The NVIDIA SHIELD Hardware and Performance
In the box with both versions of NVIDIA SHIELD you’ll find the console, a SHIELD controller, an HDMI cable, a USB cable for attaching the SHIELD to your PC/laptop and the power cord. The SHIELD controller is slightly changed from the one that was made available with the SHIELD Tablet – just a couple of button changes to better integrate with Android TV. This controller still feels great in the hand and is one of the best gaming controllers, period; not just for Android.
NVIDIA has also built a remote for the SHIELD that simplifies control for those in the family that might not be comfortable with all the buttons of the gamepad. Also, the remote is just way easier to use with one hand. In my mind, this should have been included in the box, but instead it’s going to be available separately for about $49. I know that NVIDIA needs to make sure that the controller is there to tout the gaming capability of the set-top, but in my mind, if you want to succeed as an Android TV platform, you’ll need that remote.
One of the best features of both the remote and the controller is the “private sound” option. Using a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on either device, you can plug in and all audio will be redirected from the TV/receiver to the headphones. This is great for watching TV at night while others are sleeping or just to use if you have higher quality headphones than you do speakers.
SHIELD itself is about the size of an iPad Mini in footprint, though you have the option to purchase a stand to keep it upright in your configurations. As you would expect from NVIDIA at this point, the design is incredible looking and combines a style of aggressiveness and class. You won’t feel bad about putting this in your home theater cabinet or right next to your new 4K television. When powered on, the device has a green glow on the front that hints at the NVIDIA SoC and brand.
The back of the device is where all the work gets done, with lots of connectivity and ports to take advantage of if you choose. On the far left is an exhaust area for the fan that will spin up while gaming or playing back 4K video. The noise level isn’t noticeable though, even when I was testing the unit on the desk right in front me. Moving to the right you find the MicroSD card slot that will almost be used by necessity if you purchase the 16GB model. Then you have a micro-USB port used for connection to a PC (side loading, etc.) and two full-sized USB 3.0 ports that I already discussed above. The Gigabit Ethernet port means you can have the fastest and lowest latency connectivity possible for game streaming, though in my testing the 802.11ac 2×2 wireless integration works fantastic as well. Finally we end with the HDMI 2.0 port, supporting 4K resolutions at 60 Hz, and the power connection.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, because quite honestly, it isn’t that important. At least not yet. The NVIDIA SHIELD is easily the most powerful and capable Android TV device that will be announced this year and has the most potent GPU on any SoC that you’ll see. The truth is NVIDIA clearly dominates in this area of performance – both on the CPU and GPU front. Because the SHIELD isn’t a mobile device, isn’t bound by being a passively cooled device and will always be plugged in at the wall, the ARM CPU cores and the Maxwell-based GPU can ramp up and run at as high of speeds as necessary (essentially) to get the job done.
As I said, the NVIDIA SHIELD is a powerful machine. Do you need that performance for most of what Android TV offers? Honestly, no. But 4K capability requires some specialized hardware (and performance) and the additional gaming capability of SHIELD is where this advantage will be showcased.