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Not the box you bought three years ago

Not the box you bought three years ago

The system we at present know as the “NVIDIA SHIELD” is just not the first one to hold the identify. That honor goes to the handheld gadget launched in 2013, later renamed SHIELD Moveable. After that got here the SHIELD Pill, and eventually the SHIELD Android TV in 2015. It was not the solely method to get Android TV, however NVIDIA’s box is the just one that had any endurance. Three years on, this system has gotten 20 updates throughout three main Android variations. I can not consider one other Android system that gives a lot worth after greater than three years of use. That is why we’re taking one other take a look at the SHIELD—it is modified quite a bit.

NVIDIA has added integrations with providers like Plex and SmartThings, and there is the ever-evolving GeForce Now streaming service. Whereas NVIDIA has launched a revamped, smaller SHIELD, the unique hardware will get all the similar updates and options. The Android TV implementation seems to be and works a lot in another way than it did in 2015, not all the time for the greatest, although. If you need a highly effective Android TV box, there’s merely no different selection. For all intents and functions, the SHIELD is Android TV, however that is not all it’s.

Notice: For this re-review, I’ve been utilizing the revamped 2017 mannequin. Nevertheless, most of that is equally true of the unique 2015 model. 

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The present iteration of the SHIELD TV is a compact wedge-shaped gadget about 16 x 10 centimeters. The floor consists of fascets that appear to be a piece taken out of a stealth plane. Together with the glowing hole that serves as an influence LED, the SHIELD is a bit of on the flashy aspect. Fortunately, it is sufficiently small to be tucked away out of sight (if that is not your aesthetic).

The unique Defend TV box was considerably bigger, making it more durable to cover on a element stand or leisure middle. If you put that model in the optionally available vertical stand, it had an actual “monolith” vibe. Once more, the revamped hardware is much less imposing even standing vertically. My solely actual concern with the new design is it is so mild that a stiff HDMI cable can pull it misplaced.

Round again, the SHIELD sports activities an array of ports together with energy (proprietary), HDMI, Ethernet, and USB (x2). The unique had a microSD card slot, however NVIDIA dropped that in the refresh. That is a little bit of a bummer, however you can nonetheless add a USB drive to broaden your 16GB of inner storage. I want NVIDIA included a bit more room, however the solely different choice is the SHIELD TV Professional with a 500GB onerous drive at $300. That is not a very good worth when USB drives are so low cost, and the Professional makes use of the giant type issue of the unique SHIELD.

The bottom mannequin SHIELD comes with the distant management, which has modified from the unique launch. It makes use of a replaceable coin cell battery (that ought to final six months to a yr) somewhat than the rechargeable battery from the previous distant. It not has a headphone jack for personal listening (what does lately?) both. The one notable improve: it has an IR blaster to regulate different units. It is nonetheless Bluetooth, and there is a microphone for voice instructions. The buttons and directional pad have good tactile suggestions, however I am not a fan of the touch-sensitive quantity management—I continually regulate it accidentally. The distant ought to have actual buttons for quantity management. I like the distant, however it does appear to fall asleep considerably shortly. It could actually take a second for the first button press to register when it wakes up.

You solely get the recreation controller in the costlier SHIELD Gaming package, however it’s value the small added value if you plan to play video games. As a bit of hardware, the controller is sort of good. The form is vastly extra snug than the previous wing-shaped controller—it is like a mixture of Sony and Xbox controllers when you account for the general form and thumbstick place. As for whether or not it is a good combine, that is determined by your private choice. I want the d-pad and left stick would change locations, however the buttons and sticks all really feel very high-quality. Fortunately, there’s nonetheless a headphone jack on the controller.

I recognize that NVIDIA is making an attempt to maintain the value of the SHIELD down, nevertheless it’d be good if it got here with a couple of extra equipment. You get the console, the energy cable, and the distant in the box. With the gaming bundle, you add the controller. There is no HDMI cable or stand. The latter is an additional $20 despite the fact that virtually each promo shot of the Defend exhibits it in the stand.

Android TV, advanced

When the SHIELD launched, it was certainly one of a number of promising Android TV bins, and now it is the solely promising Android TV box. These different units have all fallen by the wayside, however NVIDIA retains updating and including new options. Each SHIELD box runs the Oreo construct of Android TV, and the function set goes far past Google’s inventory TV expertise.

NVIDIA rolled out its 20th software program replace for the SHIELD a couple of months ago (the 7.1 expertise improve). That is an unprecedented degree of help for a bit of hardware that some individuals bought three and a half years ago.  Amongst these updates have been some wonderful customized options that enhance on Android TV. For instance, there’s Plex integration. I do not simply imply you can run the Plex app—any Android system can do this. No, the SHIELD can run a Plex server to stream your content material to different units. It really works even when the SHIELD is asleep, and the Tegra X1 can transcode like a champ. The SHIELD is, bar none, the greatest Plex server I’ve ever used.

If you’ve acquired a SHIELD, you even have a sensible residence hub ready to be unleashed. The $40 SmartThings USB adapter lets you management suitable units by way of the SHIELD. Meaning they’re additionally plugged into Assistant as a result of NVIDIA included that in the updates as properly. Along with the normal Assistant options, the SHIELD helps turning the SHIELD on and off, opening apps, controlling the quantity, and extra.

NVIDIA does not make any substantial modifications to the Android TV UI, so this facet of the SHIELD is the similar on all units. Google modified the interface round in Oreo, and I’ve discovered it slightly cumbersome to make use of. The app drawer location is awkward, and the further app shortcuts to the left of the channel previews are of little use. The channels additionally not often present me something of worth. I in all probability solely launch 10-12 apps on the SHIELD frequently, so including them to the favourite record is a suitable answer.

Most of my SHIELD utilization consists of watching video, and that is the place the system shines. It has supported 4K since launch, and NVIDIA added HDR in an replace. Whereas there are cheaper methods to get streaming video in your TV, the choices for 4K HDR are extra restricted. You possibly can seize a Chromecast Extremely, for instance, however that is $70. For somewhat extra money, the SHIELD provides further options. The catch being you want to truly care about these additional options to justify the expense.

The principal distinction between the SHIELD and different streaming packing containers is the gaming tie-in. NVIDIA works with publishers to get native video games like Doom and Tomb Raider ported to the SHIELD, which is spectacular from a technical standpoint. After which there’s GeForce Now, which has been kicked again to beta standing after a disappointing launch in 2015. NVIDIA was trying to cost $eight per 30 days to stream a library of older video games, however you nonetheless had to purchase newer ones to be used on the service. Nicely, GeForce Now’s free once more, and it connects to Steam and Uplay. Some video games are pre-loaded in the cloud, however others you have to put in. Gameplay periods are presently restricted to 4 hours, and you may have to re-install video games every session.

Like earlier than, GeForce Now video games are rendered on an NVIDIA server and streamed to your display. Having used GeForce Now and Google’s Undertaking Stream, I can say NVIDIA nonetheless has an enormous lead. The picture is sharper, and there is nearly no lag in comparison with Google’s experimental providing. I’ll admit I do not use GeForce Now actually because I’ve a gaming PC, nevertheless it’s not likely a product for individuals like me. It won’t be for anybody, truthfully. GeForce Now’s neat, however I do not know if there is a enterprise mannequin right here. Actual recreation consoles like the Xbox One S always hover round $200 on sale, and you do not have to fret a few finicky web reference to knowledge caps. It may be robust convincing individuals to pay for no matter GeForce Now turns into, even when it is cool know-how.

Ought to you purchase it?

Sure, if you want a strong, well-supported streaming box. In case your foremost aim is to stream some Netflix to your TV, you do not want the SHIELD; simply get a $30 Chromecast and save your self some cash. If you’re taking a look at getting the Chromecast Extremely, you ought to a minimum of think about the SHIELD. It is costlier, however you get a couple of extra streaming choices (eg. Prime Video), an actual distant, a Plex server, recreation streaming, and extra.

If you bought a SHIELD three years ago, you’ve gotten a variety of worth on your cash.

I have been delighted with the help NVIDIA offered for the SHIELD over the years. It is gone by means of a number of main Android revs, acquired HDR help, Assistant, and the updates simply maintain coming. The addition of Plex server capabilities has been notably nice for me. I’ve a NAS box mounted to the SHIELD with video content material that I can stream anyplace, anytime.

The SHIELD is a superb media streamer—the 4K HDR output seems unimaginable, and controlling playback with a distant is preferable to utilizing a telephone. As a gaming system, the SHIELD is surprisingly succesful. GeForce Now with Steam integration is intriguing, however I do not know if it is one thing I might pay to make use of. I do like the course NVIDIA goes in comparison with the previous subscription mannequin, although.

If you bought a SHIELD three years ago, you’ve gotten a number of worth in your cash. It is nonetheless value shopping for the SHIELD now if you want what it presents. There is no higher method to expertise Android TV. I do know which may not sound like excessive reward with the sluggish progress of Google’s TV platform. But, Android TV in all probability would not exist anymore with out the SHIELD.

Purchase it if…

You want a strong streaming box with a distant and like the concept of enjoying video games on the similar gadget.

Do not buy it if…

You simply want one thing to play Netflix in your TV.

Purchase: NVIDIA, Amazon