NVIDIA announced the successor to their uber-powerful Android TV-based Shield TV this past CES and now the unit is already in stores. It’s not a sea change over the original unit, but instead focuses on refining what was already an amazingly versatile set-top box.
Although NVIDIA is aiming the device at gamers, this is easily one of, if not the best all-around streaming box on the market with hardware that puts other (and admittedly cheaper) boxes ranging from Rokus to innumerable Android TV devices to shame. Priced at $199.99 for the 16GB version (and later, a $299.99 500GB “Pro” version), it’s a hefty price considering most competitors cost between $50 and $100, but there’s a lot to like.
Here are the five other reasons we’re excited about adding the new SHIELD TV to our TV ecosystem.
Oddly, the hardware isn’t really upgraded since the original. Instead, NVIDIA has shrunk and refined the unit for the most part, although the lack of a micro SD card slot is disappointing. The Shield now includes the remote (previously a $50 extra) along with the redesigned lighter controller.
Both controllers have microphones for using the substantial voice command functionality of the Shield. The simple to use remote is great for normal viewing and the new controller is smaller and more comfortable than before, while still including a headphone jack.
Especially appealing for PC gamers with GeForce video cards, the Shield has always let you stream games from your PC to your TV, and it’s worked better and more reliably than the Steam boxes we’ve seen. Now, the actual Steam app is available on the Shield, which helps cement the unit’s status as an incredible PC game streaming box with all the simplicity of Steam’s interface. NVIDIA also has their subscription PC game streaming service, GeForce Now, which runs amazing well if your internet connection is decent and lets you play high-performance PC games without any additional hardware.
Finally, there’s the NVIDIA Games interface overhaul. A much more refined interface brings all your gaming content together in a logical fashion. One of the big issues with the original Android TV user interface was clutter. Now, the Shield TV will put all your games in one place—the NVIDIA Games app—so you don’t have to go to different places to play Android, PC, and Shield-specific titles.
While not functional yet, this is a big addition allowing users to take advantage of the same Google Assistant as the Google Home and Pixel phones. This will not only allow easy access to your Google media collection, but integrate with smart home devices as well, allowing the Shield TV to be used like a smart home hub. Visual cards as seen on your Android phone will be on your TV now and you can ask it all the goofy and random questions you want.
It’s also a great way to use the power of Google to find new content to suit your mood—search for comedies, whittle down the choices Google throws at you through continued voice commands, and then have the box stream it. At least, that’s the theory. The Shield TV will also support Google Photos in up to 4K and with full voice command utilization.
With an added USB dongle (they claim it will under $50 when it hits later this year), the Shield TV can become an actual Smartthings hub, giving it compatibility with hundreds of smart home devices and apps. Better yet, the company announced the NVIDIA Spot. This is a hands-free “ambient” assistant that you can plug in anywhere in your house and, by wirelessly using the Shield TV, acts as a voice controlled assistant much like Google Home and Amazon Echo.
The Shield TV will finally include Amazon Prime Video and in 4K HDR—which NVIDIA says not even Amazon’s own Fire TV devices support. This has been a huge issue for Android TV devices in general, preventing the original Shield from being the end-all, be-all streamer.
With Amazon’s powerhouse original content and impressive range of Prime content, it’s fast becoming a real competitor to Netflix. Now, you can easily have all your cake and eat it too. NVIDIA has also announced YouTube 360 video support is coming soon, which is kind of cool.
NVIDIA isn’t forgetting original Shield TV owners. An upcoming system update will allow users of the first Shield to get most, if not all of the same functionality. For that reason, current owners need not feel the urge to run out and upgrade, which is a nice change of pace.
The Shield TV is a set top box trying to be all things to a lot of people. It’s an impressive choice for gamers (especially PC and Android-based gamers), but it’s also a top of the line 4K HDR streamer focused on providing the best picture and sound quality available.