While ClassicBoy and RetroArch are fantastic one-stop game emulators for Nvidia Shield TV, standalone Android gaming emulators abound. FPse employs OpenGL for high-resolution gaming. Because emulators arrive in several formats, FPse sports support for a variety of file extensions. I've been using retroarch, for Nvidia Shield, for months now. No problems occurred until recently. I was using the mupen core and decided to tinker with t.
The NVIDIA Shield TV is hands-down the best streaming set-top box on the planet. Running a true version of Android TV OS (operating system), the Shield TV sports an impressive feature set that includes HDR10 and Dolby Vision output, 4K artificial intelligence (AI) powered upscaling, and a powerful NVIDIA Tegra X1+ processor. While it’s superb for streaming video and audio from the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Spotify, and Tidal, the Shield can handle native Android gaming and retro gaming emulation with ease. If you’re gaming on your NVIDIA Shield, you’ll want to use a frontend to organize your library of games. Check out the best NVIDIA Shield TV frontend options!
In 2019, the NVIDIA Shield underwent a massive overhaul. Instead of effectively one model, NVIDIA began offering two variants, the base Shield TV and the Shield TV Pro model. Aesthetically, the vanilla Shield arrives in a tubular form factor whereas the Shield Pro comes in a sleek rectangular shape. Both devices are powered by the same Tegra X1+ processor. However, the Shield TV is outfitted with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage whereas the Pro variant ups the ante to 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Since game ROMs and native Android games take up a lot of space, you’ll want to take advantage of external storage. While the Shield TV features a microSD card slot but no USB ports, the Shield Pro touts dual USB hosts yet lacks a microSD slot. Regardless, both versions of the NVIDIA Shield TV allow for expandable storage.
The Shield TV retails for $150, and the Shield Pro clocks in around $200. Yet, the biggest distinction between the two NVIDIA Shield TV set-top boxes is on the operating system (OS) side. While the Shield TV runs a 32-bit version of Android, the NVIDIA graces the Shield TV Pro ships with a 64-bit Android OS. Although there’s little impact for streaming from apps such as Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, certain native Android games and emulators require a 64-bit OS to run properly. Likewise, some Android titles necessitate a minimum of 3Gb RAM to run. For instance, the Dolphin GameCube and Wii emulator, Half-Life 2, and Doom 3 BFG won’t install on the Shield while maintaining Shield Pro compatibility. Thus, the 64-bit Android TV OS on the Shield Pro paired with its 3GB of RAM is a better choice for hardcore gamers. Aside from gaming, the Shield TV handles streaming, runs Kodi, doubles as an Emby and Plex client as well as server, and works as a Samsung SmartThings hub.
Which is better for native Android gaming and retro gaming emulation: NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
NVIDIA Shield TV Pro 2019 specs:
NVIDIA Shield TV 2019 (non-Pro) specs:
With the popularity of the NES Mini Classic, a slew of retro contole clones such as the SNES Classic, and Sega Genesis Mini followed. Plus, tons of single-board computers (SBCs) like as the Raspberry Pi have found a niche in retro video game emulation. Though mini console clones including the NES Mini and SNES Mini Classic provide a retro flair and come pre-loaded with beloved games, the built-in game library is a mere fraction of the total titles released for each console. On the other hand, the NVIDIA Shield TV runs a smorgasbord of different emulators for consoles ranging from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo GameCube, Wii, and the Sony PlayStation 2 (note: we here at Tech Up Your Life do not support piracy, so please only use ROMs for games that you legally own copies of and have ripped yourself).
Still, SBCs such as the Raspberry Pi benefit from retro gaming OSes such as RetroPie, Recalbox, and Lakka. But the Raspberry Pi 4 can’t handle high-end retro emulation of newer systems such as the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) or Nintendo GameCube. Even some Nintendo 64 (N64) titles challenge the Pi 4. Therefore, the NVIDIA Shield TV is the best emulation machine short of a home theatre PC (HTPC). Moreover, its versatility with the ability to stream in 4K makes the NVIDIA Shield TV worthy of inclusion in any media center.
A frontend is essentially a pretty user interface for your games library. While frontends don’t include any emulators or ROMs, a frontend lets you unify your gaming collection. You can add all of your emulators, ROMs, and in some cases native Android games. That way, all of your video games will be in one launcher rather than in separate, siloed apps as they would be with standalone apps. Moreover, frontends scrape ROMs and download box art as well as game metadata, so if you’re using a multi-system emulator such as RetroArch, there’s still a lot of value to using a frontend.
Reset Collection is one of the best emulator frontends for the NVIDIA Shield TV. You’ll find excellent standalone emulator support for the likes of PPSSPP and Dolphin as well as all-in-one emulators such as RetroArch or ClassicBoy. Controller compatibility is top-notch. The Reset Collection Android frontend works with popular gamepads such as the Xbox One controller in addition to ipega Bluetooth controllers. Box art scraping is fast and accurate. It’s easy to set up, organizes your games perfectly, and offers fantastic customization options. Balancing user-friendliness with a powerful feature set, Reset Collection is a solid frontend on the NVIDIA Shield TV.
DIG is an Android emulator frontend that has been on the market for a while. And recent updates have chiseled DIG into a top NVIDIA Shield front. Standalone emulators including SNES9x, Mupen64, Dolphin, or comprehensive multi-system emulators such as RetroArch. The DIG Android frontend is incredibly intuitive yet customizable. You can download tons of themes including skins to lend a Nintendo Wii aesthetic.
The ARC Browser is one of the top Android emulators. You can add all of your retro gaming emulators quickly. There’s excellent game library organization with tons of customization options such as grids and overlays. You can toggle on different shaders to lend the vibe of playing games on a CRT TV. Since dealing with ROMs can lead to situations where you’ve got multiple versions of the same game, ARC Browser includes an option to group similarly-named files together. In addition to emulators, ARC can serve as a frontend for your native Android games too. It is a paid app and retails for $8.99, but its robust feature set makes ARC Browser absolutely worth the cost.
Hyperspin is an outstanding arcade frontend. It runs flawlessly on the NVIDIA Shield TV and boasts extreme customization options. If you’re looking for a retro arcade cabinet interface, Hyperspin is a fantastic choice. It’s a stylized frontend that takes a more flashy rather than minimalist approach. The Android version of Hyperspin works with a bevy of emulators and controllers. However, set up isn’t as intuitive as with other Android emulator frontends. Rather, Hyperspin configuration is decidedly more complex with a heavy reliance on certain naming conventions for ROMs and having emulator files in the right spots. Still, if you’re willing to slog through the installation, Hyperspin is a gorgeous arcade frontend.
RetroX is a unique frontend for Android that runs like a champ on the NVIDIA Shield TV. You can try it for free, or purchase an activation code. There’s support for up to 25 different systems, cloud-based save states and memory cards, quick game-specific configuration, and the ability to access ROMs on external storage devices like harddrives, microSD cards, or even NAS devices. Unfortunately, RetroX is not available in the Google Play Store. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to sideload onto the Shield TV. Controller support is top-notch, you can add a bunch of emulators, and the interface is minimalist which makes it simple to navigate.
LaunchBox is my favorite retro gaming frontends for PCs. It runs flawlessly on Windows and works great on Linux via WINE. The LaunchBox for Android app works incredibly well with fast, accurate box art scraping, the ability to export game database information from LanuchBox on PC for use with LaunchBox Android, and even local ROM file import options. Adding your emulators is a breeze. I was able to easily add RetroArch, Dolphin, and PPSSPP to LaunchBox on my Shield TV. The interface is clean, simple to navigate, and uncluttered. Unfortunately, LaunchBox for Android was shuttered so unless, like me, you purchased it at the time of release, there’s no way to download it from the Google Play Store. However, Moddroid does offer a LaunchBox Android APK so if you missed out the first go around, you can still sideload it on your Shield TV.
Ultimately, there’s no shortage of emulator frontends that run on the NVIDIA Shield TV. Reset Collection is easy to use yet extremely customizable. DIG has been around a while, but recent updates transformed this front-end into a gorgeous, user-friendly emulator and ROM library organizer. ARC Browser can keep your retro gaming and even native Android gaming library looking lovely. For retro enthusiasts, Hyperspin provides an awesome arcade cabinet aesthetic. Although it’s not supported any more, LaunchBox for Android works well for anyone that previously purchased the Android frontend.
Your turn: Which emulator frontend for the NVIDIA Shield TV do you prefer?
Short of an HTPC, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is the most versatile box you can put in your entertainment console. It supports 4K HDR playback from Netflix and YouTube. You can play games from Google Play Store and stream games from your PC or NVIDIA’s servers. And you can even set up an emulator for retro gaming.
While we’ve seen retro consoles like the PlayStation Classic and NES Classic, their single use case may be a bit of a turn-off. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to plug something in and dive into games, but other options are better if you want a more multipurpose system. And the NVIDIA SHIELD might be the best of them.
You need two pieces to play your older games on a newer system:
Emulators are perfectly legal, but the ROM files are a bit murkier. Copyright laws vary from country to country, but in the best case, the only legal method to obtain a ROM is to rip it from a cartridge that you own. The cartridge needs to stay in your possession, and you can’t share the ROM file with anyone. Before getting started, take a look at the laws in your region and make sure you’re getting your ROMs in a legal way.
While setting up emulators on the SHIELD isn’t as easy as just plugging in an NES Classic, it’s much simpler than building your own system and more TV-friendly than emulating games on your PC. And when you’re not gaming, you can use the same box to binge watch your favorite shows.
Since NVIDIA has a first party controller for the SHIELD, emulator developers know that’s the controller most users will have. This makes it easier to include support for that controller, meaning you’ll have more luck getting it to work with your favorite retro game right out of the box.
Another advantage of the SHIELD is that you can play games from multiple platforms. The PlayStation Classic will only let you play the 20 games it comes with, so when you finish them all, the console becomes a (very attractive, mind you) decoration. As we’ll get to in a moment, most emulators for the SHIELD support a variety of platforms. You can play your NES games, but also SNES, GameBoy, PlayStation and more—all from one device.
Even if you have a legal copy of your game ROM and an emulator to play it on, you should still consider looking for the same game in the Google Play Store. You’ll likely have to buy it again, but even older AAA games like the Grand Theft Auto series come in at less than ten bucks (each). And with that, you completely avoid the legal gray area of obtaining the game ROM. You also know you can download the game again at any time from the Play Store, so you don’t need to keep your old cartridge and ROM file.
A ported game will also probably perform better than an emulated one and may have features like better controller support and cloud saves. It stings a bit to repurchase something you already own, but the convenience is likely worth a few bucks.
That said, let’s take a look at how to get an emulator working.
You need a few things to make this work:
To prepare the USB drive, format it as NTFS, exFAT or FAT32 on your Windows computer.
It’ll be easier later on if you separate the ROM files into different subfolders for each system. My NES ROMs are in a folder labeled “NES,” my GameBoy Advance ROMs are in a folder labeled “GBA,” and so on. Once you have your ROMs folder all set up, copy the entire folder to your USB drive.
Next, insert the thumb drive into your NVIDIA SHIELD.
Use the navigation pad on the SHIELD’s remote to select the hamburger menu in the upper-left corner.
Select the Settings icon.
Use the navigation buttons to move down the list and uncheck the “Bottom context toolbar” option. With this unchecked, tools like copy, paste, and more become available to you with the SHIELD’s remote.
Press the back button on the remote once, then move down and select “USB Drive 1.”
Move down to the ROMs folder, then press and hold the center button on the remote to select it. Navigate to the top and select the copy icon.
Use the navigation buttons to move to the right side, which by default should list your internal storage. Select the clipboard button to paste the ROMs folder.
Once the ROMs folder has finished copying to your internal storage, press the home button on the remote to return to the Android TV home screen.
When you open RetroArch for the first time, it will ask for permission to read your storage. The app needs this to read your ROM files, so you need to grant that permission. RetroArch requires you use the gamepad, so from here on all instructions will be with that in mind.
The next thing to do is to download a Core, which is a plugin tailored to work with a specific platform you’re trying to emulate. For example, before playing a GameBoy Advance game, you need to download a Core that supports GameBoy Advance. All this happens within the RetroArch app, so you don’t need to worry about going to a website or copying things around in the file browser again. Each Core may be updated from time to time to play your games a bit better, and you can update these from inside RetroArch as well.
To install a Core, select “Load Core.”
Next, select “Download Core.”
Scroll down and press “A” on the controller or the center button on the remote to select and download a Core for the systems you’d like to emulate.
You may have multiple Cores to choose from for your systems. Each Core can perform slightly differently, so if your game isn’t playing quite right, a different Core may work better. You can always download a new Core without hurting your game progress.
Next up is getting RetroArch to scan your ROM files. Press B on the controller to go back to RetroArch’s home screen, then use the left thumbstick to move all the way to the right. Select “Scan Directory.”
Select the “/storage/emulated/0” option.
Use the left thumbstick to move down and select “ROMs” (or whatever you titled your folder of ROMs).
Select “Scan This Directory.”
It’ll take a moment to scan all your ROM files but after that press the B button on the controller until you’re back on RetroArch’s home page. Use the left thumbstick to move over to the right, and you’ll see icons representing all of the systems for which you have ROM files.
Move back to the left and, in the menu under the Settings icon, select “Input.”
Select “Menu Toggle Gamepad Combo.”
The Menu inside RetroArch is used to save and reload your game state, so you can save and load your game progress. This setting changes which buttons you press to bring up the menu, so select a combination you won’t use in games.
While you’re in the settings screen, you can also change some of the controls and video settings. For example, you might want to adjust the latency for games designed in the CRT era. CRT displays do not have the ability to store image data before it’s displayed, while newer display technologies add a few milliseconds of latency. Because of this, you may find you have to adjust the latency, so your button presses are on-point.
When you’re ready to actually play, move back over to the list of systems you have. Select the game you’d like to play.
Select the Core you’d like to use to play it.
Select “Run” one last time.
That’s it! You have your game up and running, and you can play to your heart’s content.
While that all seemed like a lot of set up, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes once you have your ROM files. With the emulator installed, you now have one device for your streaming media, playing newer games, and playing your favorite vintage games!