The Nvidia SHIELD TV is a Gaming Console in Disguise [Review]

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Home entertainment has changed completely and media streaming is here. It’s more popular than ever and cheaper than cable. Everybody wants in and everyone has their take on a streaming device and what it should offer. So when Nvidia jumped into the mix, right away you might think, “Another device to watch Netflix and Hulu on?” Technically, yes. Nvidia however, would beg to differ.

Nvidia now has SHIELD TV. It’s a multi-functional media streaming device that offers everything you would expect from a streaming device plus the added feature of high end gaming not seen on really any other streaming device on the market today. I’ve been playing around with it and I really like it a lot.

Specs and Function

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Nvidia is known for making powerful GPU’s so one can only expect that the SHIELD TV is going to have some guts. The SHIELD is a beast inside that slim and sleek frame. It needs to be for all that gaming you’re going to be doing on it.

The SHIELD is packing an NVIDIA® Tegra® X1 processor with a 256-core GPU and 3 GB RAM, 4K ready while supporting video and gameplay at 30 and 60fps, HDMI, 16gb and 500gb of storage, 802.11ac WiFi at 2.4 and 5GHz, USB 3.0, expandable micro SD card slot and keyboard and mouse support. You get all this while running Android 5.1 Lollipop with Android TV. Those are some serious specs but specs alone do not make a device. The overall experience and functionality does and for the most part the SHIELD TV does a pretty good job of giving you a solid experience but it could be better.

Software

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The software on the SHIELD is not bad at all but it leaves much to be desired. Now, before I get into the issues with the SHIELD software, please know that these issues are not related to the SHIELD device itself but in fact an issue with Google and the software hub that the SHIELD uses. It’s pretty limited. In a nutshell you’re restricted to doing the same things you can do on your phone but in the form of the SHIELD and on your TV. I expected it to be a lot more expansive but the offerings are pretty standard. You get Netflix, Hulu, and host of other downloadable apps that you can add to the SHIELD through the Google Play store but it’s hard to see what the differences are between this and your phone or tablet and just buying a Chromecast.

20151019_231213Another problem is that there isn’t a version of Chrome optimized for the SHIELD. I found this to be a bit disappointing and surprising, especially for an Android device. Despite my disappointment I did do a bit of searching and after awhile I was able to find a browser or two but they weren’t very intuitive or helpful and it kinda sucked that I don’t have a viable browser considering the SHIELD has keyboard and mouse support. Strange.

There is a bright spot with the software that I absolutely loved and that was the voice integration that you get if you have the SHIELD remote. If you’re willing to pay the $49 for the remote then you get to use Google Now for search and commands which worked really well for most tasks. It was easy getting the weather, searching YouTube and in general getting answers to my questions same as on your phone but when I asked it to perform certain tasks like pulling up my calendar or opening up an app that’s where I ran into some hiccups and Google Now was all over the place. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I didn’t expect it to be and I was fine with it. I also fully expect that there will be some pending updates in the future that correct these things. The good thing about software issues is that there software patches that can correct problems and change the experience. The SHIELD needs some work with the general software in order for it be more appealing.

Gaming, SHIELD Games and GeForce Now

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Gaming on the SHIELD was a lot of fun. It’s what makes spending $199 on this device make so much sense. It’s gamer galore with the SHIELD and this where you get a full understanding of the power and potential of this machine. I had wide variety of games to choose from. Whether it was free or paid, I had a lot of options for my gaming needs. I’ll explain how the gaming goes on the SHIELD.

20151019_231558The SHIELD has two apps that are exclusively for gaming which are SHIELD games and GeForce now. Why two apps you may ask? It’s because of the type of games that will be available to you. We’ll start with GeForce Now. GeForce Now is Nvidia’s subscription based service that they just launched recently which basically offers you unlimited gaming at $7.99 a month. You have an offering of games that you can play right away as much as you want and some full length titles that you can actually buy as well like the Witcher 3 and Resident Evil at full price.

Even though every game within the service wasn’t free I still was able to play Batman Arkham City, Borderlands, The Walking Dead, The Lego games, Ultra SF IV, Dead Island and some other notables. It was a pretty decent number of games for $8 bucks. The only problem is, once you go over the list as a whole you realize that there aren’t that many games to choose from within your membership and there aren’t even really that many games to buy. What’s should be noted is that the service is still very new so I won’t be too critical because it’s still a work in progress and I imagine that as time goes on the list will get better and more and more games will be added.

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SHIELD games app is basically the Google Play Store “GAMES” section removed from the store and just set aside for the native SHIELD hub. Most of the games here are inexpensive and some free but these games are more like the optimized phone titles ported over for TV resolution. Not much more to it than that but it’s here that you’ll get games like RipTide, Asphalt 8, Pac-Man, and many of the other super fun games that we play on our phones. Gaming is gaming and it doesn’t have to be high res and high FPS to be fun, that’s what SHIELD games is.

20151026_113853SHIELD TV is reminiscent of a console. If you ask me IT IS if you think about it from a gaming perspective. Nvidia packed this small device with the processing power and a GPU that can rival a Playstation 4 or an Xbox ONE (call me crazy if you want). As long as your internet service allows it, you’ll be playing high frame rate and graphically advanced games. The Batman series of games that you can play should tell you what this machine can do. The best part is, Nvidia isn’t done adding games. Imagine what you can play in the near future and that’s exciting.

Should I buy the Nvidia SHIELD TV?

The SHIELD TV is great device no questions about it. The thing is, it needs minor work. Having Netflix, Hulu and some streaming apps is cool but it doesn’t separate the SHIELD TV from any other streaming device out there. Chrome needs to be added and Google Now needs some minor tweaking and then the SHIELD TV gets that much better. Like I said earlier, these are problems that a simple software update can fix and I expect that will happen so i’ll be patient. As far as the gaming element goes, the SHIELD kicks ass. You get to play some great high end games on a small but powerful little device. There aren’t enough games just yet but just like that needed software update it will come but I can tell you the SHIELD TV is impressive indeed.

The only major drawback with the SHIELD is that it’s a little bit pricey especially for the Pro version at $299 and if you add the stand and the remote you’re staring $400 in the face. Hard to justify that when you have Xbox One and PS4 out there. With that being said, at least for now the SHIELD TV is a secondary gaming device meaning you should have a PS4 or Xbox and then a SHIELD. The SHIELD TV gives you a great glimpse into the future of gaming and I would recommend that anyone pick one up. I do use it everyday and I love it. The more I use and play games I realize that the SHIELD TV is a gaming console in disguise.

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Mike Bitter is a born gadget head and true lover of technology. It all started with computer classes at age 10 and his first PC the Tandy 1000. From then on he found his love and he became a gamer and a PC builder and has not stopped since. He specializes in hardware, troubleshooting and custom PC building. He’s known as the “fixer” amongst his friends whenever there is a problem with a PC or a Mac. He’s also fully immersed in all things that pertain to the world of computers and gaming. He's an 80's baby and he grew up watching technology evolve from the NES to PS4 and from the Commodore 64 to the iMac. He has a unique and minimalist perspective on technology and is here to help the average person to understand technology today.