Tech Review: The NVIDIA SHIELD is a Robust Streaming Device, With One Hefty Caveat

The NVIDIA SHIELD is a streaming device for the modern age – sleek, fast and multi-modal. It functions as both a universal entertainment device, featuring apps like Netflix, Stan and Spotify, as well as a game streaming device, allowing interfacing with Steam and NVIDIA-powered PCs.

The base package comes with a SHIELD device and sleek remote, but can be purchased in a full package with a stylish and ultra-comfortable game controller. It’s this diversity of use that makes the SHIELD such an appealing device, but unfortunately, it’s not without its limitations.

Your enjoyment of the SHIELD can largely be determined by one question — do you have access to the NBN? If, like me, your answer is a resounding ‘no’, and you’re unlikely to have access to it anytime soon, then the SHIELD may not be the device for you. Currently my home Internet runs at an average speed of around 8.35 Mbps, allowing me to stream Netflix, Stan and Spotify at a reasonable quality through the SHIELD, but it does not allow for any kind of decent game streaming.

There are several options to stream your games, some of which work better than others. The SHIELD has its own native games service, NVIDIA Games, which can stream games over the Internet, or via your home and interfacing with a NVIDIA-powered PC (GeForce GTX 650 minimum requirement). With 16GB of internal storage, there is some allowance for downloading and playing games from the device itself, but this is limited to smaller titles and storage fills up fast.

Games can also be streamed through the Steam or Uplay apps, which give you access to your entire Steam/Uplay library via Wi-Fi. Some games in this mode will not be particularly compatible with SHIELD, however, and I found the Steam interface confusing and hard to navigate. Several times, I became completely stuck as keyboard and mouse options were required when none were present. In one instant, accessing The Secret of Monkey Island meant my entire device refused to function, with only the home button saving me from an NVIDIA-powered Mexican standoff.

A GeForce Now subscription (still in Beta status) will give SHIELD owners access to a range of free games including Saints Row IV, Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed, Borderlands, Sleeping Dogs and more. Currently, these games are free for all SHIELD users, but once the Beta ends, players can expect to spend around $25USD per 20 hours of play, according to a 2017 keynote.

Internet speed requirements for GeForce Now are hefty – requiring at least 15Mbps for smooth 720p gameplay at 60fps, 25 Mbps for 1080p gameplay at 60fps and even more for crisp 4K gameplay. A hardwired Ethernet connection or 5GHz wireless router is also recommended. Given that the speed averages for standard NBN plans are around 20Mpbs in the evening, with only the upper, more expensive tiers reaching 40Mpbs and 80Mps respectively, the requirements of the GeForce Now are less realistic for Australian audiences.

Streaming Skyrim from my home PC was a nearly impossible task. Travelling through Winterhold, I was constantly beset by game lag so bad, my character would pause every three steps and wait for the world to unfreeze. At one stage, I accidentally managed to punch a chicken, and was subsequently sent to jail because the game glitched out too rapidly for me to respond. It was a frustrating saga, and one that I soon gave up on.

Despite this disappointment, the SHIELD is still a great streaming device with a huge range of compatible apps. Netflix, Stan, Amazon Video, YouTube, Spotify, Google Play Movies and more all work wonders on the device, and allow you to tailor your recommendations as you see fit. The SHIELD is also one of the only streaming devices able to run Plex Media Server – a service that allows you to store all your favourite videos, music and photos within a cloud for easy streaming access.

Voice recognition is fully integrated within the SHIELD, and with a click of a button, you can use the device to search for entertainment across all compatible apps. Support for Google Assistant is also incoming, making full use of its Google-powered potential. Currently, the use of voice recognition is largely limited to gimmickry and convenience.

Considering the hefty price tag, I was a bit disappointed with the features on offer. The main, unique feature of the SHIELD is, of course, its compatibility and integration of NVIDIA games technology, however, a lack of access to reasonable internet speeds for the average Australian will stymie a lot of its potential appeal. Without these features, the NVIDIA SHIELD is still a sleek and sturdy home streaming device, with a plethora of great features, but none too unique in the home streaming world.

It’s clear that the NVIDIA SHIELD is a device for the future with important and solid tech behind it – it’s just a shame that the future isn’t quite here yet.

Score: 6.0 out of 10
Highlights: Great interface; sleek and stylish design; range of apps available
Lowlights: Hefty Internet requirements; confusing game compatibility requirements; accessibility issues for the average Australian
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
Price: $249.95 remote only; $329.95 remote and controller bundle
Available: Now

Review conducted on an NVIDIA SHIELD controller bundle review unit provided by the manufacturer.