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Thread: PS Vita vs nVidia Shield Remote Play Comparison

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    dvdcatalyst
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    PS Vita vs nVidia Shield Remote Play Comparison

    When it comes to portable gaming, it seems that the popular trend is to create games specifically designed for bite-sized moments. Of course there are a few exceptions, but the majority of portable games work around a simple, short, level-based structure, enabling someone to spend some time with the game a few minutes at a time.

    Unfortunately, what many people are looking for with a portable console such as the Nintendo DS/3DS and the Playstation Portable/Vita is the ability to play the full games of their living room counterparts.

    The Playstation Vita is advertised as having even more power and abilities as the Playstation 2, but the majority of the games available for the system offer nothing even close to games from that system in terms of gameplay.


    For me, a "portable gaming experience" is a "full gaming experience" on a portable device. Being able to play a console-grade game such as Skyrim, Fallout 3, GTA 5 etc on a handheld device, not some simplified spin-off title that doesn't even come close to the original.


    Thankfully it is possible to get this experience, thanks to two recently released devices, but unfortunately, in order to do so, you will need a matching set in order for it to work.


    This article offers a comparison of 2 different "remote play" gaming systems. On one side, there is the Playstation 4 + Playstation Vita combination, and on the other side, we have the PC and the nVidia Shield.


    * Playstation Remote Play:





    With the recently released Playstation 4, Sony wisely decided to make "Remote Play" mandatory for the games released on the system. Remote Play basically lets you connect a Playstation Vita handheld gaming system to a Playstation 4 wirelessly.

    When linked, the screen and audio output of the Playstation 4 is sent to the Playstation Vita, and the controller functionality of the Playstation Vita is sent over to the Playstation 4, thus enabling you to play a "real" PS4 game on your handheld console.

    * PC + nVidia Shield:



    Similar as the PS4 + PS Vita setup, nVidia recently released the Shield, a portable gaming device, which looks like a cross between a small Android tablet and an XBOX game controller.


    The nVidia Shield has full Android capabilities, so you can install just about everything from Google Play on it, but for me, its biggest selling point is its ability to connect wirelessly to a PC, and play its games remotely.


    Why Remote Play?

    With a big TV in the living room, why would you want to use something like Remote Play to play a video game?


    For me, it is a godsend. As a software developer, I spent long days behind a computer, and nothing is more relaxing for me than to lose myself in a different world. Big games like Skyrim, Fallout and Assassin's Creed 4 suck me into the game, offering me almost complete freedom as to what I do. Walk around in a deserted wasteland for an hour, chase dragons or hunt down treasures as a pirate, great fun.


    But, as a happily married man, I also have to spend time with my wife, and because of her health issues, sitting in the den with the volume cranked up to 11 isn't going to do any good.


    So for me, portable gaming is basically the only way I can really enjoy my video games, but unfortunately, as stated above, the developers of the games for these systems think that games need to be "different" on such a system.


    Over the years, I have tried a number of solutions. Different portable systems (PSP, NDS, 3DS, Vita), laptops, tablets (Surface Pro) and even miniPC's (Vaio UX), but the problem with all of those is either limited performance or a nightmare in terms of cables to be able to play longer than an hour.


    Imagine my excitement when nVidia announced the Shield.


    A game-controller with a screen, capable of streaming games from a PC. Just what I always wanted. Finally the ability to play full console/desktop-grade games in a handheld form factor. No hassle with cables, and a long enough battery life to last for an evening (or 2) of gaming.


    Requirements:

    Both setups use wifi for the streaming connection to the main system that is used to run the actual game. nVidia recommends a dual-band (5Ghz) WiFi N router/access-point for the Shield to use (link) but it works (currently) fine with a standard WiFi-N router as well. The PS Vita doesn't have dual-band or 5Ghz support (link).


    For best results in both scenarios, connect the main system with a wired connection to the router you are using for Wifi to the "remote" device. Also any other devices connected to the same wireless router/acces-point will affect the experience as well. Nothing is more annoying if a family member is browsing YouTube on a tablet and your game starts to look like a bad satellite TV signal or even lose connection.


    For my own setup, I use 2 wifi routers, one for all the internet gadgets, and another, wired into the main one as an access-point just for the Shield and the PS Vita (obviously I only use one at a time).


    * Playstation:



    To be able to play PS4 games on the PS Vita, you of course need both the Playstation 4 System and a Playstation Vita.


    * PC + Shield:

    In order to be able to use the nVidia Shield for streaming games, you will need, of course the nVidia Shield and a PC. The PC needs to be equipped with a recent nVidia GTX video card.


    The Shield uses the Steam platform/game store on the computer, so in order to be able to play the game, it needs to be in your Steam Library.


    The actual Shield runs for $250, but you can usually find some special where they include a free game or a $50 off. The minimum GTX videocard, a Geforce GTX 650, currently goes for about $120.


    On top of that, you will need a PC that has a slot that fits the graphics card, and possibly (as with most "brand" PC's like HP, Dell, Asus) you might need to upgrade the power-supply of the system as well (I had to on my Asus tower).



    Both Sony and nVidia are working on an online streaming setup of their own, which enables you to play games from their servers, rather than your own system, and eliminates the need for a PS4 console or a gaming-capable PC, however, both services are still in Beta.


    Pricing:

    The Playstation 4 currently costs $400, and a PS Vita costs around the $200, making it a total of $600.

    The Shield costs $250, with an additional requirement of a graphics card ($120) and a power supply ($80) and a recent PC ($400) making it a total of about $850.

    Of course, the PC solution offers a lot more functionality on top of the actual gaming setup. In fact, you can even run apps like Photoshop through the PC on the Shield if you want.


    Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag:

    For the comparison, I picked Assassin's Creed 4. As mentioned above, I like "open-world" games, Skyrim, Fallout 3 etc, where there is (somewhat of) a story line to give the game direction and purpose, but still providing you complete freedom in the world for roaming around and play it your own way. Assassin's Creed is such a game, and as an added bonus, it is available on almost all major systems.


    For the last month or so, I've been playing AC4 on the Playstation 4 and my playtime was split about 50/50 between using the PS4 directly and remotely with the PS Vita. Earlier this week, in lead-up for this comparison, I snagged the PC version from Amazon and played through a few sections using an XBOX controller connected to my PC and about 8 or so hours using the nVidia Shield.


    Playstation 4:

    I have had the original XBOX, and the XBOX 360 basically since release day. With the "next generation" (now current I guess), I was conflicted. The XBOX One seemed to be the natural choice, however, Microsoft's vision for the XBOX One differed from my own. I don't have any interest in talking or waving to a gaming system, and the additional features the XBOX One offers when you hook it in-between your TV and your cable/sat box is also something I have no interest in (my "Smart TV" is already acting way too smart for what it is supposed to do).


    Going for the Playstation 4 was also not that easy of a choice for me though. In recent years, Sony did a few things that didn't sit well with me. With the PS3, advertised functionality was removed, music CD's were released with computer-affecting hidden software, DVDs were released that didn't adhere to the official DVD standard which resulted in compatibility issues with even some of their own DVD players, continuous Bluray specification updates that result in wait-times for when you want to watch a movie, or, an expiration date on the physical player itself because after a year or 2 no new updates are released for it. I can go on for a while, but regardless, since I already had a PS Vita, I set my worries aside and decided to go for the PS4 purely for the Remote Play functionality.


    Nintendo has something similar with the Wii-U and its "tablet-style" gamepad, but unfortunately, the game-line up itself is quite limited and, the games that do make use of the tablet to provide a full portable gaming experience (at least one that doesn't require a TV) is even smaller.


    Microsoft has an app called Glass that enables a "second screen" experience for the XBOX One, but it still requires a TV for the actual game.



    Only Sony and nVidia offer access to an extensive (or, in the case of the PS4, growing) library of games and a full system designed specifically for playing these games without the need for a TV or computer-screen.


    Usage:

    (PS4 + PS Vita on left, Shield + PC on right)


    I've been using the nVidia Shield since it was originally released in August of last year, and it has been working extremely well. I am quite used to the controller, since it is more or less identical to that of an XBOX 360, and the majority of games I play are available for the PC.


    I already had a PS Vita since release day, but, if you haven't noticed from my newsletters and other Vita posts , I have been extremely disappointed with it. Advertised as a handheld system for more "mature" games, none of the games for it really hold up against their bigger counterparts, it just didn't deliver for me.


    When Sony announced that the PS4 would require developers to incorporate "remote play" functionality for the PS Vita, I was both excited and skeptical. The PSP was supposed to offer the same functionality with the PS3, and aside from a few titles here and there, it never did materialize much beyond the PSP acting as a rear-view mirror in a racing game.


    I enjoy my XBOX 360, but Microsoft was going a different, non-gaming, way with the XBOX One, so with the possibility of a first-screen remote play capability with the PS4, I decided to wait for a bit to see how that would work out.


    I know, with the Shield + PC combo I already have what I want, but as a small developer, my "gaming rig" PC is the most powerful system in my collection, and as of such, my main development machine, and mixing work with pleasure is not a good thing when it comes to technology. Things start causing conflicts, Things overheat, damage, and before you know it, everything becomes a mess. I can do without a gaming PC, but a non-working development machine is something different.


    So, rather than spending $600+ for a gaming-capable PC, I went the cheaper (I already had a Vita) route with the PS4.


    (PS4 + PS Vita on left, Shield + PC on right)

    Comparison:

    * Visual quality.

    Between the 2 setups visual quality doesn't really matter to me. Both the Shield and the Vita have a small screen, so 1080p, HD and all that doesn't make a difference, and even when playing on a bigger screen, I often use lower-quality settings (when possible) in favor for a smoother gameplay experience. However, I do believe that, at least with Assassin's Creed 4, the Shield provides a sharper image.


    * Audio quality.

    Audio also doesn't make much of a difference. A good pair of headphones makes (almost) everything sound good. Without headphones, the Shield is the winner though.


    * Game Streaming.


    The PS4 + Vita combo seems to work a bit better here in my opinion. With setups like this, there is a slight lag between when you press a button and when you get the response on screen back, and while not that big a deal for my casual gaming sessions, it seems less on the Playstation setup.


    In addition, the PS4-PS Vita seems to be less bothered by network interference compared to the PC+Shield.



    * Controls.


    I like the XBOX controller better than the Dual Shock 4 from the Playstation 4, so the Shield feels right at home. While I did get used to the PS4 controller, the PS Vita is not a 1:1 version of that controller. It misses 4 buttons. One set of triggers vs 2 triggers on the XBOX/Shield/PS4, and also the thumb-sticks lack button functionality (again the others do have that), which makes the remote-play functionality slightly different than when you play directly on the system.

    With Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag, some of the controls are, due to the lack of these 4 buttons, mapped to areas on the front and back touch-pad of the Vita, and with fat fingers like me, holding the Vita without tapping any of those areas is quite a workout, let alone tapping on them for the assigned function.


    With the Shield's fully featured controller, there are no mapping issues, and considering that most current PC games are also released for the XBOX, the XBOX controller support (and thus the Shield's) is already build-in.



    * Games.

    The PS4 is new, so there isn't much out yet, and most of the games that are available for it are also available on the PC. However, it does have some nice exclusives in the pipeline, but it will take a while.


    The Shield works with most of the action games that are available on the PC. Some require a bit of work in order to be able to play them, but at least you can play them. Even non-Steam games (and applications) can be accessed as long as you include links to them in your Steam Library.



    As mentioned above, both companies are working on a streaming service for games as well, both of which are currently in beta. Unfortunately, only nVidia is running a "public" beta at this time, so I can not draw any comparisons, but if the Sony version works as well as nVidia's, it will make things a lot easier.


    Conclusion.

    Both setups work work really well, and are perfect for my own gaming sessions. Either one enables you to play games on a large screen as well as on a small screen in a different room, and both setups support "big" games, games that are more than a collection of bite-sized levels (but also work with those types of games as well).


    For me, since this is a comparison article, the nVidia Shield is the winner of the 2 setups.


    The Shield has a few advantages that are hard to ignore. In particular the controller. The XBOX controller design is something I have been used to for a long time, and nVidia was smart to use this particular design for the Shield. As a system, it is bulkier than the Vita, but because it feels just like an XBOX controller, it just feels more "natural. The Vita lacks some of the buttons, and while it makes up for that by using the touch screen and the pad on the back, it takes some getting used to, even if you switch from the PS4's controller to the Vita.


    Also the build-in memory and memory expansion options. My (first-generation) PS Vita doesn't have build-in memory for storing things like videos and music or even save-games on it, so including a memory card is a requirement with the PS Vita (the recently released PS Vita Slim has 1GB of memory build-in), while the nVidia Shield has 16GB available for apps and games on the side.


    The memory-expansion cards for both are also different. The Shield uses "standard" MicroSD cards (the same as those used in tablets and smartphones) but the PS Vita uses its own, Vita-only, memorycards, which can not be used by anything else.


    While the nVidia Shield is better in my opinion, the PS4 + PS Vita combination for remote play is the one I will likely use more. As mentioned above, my "gaming-capable" computer is my developer machine, and combining both on a single system is something I try to avoid as much as possible, and it is considerably cheaper to pick up a Playstation 4+ PS Vita than it is to get a gaming-PC with the nVidia Shield.






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