NVIDIA’s Shield Set-Top Box Sets Gaming Consoles on Fire

The graphics card manufacturer has just unveiled at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco the next member of the Shield family: a set-top box that focuses on gaming.

SF’s GDN 2015 may not be the best scheduled event in the world, since it takes place at the same time as the Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any launches there worth reporting. The NVIDIA Shield set-top box carries a price tag of $200, which really may seem a lot for an Android TV-powered device. However, Jen-Hsun Huang emphasized at the press conference that included the launch of the product that the Shield set-top box brings together “revolutionary TV,” a “gaming console” and a “supercomputer.” Well, my other computer is a Cray, so I’m curious of what’s under the hood of this innovative thing.

Touted as the “world’s first 4K Android TV,” the NVIDIA Shield set-top box won’t run into any problems while streaming (via Gigabit Ethernet) or playing local content (via HDMI) at that resolution. After all, it includes the Tegra X1 super chip, which at the moment is the best SoC NVIDIA has to offer. In case the two connections aren’t available and users want to play content directly from the Shield, they can rely on the internal memory, and if those 16GB aren’t enough, then the microSD slot and the two USB 3.0 ports might come in handy.

The Shield supports voice commands either via the gamepad’s mic or via a remote control that’s not that different from the one of Amazon’s Fire TV. However, the new Shield isn’t as much about watching movies as it is about gaming. According to Huang, NVIDIA’s set-top box is 35 more powerful than the next such device, and twice as powerful as the Xbox One. That’s a really courageous statement, and the first reviews of the device should confirm or infirm that.

Android gaming is really catching up, and in the not-so-distant future, I can see mobile games competing head-to-head with their console counterparts. The Tegra X1 packs not only a lot of processing power, but also an extremely competitive GPU, so there will be no such things as glitches while gaming on the Shield set-top box. Some of the console games that got an Android port specifically for the launch of the new NVIDIA product include: Borderlands: The Presequel, Doom 3: BFG Edition, The Talos Principle, Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance. More titles will surely follow once the device is available.

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