NVIDIA SHIELD TV (2017) Review: Smart Home, 4K HDR, And Game Streaming

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Setting Up The NVIDIA SHIELD TV, 4K HDR And Google Assistant

We’ll give you a taste of the SHIELD TV’s interface and what it can do in a bit, but before we do, we should cover the SHIELD TV’s initial setup. Or, more specifically, explain how simple and uneventful it can be. NVIDIA could not have made it any easier. Connect the SHIELD to your display (via HDMI) and give it power, turn it on, and a few moments later you’ll be asked to select region and language settings, connect to a wireless network (if you’re not wired) and then you’re basically done. The Remote and wireless controller come pre-paired to the SHIELD TV, so they’re ready to use right out of the box, provided the batteries have some charge left. You’ll have to sign into the Google Play store with a Google account and login to any apps or services like Netflix as well, but that’s it.

We were pleased with how easy NVIDIA made it to get the SHIELD TV up and running. Anyone that is not techno-phobic can set one of these things up in a jiffy.

shield interface

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV runs Google’s Android TV OS. Fundamentally, Android TV is similar to the version of Android running on smartphones, but it is geared for media consumption and has a 10-ft interface. The platform as a whole has wide support from media partners, such as HBO, Netflix, the CBS and FOX family of networks, Twitch, Vimeo, Hulu, PBS, and many, many more. There is so much media support in fact, that the SHIELD TV may be the ideal device for cord cutters looking to drop their cable TV service. Between all of the streaming apps available on the SHIELD TV, Kodi, Plex, etc., there’s not much you can’t get on the thing.

netflix

And NVIDIA does Android TV justice. The main home screen is broken up into different bands, with a notification and suggestion band prominently featured at the top. The Suggestions band is dynamic and provides suggestions based on your installed applications and usage patterns. Further down the home page there’s a band for NVIDIA’s services, like GeForce NOW and the SHIELD Games store, then there’s a band for all installed apps, which is also dynamic — the most recently used app is constantly moved to the far left. There is also a band for games installed directly on the device. And at the very bottom are links to various settings and configurations options. We should also mention that the various bands are customizable as well, so you can pin apps or create shortcuts to your favorite games.

app tray

Navigating through the SHIELD TV’s various functions is fast, fluid, and intuitive. The Tegra x1 at the heart of the device packs enough horsepower to make the SHIELD TV feel noticeably snappier and smoother to use than other media streaming boxes. Apps load quickly, animations are smooth, and you never really feel like you have to wait for anything. Apps like Netflix are available for accessing the service's wealth of content, along with many other major players like Hulu, YouTube, Sling Television, MLB and ESPN app, PBS, and numerous others. Up until the SHIELD Experience 5.0 update based on Android Nougat, Amazon Video was noticeably absent from the platform, but NVIDIA has remedied that situation, and Amazon Video is now officially supported, complete with 4K HDR content.

shield codec chart

4K content (including more with HDR) is available from a number of apps on the SHIELD TV. It is enabled by an HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 support and a hardware decoder for HEVC Main and Main10 profiles. The number of codecs supported and multimedia / home theater related features available on the SHIELD TV, dwarfs many popular competing devices as well.

Now With Android Nougat's Google Assistant

google assistant on shield

We should also mention that searching for new content or launching apps is also made easy with the top-notch voice controls on the SHIELD. This SHIELD TV isn’t just about simple speech-to-text, either. You can control many aspects of the device and find almost anything with casual, conversation mode speech. For example, you can hit the voice search button on the remote and say, “What will the weather be like tomorrow?” or “watch Luke Cage” and the SHIELD will respond to your requests and find the apps where the content is available. When searching for content in particular, if the apps you have installed support cross-app searching, a simple question will find what you’re looking for in all of the apps that leverage the search.

NVIDIA Spot
NVIDIA Spot Remote Listening Device - Not quite here yet... 

You also can bark commands at it in succession, refining searches, with the need to keep saying "OK Google." The mic will also now stay open on the SHIED when you say, for example, "OK Google, show me dramas" and then refine that search with "from the 90s." Finally, NVIDIA also has an add-on accessory for wall power outlets, called the NVIDIA Spot, that will allow you to add listening devices throughout your home to access Google Assistant from anywhere.

Another thing to note is that the SHIELD TV is a Chromecast device too, so sending content from or mirroring your mobile device on your big screen, is quick and easy.

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