Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): The best TV streamer money can buy
When you’ve already built the best Android TV box on the market, where do you go from there? That’s the question Nvidia faced after releasing its Shield TV Android console back in 2015. The original Shield TV won me over but was let down by a shortage of content, lack of bundled remote and a rather bulky (and ugly) controller.
Two years on and not only is Android TV now a content-rich proposition, but Nvidia has addressed every single one of the original Shield’s issues, expanding the device’s features at the same time.
Games and content streaming are still very much at the core of the Shield’s appeal, but this year Nvidia is using its latest console to go after the giants of home automation – Google Home and Amazon Echo. This Shield TV is set to become the centre of your connected home.
In what could be considered a controversial decision, there’s absolutely nothing different – in hardware terms – between this year’s Shield TV and the 2015 model. Many were expecting Nvidia to upgrade its impressive Tegra X1 chip but as it’s still a pretty powerful chip, Nvidia felt it would be an unnecessary expense. Having seen what the Tegra X1 is capable of, not just in the Shield TV itself but also inside Nintendo’s upcoming Tegra X1-equipped Switch console, it looks like it still has plenty of life left in it. The RRP is £189 and it can be found on Amazon UK for that (or Amazon US for $199)
Alongside the Tegra X1, you’ll get 3GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.1 support, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, two USB 3 ports and 16GB of internal storage. As with the previous model, Nvidia is also offering a “Pro” option for the Shield that includes a 500GB HDD, which is near essential for anyone who plans to do more than simply stream games or media content to their TV. The Shield TV Pro is exactly the same as the 2015 model, even down to the inclusion of a microSD slot, which has been omitted from the standard 2017 Shield TV model.
Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): What’s changed?
So if the Shield TV’s guts are exactly the same as they were two years ago, what’s changed? First up, Nvidia has made it smaller, reducing the size by 40%, and while the original Shield TV (and the new Shield TV Pro) measured 210 x 130 x 25mm (WDH), this year’s model is a mere 159 x 98 x 26mm, meaning it’s even easier to tuck away behind a TV if you’d rather not have it on show.
This year’s model is still just as gorgeous to look at as the original Shield TV. It may now be made of plastic, instead of the plastic and metal build chassis of the original (that’s now reserved for the Pro model), but its faceted design is just as eye-catching. And that angular design look has also made its way across to the completely overhauled Shield TV controller, which is a huge improvement on the original and no longer looks like an unsightly lump of plastic.[gallery:2]
Plus, in a move that is sure to make the Shield a more attractive proposition to newcomers, Nvidia is now including the Shield Remote in the box in addition to that new game controller. Previously, Shield owners had to pay £35 for the privilege, which was not only unreasonably expensive, but those who sprung for it would also have been disappointed to find its rechargeable battery would die within a week or two of use.
Unfortunately, one disappointing change is the removal of a microSD slot on the standard Shield TV model. This isn’t really the end of the world thanks to USB 3 storage support, but now that the Shield TV supports Android TV 7 Nougat’s adaptable storage, microSD support would have been a welcome addition.
And I found that using the USB 3 expandable storage option, performance via a USB flash drive and a portable 4TB hard drive just wasn’t that great. Games such as The Witness and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance had serious issues with loading fast enough – issues that melted away once installed on the internal storage.
Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): Peripheral thinking
The major appeal in picking up a new Shield TV, over trying to get hold of an old model on eBay, is the revamped controller. And while its polygonal skin looks great, what makes it a better controller is the build quality and the feel of the sticks and buttons. Everything about the new controller feels higher quality and more refined than Nvidia’s previous effort, and that makes it far more comfortable to use for extended sessions.
As part of the redesign, Nvidia has also removed all the touch-sensitive navigation buttons from the pad, replacing them with physical ones located at the bottom of the controller, just below and between the two thumbsticks.
These can take a bit of getting used to at first, especially as you’d expect the “home” button to be the big Nvidia logo in the centre – instead of the button below the right thumbstick – but they’re a world of improvement over the original.
Nvidia has also improved gamepad battery life, claiming it can now last up to 60 hours per charge. I was sceptical, but I’ve put a solid 40 hours or so of reasonably intense use into it so far, and the Shield Controller is still going strong.
Battery life is also the major reason Nvidia tweaked its Shield Remote. Now ever so slightly thicker than the previous model, the newly bundled-in remote ditches the rechargeable battery and headphone port in favour of two removable CR2032 batteries, a change that Nvidia says gives it a year’s worth of battery life.