
  • It's a promising device! I for one can't wait to get one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wow, well done Simon, every question was a "great question". Seriously though, I'm now officially hanging out for this, it almost makes up for the lack of a Sony Z4 phone.
  • I'm waiting for a Z4 phone as well. Hopefully Q2 or Q3 2015 Posted via OnePlus One.. For now.
  • I could be wrong, but I thought during the keynote it was explained that purchased cloud streamed games were separate from Grid and Grid Premium subscriptions. So, if you paid 60 dollars for a cloud game it would be available whether you had a subscription or not. I think Grid Beta runs great. I was just playing Metro on it for about 2 hours last night and only noticed about two slight stutters. I was using my Shield Tablet in Console Mode on my TV attached to my home 5Ghz wireless. If Grid is around 8 dollars a month. I'm in.
  • Yeah, I have a hard time following and I am not used to any of these models outside a Hulu or Netflix subscription. So, when you purchase it, the game is downlaoded or available in the cloud and it's yours regardless. And if you pay for a subscription, you can play games without purchasing them for as long as you pay the subscription? If so, then not bad, depending on what else is avaialble. It could sway me to upgrade from a Chromecast to replace some functionality that I am already using it for and upgrade with some gaming; not bad.
  • I really want to get excited for this thing, but that 16gig of storage is holding me back. Assuming that you keep all your media on external storage, that's only 5 or 6 largish games with os and other apps before you have to start managing/deleting stuff. And it is not like we can expect apps, games, and media to get any smaller in the future... Idk it should really have more storage. If I don't buy one, that will be why. Posted via the Android Central App
  • There's a MicroSD slot that supports MicroSDXC, and you can plug in an external HDD to either of the two USB ports.
  • But those do not apply of developers do not allow you to store app data on external drives. They would only be good for local media at that point. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think the idea is most of the data will be cloud saved and streamed, only cache data will need to be saved to the internal storage for the most part. Large games will have a large cache however.
  • It would be awesome if they refreshed the portable with the X1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • I like what I'm seeing. Posted on my OnePlus One
  • I haven't seen it mentioned yet, will this have network streaming capabilities? I've got a NAS and I'm only interested if it will stream from my NAS.
  • If you have a PC/laptop with a nVidia GPU that is compatible (I believe that you could go 1 gen older then Keppler) then you can stream from your own PC. It needs a PC to do the processing, then the Shield becomes just the screen/controller. You can do this now with a Shield Tablet, and it includes Grid for free until June..or it did when I bought it in November.. not sure if that's for all Shield Tablets, it was a timed promo.
  • I've been streaming a lot of Evolve lately from my PC to my Shield Tablet via Gamestream; it works great! The biggest challenge I see for Nvidia is the network quality of the average user. For streaming (via GRID or otherwise), a fast, properly configured network is a strict requirement. Even on "Gamestream ready" routers with UPnP enabled, additional port forwarding and other configuration is often required to get acceptable streaming quality. Most casual folks lack both the knowledge and will to make this happen; this is a huge obstacle to mainstream adoption. That said, I'm still consistently impressed at how well the whole system works. Being able to play PC games (with PC graphics) with a controller on the big screen (or my tablet) is incredibly appealing. I definitely see what Nvidia is piecing together as the future of gaming, even if average network quality is currently a challenge. I'm very impressed so far, and I think this unit is hands down the best Android TV box yet. Hope they keep it up! Posted via the Android Central App
  • They keep saying PC quality games for Android, but only NVIDIA chips can play the games. So that means it's Nvidia games not Android game. Posted via the Android Central App
  • But they're on the Android OS, so they are Android games. Posted from my Droid Turbo, Kelly and Ozone
  • This already exists with a lot of other games in Google Play and will apply with new ports announced during the keynote. There are games in the Play Store that will work on most Android devices. They are just optimized to work with Tegra chips, ie: more shadowing, ragdoll effect, etc. PC/Console quality games will be ported to Android for the sake of Nvidia, and benefit of all Android users. They were announced during the keynote ie: Crysis 3, Borderlands Presequel, Talos Principal, Doom 3, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil were featured.
  • When's Razer's Forge shipping, is what I want to know.
  • Why? When this is clearly better!
  • I think this is the coolest thing I've seen in a while. It's amazing seeing what Android has the power to do. Posted via the Android Central App on the 2nd Gen. Moto X
  • Being that this is cloud based with regard to gaming.. will it support storage on a wireless NAS Drive? How do you support the frame rate, meaning what is the FPS on WiFi vs. Ethernet Connection?