NVIDIA's yearly CES bash just wrapped up, and once again there's a new SHIELD coming for gamers. Well, "new" in a very limited sense. The new version of the Android TV-powered set top box looks nearly identical to the SHIELD TV that's been available since the summer of 2015. It's 40% smaller than the original - closer in size to competitors like Roku - but inside is the same Tegra X1 system that we're familiar with. (Which is still some of the most powerful "mobile" silicon around.) The big change, as hinted by the leak last month, is in the controller.
NVIDIA's SHIELD is the best stand-alone Android TV device on the market... in an admittedly limited field of competitors. At $200 with an included controller, it's at a fairly premium price for a set-top box (the top-of-the-line Roku streaming gadget is $130, for example). But if you plan to take advantage of its unique PC game streaming capability or NVIDIA's growing stable of exclusive Android games, it's not unreasonable for two bills. Now the pot gets a little sweeter: for a limited time, NVIDIA will throw in a second controller with a SHIELD TV purchase.
The second Android TV device to be available directly from Google is also the second Android TV device to be sold, period: the Forge TV from gaming peripheral maker Razer. The Forge TV bundle is now on sale in the Google Store. This $149.99 USD package includes the Forge TV itself and one Serval Bluetooth controller. Oddly, the stand-alone Forge TV (which sells for $100 and requires an Android phone, since it has no remote) isn't listed on the Google Store. It's shipping to the US and Canada.
There are a lot of solid dungeon crawlers available in the Play Store - my personal favorite is probably Mage Gauntlet. But whether it's because of the general trend towards the retro visual style or simply because it's easier to implement on mobile, most of them use a top-down 2D pixelated visual style. Not so for TinyKeep. The premiere Android game from developer Digital Tribe bucks those trends for a high-end take on the genre.
TinyKeep is actually another port from PC download service Steam, so it's easy to see where its high-end graphics come from. You'll need a powerful phone or tablet to get the most out of the experience.
Looking to get into NVIDIA's SHIELD ecosystem, perhaps before the launch of the GRID service? Perennial video game retailer Gamestop is offering the base model of the SHIELD Tablet with a $50 discount, bringing down the price to $249.99. The SHIELD Controller, which is compatible with the original SHIELD Portable, the SHIELD Tablet, and the upcoming SHIELD Android TV set-top box, is also discounted. You can grab it for $39.97, a bit more than $20 off.
The SHIELD Tablet is easily the best 8-inch Android tablet available at the moment, thanks to its plentiful power and quick software updates from NVIDIA.
Razer's Forge TV, one of the only third party stand-alone Android TV devices announced since the platform launched, is already available as a pre-order from Amazon. Now you can get it straight from the serpent's mouth: Razer is accepting pre-orders for both the Forge TV and the bundle with a Serval controller. The set-top box alone is shipping out on April 29th, with the bundle coming a little later on May 5th.
The Forge TV is a standard Android TV device with a Snapdragon 805 system-on-a-chip, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and support for USB 3.0 hardware and gigabit Ethernet on top of the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Mobile electronics have to have compromises. You can't shove a 55-inch screen onto a phone no matter how hard you try, end eventually even the biggest battery will run out. It's all about balancing the desirable with the practical. A similar principle extends to the more niche world of mobile-focused gaming controllers: while we'd all like a console experience in a portable package, even the most generous pockets will be strained if you try to shove a Dual Shock into them.
So we have a sliding scale, portability versus utility. You can go big, with console-style controllers that have full button complements like the MOGA Pro or the Thrustmaster Score-A.
Let's be honest here: there hasn't been much movement for Android TV since the Nexus Player was released way back in November. Though Sony has committed to using ATV in its upcoming smart TVs, the actual availability of Google's latest set-top box is depressingly low. But two gaming-centric Android TV units are on the horizon, and one of them is from veteran PC accessory vendor Razer. The Forge TV now has an unconfirmed release date (May 1st) and at least one pre-order retailer (Amazon).
The only thing available at the moment, and indeed, the only hint of the Forge TV we've seen since its unveiling at CES in January, is the "Forge TV Bundle." This includes the tiny Android TV set-top box and a premium "Serval" controller for $150.
I have been hunting for an ideal Android game controller for a long time. I've tried tons of them: tiny, retro, travel-oriented, and full-size. None have hit that perfect combination of portability and utility (for as much as "utility" can be applied to a gaming accessory) that makes it a recommendation for everyone. Thrustmaster, a minor player in the gaming accessory market, has had its Score-A Bluetooth controller that's specifically designed for Android available at retail for a while now. Can this compact controller, complete with Android navigation buttons and a full console button complement, rise above the rest?