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GeForce Now elevates the NVIDIA Shield Android TV to console status

I'm just about as platform agnostic as they come when video games are involved. I'll happily waste a Saturday building levels in Super Mario Maker on the Wii-U with my kids, swap out my camera and pile of phones for my HOTAS setup for some Elite: Dangerous on my PC when the work day is over, get sucked in to another Bungie epic with Destiny on my PS4, or address my strangely emotional response to Cortana's mental state in Halo on my Xbox One. I'll play mobile games on my phone, second screen games on my tablet, and I've even been known to carry around a PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS on the off chance there's a free minute when travelling.

Recently, NVIDIA invited me to participate in some early testing of their GeForce Now service, previously known as GRID Gaming Beta. It's not for everyone, and there's still some bugs to sort out, but after a couple of days with the final version of this service I think NVIDIA has all the right parts for a truly next-gen console.

Nvidia Shield TV Compare

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let me take you back to the dawn of the video game console. An age where PCs were terribly expensive, but gaming was clearly a market worth investing in. Consoles arrived to offer an inexpensive computer specifically for gaming, a content machine where all you did was play the games you were offered by the manufacturer. You bought your game, put the game in your console, and when you powered on the machine your game was immediately ready to play. No complicated install instructions, load times, or having to deal with catastrophic failure when something else went wrong with your PC. Simple, inexpensive, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Games launch in under 30 seconds, with no downloads needed and no installation required.

Fast forward to today. I purchased a copy of Destiny: The Taken King, which came with a disc and a download code. I put the disc in, and after the game was done installing to my PS4 I had to download an extra 15.4GB of game from a server whose ability to provide me with the file could loosely be described as almost functional at the time. It took nearly five hours to go from purchase to gameplay. The original promise of the console has been replaced with most of the original downfalls of playing on a PC, the irony of which being how much more convenient and relatively inexpensive PC gaming has become if you don't want the absolute best graphics. In a world where I can get a Core i3 with 6GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive in a laptop form factor for the same cost as an Xbox One, the only thing "consoles" have going for them right now is a game library and a TV friendly UI.

Enter the NVIDIA Shield Android TV with GeForce Now. A $199 set top box with access to over 100 Google Play games (some of which now are playable in 4K), over a dozen truly great Shield exclusives, and a $6.99/month game streaming service that grants the user access to what essentially amounts to Amazon Instant Video for gaming. I can fire up Blaz Blue: Calamity Trigger and have it start in seconds, in 1080p at 60fps no less. I can do the same for a handful of AAA titles, like the basically brand new Witcher 3 game, and have it launch just as quickly with the same kind of quality playback. Games launch in under 30 seconds, with no downloads needed and no installation required.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

These aren't just stats from NVIDIA, either. I lost a Saturday to The Witcher and couldn't tell the difference between playing it on this set top box and playing it on my sub $800 PC. While my desktop is due for an upgrade, the quality here is impressive. NVIDIA doesn't have a ton of games in GeForce Now able to demonstrate PC quality graphical prowess, but everything they do have gets the smooth part down with no problem. There's a healthy selection of multiplayer games, and as long as the title supports it I can even plug in a mouse and keyboard and enjoy things that way, which is great because the Shield Controller isn't great for everything.

It's clear there's room in the market for this kind of experience.

There's a few obvious caveats, and some things that aren't quite finished. You have to be connected to a very nice internet connection. NVIDIA says it can do 1080p at 30fps with a 25mb connection, and that it needs roughly double that for 60fps. My 150/150 FIOS connection didn't give it any problems, but not everyone has a great internet connection. During gameplay I did notice the occasional hiccup, but they were few and far between and the system recovered almost instantly. You'll also occasionally run into key translation issues, like when you're asked to press the generic Android menu button on your Shield Controller and that icon doesn't actually exist on the Shield TV version of that hardware. You also can't pause a game somewhere and leave for a while, as GeForce Now will disconnect after you've been idle for a while and you'll lose anything that wasn't saved. These are all entirely fixable things, though, and NVIDIA has demonstrated they are listening closely to their audience right now.

I'm not suggesting someone sell their Xbox One and pick up a Shield TV, or that you should give up on that epic PC build in exchange for a simpler setup out of convenience, but it's clear there's room in the market for this kind of experience. It's even more clear there are people out there who would enjoy this exact setup. No maintenance, low cost, and the option to purchase games and play the on both the Shield TV and your actual PC, not to mention the ability to stream games from your PC if you've got an NVIDIA card that plays nice with that setup.

Shield TV

What NVIDIA has here are the building blocks for something great. The resurrection of the game console as an instant enjoyment machine. The simpler yet fully enjoyable gaming machine for folks who aren't willing or able to get behind the $1,500+ VR gaming rigs Oculus and Valve are going to start pushing in a few months, without all the hurdles of what we now call consoles and less than 1/4 the size. It's an impressive opportunity this company has created for itself, and there's a reasonable chance we'll all get to watch this grow together.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

43 Comments
  • The best Android TV device you can buy!
  • I've already got 2 ps4's an Xbox one, 2 wii u's, and 3 Xbox 360's and a ps3. I keep telling myself I don't need this Nvidia setup but the more and more I keep reading ac's articles about it I want one more and more. I have a bday coming up and I think this is gonna be me gift to myself. I hope ac keeps covering this device. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm like you... I have an xb1, xb360, Wii, monster water cooled sli gaming rig, gaming laptop and I recently bought the shield console. It REALLY IS an awesome console. There's a lot you can do besides game on it. I also use it as a multi console emulator for when I'm feeling nostalgic. The GRID gaming really does work well, btw... If you have the disposable $, pull the trigger. You won't be disappointed. Hope this helps
  • Thanks I'm about ready to pull the trigger :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • I assume you want to brag but you just look stupid buying consoles in double. Stupid. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Huh? I like to play video games and I have 3 kids that like to play video gsmes... Hopefully you never have any kids as ignorant as you sound. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I was about to share that we have 3 XB1 in our house, we have 3 kids all gamers in their gaming prime age I think... 10, 15 & 16 So, gaming time and calling shotgun is critical at our house especially when wife and I made the golden rule that the 1st edition in the living room is out of bounds to them all (He or She that make the gold make the rule), So, we supplemented with the Amazon TV with sd card slot. The younger kid looses out a lot on calling shotgun, so she get to do Netflix and real kids games on the amazon TV. So, bplink95, I think your use case scenario of these consoles is common than Jonathan Leduc thinks and he is free to haul few of those insults my way if he so desires, hopefully he knows how to apologize for not being a gentleman. its ok for him to wonder and or ponder why should anybody own or want to own so much consoles plus even disagree on why you, me or anybody for that matter have more than 1 or 2 in the first place, but none of those reason(s) whatsoever justify being insultive..
  • Clear the way everyone! Captain D-Bag is coming through!
  • "Why would you ever live in a house with more than 1 bedroom? What a waste of space and money. Stupid." #kids? #whatarethose #everybodyslifeisthesame /s
  • LOL @ Forever Alone
  • I have yet to upgrade my Xbox 360 to Xbone, maybe this is a cheaper option
  • only if it can do DVR, OTA tuning, has HDMI input, a 3d BluRay player, USB 3 expansion, and lets you pop in an Xbox 360 game from your legacy collection.
  • Still can't pop in XBOX 360 titles.
  • Will from November though
  • I actually went with the Shield Console over upgrading the 360. At the time, cross compatibility with 360 games on the One wasn't announced yet. Honestly though. I have a really good PC rig that works with the GeForce Now Game Streaming. I have my home network configured with an HD Homerun tuner so I get TV on the Shield TV and use Next PVR to record live TV on my PC and drop recordings into a shared folder on Plex to view on the Shield. HDMI throughput means nothing to me because I don't have cable (that's what I think you meant by the HDMI input). Don't use optical media so a BluRay player means nothing to me. It has two USB 3 ports. I have a hub on mine so I have six USB 3 ports. I have a 1TB USB 3 drive attached, 500 gigs internal, and connected to my 200 gigs of Google Drive cloud files. I think I'm as good as any xbox one with storage. I don't need to pop in 360 games because...well....I still have a 360.
  • Sadly my internet connection struggles with Netflix sometimes. It would never hold up to any sort of non-local game streaming.
  • I feel ya brother! This looks fantastic but just won't work where I live...
  • Interesting. I had just upgraded my PC to be my all around machine for streaming, netflix, etc. because the Nexus Player just didn't seem as snappy. However, looking at this latest tidbit of information, I can't help but think that the Shield Console might be worthy of a place in my cabinet. BUT, we're talking PC games, right? That still leaves a lot of console "exclusives" out of the loop, unless developers want to port it that way, which I'm sure given the right incentive, they very well could. Personally, I would like to see the service available on PC myself.
  • Sadly like many people I'm stuck in a Comcast monopoly area, so GeForce Now simply doesn't work well enough to be a viable option, even with my supposed 75mb download speed I had nothing but issue every time I've tried it on my Shield Tablet.
  • It's a shame, I have 75Mb (really about 80Mb) from Brighthouse and GeForce Now works perfectly for me. You do need a 5GHz router for 1080p (at least you did before the new video types were supported).
  • That sucks. I have Comcast as well, and while I get decent speeds, I've never had an issue with the Grid games. I've taken it to a friend's house and the analyzer says his connection is "poor", but it still works fine. He also has a 5gz band so maybe that helps, even when it's slow? Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's strange. My 75 down connection via Comcast does 90 down and that's on wireless AC. This sounds like your network needs help, not your internet connection.
  • Even limiting the stream to 720p I had issues, and I have a newer router, I have a D-Link DIR-860L which is an AC router and is one of the routers on the "Nvidia shield-ready routers" list, and the tablet was a couple feet away from the router and connected thru the 5GHz band, still no luck with it.
  • For me it was the router. I had the recommended Asus router running at 5Ghz and Grid still was iffy on my Shield Tablet. When I got the Shield Console, I connected it via ethernet cable and it runs really well.
  • Same here. I always blamed Comcast. Once I bucked up and got an industrial grade router suddenly I could consistently pull 90
  • Just out of curiosity, have you run any kind of diagnostics to confirm that it's actually the Comcast connection that is the issue?  Often, you can issues resulting from WiFi interference (especially in apartments, or when houses are close together) or even malfunctioning networking equipment.  Be wary of using old network "hubs" instead of more modern switches.  The old hubs just broadcast out everything they receive on all other ports, and can actually result in "network storms" which can kill performance. And, to be fair, Comcast isn't bad everywhere.  I pay the extra $10/month for their SpeedBoost service, which is supposed to give me 100mbps (my monthly bill is about $83, and the base speed promise in my area is 50mpbs).  I've never seen it below 115, and I frequently get 130+.  And that's in an apartment complex, in a part of town that is apartment complexes one after another.
  • Not sure what diagnostic there would be to run for that. I do however have new router that was on Nvidia's recommended list for using Grid, and over the years I've been in multiple different apartments, in multiple different cities, and owned multiple different routers, and in one city I was able to switch to FIOS, the one consistent was regardless of where I lived and which router I had I always had issued with Comcast, and not just internet but TV as well, TV would constantly cut out audio thru multiple cable boxes, in the one city I was able to switch to FIOS I had zero issues with the same router on FIOS.
  • Yeah.. I can tell you know nothing of pc gaming. You'll buy a 1tb hard drive? I assume that's hdd... A 128gb sad would be better suited. Posted via the Android Central App
  • WHOOOOSH Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol did all the kids pick on you at school today? Between this and your comment to bplink, you sound so angry....
  • Dude...what is your problem?
  • I've got TW's lowest bandwidth option. If no one else is using the network, gameplay is pretty decent with a little lag here and there. That's on my end, not Nvidia's. Other than that, Plex and Kodi work great. Plus all of the other free, freemium, and subscription apps are great with many more on their way. And There's some pretty awesome Android games available, as well. Plus 12 games just updated to support full Ultra HD 4k video. So, for the price you get some serious bang for your buck. And if you're looking to start cutting the cord(s), this is a dream machine.
  • I am a pc gamer first, I've had the PS4 sitting in the front room collecting dust, just bought the Shield a week back and I can say that I am truly surprised at the gaming capabilities of this thing, I was excited to be able to stream my steam library games from my pc, at first I encountered lag due to my pc being on WiFi, hard wired everything and there is absolutely zero lag and the graphics on my big screen look way better then the PS4 games. I have also been trying out the Nvidia gamestream and am very impressed. Now they just have to get a bigger library of games.
    All in all I can say that if you are a a gamer, you will get your money's worth it with this console and then some. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Glad you can turn off the controllers now. That should save me some battery when I'm just watching netflix. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've had ComCast for quite a while and I like it a lot!
  • Streaming games will never be as good as a native game played on dedicated hardware like Xbox One or ps4. Maybe one day we will get there but this is in no way a substitute or competition for my Xbox. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Haha, get a good connection and try this thing, you won't be able to tell the difference Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a PC capable of playing games in 4K. if i want a dedicated gaming system I use that. If i want to sit on a couch and casually play some stupid arcade game, tower defense, or GTA V then I'll use this. And the quality will be better streamed from my dedicated gaming PC to the Shield than playing natively on your "dedicated hardware like xbox one or ps4".
  • Hey, Russell, heads up. In the paragraph that starts "Enter the NVIDIA Shield Android TV with GeForce Now", you've got GeForce Now listed as $6.99, but Nvidia's blog says $7.99. http://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2015/09/30/geforce-now/
  • I just finished playing Crysis 3 on my Nvidia Shield console using gamestream! Freaken awesome! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah. Gamestream is awesome. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Microsoft had the same thing in mind, to stream games to xbox one, in order to play 4k. I Wonder if they're still working on it Posted via the Windows Central App
  • That Destiny install comment sure is full of fluff. Posted via the ACA on NEXUS 6