It’s the gaming console alternative we’ve all been waiting for. Well, almost.
Nvidia is back with a new SHIELD TV, and this latest go-round at a microconsole is a potent, impressive one. It’s a perfect device for a casual gamer and movie buff, thanks to a revamped interface and quality 4K and HDR streaming.
But hardcore gamers need not apply just yet. Because while the SHIELD is getting closer, it’s not quite all the way there yet. The 2017 edition of SHIELD TV brings smart, calculated tweaks that pushes the device just a little bit closer to a refined console experience, although it remains pricey at $199.
It all comes in a tiny, appealing package. Last year’s SHIELD TV struck an aesthetically pleasing balance between the minimalist feel of a streaming box and the slight flash of a gaming console, thanks to a slick green streak of light. The 2017 version retains the green light, but is slightly smaller, but retains the green flash of light.
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The gamepad gets the most marked overhaul. Last year’s unit was intriguing, placing volume controls and a large touchpad in the middle of the handgrips. This year, Nvidia goes for a more “traditional” style, aside from a unique polygonal texture. The gamepad looks like some marriage between an Xbox controller and Superman’s Bizarro, but despite that, it looks and handles solidly and responsively. Nvidia packs touch-sensitive volume controls into the center area of the gamepad as well.
Nvidia also includes a remote in the box, no longer forcing the customer to buy one later. The move reinforces that this is as much a streaming box as a lite gaming console, and the remote, while basic, is smartly constructed. Again, Nvidia adds touch-sensitive volume controls to its center; the SHIELD desperately wants to bring unique ideas to the streaming box/microconsole space. Still, SHIELD TV isn’t ready to go out of the box; somehow, Nvidia doesn’t include an HDMI cable.
The overall package, though, is appealing, especially if you want to view video in all its 4K and HDR glory. From the Xbox One S to the PlayStation 4 Pro to an increasing number of Blu-Ray players, there are more and more devices that permit this premium level of video, as long as you have a 4K/HDR-compatible TV. 4K viewing is smooth and fluid, too, with no hiccups.
Nvidia includes a hefty amount of compatible video apps, too, all of which function easily. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and VUDU are all here, and your usual library of network apps (think ABC, NBC, FX and the like) are available in the Google Play Store. All handle well, and the inclusion of Amazon Video addresses a critical omission from last year, and a critical omission on such devices as Apple TV.
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These apps are also easy to find, because Nvidia’s interface has been redesigned. Powered by Android Nougat, it’s organized and easy to follow, and even with an aging Tegra X1 processor, it’s snappy and responsive. If you’ve augmented your home with such things as a NEST thermostat, you can also take advantage of Google Assistant, the always-on assistant that can essentially run your home.
It all adds up to a quality streaming video device, although that alone isn’t SHIELD’s aim - and it can’t justify the hefty retail price. This is a gaming device, and it’s here that the SHIELD must still make more progress.
A year ago, Nvidia touted three elements - Gamestream, GeForce Now, and traditional downloadable Android games - that it hoped to carry it as a gaming device, and those all return now.
Each element is more formidable this time around, although all still have issues. The most powerful portion of the experience remains Gamestream, which allows you to essentially play a game being powered by your PC on your big-screen with a console controller. You’re relying on a different machine to power the experience, but it’s here that you can experience the very best games, the closest thing to current-generation console gaming. A year ago, it was a feature that crashed often during playthroughs of Far Cry 4 for me, but it’s far more stable now. Keep in mind, though, that you’re at the mercy of three different machines - WiFi router, computer and SHIELD - so hiccups are bound to happen.
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Android offers a large library of games for download, and that well has deepened this year, both in quality and quantity. The Android library is still largely full of older games, such as Final Fantasy IX and Half-Life 2, but if you’re interested in reliving those titles, they play well on the SHIELD.
Several newer titles that debuted on consoles, such as The Witness, are also available on the SHIELD. A host of last-gen experiences are also available and play perfectly, such as Metal Gear: Revengeance and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
GeForce Now, meanwhile, remains the most intriguing piece of the puzzle, offering a library of Nvidia games that stream directly to your console, relying no storage space at all. It’s here that you’ll find console-quality experiences such as The Witcher 3 and Mad Max.
The downside is that GeForce Now costs $7.99 a month; the price isn’t steep, although it’s one more subscription. And while there are those few brilliant games, many of the experiences on GeForce Now are still last-gen: You’ll see all three Batman Arkham games and the likes of Alpha Protocol on GeForce Now. The games run fluidly, but you’d still like to see the GeForce Now library deepen and grow.
And it’s a similar story for the SHIELD for a second straight year: It’s still a device that must continue to evolve and grow. Nvidia’s made rapid progress and if you want a powerful, stable 4K/HDR video streaming device, this is a solid - if expensive - way to go.
As a gaming machine? It’s as good as a streaming box gets, but you hope it keeps making progress.
EXPERIENCE THE “SOUND OF LOVE” FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
For anyone still chasing an interesting last-minute Valentine’s Day gift, the Sennheiser Store in SoHo just may have an intriguing solution.
For two more days, “The Sound of Love” promotion is going on at the audio company’s Manhattan store, and it’s the perfect way for those who visit the store to experience the potency of Sennheiser’s line of sound products while also giving that special someone the most unique of Valentine’s gifts.
Sennheiser’s spent the last few years establishing itself as a serious player in the headphone market, but with “The Sound of Love,” visitors see another side of the company. The company’s long delivered a line of potent microphones, many of which are frequently used in Broadway productions.
Inside the cozy Sennheiser pop-up store is an area dedicated to putting all that sound goodness to good use. Visitors can record a customized romantic message for their loved one via a Sennheiser MK8 dual diaphragm condenser microphone. They’ll hear their recording crystal-clear as well, thanks to a pair of HD 569 or HD 599 headphones. And they get to finish the process by bundling their message - whether musical or spoken word or poetic or humorous - into an email they can then send to their loved one.
It’s a creative, unique gift for a time of the year that’s all about creative, unique gifts. If you’re interested, head to the store, located at 134 Prince Street, soon.
SAMSUNG AND SIX FLAGS TEAM UP
Just in case the ups and downs and twists and turns of roller coasters weren’t doing it for you, Samsung’s planning to put a new spin on everyone’s favorite amusement park ride.
Get ready for the New Revolution Galactic Attack, which will debut later this month at Six Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom near San Francisco.
Samsung calls the Galactic Attack a “mixed reality experience,” and explains that riders will “board” the coasters and don Samsung Gear VR headsets all at once. They’ll have a unique level of control over the experience, too, with a heads-up display popping onto the VR screen.
The entire ride promises plenty of intrigue, a unique blending of gaming ideas with the wild, wild feeling of any and every coaster.
The Galactic Attack opens at both parks on Feb. 25, although park-goers can check out the experience earlier, from Feb. 18-20. All ticket-holders have to do is bring a full bag of nonperishable goods to the park to support local regional food banks.
UNLIMITED DATA IS BACK
So much for data caps.
On Sunday, Verizon brought back the good old days of unlimited data with a new Verizon Unlimited program. The new program offers an $80 plan that includes unlimited data, talk and text. Technically, it includes a data cap, but this one certainly seems manageable, offering 22GB of data usage per billing cycle before it “prioritizes” other users.
It’s a program worth checking out. The plan is available as of Monday.Send a Letter to the Editor