E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) is just a few weeks away but you don't have to wait until then to learn about a new game console. Yesterday Nvidia's Shield Android TV went on sale (though it doesn't start shipping until June 3rd).
OK first things first, I'm calling it a game console, others are calling it a media hub. I guess these days those two things are merging and the Shield handles both jobs.
As a media hub it can offer 4K streaming if you can find a provider. Netflix is the only one I know of for sure. Of course chances are you don't have a 4K TV yet anyway, so this is more of a future-proofing feature. It offers voice search which is reported to work very well. You can get all the streaming apps you'd expect (YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc) and it (and other Android devices) will be getting HBO Now sometime in June.
So it's a speedy media hub but that's not what sets the Shield apart. It's also a decent gaming system.
First of all you can play Android games and there are some optimized to take advantage of the Shield's power. We're not talking about just Angry Birds. They've got fairly recent titles that have come out for Windows or other game consoles like Borderlands: The Pre-sequel and War Thunder. Here's a list of games currently available.
The Shield Android TV can pull this off because it's running the new Tegra® X1 processor which Nvidia says makes this system 30 times more powerful than its competitors.
Once you exhaust that list of games you can stream titles from your gaming PC, provided you've got an Nvidia GTX card in your system. Alternatively (and assuming you've got plenty of bandwidth) you can play games via Nvidia's GRID streaming service. Here's a list of the games you can play via GRID.
The most surprising thing to me about the Shield Android TV was the price. It's just $199 for the 16 GB model. Now if all you want to to is stream TV then there're plenty of options for $100 or less but none of them offer gaming on this level. For $299 you can get a Shield with a 500 GB hard drive. $300 is getting close to Xbox One money, though. To sweeten the pot Nvidia is throwing in $30 of Google Play credit, 3 months of Google Music and a copy of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. That's somewhere between $75-$100 worth of freebies.
A few members of the press have had the Shield Android TV for a while and they've posted hands-on articles about their experience, and so far they seem pretty upbeat. I particularly liked the posts at Engadget and VentureBeat. I'm drawn to the Shield but I already have an Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV hanging off my television; I don't have room for (or any need of) another device so I won't be doing my own hands-on of the system.
If you already have a game console it may be hard to justify the Shield Android TV unless you're interested in streaming PC games or have a 4K TV. Both Xbox and Playstation consoles serve as quite capable media hubs and of course have lots of game available. But if you're looking for something that falls right between a $99 Apple TV and a current gen gaming console, the Shield Android TV might be just the ticket.