MWC LA 2019 is set to begin in less than 24 hours, and on the event's eve NVIDIA are planning their own keynote presentation pre-empting announcements of the day. Hosted by CEO Jensen Huang, NVIDIA's Webcast will begin at 3pm PDT and touch on diverse subjects such as AI, machine learning and edge computing alongside a series of other subjects.
Given NVIDIA's current leadership in the arena of hardware optimised deep learning, and the MWC's mobile-centric platform, it seems likely that the potential of cloud-based solutions in delivering hardware accelerated solutions for app developers and other partners will be at the fore. Self-driving cars are also a product category that Jensen himself can barely go a keynote without mentioning. However, one bright light in NVIDIA's current consumer product range which might receive a big boost is the SHIELD, notably the SHIELD TV.
Launched in May 2015, the SHIELD TV was a legacy of NVIDIA's SHIELD mobile gaming platform, now confined to a static set-top device powered by NVIDIA's Tegra X1 hardware and its continuously updated Android OS. It serves twin roles: a cloud-gaming terminal for local streaming or interfacing into GeForce NOW, and one of the most competent 4K media streaming devices available on the market today that supports 4K HDR content from both Amazon Prime and Netflix (alongside mainstay apps such as BBC iPlayer etc.). The 16GB variant was refreshed in 2017 (bundling the device with the nifty SHIELD Remote as standard) while the 500GB model remained largely unchanged.
Software updates have over time bogged down performance of the SHIELD TV (although typically not when actually streaming video, its primary use case), justifying an improvement the underlying hardware as well as a fresh pass at the stripped-down Android OS it runs. A wider selection of natively supported apps would also be welcome, particularly as the number of streaming content services balloons. And of course NVIDIA will want to showcase GeForce NOW as a genuine (and surprisingly consumer-friendly) alternative to Google Stadia.
This speculation doesn't come without cause. Last week two new SHIELD TV product listings appeared on Amazon and Newegg detailing a fresh take on the hardware and software/content support.
The NVIDIA SHIELD 2019 would be based on similar underlying hardware to the previous models, but with a Tegra X1+ SoC that boasts 25% higher performance. Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital Plus will all be supported and it will be bundled with a distinctly more bulky remote (with dedicated Netflix button) powered by AAA rather than button battery. There's no indication that the older 'Pro' 500GB HDD model has been similarly updated, and models may also be available that do no support Dolby Vision HDR.
In other aspects this new SHIELD appears identical to the 2017 model: 3GB DRAM, 16GB on-board NAND storage, two USB 3 ports, gigabit Ethernet and HDMI-output, but no SD Card slot. It seems likely that the pretty great 2017 SHIELD Controller will continue to be sold separately.
The second leak, via Newegg, is more intriguing. It details a SHIELD TV Chromecast-esq stick with HDMI and compact I/O including ethernet and dual-band 802.11ac wireless, incorporating the same Tegra X1+ SoC as the new set-top variant, and likely similar specs and identical remote. Slightly undermining its sleek looks however is a need for external power. Apparently this will be the new Non-Pro version of the SHIELD TV sold at a lower price point.
One additional rumoured feature of the new SHIELD that would dovetail naturally with NVIDIA's passion for all things AI is an alleged 'AI-powered 4K upscaling' function. Good 4K upscalers are essential to the mixed-content ecosystem for streaming, and genuine advances in this area are more than welcome; hopefully it will be met with more approval than DLSS in the gaming sphere.
If the leaks are accurate, both variants will be on sale on Monday 28th October, priced from around $150.
NVIDIA's MWC LA Webcast Keynote is scheduled to start at 3pm PDT (11pm UK) and can be found at https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/events/mobile-world-congress/. Sessions with NVIDIA personnel will take place during MWC LA, plumbing the depths of each topic raised during the Keynote.
SOURCES: Guru3D, Troypoint.com