So this shuttle PC used to be my main gaming PC way back, maybe 5+ years ago. It’s seen various graphics cards come and go and even been modded a bit to deal with the sheer heat some of those said cards put out. I’m still impressed with how Shuttle put these barebones PCs together. They really crammed a lot in there, trying to make as few compromises as possible.
The Configuration until recently was: Intel Core2 Quad Q6700, 4GB (2x2GB Kingston HyperX), 2TB 7200 RPM Seagate and a VTX 7870 Tahiti (which ran hotter than the sun!). Its still not a bad gaming PC under reasonable circumstances considering its age but I wanted to repurpose it as a HTPC. First up was the GPU’s age giving it the disadvantage of decoding certain media formats so that had to go! As I didn’t want to spend a ton on a GPU I did a little research and an Nvidia 1050 would suffice. Better yet I managed to get a Palit NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB KALMX Passive Graphics Card for £100 second hand Dec 2018 off eBay:
As it was replacing this:
I didn’t think twice about it fitting in the Shuttle but actually the height clearance almost proved to be an issue as the 1050 Ti went above the PCB height!
Luckily for me it went in:
This picture doesn’t do it justice. It actually looks kinda roomy in there but trust me when I say it was a delicate job to get that in and not do damage to the motherboard. Almost more impressive was that this think took a 7870 and didn’t explode into a ball of flames (it did overheat at times so I took out the top second HHD tray and modded a 120mm fan into the roof (with blue LEDs and a grill).
I also added a 256GB I had spare for the OS so the 2TB is for storage only (nothing fancy. I’m OK if I ever lose the content, pictures etc are in the cloud).
All in all it’s a capable little system. The system fans could be a little quieter, but they are not unpleasant in the same room and I’ve also replaced the 2032 mobo battery as well as bumping the CPU to a Q9550. I got for that for £25 from CEX as it increases the clock speed slightly but also the L2 cache (8>12MB). Essentially traded that for the 7870 which was just laid to waste on my desk so the bump was free! Anything past that didn’t seem economical or would increase temps/fan noise. I was a bit disappointed to see that I could only stick 4GB in this motherboard as I have 2 spare slots still for RAM but as well. Not going to need more than that for movies..
So Black Friday came around and I made an impulse buy. For £150 odd you could get a Nvidia Shield with remote and games controller + £10 Steam credit in the UK. Not a bad deal as I was in the market for a streaming device that could do both Amazon Prime and Netflix (as well as more). Something my NowTV box was unwilling to currently do as although they recently added Netflix, there is no Amazon App. For thati’d need a Roku stick which is what the NowTV hardware is based and subsidised off.
Now I know there are streaming devices that can do these apps for cheaper (or just use a laptop) but I was also curious by Nvidia’s games streaming service (akin to the ill-fated OnLive service) so caved in and grabbed one of these!
Design: So the controller felt a little cheap to me at first but it has one main saving grace. It has a headphone jack! Might sound dumb but I really like this. Short story, I and my partner have a baby, we use a Bluetooth device that plugs in via 3.5mm or Optical out to use multiple headphones for the same source. The shield doesn’t have either output on the main unit. So the controller redeems the device here and allows us to both use paired Bluetooth headphones (with ease as there might be a way to pair both headphones to the unit but I bet its as painful as a Mac is).
Other comments about the controller, the joysticks seem to have a fair amount of give before you feel the resistance so I do think there is much initial accuracy. There could be a more uniform resistance to them. Also they seem expensive to buy more / replace!
The main unit itself is fairly discrete and you can turn the green LED down / off. One this I don’t like is the customer power connector. USB-C would have been fine here like with the Nintendo Switch. Same goes for charging the controller. USB-C, please. I’ve not heard the main unit yet so maybe I’ve not pushed it hard enough so in terms of sound, this thing has been good!
The remote is nice, bigger than an apple TV remote which is a good thing but the volume slider is a little sensitive. Apart from that. No complaints here.
The Interface: It’s a lot smoother than the branded NowTV Roku player I have. The controller not being IR (although there is the option for controlling other devices via IR) is probably a noticeable difference in speed here. The layout could still use some refining for Android TV but you can generally find what you require and its pretty remote friendly, even most keyboard input sections. I’d still say that if you use long passwords via a password manager, not all apps gracefully offer you an alternative means of logging in / verifying your account. So you might want to break out a keyboard to fly through the various initial logins for apps. Steams input entry was particularly clunky and worthwhile having a keyboard for.
Gaming: Via Nvidia’s streaming platform. Its good but you’ll need to be considerate of your network and internet contention. By those I mean, Ethernet into the router is ideal and not having anyone else on the network using up the downstream or upstream (sometimes it’s easier to contend the upstream which has a knock-on effect). If you can deal with these and keep them performant then a 40Mbps down and 10Mbps up service should be more then good enough, which is fairly standard in the UK now.
Streaming: I’ve only got a LG OLED HDR TV and its app inetgrations for comparison but a lot is on par with that in terms of Netflix. It can be tricky with just the Shield to determine the quality at times but that generally down to the apps. With the amount of units in the wild and with the amount being sold over BlackFriday / CyberMonday i’d expect app developers to be giving this platform the attention it deserves. By deserves, I mean its got decent specs and hardware and next to Roku, is a great impartial device so that you can have nearly all of your streaming services in one place (excluding Apple stuff of course).
Other: Casting, i’ve not played with this yet. It seems a little hidden away but i’ve not cared to look. Instead I opted for hooking up my Plex media server which works nicely. Its important to note here that limitations can lay with your NAS and network connectivity, especially if you are pushing some seriously large files to the Nvidia Shield.
The Nvidia shield also has the concept of adopting storage where you can plug a disk in via USB and have it act as part of the units main storage. This can be handy if you need fast local storage.
I think for me, the device is an agnostic streaming win and with the home media connection capabilities it’ll have some life in it for a while. I’ll likely revisit this once i’ve done a decent amount of gaming on the system but as of right now i’ve not been drawn in by the appeal. It’s a solid: buy, from me though!