Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): The best TV streamer money can buy
Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): It’s all in the software
Two years ago, Nvidia’s Shield TV was built for gaming greatness and while we knew from the start that its Tegra X1 chip was capable, there were few games on Android TV capable of stretching the hardware. Now, after two years of working with developers, its catalogue of native Android games is growing, and they’re absolutely incredible in motion.
Playing Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance on the Shield TV is somewhat unbelievable. Not only is a PS3/Xbox 360-era title running at 1080p at 60fps for the most part, but it actually looks to be more visually on-par with the PC version. The same can be said of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which pushes out a near-consistent 60fps at 1080p, something the original PS3/Xbox 360 build couldn’t quite manage. While that may not impress PS4, Xbox One and gaming PC owners, do bear in mind that the Tegra X1 is a mobile processor.
The Shield isn’t just about native Android games, though. It’s also a great place for streamed games content. It still supports Nvidia’s impressive GeForce Now subscription service – which now includes titles from Ubisoft – but Nvidia has overhauled the back-end with Pascal-based GPUs, so you’re now able to stream games from the cloud at resolutions of up to 4K. You’ll need pretty decent broadband to do that (around 100Mbits/sec) of course, but latency-free 1080p, 60fps gameplay can be had with a connection of around 25Mbits/sec.
And if you don’t fancy paying £8 per month to get access to a library of on-demand PC games because you already have a beast of a gaming rig in your home, the Shield TV lets you stream your entire catalogue to your TV. There’s also a Steam app that launches Steam Big Picture mode direct from your PC to your TV wirelessly. All games can be streamed up to 4K with HDR support and with full haptic feedback if a title supports it.
Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): The only way to watch 4K HDR Amazon Prime Video
Android TV has come on leaps and bounds in the intervening years since the last Shield TV launched, transforming Nvidia’s powerful box from niche device into something with a whole lot more mainstream appeal.
For a long time there was no Amazon Prime Video support; Netflix existed but didn’t support 4K or HDR; and BBC iPlayer was absent, leaving most people to try to wrap their heads around Plex or Kodi if they wanted to stream content. Now, though, Android TV is as fully featured as the Amazon Fire TV or Roku boxes and contains extras such as Google cast support.[gallery:18]
And since Amazon hasn’t yet bothered to bring out the 4K HDR-compatible Amazon Fire TV Stick over here, it’s also currently the only way you can watch 4K HDR Amazon Prime Video content in the UK. The Netflix app has support for 4K HDR, too, as does the Google cast facility.
And the Shield TV remains an enthusiast’s dream, with support for Plex and Kodi and its various builds, plus the ability to sideload any app you fancy. In essence, it will run pretty much anything you want.
Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): The smart hub for your home
Finally, the Shield TV also wants to double as your smart-home hub. There’s integration with Samsung’s SmartThings tech for control over things such as remote cameras, lights and heating systems and, during my earlier hands-on session with device, I was lucky enough to see the still-in-development integration with Google Assistant.
Simple commands such as “OK Google, start my day” (picked up via the always-on mic in the new controller) saw the Shield TV turn on room lighting, turn up the temperature on a Nest Thermostat and start the kettle boiling. Saying “OK Google, I’m leaving” turned off the lights, reduced the temperature and powered down non-essential smart devices.
The problem is that this currently relies on the microphones built into the Shield TV’s controller and remote control picking up your voice, which isn’t the most practical solution if you want to use the system in other rooms around the house. To address this, Nvidia is set to release a connected microphone called Nvidia Spot, which will act as a voice relay to the Shield TV.
Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): Verdict
As a complete package, Nvidia has pushed its Shield TV above and beyond the device it was back in 2015. But beyond the welcome overhaul of the controller, remote and the Shield TV’s new smaller form factor, all of the improvements come via software. This means older Shield TV users can still benefit from Nvidia’s upgrades, while newcomers get an excellent experience right out of the box.
In short, there’s nothing else better on the market right now. For gamers, it’s an Android console that’s capable of playing games with enough fidelity to keep up with mainstream consoles, has access to a vast library of streamable 4K titles, and hooks right into your personal library of PC games. For families and more casual users, it can access every video-streaming service available, lets you cast content from your phone, and runs incredibly quickly when loading and switching between apps.[gallery:3]
Shield TV is also pretty future-proof and, thanks to upcoming Google Assistant integration, could well become the centre of your smart home. Why shell out on something like Google Home or Amazon Echo, when you can get all the same functionality via a powerful streaming box that sits under your TV?
It may be the same device as two years ago on the surface, then, but those intervening years have propelled Nvidia’s unparalleled TV streamer to new heights. And although expensive, I cannot recommend it highly enough.