LAS VEGAS – The original Nvidia SHIELD was an ambitious device that aimed to split the difference between a game console and a streaming box. It worked well, but had an unclear purpose. The new Nvidia SHIELD (confusingly, also just called the Nvidia SHIELD) knows exactly what it wants to be: a central hub for your living room, which can broadcast both games and video in stunning 4K HDR, as well as respond to your voice for both everyday queries and smart home commands.
I went hands-on with the Nvidia SHIELD at CES 2017, and saw immediately how much it had improved over its predecessor. The device is now 40 percent smaller with a lighter, more angular controller to match. The controller possesses haptic feedback, to allow vibration for most games. More importantly, rather than three separate game menus on the home screen – Android games, GeForce Now games and streaming games from your PC on Steam – there’s one simple Games option that can list all of your most recent titles, regardless of where you played them.
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The biggest difference between the new Nvidia SHIELD and its predecessor is that the new device can access Google Assistant with voice commands. (Before, voice commands could only perform simple functions, like opening apps.) As on Android phones, Google Assistant can tell you the weather, answer factual questions, look up local landmarks and even control your smart home devices. With the help of a dongle, the SHIELD can control Zigbee and Z-Wave Samsung smart home tech; without it, the device can still access most IoT devices that run through Wi-Fi.
4K HDR Gaming
While the first Nvidia SHIELD supported 4K video, the new device supports both 4K and HDR for movies and games. Although games streamed through GeForce Now cap out at 1080p and 60 frames per second, there’s no such restriction for games you run from your own personal computer. I streamed Titanfall 2 in 4K, and encountered no lag or stuttering whatsoever as I gunned down futuristic robots to pave the way for my giant mech.
Pricing and Availability
The Nvidia SHIELD is available for pre-order now, and should start shipping by the end of the month. The basic 16 GB model costs $200, whereas a 500 GB model costs $300. Both models come with a controller and a remote control.
Why Should You Care?
Now that GeForce Now has expanded considerably as a streaming platform (you can get brand-new Ubisoft games; other publishers may soon follow suit), the SHIELD is a potentially very exciting way to stream both games and video at top-tier quality. Putting Google Assistant front and center in your living room could also prove very useful, especially if you’ve invested in smart home tech.