NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Reviewed: Gaming And The Ultimate 4K Streamer

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Setup, Android TV Experience

Before we talk Android TV, let’s briefly cover the SHIELD’s initial setup. NVIDIA could not have made it any easier. Connect the device to your display (via HDMI) and power, turn it on, and a few moments later you’ll be prompted to simply press a button on your remote or wireless controller to connect them. Once that’s done, you’ll be prompted to select a language, connect to a wireless network (if you’re not wired) and then you’re basically done. You’ll have to sign into the Google Play store with a Google account and login to any apps or services like Netflix, but that’s it. We were pleased with how easy NVIDIA made it to get the SHIELD Android TV up and running. Anyone that is not techno-phobic can set one of these things up.

The Suggested Band
The Suggested Band...

A major component of the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV is — you guessed it — Google’s Android TV. There have been a number of announcements to come out of Google I/O today, like this one regarding its Brillo OS and this one about Android M, but Google also disclosed that major broadcasters are bringing new video and viewing apps to Android TV, such as HBO NOW, the CBS and FOX family of apps, Twitch, Vimeo and many more. NVIDIA tells us these apps will be coming to the SHIELD soon. But also keep in mind that other apps that will work on Android TV’s 10-ft interface are also available in the Google Play store.

Games And Apps Scroll Horizontally
Games And Apps Scroll Horizontally...

While Android TV is still a relatively young platform, our experience with it on the SHIELD (in the short time we’ve had our hands on it), has been mostly positive. The main home screen is broken up into different bands, with a “suggested” band at the top. The suggested band is dynamic and provides suggestions based on your installed applications and usage patterns. Further down the page there’s a band of installed games and NVIDIA-related content (like access to GRID and PC streaming), a band for all installed apps, that’s also dynamic — the most recently used app is constantly moved to the far left. And at the very bottom are links to various settings and configurations options.

Hulu Plus On The SHIELD Android TV
Hulu Plus On The SHIELD Android TV

Running various apps on the SHIELD produced excellent results. The Tegra X1 is so fast relative to other set-top streaming devices that using the SHIELD Android TV is noticeably snappier and smoother. Apps load quickly, animations are smooth, and you never really feel like you have to wait for anything. Apps like Hulu Plus are available for accessing the service's wealth of content, along with many other major players like Netflix, YouTube, Sling Television, MLB and ESPN app, PBS, and numerous others. The SHIELD also includes Plex preinstalled for accessing media from a Plex server. If a media app is in the Google Play store and it’s compatible with Android TV’s 10ft interface, it should work.

SHIELD Android TV Offers Ultra HD 4K Playback On Netflix
The SHIELD Android TV Offers Ultra HD 4K Playback On Netflix 

NVIDIA scored big with Netflix and the SHIELD. The SHIELD Android TV is currently the only device that’s certified for Netflix’s Ultra HD 4K video service. To get the certification, the SHIELD offers a HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 capability and a hardware decoder for HEVC Main and Main10 profiles. At the moment, there is no other device that can make these claims. The Netflix app in general works very well on the SHIELD, and while we weren’t able to test the 4K output, HD streaming was top notch.

Navigating through the various apps and finding content on the SHIELD Android TV was quite intuitive and easy. Although the platform took some initial dings on earlier devices, it has clearly matured quite a bit and there is loads of content available.

We should also mention that searching for new content or launching apps, etc. is made infinitely easier with the voice controls on the SHIELD, which are excellent. This device (and Android TV) isn’t just about simple speech-to-text. You can control many aspects of the device and find almost anything with casual speech. For example, you can hit the voice search button and say, “What will the weather be like tomorrow?” or “watch The Avengers”. 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. The voice controls are among the best we’ve used.

The SHIELD Android TV is also a Chromecast device, so sending content or mirroring your mobile device is a snap.

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