Ever since Google announced that Android TV would replace Google TV, streaming TV fans got excited, but the first round of devices lacked power. Other companies like NVIDIA came to the rescue with the NVIDIA Shield TV and saved Android TV from mediocrity seen in the first round of Google TV boxes. The NVIDIA Shield TV packs some powerful features into a cool looking wedge-shaped set-top box that will excite both streaming TV fans and gamers.
NVIDIA and Android gaming go together well thanks to the NVIDIA Shield Tablet and NVIDIA Shield Portable. The tablet weds powerful Android gaming with the excellent Shield controller for a nice portable gaming solution with plenty of power. The NVIDIA tablet shrinks down the tablet and attached the controller for a mobile all-in-one device that reminds one of the Nintendo 3DS XL or the Sony PS Vita, but with the same great NVIDIA Shield controller built-in.
Now the NVIDIA Shield TV removes the tablet screen and puts those powerful guts into a set-top box with the new Android TV as the user-interface.
NVIDIA Shield TV Video Review
Watch our video review of the NVIDIA Shield TV.
NVIDIA Shield TV Features
NVIDIA designed the [amazon_link id=”B00U33Q940″ target=”_blank” ]NVIDIA Shield TV[/amazon_link] starting at $199.99 for the 16GB version or $299 for the [amazon_link id=”B00XO7AK1U” target=”_blank” ]NVIDIA Shield TV Pro[/amazon_link] with 500GB of storage, with two people in mind. The system comes with enough horsepower to appeal to hardcore Android gamers thanks to the great NVIDIA Shield game controller, which comes with the NVIDIA Shield TV. There’s also a powerful NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor with 256-core graphics processor. Then they added the ability to watch 4K TV video streaming from supported Internet like Netflix and YouTube. So, now it appeals to the growing streaming Internet TV market as well.
NVIDIA Shield TV Gaming
On the gaming side, the NVIDIA Shield TV will never replace a current generation dedicated gaming consoles, like the XBOX One or the Playstation 4. However, it certainly competes with previous generation gaming systems or the Nintendo Wii U. And it destroys any Android tablet streaming over a Google Chromecast.
It’s easy to install any Android game that’s designed to work with an Android TV. It plays a few games that aren’t, but those with Android TV support built-in work better. Users can play Goat Simulator, Modern Combat 5 or Dead Trigger 2 and see that Android TV gaming offers an entertaining Android gaming experience.
In addition to Android games, NVIDIA packs their Grid Games cloud streaming service into the system. Users can play Batman Arkham Origins, Saints Row IV, Dirt 3 and Dead Island. Think of it like Netflix for games. It’s free until July 31 on the NVIDIA Shield TV and streams the PC versions of the games in 1080p over the Internet hosted on NVIDIA’s servers.
Later this year NVIDIA plans to start to sell newer games to members in the store. We’ll see what games they offer and how many games they will add to the all-you-can-eat streaming service once it becomes a paid subscription.
The streaming gameplay almost never lags on our fast cable Internet connection. We did experience a few minor hiccups, but not enough to make you want to throw your controller at the screen. Most gamers will enjoy the experience.
The streaming games aren’t the latest greatest games, but they’re still a lot of fun.
NVIDIA Shield TV Streaming Video
Video looks great on the NVIDIA Shield TV if the source video comes across in a high enough resolution. Since I don’t own a 4K TV, I couldn’t test that out, but 1080p video quality looks great. For those who do own a 4K TV, YouTube streams some 4K content and Netflix offers a tier ($11.99) with 4K video. See the playlist featuring 10 great 4K videos on YouTube.
Netflix comes pre-installed and users can add any app from the Google Play Store that works with Android TV. Currently HBO Go doesn’t, but Sling TV does and users can subscribe to HBO through Sling TV. So people can get premium content through it.
Video streaming apps with Android TV support show recommendations in the NVIDIA Shield TV user-interface when the user first turns on the TV.
The audio sounds great thanks to the Dolby 7.1 surround sound, so long as the owner hooks the system up to a stereo with 7.1 support. Basic stereo also sounds pretty good over my Bose stereo speakers.
Buyers will enjoy a few freebies thrown in with their NVIDIA Shield TV purchase. The 16GB model comes with $30 of Google Play Store credit and 3 months of Google Play Music for new subscribers. The Pro model with 500GB of storage adds Borderlands: The Prequel! for free.
NVIDIA Shield TV Hardware
The NVIDIA Shield TV takes up more space on the TV stand than most set-top streaming boxes because it’s wider (8.3-inches by 5.1-inches) than boxes like Roku 3 or Apple TV. However, it’s not as tall as most, measuring only an inch tall.
On top there’s a tapered wedge shape, so don’t plan on stacking other devices on top. The green indicator light shows that Shield TV’s running.
On the back ports and a vent cover the width of the Shield TV. The ports include:
- Gigabit Ethernet for fast network streaming
- HDMI 2.0 port to hook up to a an HD TV or 4K TV
- 2 USB 3.0 ports for fast file transfers or to read media files and for charging the remote or game controllers
- Micro-USB 2.0 which can also charge the remote or controllers or connect to USB storage
- Micro-SD card slot for more storage
On the front there’s also an IR Receiver that works with Logitech Harmony remote controls. I tested it with the Logitech Harmony Home Control, which doubles as a universal remote and as an attached home device control for things like the NEST Thermostat or Hue lights.
The Logitech Harmony is a worthwhile upgrade, even at the $149.99 price, because it controls the Shield TV, the TV itself and other attached devices like Roku, Apple TV, DVD or Blu-ray players and more. It also brings smartphone control of the Shield TV through their Harmony app for Android or iOS.
NVIDIA grabbed voice search from the Amazon Fire TV and it works really well. Speak into the mic on the game controller or remote and search for games, videos, actors or apps.
People who love to hear about the guts of these kinds of systems will find the internals of the NVIDIA Shield TV impressive. It starts with the powerful NVIDI Tegra X1 256-core GPU mentioned above and 3GB of RAM. It also has video support for 4K Ultra HD and playback of 60fps as well. We already mentioned the nice 7.1 surround sound.
The storage comes in 16GB or 500GB plus USB or micro-SD card support. Since it supports USB 3, I didn’t think the larger storage was worth the extra $100, but remember the pro model also adds Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
The NVIDIA Shield TV screams premium from the console itself to included cables and the game controller. At $200-$300 it better. NVIDIA delivers.
NVIDIA Shield TV Remote and Controller
NVIDIA thinks of the Shield TV as a gaming system. You can tell because, instead of including the Shield Remote in the box, they put the Shield Controller in. That’s a good thing for people who plan to buy both since the controller costs $10 more ($59.99) than the remote when purchased separately.
The Shield Controller will stand up to most gamers’ punishment. It’s sturdy with strong buttons and analog sticks that shouldn’t break easily, even after long gaming sessions with intense first-person shooters or racing games.
Think of the XBOX 360 controller with a set of volume up/down buttons and the NVIDIA Shield TV home, back and forward buttons added. On the left there’s a typical directional gamepad. On the right we get four buttons in diamond pattern. Four trigger buttons adorn the back of the controller with 2 on each side. In the middle an upside down silver triangle holds the home, back and forward touch buttons and the Shield button used to wake up the system. The controller also includes a stereo headphone/mic combo port.
The controller connects via Bluetooth. It stays connected and lasts a long time. The included USB charging cables will power the controller and still let the user play as they charge.
The remote control costs an extra $49.99. That seems pricey, but NVIDIA made an excellent remote. It’s reminiscent of the Apple TV remote, but black and with voice search capability. It also includes a headphone jack so users can listen without disturbing others in the room.
NVIDIA Shield TV Value and Recommendations
I love the NVIDIA Shield TV and think that it’s definitely worth the $250 when the user buys both the Shield TV and the remote. It’s more expensive than other streaming set-top boxes from Roku, Apple and Amazon, but it packs more power and better gaming. If you’ve got the $250 and can patiently wait for Android TV apps from the normal streaming TV services like HBO Go and others, then go ahead and order one today. The NVIDIA Shield TV won’t disappoint.