In this review, we view the 4K set-top box Nvidia Shield with Android TV, including the game streaming service GeForce Now. Do you need this media player under your television or can you live without it for a while?
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – design and introduction
The Nvidia Shield is a set-top box with Android TV that stands out. Manufacturer Nvidia has not opted for a standard appearance, but one with sharp corners and different layers. It is a design that you love or don’t like. Fortunately, the device is small enough to place it in or under a cupboard. So if you don’t like it, you can always place it out of sight. Make sure that the back remains accessible since it contains all the connections, such as the plug opening, the two USB and the HDMI ports.
The Nvidia Shield naturally supports WiFi, but there is also an Ethernet port. If you decide to plug an internet cable into the device for (somewhat) faster internet, then that is possible. The included remote control is flat and elongated and has five buttons with which you should be able to control everything within the normal interface and most apps. The version we have does not have a battery to be charged via USB, but instead uses those small button cells.
In addition, a controller is also supplied. This controller is a bit like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controller but nevertheless has its own unique design. Just like with the design of the media player itself, this is something that you like or don’t like, but unfortunately, you will have to do it anyway (unless you buy a Bluetooth controller yourself). There are four action buttons, two analog batons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, and three menu buttons. There is also a four-point push-button (also called d-pad).
Nvidia Shield with Android TV specifications
The Nvidia Shield has decent specifications for a media player. That is not surprising, because you can do more with it than just stream content. You can also play more than just fine. For example, we find an Nvidia Tegra X1 chip under the hood (the same, slightly higher clocked chip set as in the Nintendo Switch ). The processor has four Cortex A57 cores and a further four Cortex A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration. There is also the Maxwell-GPU (for the graphics) and there is 3 GB of memory available.
Our Nvidia Shield has 16 GB of storage memory, but there is also a version with more internal storage available. The Shield with Android TV offers support for Google Cast, 4K and HDR (HDR10), but also for content in full HD and high definition. In addition, there is support for Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos 7.1 and 5.1 and the HDMI port is able to send the signal from HDCP 2.2 . All in all, you get a complete media player, even when you only purchase it for films and series.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – in use
When you talk about the Nvidia Shield, you are actually talking about Android TV. That is namely the software that comes with the device. These days you can find this software on a large number of televisions. If you think ‘what should I do with an Android TV media player if I already have that operating system on my television?’, Then we have good news: it can certainly be a supplement to your TV. But we do understand very well that – at first glance – this all seems a bit double.
In terms of operating system, the Nvidia Shield hardly differs from an average Android TV television. You have the same options, but they are presented slightly differently. You also have the same keyboard, but also presented differently. The apps are also largely the same; but you will find fewer on your Shield than on your television. The biggest advantage, however, is that the Shield has better hardware than an average Android TV TV and that the things you are going to do will go faster.
This makes the keyboard much faster to use. Not only because you can now also choose to use the controller, but the hardware also records your input faster. In addition, the interface is smoother and cleaner and you can also choose to use everything with the supplied remote control. That is of course not as extensive as the remote of your TV (you don’t have to, because you don’t have all the TV functions on your media player), but it does have exactly enough buttons and functions in a small, compact and handy format.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – remote control and controller
A disadvantage of this remote is the battery. In this version, you do not have a rechargeable battery that you can charge using a USB cable. No, instead, we were confronted with a remote control that runs on button cells, which unfortunately are quickly emptied (we were not the first to test this model) – so you will have to take into account that you have those cells every now and then must replace. Fortunately, this can be done via the more recent remote control, but this downside is worth mentioning.
We just mentioned the design of the controller. It has an angular appearance, which may look nice on paper. But in real life it should just be your thing, this design. There is still a way to go – but how the controller feels in the hand does not. It feels rather rough and plastic-like; we are therefore mainly used to the controllers of the Xbox’s, PlayStation’s and the Nintendo’s. Those controllers are and feel much more off, even though they are all still made from (high-quality) plastic.
The three buttons for the interface also do not feel completely logical and that is unfortunately not something we could get used to. It has two navigation buttons (from left to right) and one that takes you straight to the main menu. But that button is not in the middle, unlike all other Android devices. Fortunately, it is true that you can charge this controller with the included USB cable, which you can possibly plug into the Nvidia Shield (but you can also charge it through other USB connections).
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – 4K media and other content
With the Nvidia Shield it is possible to stream content in 4K and HDR, among other things. You can find this content on various video streaming services, such as Netflix and YouTube. Make sure that the media box is connected to the correct HDMI connection, because not all HDMI ports often transmit the 4K signal (for my Phillips TV, only HDMI 1 and HDMI 2 send 4K, for example). You can put things on a usb stick and then play them via the media player, whether in 4K or in lesser quality.
In order to make full use of your fresh media player, you need to have at least one subscription to a video streaming service and preferably one that invests in 4K and HDR content (they all do that more and more, but that content is still in stark contrast to the full HD content). Fortunately, you can also just view other content on it, and that all works great. The images look good and colorful and also run smoothly on your screen (your TV can also have a share in that of course).
This experience is therefore the same as what you come across on Android TV televisions. If you have such a TV, you can watch content in 4K and HDR via the pre-installed Netflix app. The quality of that app corresponds to the quality that we encounter on the media player, because it is practically the same application. The fact that the images must first pass through an HDMI cable has no effect on the image to be displayed. This is not the reason that you want to get a Nvidia Shield.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – game streaming service GeForce Now
The reason may be that you are interested in GeForce Now. This is a game streaming service that lets players play games without having to install them on the hardware first. The games are stored on Nvidia’s servers and are therefore streamed to the set-top box when you address them. GeForce Now is a subscription that gives gamers access to a number of free games, ranging from PC titles to games that you can also find on other Android devices. The range of free games is large enough to get ahead of months.
But they are fairly old games, games that were already old when they could be streamed via the service. That does not apply to the complete range, but to a large extent. So if you are looking for a game streaming service that offers fairly old games that you have not yet arrived at and you don’t feel like buying them all separately (or have you sold your old Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, for example), then you can go there great with it. But for most gamers they have already seen this.
And that’s a shame, because there is potential in a video game streaming service. Mainly because it works. We have an internet download speed of 25 mbps (3 mb / s) here and that is fast enough to play a fighting game where every frame counts. Admittedly, you sometimes suffer from lag (delay) and therefore a jagged image (full of pixels), but we cannot say that this happened so incredibly often that we actually suffered from it. However, it is something to keep in mind.
Despite the fact that you already pay monthly for GeForce Now, there is still a lot of content on the service for which you have to pay extra. Those are the more recent titles (but don’t expect too much) that often cost two or three tens. It is unfortunate that we have to pay one month and deposit extra money for all the games that are available on it (around eighty), but so be it. The money has to come from somewhere to keep the servers running; however, it remains a pity.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – conclusion
The fact remains that Nvidia with the Nvidia Shield with Android TV bets on ease. The ease with which you can do a lot of things with one device under or behind your television, where you can watch series in 4K, enjoy movies in HDR and play (relatively old) games without having a separate console for that in your house (or have to get it from the attic) where you then have to download and/or install the games. Have you skipped a console generation game? Then there is undoubtedly something in between.
But there are also things that disappointed us. For example, the design of the hardware is not attractive and the sleek, almost Apple-like design of the remote control is very striking. Moreover, the controller is not completely comfortable in the hand because of all those angles. But when you are looking for a 4K media player that supports recent image and sound technologies, works quickly and smoothly and combines that with a game streaming service and strong specifications, you will not find anything that is currently better.
- Controller and media player design
- GeForce Now offer disappointing
- Little value as a media player alone
- Complete package for streaming services
- High end specifications (for games)
- Smooth user experience