The NVidia Shield Buyer’s Guide

There are so many great Shield products that it is often hard to decide which one might be the best fit for your digital lifestyle.  It isn’t just how we use a device that matters – but where and when we use it.  There are so many variables for what seems like a very easy decision – this guide will help you through those tough choices.

Who Are You?

Let’s start off by deciding what sort of user you are.  Are you a casual gamer?  A “core” gamer? Are you into emulation?  Do you spend most of your time on Pintrest but like some Candy Crush from time to time?  Maybe you are a cord-cutter.  All of the above?

What about your physicality?  Are you a homebody that only leaves the house for weddings and funerals or are you a busy college student that rarely sees a dorm room?  Maybe you travel a lot for work and want to bring the most flexible device possible on the go.

Finally, how’s your internet connection?  Do you exist in a world of high-speed wi-fi or are you frequently tethered to a 4G mobile hotspot?  Are you willing to hardwire devices to your network for maximum performance?

These are the sorts of things we’ll be considering for each Shield device we look at.

Shield Portable

The Nvidia Shield PortableThe elder statesman for the Shield line is the incredibly venerable Shield Portable.  Easily the most recognizable and certainly the best-selling Shield device, the Portable offers a lot of functionality in a self-contained smallish package.

The Portable is largely billed, marketed and accepted as a “handheld portable game console” much like a PSVita or 3DS.  The quality large, full-sized Xbox’ish controller with built-in flip down gorgeous 5″ touch screen would certainly lend credence to that moniker.  But there is more to this little guy than meets the eye and conversely, there are a couple of areas it can fall short of expectations.

Game streaming from a PC requires good, solid 5ghz wi-fi and not everyone has that (including most hotels or travel destinations).  The HDMI out makes it almost its own little “console on the go”.  However, for touch screen/casual games on Android – the screen will simply not be accessible enough.  Fortunately, more and more games are including physical control support.

It’s possibly the greatest emulation device on the planet and would do in a pinch for the Cord-Cutter stuck in a hotel for the night.

Good For: Core Gamers with Strong Wi-Fi and Android Gamers; Emulation Lovers

OK For: Cord-Cutters; Travelling Gamers

Poor For: Casual Gamers, Content Consumers, Gaming Broadcasters (no streaming support)

$varies at EBay | Amazon | Best Buy | New Egg

Shield Tablet

Shield Tablet w/Optional ControllerDespite recently being recalled for potential battery overheating, the Shield Tablet is still considered one of the top five Android tablets available by many experts.  It is thin, light has a good 8″ display, excellent sound, a great passive stylus system and has plenty of horsepower under the hood, thanks to the K1 processor.

The Tablet serves as a great “jack of all trades” device – featuring the gaming power of the Shield Portable with the comfortable large screen slate for Content Consumers and with HDMI out built-in – it can easily fill the needs of a Cord-Cutter jetsetter on the go.

It is a convergence device overall, which may not meet everyone’s specific needs. Core gamers might find it awkward and the battery drain while playing intensive games might require tethering to power.  On a good note, built in streaming lets you broadcast right to Twitch or record higher quality video locally to share later.

Good For: Casual Gamers; Emulation Lovers; Touch Screen Control Users

OK For: Cord-Cutters; Content Consumers; Core Gamers with Strong Wi-Fi and Android Gamers

Poor For: Nothing, really.  It is serviceable for most needs.

Shield Android TV

Shield Android TVThe latest Shield device in the NVidia stable is the Android TV powered console simply called “Shield” (aka Shield Android TV).

Featuring the latest 64-bit X1 processor, this is the little box that CAN.  Designed to be plugged into a power source all the time and to be hardwired to your network – a lot of the shortcomings of other Shield devices go away.  It does put some limits on its usage, but not much.

Good For: Core-Gamers; Android Gamers; Emulation Lovers; Cord-Cutters; Gaming Broadcasters

OK For: Casual Gamers; Travelling Cord-Cutters

Poor For: Travelling Gamers

What About Accessories?

Shield devices have a handful of accessories.  Here are our thoughts on them.

Carbon Shield (Portable)

Shield Portable Carbon ShieldPure aesthetics.  If silver isn’t your thing?  You can replace the silver shield on the Portable with a “cooler” black one.  I’ve seen a lot of customized ones people have made that are really cool so you might want to go that way instead.

Still – always good to have options. $20 at Amazon | EBay

Carrying Case (Portable)

Shield CaseThe official carrying case is durable and well-padded but it really makes an already non-pocketable device that much bigger.  Still, if you’re going to put it in a suitcase and let the baggage handlers toss your luggage around, it probably is a good idea.  $40 at Amazon. Nyko makes a cheaper third party version too – and it is pretty decent.  $10 at Nyko

These also work very well for protecting and transporting Shield Controllers.

Shield Controller (Portable, Tablet, Shield TV)

Shield ControllerWhile other Bluetooth controllers (like the Nyko Pro Pad; $20 at Amazon) work with Shield devices, you shouldn’t count out the official Shield Controllers.  They are incredible pieces of tech; featuring great analogs, a super solid D-Pad, sturdy buttons, headphone jack, microphone and even a track pad and on-device volume control.  Rechargable with standard microUSB plug.

It comes standard with the Shield Android TV (and you really don’t need one for the Portable unless you’re looking to play a two player game over HDMI on the TV) but for Shield Tablet owners you should really consider picking one up.  Don’t forget you can use multiple controllers on any Shield device. $xx at Amazon.

Cover (Shield Tablet)

Shield Tablet CoverWhile agreeably overpriced, this smart cover is a great way to keep your Shield Tablet light, cool and still protected while enjoying the smart cover features.  It folds into a very usable stand as well (horizontal only of course) and being magnetic you can easily pop it on or off.  It would be perfect at $20 – but sometimes you gotta pay a little extra for first party aftermarket stuff.  Besides, I never had an issue with heat on my Shield Tablet – probably because this little guy doesn’t cover the back or encase it with plastic. $40 at Amazon.

Remote (Shield TV)

Shield Android TV RemoteIf you’re a Cord-Cutter, you must have this device with your Shield TV.

It is a small, light and remarkably powerful remote control for the Android TV OS on your Shield TV.  It features not only a lit “speak” button, four way controller and selector – but also a headphone jack for streaming audio from the Shield TV!  The center of the unit acts as a volume slider.  Very cool.

Makes it great for watching TV in bed when your significant other wants to sleep.

Stand (Shield TV)
accessories-stand-thumbThe Shield Android TV looks great and sits just fine in your media center laying horizontally.  But, everyone likes options.  Being able to stand the Shield up vertically does look pretty cool and can save some valuable footprint space.  Fortunately, the first party custom stand is really a solid piece of work.  It form-fits the Shield and has a nice, heavy bottom to keep it from going anywhere.  I do not believe there is any advantage with heat dissapation or any other real advantage.

While certainly NOT a required accessory by any meaning of the word – if you’re looking to go vertical, it is a solid, worthwhile buy.  $30 at Amazon.

Nyko Dock (Portable)

Shield DockNormally I wouldn’t be listing a third party product here, but this gives your Shield Portable a convenient recharging cradle and feels like a first party product.  It requires you snap on a removable charging clip on the back of the Portable – but then you can just set the Portable down into the dock and have it charge via pogo type connections.  It allows HDMI output, so you could effectively use the dock as a cradle to hold/charge the Portable while you’re playing on the TV.  It is worth noting that the microUSB pass-through port cannot support an OTG-connected Ethernet adapter; you’re going to be stuck on wi-fi.  $35 at Nyko.

Are you ready?

Did you find a Shield product to fit your needs?  We hope so.  It is really nice to see the world’s number one video card manufacturer get into creating quality Android-based gaming systems.

Got questions?  Drop us a line or add a comment to this article.

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