NVIDIA SHIELD ReviewClayMeow - November 29, 2013
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NVIDIA SHIELD PC Game Streaming:
While Android gaming is all well and good, let's face it, it doesn't hold a candle to PC or console gaming. Luckily for us more hardcore gamers, through the GeForce Experience application on a PC, we can stream PC games to the SHIELD – that is, as long as you have a GTX600 Series GPU or higher. It also has some other requirements that shouldn't be a problem for most PC gamers, but you can check the image below.
The first step to enable PC Game Streaming is to install the GeForce Experience. After you do that, simply click on the Preferences tab, select Games, ensure it is scanning the appropriate locations (adding or removing if you need to), and then click on Check Now. Once that is taken care of, hit the NVIDIA button on your SHIELD to launch TegraZone, select PC Games, and you'll be presented with any computers in your house that can support the Game Streaming. When you connect to a computer for the first time, you'll need to accept the connection on said computer, after which you'll never have to confirm the connection again unless you disallow it.
After you connect to your PC, you'll be presented with boxart-representations of every officially supported game you currently have installed (assuming you listened to me and scanned for games in GFE). Playing any of those games are, in theory, guaranteed to work with the SHIELD. I successfully loaded the newest game I own, Batman: Arkham Origins (which I recently reviewed), and as you can see in the image below, it automatically recognized I was using a controller despite me using keyboard and mouse controls on my PC (thinking I was using a Xbox 360 controller). Checking out the settings, you can see it runs at the SHIELD's native resolution of 1280x720 and, because it's actually running on my PC with the GTX770 and simply streaming to the SHIELD, I get the full DX11 and PhysX experience! The game ran smoothly, but I did find it tough to play such a detailed game on a small screen, not to mention that I was not accustomed to gamepad controls. I was able to survive one combat encounter, but needless to say, I died rather easily in another – thus the Enigma death screen.
While playing Batman: Arkham Origins on a handheld was cool, I decided I needed to find a game that would be better suited to the small screen and one that felt more natural (to me) with a gamepad. I decided on a game called Adventures of Shuggy, an indie platformer. I had never played the game before, but I figured a platformer was perfect to use with a gamepad and I was right. The game felt great on the SHIELD and it was extremely easy to play. In fact, one stage is played sideways, which probably would have been super frustrating on the PC, but since I could just tilt my SHIELD, I never got mixed up with the controls!
If one of your favorite games is not officially supported, you may still be able to play it through Steam's Big Picture Mode. That being said, whether a game actually works through Big Picture Mode is a complete toss-up. Even a game with gamepad support, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, would not work for me because it didn't recognize the SHIELD as a controller. Thankfully, there is a user-maintained Google Doc spreadsheet listing a bunch of games and whether or not they work perfectly, mostly, or not at all; the latter category usually consisting of games that fail to recognize the SHIELD as a controller, like the aforementioned SASRT. If you're interested in picking up a SHIELD with the intention on streaming a particular game, I strongly advise you to check out that spreadsheet first.
NVIDIA SHIELD Console Mode:
While streaming PC games to your SHIELD is awesome, playing them on the smaller screen isn't always ideal, as was the case with Batman: Arkham Origins. That's where the recently released Console Mode comes in handy.
Connecting the SHIELD to your HDTV via HDMI, you're presented with the option to enter Console Mode. Doing so turns off the SHIELD's display and instead sends the signal to your television. While you can use the SHIELD as a controller, unless you have a rather long Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable, doing so would be rather awkward. Instead, it's recommended that you grab yourself a Bluetooth controller. While any controller should work, NVIDIA specifically recommends the Nyko PlayPad Pro, which is essentially like a Bluetooth Xbox 360 controller, albeit a smaller one. While it's built for Tegra devices and thus works perfectly with the SHIELD, it also supports iOS devices, making it quite a nice addition to your gaming arsenal at a mere $39.99 USD.
Console Mode allows you to play Android games at 1080p and stream PC games at 720p. 1080p support for PC game streaming is supposed to come via a future patch, but will require a wired Internet connection via a USB-to-Ethernet adapter. It also supports 4K Ultra HD, but is limited to video files only, at least for now. Considering you need a high-end, multi-GPU system just to have games playable at 4K, I wouldn't hold your breath for 4K GameStream support.
While playing Android games on a large HDTV is nice, even the PC game streaming is a sweet addition because it means you no longer have to have your desktop PC near your television if you want to play your PC games on the latter. Of course you'll need a decent router to support it flawlessly, but it's still more convenient. My Linksys E3000 struggled when I used a TV in another room, but NVIDIA has a list of GameStream-Ready routers if you want the best experience. The only other issue is that 720p gaming is going to be very discernible to any hardcore PC gamer, especially on larger HDTVs (I tested on 40" and 52" HDTVs).