The original NVIDIA SHIELD (before the Tablet or the set-top box, so just called "SHIELD" at the time) was a surprise revelation at CES 2013. This high-powered Android device with an Xbox-style controller and a flip-up screen was unlike anything we had seen before, and though it never became a runaway hit, many (including yours truly) have been hoping that NVIDIA would update the design in addition to its more conventional SHIELD entries.
In a lot of ways, NVIDIA's SHIELD (not to be confused with this SHIELD or that SHIELD) is a typical set-top box. And in many ways it isn't: though NVIDIA has built its living room invader on Android like the previous products in the line, the OS underneath is merely a means to an end. And that end is selling you games, in every form and fashion that the company can come up with.
SHIELD will release its Android TV-powered console sometime in May with a suggested retail price of $199. We took a good long look at both the hardware and the games that NVIDIA hopes you'll play on it.
NVIDIA has just taken the stage at GDC for its big "Made to Game" announcement, and guess what... it's another SHIELD. This one is just called SHIELD, though, and it's an Android TV box. NVIDIA has added its own twist on Android TV, just like it does with regular Android. The new NVIDIA SHIELD has support for native 4K 60Hz video signals and NVIDIA GRID game streaming technology.
One of the lesser-known portions of the custom game software on NVIDIA's SHIELD Portable and SHIELD Tablet is GRID, an OnLive-style streaming PC gaming system. It allows owners to play a selection of full-feature PC games streamed from NVIDIA's own virtualized systems at a data center, no personal gaming PC required. The service is still in beta, but has been growing steadily since its introduction a little over two years ago. By the beginning of March, 40 PC games will be available for free to SHIELD owners.
The next PC game added to the service, live this morning, is Saints Row 4.
At the pace that NVIDIA and Valve are publishing older PC games for SHIELD devices, we might see Half-Life 3 come as a SHIELD exclusive. (In 2035.) But today, you can play the third stand-alone Half-Life shooter on your SHIELD Tablet. Half-Life 2, Episode One (the oddly-named sequel to the original Half-Life 2) is now available on the Play Store for $7.99. You'll need a SHIELD Tablet to purchase it and an official SHIELD controller to play it.
Episode 1 was released way back in 2006 as a story extension for Half-Life, which was released two years earlier. The original plan was for Valve to release episodic content for Half-Life on a regular basis.
One of the cooler features of NVIDIA's SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet is their capability to remotely play PC games. And one of the more frustrating parts of this feature is that you must have both NIVIDIA's mobile hardware and a high-end NVIDIA graphics card on your gaming PC. A new game streaming app hopes to beat NVIDIA on both of those points. KinoConsole is a free download in the Play Store, and you can grab the server program for your desktop here.
Setting up and connecting the app isn't difficult; just set a password for your PC and run the app on the same local network, or alternately, with a Google account.
Two months ago, we looked at the newest member of the SHIELD family, NVIDIA's SHIELD Tablet. This eight-inch beast is one of the first devices to feature NVIDIA's screaming fast Tegra K1 processor, which makes it not only a killer gaming tablet, but an all-around great digital sidekick for general use. I've used it for everything from Trine 2 gaming sessions on the TV (in Console Mode) to writing full reviews with an external keyboard, and it has been up to the task every time.
With this release, SHIELD Tablet gets a couple of enhancements: LTE and more storage. I'll be the first to admit that the 16GB of internal storage on the Wi-Fi model filled up quickly, especially with all the quality games that are hitting Android these days.
One of the nicest things about NVIDIA's various bits of Android gaming hardware is that they get updated early and often. The SHIELD Portable is already running on the latest version of Android, but a new update (dated Tuesday, but apparently going out a little late) has fixed a few small issues with GameStream and other services. If you have a SHIELD, check your Settings menu - the 480.9MB update should be available as soon as you check it manually.
The first bug is with NVIDIA's GameStream service, itself prone to various connection issues. The company didn't say exactly what was broken, or indeed, exactly how they fixed it.
Update: the developers released another quick update on September 19th, explicitly supporting the MOGA family of controllers. The NES30 mentioned below, a generic Bluetooth HID controller, is also working. Well done, Noodlecake and RocketCat!
I've been playing the heck out of Noodlecake and RocketCat's Wayward Souls RPG-roguelike ever since it landed on Android. While the top-down action game does have some excellent touchscreen controls, there's just no substitute for a real gamepad. That being the case, the developers have issued an update that adds controller support. Now you can slash, stab, and zap your enemies with clicky abandon, until they inevitably surround and kill you on the second floor.
It's no big secret that I'm a huge fan of NVIDIA's SHIELD. In fact, I believe I called it my favorite device from last year on a recent podcast, a claim that I readily stand behind. To me, it shows how versatile Android can be, despite the fact that the unit itself is essentially a one trick pony (it's damn good at that one trick, though).
Then there's NVIDIA's second foray into device design, the Tegra Note 7. Unlike SHIELD, TN7 is actually just a design that other companies can use as a base to release their own hardware from. The tablet's highlight feature is DirectStylus, which brings active-like features to a passive stylus.