Advertisement
Advertisement

Nvidia Shield TV review - Gaming's the aim, even if Android TV still isn't ready for prime time

Richard Easton
19 Oct 2015
Nvidia Shield TV remote and controller
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

Nvidia's Shield TV is a feature-packed media streamer that's great for games, but Android TV is still lacking

Advertisement

Specifications

Video outputs: HDMI 2.0, Networking: Bluetooth (SBC), Dimensions: 210x130x25mm, Streaming formats: UPnP (via Chromecast), Plex, Internet streaming services: Netflix, TuneIn Radio, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music, Plex

Nvidia has created the most highly-specified media streamer to date with the Shield Android TV. In fact, to call it a mere media streamer would do it a disservice; the 4K-ready, Android TV-powered set-top box is also a games console packed with serious processing power for playing Android games, as well as the ability to stream PC titles over the internet. 

Design & Accessories

A fraction larger than a DVD case but with tapered design that sees one corner thicker than the others, the Shield TV is certainly attractive. When laid horizontally, the top is a mixture of matt and glossy black plastic with angular lines, a subtle nVidia logo, and signature glowing LED.

Nvidia Shield TV connections

^ Everything you could want from a media streamer, including the all-important microSD card for expanding storage

Around the back is the all-important HDMI 2.0 output for 4K video, along with two USB3 ports that you can use to connect external storage. Gigabit Ethernet is also included, alongside integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi. 

The £150 base model includes 16GB of flash storage, but the microSD card slot means you can add more capacity when you need it. As such, the £220 Shield TV Pro doesn't look like fantastic value; you might get a 500GB hard disk, but it feels a lot like overkill for what is primarily a media player built for streaming, not local content. Perhaps if additional accessories were bundled with the Pro it would be more enticing, but as it stands I think you’re better off with the standard configuration.

Nvidia Shield TV gamepad

^ The Nvidia gamepad isn't as comfortable as an Xbox or PS4 pad, but it gets the job done

A gamepad is included as standard, revealing Nvidia’s gaming focus and justifying the inclusion of the company's Tegra X1 processor - a chip that would be complete over-kill for a conventional media streamer. The X1 is an eight-core, 64-bit system-on-chip paired with a 256-core, Maxwell-based GPU and 3GB of RAM that makes the Shield TV ludicrously powerful compared to rivals like Amazon's Fire TV box, and a capable gaming machine.

The gamepad will be familiar to owners of Nvidia's previous Shield devices, such as the Shield Tablet. It conforms to console controller standards, with dual analogue sticks, front-facing buttons and shoulder-mounted triggers. It’s a high quality controller and for the most part is comfortable to use. The standard Android navigation controls are placed at the centre of the pad, with a touchpad and volume controls at the bottom. The touchpad doesn’t actually function in Android TV; it's a remnant from the Shield Tablet, as Nvidia has merely reused the design. The headphone jack is useful for private listening so you won’t disturb anyone else in the house. It charges from a micro USB port and Nvidia expects you’ll get around 40 hours from a single charge.

The Shield TV Bluetooth remote (around £40) is an optional extra, but is arguably necessary if you want to use the Shield TV as your main media hub. While you can navigate the Android TV interface and even use the voice search functionality perfectly well with the gamepad, it’s a more cumbersome and unwieldy process. The Bluetooth remote is an elegant and lightweight remote that feels nice in your hands thanks to a brushed metal finish.

Nvidia Shield TV remote

^ It's a shame the remote doesn't come as standard, as it's great for channel surfing

There’s four-way navigation for getting around the Android TV interface, but it's the microphone search button that takes centre stage. A vertical touch-sensitive pad below it adjusts the volume by swiping up and down, and there's another private listening headphone jack in the base. The usual Android back and home buttons are available, too, with a design borrowed from Google's Android 5.0 Material user interface. As Nvidia has simply reused the gamepad from the Shield Tablet, it has markings for the pre-Lollipop Android navigation buttons. 

You could also pick up the optional vertical stand (for a pricy £25) if you want the Shield TV out on display rather than slot it into your AV rack. The Shield TV itself is certainly attractive-looking enough to take pride of place next to your television, so I can see the appeal. The stand has a special friction-based adhesive that locks it firmly to whatever surface you place it on.

Read more

Reviews