Getting cozy with Android TV
As a premium Android TV device, the Shield runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with version 1.3 of Nvidia’s firmware. For the most part, it’s the stock Android TV experience with some Nvidia-specific features baked in.
Setup is easy. Once you connect to Wi-Fi using the controller and on-screen keyboard, the Shield will prompt you to enter a short URL on a smartphone or PC. If you do so, you can log into your Google account on that device, which can then log into Google on the Shield, saving you the trouble of typing with a controller. This step is optional, because you can also use the controller to log in directly on the Shield and complete the setup process locally.
Results from Google's recommendation engine dominate the home screen. These links can come from any video service, but they seem to heavily favor YouTube and Google Play Video. Below the recommendations are Nvidia's built-in features and any installed apps and games, as well as links to the console's settings pages. The interface is easy to navigate with the controller: use the directional pad to select an item, and press the A button to open it.
A microphone icon in the upper left connects you to Google voice search. You can ask Google just about anything, including the weather forecast or pointers on something to watch. The search functionality doesn't have any predictive results like the Google Now application on other Android devices, however.
If the lack of an in-box remote wasn’t enough of a clue, Nvidia really wants you to play games on the Shield. The Shield Hub presents three different ways to get your fix: locally installed games, local network streaming from a GeForce-equipped PC, and Internet streaming by way of Nvidia's Grid streaming service.
Streaming games to Twitch is built right into the Shield, too. Log into your Twitch account, and you can begin streaming your session at the press of a button. By default, Twitch doesn't use the microphone in the controller, so you don’t have to worry about your intimate life details being unintentionally streamed over the Internet. Probably.
One other useful feature Nvidia included in the Shield firmware is the ability to move installed applications to microSD storage. Like Android phones with microSD slots, you can dig into the console's settings, select an application, and move it to the microSD card. The Shield has the ability to limit app installs to a specific percentage of the card's capacity, and it can move apps automatically every time you install or update one.
For the most part, this feature is a success. The Shield moves a good portion of many apps out of main storage and onto the card, making the 16GB version more viable. However, similar to Android phones that allow apps to be moved, the Shield can't store everything on the card.
What can be put on the microSD card and what can’t seems to be application-dependent. NBA Jam left 300MB of itself sitting on the internal flash, while War Thunder has nearly 3.5GB of assets that cannot be moved to the microSD card. Grand Theft Auto III can move all of its 1.1GB of data to the card, and Portal can shift approximately 2.3GB of data onto removable storage. This capability is useful, but the inconsistent interactions between large games and removable storage is frustrating. It's difficult to predict how far the 16GB Shield's internal storage will go even when it's paired with a microSD card, and that's a liability for a device that's trying to be a game console.
One other note about external storage: as of Shield firmware version 1.3, the device has an issue with full read and write access to both SD cards and USB drives. According to a post on the Shield forums, the Android TV platform lacks a module to allow file manager applications such as ES File Explorer to move to or delete files from external storage. Nvidia has informed us that this problem will be resolved in the next over-the-air update.
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