In this review we look at the 4K set-top box Nvidia Shield with Android TV, including the GeForce Now game streaming service. Do you need this media player under your television or can you still be 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 like or do not like. Fortunately, the device is small enough to place it in or under a cabinet. So if you do not like it, you can always put it out of sight. Make sure that the back remains accessible, since there are all connections, such as the plug opening, the two usb and the hmdi ports.
Naturally, the Nvidia Shield supports Wi-Fi, 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 that you basically need to control everything within the normal interface and most apps. The version we have does not have a battery to be recharged via usb, but uses those small button cells instead.
In addition, a controller is also included. This controller is somewhat similar to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controller, but nevertheless has its own unique design. Just like the design of the media player itself, this is something that you like or not, but unfortunately you will have to do it anyway (unless you buy a bluetooth controller yourself). There are four action buttons, two analogue bats, two shoulder buttons, two triggers and three menu buttons. There is also a four-point push button (also called d-pad) present.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV specifications
The Nvidia Shield has decent specifications for a media player. That is not strange, because you can do more with it than just stream content. You can also play more than fine. For example, under the bonnet we find an Nvidia Tegra X1 chip (the same, slightly higher clocked chipset as in the Nintendo Switch). The processor has four Cortex A57 cores and another 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 capable of transmitting the signal from HDCP 2.2 . All in all, you get a complete media player, even if you only purchase it for films and series.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – in use
When you talk about the Nvidia Shield, you are also talking about Android TV. That is the software that comes with the device. You can find that software on a large number of televisions nowadays. 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 be a supplement to your TV. But we understand very well that – at first glance – this all seems a bit redundant.
In terms of operating system, the Nvidia Shield does not hardly differ from an average Android TV television. You have the same options, but they are presented just a little differently. You also have the same keyboard, but also presented differently. The apps are also largely the same; but you will find less on your Shield than on your television. However, the biggest advantage is that the Shield has better hardware than an average Android TV TV on board and that the things you are going to do will go faster.
For example, the keyboard can be used much faster. Not only because you can now also choose to use the controller, but the hardware also registers your input faster. In addition, the interface is smoother and cleaner and you can also choose to use everything with the included remote control. Which is of course not as extensive as the remote of your TV (not necessarily because you do not have all the TV functions on your media player), but it has 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, which you can recharge via a USB cable. No, instead, we were dealing with a remote control that runs on button cells, which are unfortunately quickly drained (we were not the first to test this model) – so you’ll have to take into account that you keep those cells now and then must replace. Fortunately, this can be done via the more recent remote control, but this flaw is worth mentioning.
We just talked about the design of the controller. It has an angular appearance, which might look nice on paper. But in real life it must be just your thing, this design. There is still stepping over – but how the controller in the hand does not feel. It feels rather rough and plastic-like; we are therefore mainly accustomed to the controllers of the Xbox’s, PlayStation’s and the Nintendo’s. Those controllers are and feel much more, even though they are all still made of (high-quality) plastic.
The three buttons for the interface do not feel entirely logical and that is unfortunately not something we could get used to. There are two buttons for navigating (from left to right) and one that takes you directly to the main menu. But that button is not in the middle, unlike all other Android devices. Fortunately, 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 via 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. This content can be found 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 Phillip TV only 4K transmits 4K, for example). You can put things on a USB stick and play via the media player, whether in 4K or in lesser quality.
In order to make full use of your fresh media player, you need at least one subscription to a video streaming service, and preferably one that invests in 4K and HDR content (they do all that more, but that content is still in stark contrast to full HD content). Fortunately, you can also just look at other content, and that all works fine. The images look good and colorful and also run smoothly over your screen (your TV can also have a share of that, of course).
This experience is also equal to what you see on Android TV televisions. If you have such a TV, you can view content in 4K and HDR via the pre-installed Netflix app. The quality of that app corresponds to the quality we encounter on the media player, because it is practically the same application. The fact that the images first have to go through an HDMI cable has no effect on the image to be displayed. This is not the reason you want to bring an Nvidia Shield into your home.
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 allows players to play games without first having to install them on the hardware. The games are stored on the servers of Nvidia and are therefore streamed to the set-top box when you speak to 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 encounter on other Android devices. The offer of free play is big enough to make months progress.
But they are pretty old games, games that were already old at the time they were streaming through the service. This does not apply to the complete range, but it does so for a large part. So if you are looking for a game streaming service that offers reasonably old games that you have not yet received and do not want to have to buy them all separately (or have you sold your old Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 for example), then you can great with the feet. But for most gamers, they have already seen this.
And that is a shame, because there is potential in a video streaming service. Mainly because it works. We have an internet download speed of 25 mbps (3 mb / s) 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 can not say that this happened so often that we actually had problems with 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. These are the more recent titles (but do not expect too much of them), which often cost two or three euros. It is a pity that we have to pay once a month and have to put in extra money for all the games that are available (some eighty), but so it is. The money has to come from somewhere to keep the servers running; it is a pity though.
Nvidia Shield with Android TV – conclusion
The fact remains that Nvidia with the Nvidia Shield with Android TV bet on convenience. The convenience that 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 (relatively old) games, without having to install a separate console at home (or have to get from the attic) where you then have to download and / or install the games. Did you skip a console generation of games? 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 because of all those angles. But if you’re 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.