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Latest Nvidia Shield player runs Android TV on Tegra X1

Mar 4, 2015 — by Eric Brown 3,633 views

Nvidia’s $199 STB version of Nvidia Shield runs Android TV on a Tegra X1, and boasts 4K video, 50 optimized games, and game streaming from a “Grid” service.

The 2015 set-top box version of the Nvidia Shield follows two earlier models, including 2013’s original handheld Shield game console, now called the Nvidia Shield Portable, which was based on the Nvidia Tegra 4 system-on-chip. Last year, the chip designer-cum-hardware developer released an Nvidia Shield Tablet built around a more powerful Tegra K1 SoC with Kepler graphics, and featuring new stylus and WiFi Direct gaming controller.

Nvidia Shield
(click image to enlarge)

While both these models launched at $299, the new set-top box version of the Nvidia Shield goes for a more appealing $199, including a gamepad controller. While this is still higher than most Android media players, those interested more in gaming than movies should find it very reasonable considering it uses of the most powerful new mobile SoCs of 2015: the 64-bit octa-core Nvidia Tegra X1 (see farther below). Nvidia claims the new Shield offers twice the performance of an Xbox 360.

Earlier Shield Portable (left) and Shield Tablet
(click images to enlarge)

The Nvidia Shield is also the first media player to run Google’s Android TV, a more advanced, yet more streamlined, alternative to the failed Google TV platform. The device makes use of Android TV features like Google Voice Search, although it’s unclear if it will support the platform’s Chromecast like Google Cast feature for casting videos from your Android phone to the big screen.

Nvidia Shield with controller
(click image to enlarge)

The Nvidia Shield can drive 4K content on a 4K TV via HDMI. It also offers a gigabit Ethernet port to ensure maximum incoming streaming bandwidth for sucking down streaming content from the Internet or from a connected PC (see more hardware details below).

Nvidia Shield remote
(click image to enlarge)

When comparing Android game consoles with proprietary players, one of the biggest deficits is usually the size of the library, and especially the number of optimized games. The Shield Tablet, for example, launched with less than a dozen optimized games. This time around, Nvidia has a better story to tell — when the Shield ships in May, there will be over 50 Shield optimized Android TV games available for download out of a library of hundreds of titles. These include Crysis 3, Doom 3: BFG Edition, and Borderlands: TPS.

Nvidia Shield’s Android TV UI
(click image to enlarge)

In addition, with a subscription to a new “Grid” streaming service, which Nvidia calls the “Netflix for Games,” you can stream over 50 more PC-quality games. The Grid service lets the Shield share processing duty with its own GeForce GTX enabled “supercomputers in the cloud,” delivering 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second, says Nvidia. A hands-on test by Engadget found the Grid performance to be just fine, although it was noted that a true test will require an home connection with a live service.

A Grid subscription will include access to titles including Batman: Arkham Origins, Grid 2, and Metro: Last Light Redux, with additional titles added each week, says Nvidia. Later this year, the list will include games including Batman: Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The subscription also includes a more advanced, console-grade Nvidia Shield controller, says the company.

Nvidia Shield ports
(click to enlarge; source: Engadget)

The Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC debuted at CES in early January, with a primary focus on automotive applications instead of mobile. This ARMv8 SoC offers four Cortex-A57 and four Cortex-A53 cores fabricated with a 20nm process.


As usual with Nvidia, the main attraction is the GPU, in this case a gaming quality Maxwell engine with 256 cores compared to Kepler’s 192, The Maxwell-driven Tegra X1 supports DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5, CUDA, OpenGL ES 3.1, and the Android Extension Pack, in addition to Unreal Engine 4. When it comes to video, the Tegra X1 is capable of H.265 or VP9 video at 4K, 60fps resolutions. The SoC also supports 4K x 2K @60Hz displays, as well as 1080p @ 120Hz, and supports HDCP 2.2.

The craggy-looking, 210 x 130 x 25mm Shield box integrates a Tegra X1 with 3GB of RAM, 16GB flash, and a microSD slot. You get 802.1ac WiFi and Bluetooth, and an IR receiver for the optional remote. The device includes the aforementioned gigabit Ethernet and HDMI ports, as well as three USB 3.0 ports, and a micro-USB port.

Specifications listed for the 2015 STB version of the Nvidia Shield include:

  • Processor — Nvidia Tegra X1 (4x Cortex-A57 and 4x Cortex-A53 cores with 256 Maxwell GPU cores)
  • A/V capabilities:
    • 4K Ultra-HD with 4K playback and capture up to 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264)
    • 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound pass through over HDMI
    • Hi-res audio playback up to 24-bit/192KHz over HDMI and USB
    • Hi-res audio upsample to 24-bit/192KHz over USB
  • Memory/storage:
    • 3GB RAM
    • 16GB flash
    • MicroSD slot for up to 128GB
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11ac 2×2 MiMo 2.4GHz/5GHz
    • Bluetooth 4.1/BLE
    • IR Receiver (compatible with Logitech Harmony)
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • HDMI 2.0 port
    • 2x USB 3.0 ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 port
  • Weight — 654 g (23 oz)
  • Dimensions — 210 x 130 x 25mm
  • Operating system — Android 5.0 with Android TV, Nvidia Gamestream, Nvidia Grid support.

Psychedelic Nvidia Shield promo on YouTube

“The incredible processing power of Tegra X1 enables us to bring Doom 3: BFG to Android and we’re excited by the possibilities that GRID is bringing to gaming,” stated Tim Willits, studio director, id Software.

Further information

The Nvidia Shield will be available in May, starting at $199, including a controller. Optional accessories include additional controllers, a remote control, and a vertical stand. More information is available at the Nvidia Shield website.

(advertise here)

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One response to “Latest Nvidia Shield player runs Android TV on Tegra X1”

  1. cug says:

    Do you know if this box will support dual boot?
    I’m very interested in it if it could run Linux.

    Thank you

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