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Using NVIDIA's streaming, Android TV set-top box: the Shield

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You already know what NVIDIA's latest Shield hardware is: an Android TV-powered set-top box that uses the latest chip from NVIDIA. It streams games over the company's "Netflix for gaming" platform known as GRID; it streams games from your local PC; it powers Twitch streaming at the same time of said streamed content; heck, it powers games like Crysis 3 locally, running on Android.

But is it any good? The only answer I've got is maybe.

Using it earlier this week in NVIDIA's controlled environment tells me that, yeah, it's probably a pretty rad device. But it's also a streaming device, and as such I have a hard time saying anything definitive before testing it at home.

GDC15: NVIDIA Unveils Gaming Set Top Box

First things first: Shield is small and powerful and very similar to every other set-top box I've ever used. Android TV remains relatively slick and stock -- that applies here as well. If you've ever used Amazon's Fire TV, NVIDIA's Shield set-top box will be very familiar: there's a mess of digital content and apps, from Hulu and Netflix to YouTube and the Google Play store. It's even got voice search, which is built right into the gamepad that ships with the $200 box.

But you didn't come here to read about Android TV. Does the game streaming work?

It does! Will it work in your home? Uhhhhhh....maybe? I live in Brooklyn, NY, where streaming never works well enough, even with a dual-band router, to dependably play games.

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What I can tell you about is what I played:

  • a multiplayer match of Ultra Street Fighter IV (streamed from GRID)
  • five minutes of Dying Light (streamed from GRID)
  • a brief portion of Doom 3: BFG Edition (local play)

Let's start with the easiest bit that can be verified: Doom 3 is definitely Doom 3, only now it's available on Android and the graphics are a bit prettier. I can verify that it is both pretty and smooth, in terms of playability. Is it an exciting game? That's up to you. But I can confirm that Shield -- the set-top box -- is capable of playing it locally, as well as Crysis 3. I wasn't able to play Crysis 3 because apparently Crytek didn't want press trying it just yet; what I saw of it looked like Crysis 3 and played like Crysis 3, albeit a bit laggy.

Okay, so, the streaming bit!

In both instances, when controlling Ultra Street Fighter IV and Dying Light, there was no perception of lag. Admittedly these were brief hands-ons -- for the umpteenth time, streaming must be tested in the home -- but they were positive.

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We'll have a far more thorough review of those functions when we get a review unit in the coming month ahead of Shield's May launch window. For now, know that it worked pretty solidly in previews -- if that was keeping you on the edge of dropping the $200 for NVIDIA's Android TV box, there you go.

For the rest of us, is streaming games enough to pay $200 -- double the price of many already established set-top box options?

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