Robbie and I decided to team up for this one, mainly because we both have Shield TV’s. But also because I got a Shield TV with a gamepad, and he did not. So while I’ll talk about my time with the gaming features, what it was like, how it performed, Robbie will touch on all the nerd stuff; apps, tech specs, yawn.
The Shield TV is still the king of the hill when it comes to powerful home streaming. Most people are familiar with the big players, Apple TV, Roku, Fire Stick. They’re pretty handy for those with big ol’ TV’s without smart features, or those that want to expand on your TV’s functionality. But what if you could have something that was powerful enough to run games natively, stream games from your PC or the mystifying NVIDIA Cloud plus all the features of an Android TV box? That’s the NVIDIA Shield TV
Technical Lingo Stuff:
|Processor||NVIDIA® Tegra® X1 processor with a 256-core GPU|
|Operating System||Android 8.0 (Oreo) powered by Android TV™ and Chromecast™ built in|
|Storage||16 GB * (expandable via USB**)
SHIELD can also connect to Network Addressable Storage (NAS) including PCs
|Ports||2x USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0b, Gigabit Ethernet, USB C Power Port|
|Video||Up to 4K HDR playback at 60 FPS (H.265/HEVC)
Up to 4K playback at 60 FPS (VP8, VP9, H.264, MPEG1/2)
Up to 1080p playback at 60 FPS (H.263, MJPEG, MPEG4, WMV9/VC1)
Format/Container support: Xvid/ DivX/ASF/AVI/MKV/MOV/M2TS/MPEG-TS/MP4/WEB-M
|Audio||High-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192 kHz over HDMI and USB
High-resolution audio up-sample to 24-bit/192 kHz over USB
Audio support: AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, WAVE, AMR, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, PCM, WMA, WMA-Pro, WMA-Lossless, DD+/DTS (pass-through),
Dolby Atmos (pass-through), Dolby TrueHD (pass-through), DTS-X, and DTS-HD (pass-through)
If anyone other than Robbie is playing close attention here, the NVIDIA® Tegra® X1 processor is the same chipset that features in the Nintendo Switch.
I will be honest with you, before I got my Shield, I had no real idea of what it looked like and I had a limited understanding of how it worked. So when it arrived, and I saw how small the box was, I was instantly very skeptical. I opened it up, and boy oh boy did I like the looks of this cute little device. The controller, while very obviously paying homage to others, was nice and had enough of it’s own flair to not make it a carbon copy, and the little remote was pretty sleek too.
The controller feels amazing in your hands, the likes of the Xbox One and 360 controllers are both better, but this would be one of my new favourites and I much prefer it over the Dualshock 4. (Robbie doesn’t)
The smaller remote has a few of its own wee tricks up its sleeve. For one, it has this really cool built in game of hide and seek. I don’t know how they managed to pack such a sophisticated game into such a tiny remote, but it manages to find its way into impossible spaces. Other than that you will find it reminiscent of a lot of the other smart boxes, tiny, inoffensive and the battery will last for ages. The built in volume control is touch sensitive and you scroll up or down between two angular grooves. Very slick.
Streaming Services and Apps:
Having access to the Google PlayStore expands the use case for something like this tenfold. Not only do you get the standard Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime app rollout. You’ll find a multitude of other very useful apps in that store, plus being android based… The ability to sideload if need be.
The voice search is absolutely brilliant, for someone who hates typing in search terms on tiny remotes this is a godsend for apps that support it. Unfortunately it’s not something that rolls out across everything, but hey it makes YouTube navigation easy.
With Kodi and Plex natively supported, your existing library is yours to control. Plus with Kodi’s open source nature, the expanse of add ons is yours to explore… On that we’ll say no more.
ExpressVPN also has its own wee app on the android TV store, which for some of you that have privacy concerns… Or run out of things on the localised Netflix library, you may find that… Well… Interesting.
Unfortunately as of writing this there is no support for localised streaming apps from TVNZ OnDemand, 3Now, Neon or LightBox. I think this is a real missed opportunity from these companies as the Shield TV probably wouldn’t crash as much as their SmartTV apps they’re so fond of. As mentioned above, side loading is possible, however I cannot verify your success with all of the above mentioned apps.
This aspect of the Shield would have to be the most disappointing for me. There is a huge library of games available on Android, I play a lot of them on my S8+, and it was probably one of the things I was most looking forward to. Sadly, the “listed” game library is severely lacking, almost all of them pay to purchase, and missing plenty of great titles that would have translated perfectly to the console. There are some, but it strips away a really important aspect of being built on Android for me.
This may be more down to a development side of things, but with the influx of Android TV boxes, I hope this library does grow.
NVIDIA GeForce Now:
Again, another awesome sounding feature in theory but less so in practice unless you’re in possession of better than usual internet. On anything other than fibre, this service is unusable, well not unusable, but very laggy. Luckily for me, I have great internet and was able to sample a few of the games. It’s not as good as playing the game on your own device, or using the Gamestream service, but it’s serviceable for those with a low budget, and wanting to play the latest and greatest, don’t bother with multiplayer though.
If you are fortunate enough to be in possession of a nice internet connection, you’ll be pleased to know many of these titles are free to play. Being able to sit down, not worry about downloading anything and just jumping straight in is a very weird experience. The unfortunate side of things is that there are no localised servers for Australasia at this time. Plans to expand are in the pipeline reportedly but I wouldn’t bank on it before the next Shield refresh.
Here you’ll find a list of the games available.
The winning aspect of the NVIDIA Shield, and thanks to my very lovely friend/business partner/brother Robbie, something I could enjoy to the maximum potential with my new GPU. My computer sits in my lounge, but I like using a controller for anything other than the most intensive FPS games so getting the NVIDIA Shield provided me a way of playing games with a controller wirelessly, and without the need of additional adaptors. I wasn’t sure how well it would work, and I didn’t know if there would be lag, or input delay, or what. BUT, there wasn’t and it’s probably changed my gaming life for at least the foreseeable future. I’ve since started playing games on my TV, in bed, and everywhere else because of just how awesome the NVIDIA Shield is.
I was genuinely blown away by how seamless GameStream actually was. I mean I know it’s over a local network and all, but any other solution I have tried in the past has introduced uncomfortable latency or audio/video sync issues. There’s some serious special sauce under the hood of this technology. Typically I have been using a cabled connection directly to my router and then PC, however I know Robbie uses it over WiFi and swears by the performance of it. Though in saying that he does have a pretty beefy NightHawk router with a stupidly big throughput over WiFi. So I guess your mileage may vary.
Being by far the most powerful streaming box in the world currently, and even with it’s higher price point over competitors, I can’t recommend this enough. If you’re someone that wants the most fluid experience possible while consuming content on the big screen at home, then this is you. As much as the support for Android games is somewhat limited, I am overwhelmed by everything else this tiny box can do.
The NVIDIA Shield TV is the streaming box with ZERO compromises.