Nvidia’s consumer offer is segmented into two large families, the GeForce and the Shield. The first are the famous graphics cards that abound in all current PCs, whether desktop or portable. The Shields, for their part, are Android-powered devices that have been, in turn, portable game console (never sold in UK) or large format tablet (Shield Tablet) turned towards mobile multimedia in addition to video games.
At the end of 2015, the Shield was transformed into an Android TV box to be placed next to the TV. It is the latter, formerly named Shield Android TV and now called Shield TV 4K HDR, that Nvidia is updating at the start of the year. The few novelties are expertly sprinkled and the base, which we described as “impressive” more than a year ago, remains. To take advantage of all the new functions, rest assured, it is not essential to return to the cash desk. Nvidia must indeed, on the first Shield, gradually deploy its new software ecosystem, via the update system, from next week.
Note that the price of the new version is higher (230 euros instead of 200) but, it’s for a good cause! The Shield TV 4K HDR (or Shield 2017, for short) is now delivered with the joystick and the remote control which, until now, was optional and sold at a price of around 55 euros. Clearly, Nvidia rightly plays the card of All Inclusive. Only the metal support to place the console vertically remains sold separately (25 euros).
Nvidia Shield (Android) TV, user manual (s)
With its Shield box, Nvidia first of all wants to continue to ride the surge of digital multimedia by offering, for example, efficient and fast playback of music, photos and especially videos (up to 4K). And this, regardless of the source. Whether it’s from an online service (Netflix, YouTube) or by streaming content from a NAS-type remote storage solution (via Plex for example) or, quite simply, by connecting a disk or a USB stick to the small box black.
The Shield can also be used as an extra game console. Both Android and … PC! Yes, this little box can be used as a small arcade machine in three ways. The first, through the service of cloud gaming (PC games in the cloud) GeForce Now. The second is more classic since it consists of digging into the library of Android titles (growing) compatible with the Shield or even using retrogaming apps. Finally, third and last solution to play, stream titles locally from a PC (GameStream technology), all directly on the TV. Sacred program!
Shield 2017, what changes
Between the two generations of Shield, what is obvious is the change in format. The housing of the new Shield is shorter, narrower, but still as thick. Something to be even more discreet once placed under the TV. In fact, there is only the beam of green light present on the front, witnessing the start of the Shield, which betrays its presence. Switching on which, moreover, is only done from the controller or remote control delivered in the box, the touch button on the front having disappeared. Household addicts will be delighted (and we are part of it): impossible to start the device while we are dusting.
At the back of this new Shield, there is also a change, as we mentioned when we first got started. The microSD card reader, handy for extending or replacing the 16 GB of internal storage, has gone by the wayside. It is therefore necessary to fall back on a USB key which will vampirize one of the two rear sockets.
A full-format HDMI output (HDCP 2.2 and HDMI-CEC compatible) and a network socket (Gigabit Ethernet) are also present. For wireless connections, Wi-Fi n / ac and Bluetooth are included. It is also via Bluetooth that the remote control and the new controller supplied with the Shield are connected.
New year, new Shield controller
Since 2014, no major retouching had been done on the Nvidia controller. It was massive and its lines, far removed from those of the Xbox One or PS4 paddles. For 2017, the GPU designer has completely revised its copy and gives its game controller a more contemporary, very successful form. It now communicates via Bluetooth (previously proprietary Wi-Fi) with the console and can also be associated with a PC without any problem.
The parts welcoming the hands are made up of small triangles arranged in various ways in order to best match their morphology on the one hand and to give the controller a much more modern side on the other.
We will quickly go over the enlarged screen printing of the letters ABXY to directly address the main changes. The first is the tactile part acting as a mini touchpad which has disappeared, as has the volume button, now tactile and camouflaged between the two joysticks. These also evolve, and are no longer covered with gum.
The multidirectional cross has also changed. It is now crimped directly from the shell. Finally, the three touch controls located around the central “Shield” button have been moved to the bottom of the controller and are now mechanical.
As a reminder, the Shield button (which has also become mechanical) allows, as on the first paddle, to display the Android TV home page or, in the event of a long press, to activate the voice command mode, transmitted by the small microphone of the controller. Equipment also available with the new remote control supplied with the Shield TV.
End of the rechargeable battery in the remote control
As we said in the introduction, the rectangular remote control is now included and communicates in Bluetooth with the Shield. This is good news because it is more discreet, practical and intuitive than the controller for controlling the device in multimedia mode. Its case retains its five buttons, and its tactile part to adjust the volume. Without forgetting the small microphone to activate the voice commands of Google Assistant. Finally, let’s not forget to mention the presence of a small infrared module, useful for possibly controlling the volume of the TV (the learning manipulation is detailed in the console).
Nothing changes ? Yes, and Nvidia has made some more or less welcome adjustments elsewhere. Aesthetically, first, the thickness of the remote control increases and its facade loses its metal inserts.
These are replaced by models of identical shape but all plastic. The metal does not disappear completely since the back of the zappette is covered with it.
Its rechargeable battery, however, is a thing of the past. It gives way to a small drawer with two removable button batteries, supposed to offer a year of autonomy. Not very green! Another disappearance noted, the jack. According to spokespersons for Nvidia, it was deported to the controller because identified as a factor of overconsumption of the remote control, leading to frequent recharging of the battery. Too bad, we found this plug very practical, because it offered the possibility of transforming the remote control into a super Bluetooth audio receiver by plugging in any wired headset.
Tegra X1 chip still in control
” Why switch chip generation when the Tegra X1 remains the most powerful solution in its class! “ chanted one of the spokespersons during the presentation. The new Shield therefore takes up the technical bases of the old version. The processor does not move an inch, based on an ARM architecture and with graphics cores similar to those of GTX 900 generation graphics cards (Maxwell). The amount of RAM remains capped at 3 GB.
Logically, the AnTuTu scores – the app used for our reviews – have therefore not moved a bit, establishing the X1 at the level of the processor embedded in the Samsung Galaxy S6. Clearly, it is the promise of having good navigation performance in Android TV and being able to run a lot of games offered in the Android catalog. In addition, for receiving and decoding Full HD or 4K video / audio streams on the fly, the Tegra X1 is second to none. We were able to check it again during our reviews.
Is Shield 2017 a Finger to Replace Box TV?
With so much power available, the interface of Android TV 7.0, globally unchanged (except for certain submenus) compared to 6.0, remains extremely fluid, as does the navigation in all of the available apps, some of which like Molotov.tv, is stocked with stickers of all kinds.
You read correctly, Molotov.tv is now available on Android TV and more precisely in preview on the Shield! This plays a little more against our Box TV operators. You have the channels of TV and TNT HD live or Replay, with the possibility of recording automatically in the cloud (10 hours of recording with the free subscription).
In fact, Nvidia offers 100 hours of recording for two months for any purchase of the Shield before February 15, 2017.
Of course, Molotov.tv is in addition to other applications dedicated to video entertainment available on Google Play for Android TV such as Netflix, OCS, MyTF1VOD, Arte, UK TV or the video offer from Amazon Premium. When will the MyCanal app come to complete the picture? Soon to believe some rumors that evoke the reviews of a beta app in recent days.
The Android TV Box for cloud gamers
Another novelty is the Nvidia Games app / portal, which aggregates the three old video game applications (GameStream, GeForce Now, Tegra Zone) in one. So we find all the games of the GeForce Now cloud gaming service (GFN, subscription of 9.99 euros per month). Already important, the catalog offered by Nvidia has recently been enriched with new titles and should even count some Ubisoft hits very quickly.
In fact, during our reviews and with a beta account, we were able to play The Division, through a login / password process identical to that of the Uplay client on PC. We then start to hope that it will be possible to connect with your own account to play some GFN-compatible games.
Finally, let’s remind those who are not familiar with the service that the GeForce Now offer gives access to many games for free. However, recent titles can also be purchased directly on the platform. Titles which are sometimes accompanied by a dematerialized PC version to activate on Steam or GoG.com. And, if you unsubscribe from the GFN, don’t panic, the game will not disappear from your Steam library.
If most of the titles offered on GFN can be enjoyed alone, it is obviously possible to pair a second controller to the Shield (or connect an Xbox One controller by wire) to play two by Ultra Street Fighter IV , for example ! And if you want to share your combos on your Twitch account, the Shield allows you to broadcast live what is happening on the screen, very simply, as with the GeForce Experience that we find on our PCs.
To play well in the cloud, ADSL 2+ or fiber are recommended
Of course, the quality of the Cloud Gaming service (understand the display and the fluidity of the games) depends on both the internet connection of the house (20 Mbps minimum for Full HD and good graphics) and the connection mode to the home network. Privileging wired over wireless is essential from our point of view. And to help you choose the appropriate connection mode, small connection review tools are available within the app Nvidia Games to find out about the quality of your line and that of your network.
Based on the data collected, the service automatically adjusts the level of game details and definition, on the fly.
Of course, if you want to get your hands on the options, it’s still possible because, after all, you are playing the traditional PC game but running on an Nvidia server remotely.
Moreover, for the arrival of this new Shield, the GPU designer passes all of its server park on the Pascal architecture, that of the GeForce GTX 1080 or the Titan X, and replaces the Kepler cards which have become a little obsolete.
Thus, the graphic rendering gains in quality and, above all, by acting directly in the menus of the games, we managed to bypass the Full HD recommended to run certain games in 1440p (2560 by 1440 pixels). In this mode, 4K remains absent but it is not surprising: even a muscular gaming PC has great difficulty in displaying as many pixels, while maintaining a bit rate of 60 images per second (the sacrosanct bearing), and Nvidia has every interest in ensuring that the experience remains the best possible by imposing certain limits.
GameStream goes 4K and force feedback
Your gaming PC is in the office, your Shield is in the living room and you would have liked to show your friends the realism of Battlefield 1 ? No worries, GameStream is there and, provided that your PC and your Shield are on the same home network (Wi-Fi or wired), the first can broadcast its video and audio streams directly on the second. And, to avoid ridiculing yourself with the joystick (on BF1), in front of witness (s), which is more on the big screen of the living room, know that the Shield can completely accommodate a keyboard and a USB mouse (or Bluetooth) to find the same sensations as on your PC.
GameStream has been present from the start in the Shield ecosystem and the implementation has been greatly simplified over time. Today, in less than a quarter of an hour and provided you meet all the material conditions detailed on the dedicated Nvidia site, everything works perfectly, you can play all your games installed on your PC, without limit.
If the service was so far limited to the broadcast of HD / Full HD streams, Nvidia has reworked its compression algorithms to display games up to 4K at 30/60 frames per second, with HDR compatibility ensured. Only conditions, have a 4K TV (60 Hz) HDR and, also, a PC configuration which supports the display of as many pixels. NVIDIA’s algorithms are not magicians and will not be able to boost a Full HD signal in 4K, let’s be clear.
Another innovation, Nvidia now manages to pass the haptic feedback (vibrations) of the game running on the PC directly to the Shield controller to add a little more immersion in the player experience.
Note, GameStream is now compatible with all UWP games (Universal Windows Platform), that is to say the dematerialized titles from the Windows Store. Finally, Steam users will be delighted to learn that the app automatically launches in Big Picture mode via GameStream, for easier navigation. Other customers like Origin (EA), GoG Galaxy (GoG.com) or Battle.net (Blizzard) continue to run conventionally, as on a PC.
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