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Nvidia Shield launched as super-charged Fire TV rival

Sam Loveridge

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Nvidia Shield

The Nvidia Shield has been launched as a super-charged rival to the Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.

Nvidia has lifted the lid on its first ever set-top box, offering gamers the chance to get a super-charged Android microconsole powered by high-end Nvidia tech.

Running on the new Nvidia Tegra X1 chip announced in January at CES 2015, Nvidia claims its compact set-top box is 30 - 35 times more powerful than the Amazon Fire TV and other set-top boxes.

The new Nvidia Tegra X1 offers “twice the performance of an Xbox 360 at one fifth the power”, explained Nvidia's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.

Amazon's Fire TV runs on a 1.7Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Krait 300 processor, which we found incredibly fast and responsive for UI browsing, playing games and watching video content. But Nvidia's offering looks to blow the Fire TV out of the water.

The Nvidia Shield is the first 4K Android TV set-top box and runs the new Android TV system from Google.

"I think they've really cracked the TV operating system," said Huang of the Android TV system.

Related: Nvidia Tegra X1 - What you need to know

Although there's not content for it yet, the Nvidia Shield will be capable of supporting 4k resolution content at 60Hz. That's full 10-bit video decoding too.

Plus, it's compatible with nearly all media formats, including XBMC, Plex and you get support for 7.1 and 5.1 surround audio.

You'll also be able to mirror content from your devices too, a la Google Chromecast, making this one of the most useful set-top boxes to date.

As for connectivity, you're looking at HDMI, ethernet and two USB 3.0 ports, with Micro SD card for upgrading the internal storage, which is 16GB.

Related: Amazon Fire TV vs Apple TV

Unlike other rival boxes, the Nvidia Shield is understandably very gamer-centric, coming with the same Android controller as the Nvidia Shield tablet rather than a traditional remote. You can connect any controller using the USB 3.0 for some multiplayer gaming too.

There is an optional Shield remote, which is sold separately, that supports voice commands via an in-built microphone. It has a high data range Bluetooth connection so you shouldn't notice any lag between your button presses and the Nvidia Shield responses.

The remote also acts as a wireless receiver, which means you can connect your headphones to it for some more personal audio experience. The little ridge down the middle of the front acts as a touch sensitive volume control too.

When the Nvidia Shield release date arrives sometime in May, there'll be 200 games available to play on the box. That will include the recent Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which is coming to Xbox One and PS4 soon too in the form of the Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.

There's also The Talos Principle, wihch Nvidia is particularly proud of as it's a full PC game coming to the Shield at launch.

Plus, there's also Doom 3 BFG Edition, which includes the original Doom 1, Doom 2 and all previously released DLC and mission packs for Doom 3 - all remastered for the Shield.

Finally, the game given some spotlight during the GDC presentation was Crysis 3, which is being given a multiplayer demo on Nvidia Shield.

At launch, the Nvidia Shield will bring over fifty Shield specific titles to the new Android TV platform.

The Nvidia Shield will be initially launched in the US in May, with other markets including Europe arriving later.

As for price you're looking at a US RRP of $199, with the Shield bundled with the controller.

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