Monday, February 9, 2015

Nvidia Shield Tablet vs. Razer Forge TV: Battle of the Android Gaming Devices

Gaming and the Android mobile OS used to seem like a pair of odd bedfellows when it comes down to the mobile gaming movement, particularly on phones. Tablets, however, seem to get some more love; take the Nvidia SHIELD Tablet, for example. At a $300 starting price tag, you get a tablet with a stylus that not only features a top-of-the mobile processor with the Tegra K1, you also get the ability to play PC-quality games on it either through its GRID gaming service or through streaming games from your own gaming PC. However, the Razer Forge TV has come up as a challenge at $100, offering the same streaming feature for less yet sacrificing mobility; it's a TV set-top box running Android TV. The question is, which one is better for you?

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Manufacturer: Nvidia
Known for: PC graphics card architectures aimed at gamers. The GeForce GTX line is their flagship family of cards. Different manufacturers, like MSI, Asus, and EVGA, make the actual cards based off of the references and structures Nvidia supplies.
Overview: The Nvidia SHIELD Tablet is perhaps the most gamer-centric tablet on the market right now, and could see an upgrade this summer to Nvidia's newest mobile processor, the Tegra X1. In any case, the SHIELD Tablet starts with a Wi-Fi only model and 16 GB of storage for $300. The LTE version is only at 32 GB and is $400. You can buy a base for it separately as well as a $60 controller, which really makes it stand out as a gaming tablet (especially since the controller has a microphone for voice commands). The tablet runs the latest version of Android, 5.0 Lollipop, without any additional UI skins. The only extra features you do get include the SHIELD Hub that features games exclusively tailored for the SHIELD Tablet and Nvidia Dabbler, a drawing program that utilizes the tablet's included stylus.

The Shield Tablet works in a few different ways. You can play games on the tablet itself either by streaming games from the GRID service or from your PC via Gamestream, which is brokered by the PC app known as GeForce Experience. You can also hook up the tablet to your HDTV using the miniHDMI port on the tablet and add in three more Nvidia controllers for local multiplayer games. The only way to stream from your PC, however, is if you have the right Nvidia architecture graphics card. It doesn't (technically) matter the manufacturer of the graphics cards (some manufacturers are terrible, others soar), but what matters is the series. If you're using a PC and want to use Gamestream, you need to make sure your GeForce graphics card is in the GTX 650 series or higher. For laptops, you need the GTX 800M, 700M, or certain 600M mobile graphics cards that use the Kepler architecture. Using the GRID cloud gaming service, you can stream many games from the GRID network, which works across North America and Western Europe for now and will remain free to SHIELD owners until June 30, 2015, when it becomes a subscription service. You'll need a steady and fast Internet connection via LTE (if your data plan on AT&T has the gall for it) or via Wi-Fi. Nvidia conveniently lists some GRID and Gamestream-ready routers here for your home if you need a new one. Nvidia also has some Android games curated for the tablet that take full advantage of the K1's potential.

Upsides/Downsides: You can take this thing with you anywhere and, as long as you have a great Wi-Fi or data signal, you can play some of the best games available for PC. Multiple options for gaming on it make it great for the gamer who wants to play their favorite titles on the road or who want to play PC titles without the hassle of needing everyone to bring their computer. It's also a powerful tablet just for the everyday consumer or the creative professional. However, what we're looking at is a tablet, not a fully-fledged console or decked-out PC. It does have limitations, and because most of its services are based on the Internet, an iffy Wi-Fi connection can create stutter and lag. That being said, most gamers prefer using a monitor in any case or a TV with their computer, meaning that the tablet is best for the gamer on the move. Additionally, just wanting to use the service means some PC gamers may have to spend more money on a newer graphics card.

photo credit: The Verge

Manufacturer: Razer
Known for: creating gaming peripherals for PC, such as mice and keyboards. Razer also had a semi-successful tablet, the Razer Forge tablet.
Overview: The Forge TV box follows in the heels of the Nexus Player box as part of Google's unified push into more areas of technology. What sets the Forge TV apart from the former, though, is that it has some slightly beefed up specs meant to give an edge to gamers. An Adreno 420 GPU and Snapdragon 805 processor are part of the build, and what makes it stand out from the SHIELD tablet is that it not only is a box, but it can stream games in the same way that the tablet does but from more PCs. Instead of requiring a specific set of Nvidia graphics cards, the Forge TV asks that your minimum only needs to be an AMD Radeon 5000 structure or an Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 structure. It also features an Ethernet port to hook directly to the Internet, meaning that an unstable Wi-Fi signal is no problem.

Razer has announced its own controller for the Forge TV, the Serval, priced at $80 on its own or $50 when paired with the box. Four of these can hook up to the box via Bluetooth (The SHIELD controller hooks to the tablet via Wi-Fi Direct) or one controller can be used wired to the USB 3.0 port on the back of the box.  The Serval even has a clip to attach your Android phone to so you can play games with the controller while on the go. The box needs to be controlled either with the controller or with an app on your phone. Yet Razer went a step further, introducing the Turret lapboard combo for PC gaming in the living room. The Turret ($120) is a foldable wireless keyboard with a mouse magnetically attached to a pad on it, allowing for the keyboard to be used with the Forge TV efficiently when it streams games from a gaming PC  using the Cortex: Stream software ($30). You can keep your gaming PC in your room and instead have the box in the living room, reducing clutter and keeping your rig closer to you.

Upsides/Downsides: Android TV is something to be taken seriously as a competitor to the likes of Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Razer ups the ante here, and does so that's more convenient to gamers, especially if you're a gamer on a budget. However, gamers who are usually traveling will find little to love with the Forge TV, as you can't take it everywhere with you easily and needs to be in your home network. The extras aren't that bad of a price, but the total cost of everything is $270 for the controller, lapboard, and box itself. The other thing that the Serval is missing (as is the SHIELD controller) is controller rumble. This is pretty much THE staple of gaming control, leaving many hardcore gamers out in the dust.

Verdict: both devices have their caveats, but also have great strengths. Nvidia's tablet can game as you go, and the Raver Forge TV box can make living room PC gaming even easier. Depending on your rig and what you want, consider carefully your options. Also, keep in mind that the SHIELD Tablet is due for an update this summer. Expect to see the battle for Android in your living room get heated!


1 comment:

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