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Gaming With Nvidia's Shield Home Console: Can Your Network Handle It?

After the release of the new Nvidia Shield device, we were able to get some time to sit down and play with the console at GDC.

The basic navigation is an important key feature between systems, and a bad interface can drive away customers. Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be a problem with Nvidia's Shield console. The octo-core processor used inside of the system allows for smooth navigation and fast native application performance.

The Shield controller looked somewhat large and bulky in photos, but in person it's actually smaller than you would expect. It fit comfortably in my hands, and I was surprised by how light it was.

One reason we suspect the weight is reduced is the removal of vibration features from the control. We didn't feel any vibration, and looking at an image of the controller disassembled, we don't see any parts that would facilitate vibration. This also would help explain the extended battery life of the controller, as vibration can take a toll on a battery.

Now for the part you are really interested in: how well does it game? Performance seemed to vary between titles. We had time to try three of the games available: Shadow of Mordor, Doom 3 BFG Edition, and Portal. We didn't notice any issues with Shadow of Mordor; walking, fighting and all other controls were responsive, with no noticeable delay.

Doom 3 BFG Edition didn't fare quite as well. The movement wasn't great, there was noticeable latency. At first I thought the movement sensitivity was set too high, but turning down the sensitivity didn't solve the issue. When turning, often the screen would turn longer than the joystick was pressed. Shooting had more problems, resulting in the gun often firing too late to hit its target. The game was still playable, but some users would likely not want to play the game with this issue affecting gameplay.

Portal had different issues; there weren't any difficulties with the game play, but the loading time when starting the game took a long time. Exiting the game and restarting it still had the same issue, so it wasn't a one time event for playing the game the first time. There are a number of potential causes for this delay.

The problems with Doom 3 BFG and Portal could be as a result of the device still undergoing development, and software bugs could still exist that need to be fixed. Some games likely received more attention and have been optimized better to be ready for Nvidia's event.

Another possibility is that the problem relates to network issues. Pulling these games through the network takes a very large amount of bandwidth (50 Mbps for 1080p at 60 Hz). As a result, the network could be the cause of these delays. It is fair to further wonder if the problem was caused by the dozen or so Nvidia Shield devices being used in the same building and competing for bandwidth.

It's too hard to say what the overall performance of the Nvidia Shield will be like for end users if network difficulties affected our hands on experience. This isn't completely inside of Nvidia's control; the servers supplying the data might be capable of handling all of the work, but areas with heavily-loaded networks or slow Internet connections will likely have a hard time using the service.

For those who don't face difficulties with the network, the game performance overall seemed playable for the games we tried. The image quality was clear, the action was fast, and it should give a reasonable 1080p gaming experience. While it won't be as good as a modern high-end gaming PC because of being locked at 1080p at 60 Hz and latency issues, it should be comparable to other game consoles. Most games on home consoles do not maintain 60 FPS, which negatively impacts the gaming experience. Game consoles also do not have the latency issues, so the Shield is a competitive force against home consoles.

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  • codo
    I'm not sure what Nvidias idea is with shield. I could see AMD going for something like this, but those of us who go with GeForce are usually the type that want no compromises I would think, I certainly don't. I don't want to game with a controller unless its fighting or other 2D stuff. 1080p/60fps isn't cutting edge anymore, not on PC. I don't like the idea of an android OS on anything but my phone. I got a decent laptop for 300 bones used that sits on my entertainment center that I can use to do regular stuff, stream from my desktop in Steam or even take on the go and play with its dedicated graphics. I have no interest in something like this
    Reply
  • Grognak
    I wonder, does the bandwidth need to change depending on the game?
    Reply
  • Bondfc11
    I agree. For a PC gamer this is a no go. No reason to downgrade your gaming experience. Now for those console only folks this looks like a promising device and could compete well with PS and Xbox. However, for me - no thanks this thing would collect dust while I played all the same PC games on the device they were designed for - a PC.
    Reply
  • TallestJon96
    It's an interesting device, but performance is lack-luster. The best use for this is GameStream, for streaming games you already own from a PC, but Valve's Link and Steam Controller will do it better.
    Reply
  • Reepca
    I'm not sure what Nvidias idea is with shield. I could see AMD going for something like this, but those of us who go with GeForce are usually the type that want no compromises I would think, I certainly don't. I don't want to game with a controller unless its fighting or other 2D stuff. 1080p/60fps isn't cutting edge anymore, not on PC. I don't like the idea of an android OS on anything but my phone. I got a decent laptop for 300 bones used that sits on my entertainment center that I can use to do regular stuff, stream from my desktop in Steam or even take on the go and play with its dedicated graphics. I have no interest in something like this

    NEVER SETTLE :D

    (You kind of walked into that one)
    Reply
  • somebodyspecial
    I really wish they had put in TWO X1 chips (60-65w psu?, double wide and fans so the socs are cranked up :)), 4GB (not 3GB) and doubled the storage for another $50. The soc doesn't cost them more than $25 to make (more like 20 probably, charging $30 or something), and it needed more storage already in it. You want it to be able to grow with games for at least a few years before they have to optimize the crap out of games to work right. I think $250 and far better perf (due to TWO X1's, fans debatable) would have really cramped the style of xbox1/ps4 sales. But at $200 I think they went the way of the Wiiu here. Too little, and thus it's sales sucked (not even 10mil in ~2.5yrs? OR just hit 10mil?).

    At $250-300 and good enough power to play some really nice looking games (and being at least a tad future-proof), you'd still woo people for the price of android games. I mean Xbox1/ps4 games are $60, and for $60 on android/tegrazone you could get 10 really great full length games (probably more than a dozen actually). If you're bargain hunting you can do even better with games like bard's tale ($1.99 for a few dozen hours of fun) if you haven't played some of the ported hits already elsewhere. Maybe they were just trying to get poor people who thought ouya sucks and want a 4K player etc. It's still a great deal IMHO, just I'd want to get closer to current gen consoles.

    I'll wait for whatever they make with the 14nm Finfet chip at xmas from samsung. They'll probably update handheld and tablet with it. T4 was on 28nm for shield handheld, so I'd really like to see a 14nm Finfet with Denver/maxwell both cranked up. Just use the same shells for both units and add more memory/storage for quick time to market and cheap design. They could get me either way if they make these, but I'd need a 13in tablet and 1080p for speed. I have no need for this small of a unit to have higher res, and many games were made for bigger screens and already have puny fonts (on my dad's nexus 10in anyway). For the handheld I don't care if it's 720p as I'll mostly use it out to tv anyway (at 1080 or 4K I guess on a rev2 model here) and only occasionally out of the house.

    This is a great device for some (for $100 more than ouya you get so much more power, 4K streaming pc to tv etc), but I need more power and am willing to pay more or wait until they upgrade it. I'll save money over the life of it on tons of cheap android games, where I'd get killed on console game prices year after year. So I don't mind $250-300 for better hardware here (still saving $100-150 out of the gate). Most of the console games are already on PC, so I'm after android stuff on the TV (cheap games not on PC/console in many cases) and streaming to tv from PC's gpu+4K vids. As you get older you can only sit on a PC so long before you require the TV with (fat/bloated) feet up or for some, worries about blood clots etc ;) 8-9hrs at work on a PC and the still more at home on a PC and I need a break on the big screen.
    Reply
  • vmem
    is that 50Mbps with the big M? if so not that many people in the US have that. and aside from cities that have google fiber, you'd have to pay an arm and leg to get that kind of bandwidth from comcast/timewarner. at those costs people can be buying titans or at least a 970 or two so there's little reason for people to buy into this platform as it exists atm
    Reply
  • Alec Mowat
    is that 50Mbps with the big M? if so not that many people in the US have that. and aside from cities that have google fiber, you'd have to pay an arm and leg to get that kind of bandwidth from comcast/timewarner. at those costs people can be buying titans or at least a 970 or two so there's little reason for people to buy into this platform as it exists atm

    I think you mean a big B. There's no difference between Mega and mega. That is a small b.
    Reply
  • vmem
    15426731 said:
    is that 50Mbps with the big M? if so not that many people in the US have that. and aside from cities that have google fiber, you'd have to pay an arm and leg to get that kind of bandwidth from comcast/timewarner. at those costs people can be buying titans or at least a 970 or two so there's little reason for people to buy into this platform as it exists atm

    I think you mean a big B. There's no difference between Mega and mega. That is a small b.

    ops, yes that's what I meant... looks like a small 'b'

    coming from science though, M is mega, m is milli :P
    Reply
  • Alec Mowat
    15427060 said:
    15426731 said:
    is that 50Mbps with the big M? if so not that many people in the US have that. and aside from cities that have google fiber, you'd have to pay an arm and leg to get that kind of bandwidth from comcast/timewarner. at those costs people can be buying titans or at least a 970 or two so there's little reason for people to buy into this platform as it exists atm

    I think you mean a big B. There's no difference between Mega and mega. That is a small b.

    ops, yes that's what I meant... looks like a small 'b'

    coming from science though, M is mega, m is milli :P

    Well, you got me there!
    Normally for network bandwidth, small b is used. I'm not sure if there's a specific reason, or it's just for marketing speeds to sound faster.
    Reply