For the past couple of years NVIDIA has been valiantly plugging away at establishing its own entertainment platform on its own terms, first with the SHIELD portable – an all-in-one portable device built into a controller with its own 720p multi-touch display – and then with the SHIELD tablet: a sturdy and versatile 8-inch Android tablet that can work as a stand-alone tablet or that can be plugged into your TV like a console. Both devices can be used as fully-fledged Android devices that grant users access to a multitude of apps and entertainment. They can also play the latest and greatest games out there, including Android titles and PC games downloaded or streamed via NVIDIA GRID.
Now NVIDIA's making its biggest play yet for the entertainment market with the launch of the SHIELD Android TV a compact black box made to plug straight into your TV, crammed with NVIDIA's best mobile technology that means it can punch well above its 654g of weight. Smaller and cheaper than a PS4 or Xbox One, it's nevertheless capable of providing entertainment and gaming experiences more in line with a top-end PC.
The SHIELD is an all-round entertainment system packed into a remarkably small footprint. Merely as a device for watching movies and TV it has a hell of a lot going for it; it's ready to play 4K video straight out of the box, complete with 7.1 or 5.1 surround sound, and because it runs Android TV you can get your preferred online streaming service set up on it quickly and easily, not to mention any number of Android apps. You can even use Google Voice Search on it as an easy way to find the specific content you’re looking for.
Ultra high-definition 4K TV shows and movies available on Netflix as well as 4K video content on YouTube can be instantly accessed and enjoyed on the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV, which is actually the world’s first 4K Android TV device.
And if the robust selection of entertainment options and features SHIELD Android TV brings to the table isn’t enough, it’s also an absolute gaming beast. At its heart beats a Tegra X1 processor: the most powerful mobile processor that NVIDIA has to offer, featuring 8 64-bit ARM cores, and a 256-core GPU that uses NVIDIA's top-end Maxwell architecture. Add to that 3GB of memory and you have a compact little system that's built to deliver top-quality gaming in glorious 1080p at a rock-solid 60fps. It comes complete with its own controller, a little thing that'll feel comfortable to anyone familiar with the average console controller.
So it has the hardware chops, but what really marks the SHIELD out is how it's going to let you access and play games. For starters, there's a huge range of Android games available through Google Play, including over 50 that have been specifically upgraded and optimised to look their absolute best on the SHIELD: titles such as Talos Principle and Half-Life: Episode 1 are all available now, while you'll soon be able to get your hands on thoroughly revamped SHIELD versions of Doom 3: BFG Edition, Broken Age, Metal Gear Rising, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and much more.
Even better, though, is that you can use the SHIELD to access NVIDIA's cloud-based gaming service, GRID. Described by NVIDIA as a gaming supercomputer in the cloud, GRID is an easy-to-use service that gives you instant access to an ever-growing library of top games, with more being added every week. GRID enables you to stream games at up to 1080p, at a quality that would otherwise require you to spend a fortune on a top-end gaming PC, all with minimal latency. Naturally you'll need a fairly speedy Internet connection; 5-10Mbps for gaming in 720P, and 30-50Mbps if you want to enjoy games at 1080P, plus you'll need to be able to get a 60ms ping time to one of GRID's six world-wide datacenters.
GRID already features a library of fantastic titles including Batman: Arkham Origins, Saints Row 4, Bionic Commando and Borderlands, and later in the year you'll be able to use it to stream hot new titles such as GTA V and The Witcher 3. And using the SHIELD's sharing features, you're able to seamlessly record or screenshot your gaming achievements, and even use it to broadcast directly to your Twitch account in HD.
Furthermore, if you've already built up a sizeable collection of PC titles and you have a GeForce GTX graphics card, you can use NVIDIA's GameStream technology to stream games directly from your PC to your SHIELD wherever it might be, either across your local network or over the internet. Over 200 games are currently compatible with GameStream, with more being added all the time, and if you're concerned that the SHIELD controller won't be sufficient for your favourite in-depth strategy game, simply use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for the full PC experience on your big-screen TV.
Best of all is the price: the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV is available now in the US for $199, and it could quite easily be the smartest entertainment purchase you'll make this year.