The Nvidia Shield Android TV box tries to emulate mainstream game consoles with game-streaming capabilities and an included controller. At CES, Nvidia announced it was pulling another common game console trick — the Shield is shrinking. The new Nvidia Shield is considerably smaller than the last one, and it has a new, more refined controller.
The Shield is where Nvidia is putting all its Android focus lately. It hasn’t released a new variant of the Shield Tablet in more than a year now, and the long-rumored update was quietly cancelled a few months ago. The original Shield handheld gaming device was also a one-off that has never been updated. That leaves the Android TV box version of Shield. It was already the best Android TV device around, and that’ll probably be true of the new one as well; it’s extremely similar.
Like last year’s Shield, the new version has a Tegra X1 ARM chip and 3GB of RAM. It’s far and away the most powerful Android TV device, and it’s blazing fast. The Tegra X1 is an octa-core ARM chip with four Cortex-A57 and four Cortex-A53 cores. This is the same chip used in Google’s Pixel C, but the throttling is less aggressive on the Shield. It’s tethered to power all the time, so it doesn’t need to conserve battery like a tablet does.
The big hardware change this time around is that the Shield is tiny. It’s 40% smaller than the first gen console, which measured 25x210x120mm. The new one is only a little taller than the remote, making it closer in size to competitors like the Roku and Apple TV.
The Shield runs Android TV (the Android 7.0 version), so you get access to all of Google’s apps via the Play Store, plus it has a special Netflix implementation for 4K and HDR video (on supported TVs). Nvidia also works with developers to port impressive console-quality games to the Shield that are optimized for the Tegra X1. For example, Doom 3 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. It also supports GeForce Now game streaming.
The bundle you get when ordering the Shield is also more attractive this year. In addition to the smaller console, you also get a revamped game controller and a remote. The remote was a $ 50 add-on last time. As for the controller, Nvidia has removed the trackpad, which was never very useful. That allows for a more streamlined overall shape that looks more hand-friendly. That was really my only complaint about the last Shield controller; it was bulky. Otherwise, it’s every bit as good as Xbox and PlayStation controllers. As an added benefit, the Shield accessories are WiFi Direct, so they have extremely reliable, fast connections.
The new Shield Android TV goes on sale in a few weeks, but you can pre-order it now. The base model has 16GB of storage with a microSD card slot for $ 200. The 500GB version costs $ 300, but it doesn’t have the smaller chassis because the drive is physically larger. So, the only thing new about that one is the software, controller, and included remote.
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