Nvidia’s Shield Android TV reviewed

You can hardly turn around these days without someone trying to sell you a device that promises to converge all of the other devices in your living room. Who can blame them? In many homes, the living room has a comfy couch, a big TV, good sound, and a coffee table (that I promise not to put my feet on).

Nvidia’s Shield Android TV is one of these supposed one-stop set-top boxes. Today, we’ll take a look at this box (which I’ll call the Shield from here on out, for brevity’s sake) and see how it stacks up against some competing products in the fight for living-room superiority.

The Shield is what Nvidia calls the flagship of Google’s Android TV initiative. Nvidia’s launch announcement says as much, so it must be true. But Android TV isn’t the only smart TV platform out there, and the competition is pretty stiff. Microsoft and Sony have included non-gaming entertainment features in their consoles for the last two generations. Dedicated streaming platforms are available from Apple, Roku, Amazon, and even Google itself in the form of the Chromecast. Home-theater PCs are another option. The Shield needs to bring something new and interesting to the table to make it a worthwhile purchase in today’s connected home. Let’s see what it can do.

Hardware

At the Shield’s heart lies Nvidia’s Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip (SoC). The Tegra X1 has eight ARM-based CPU cores: four Cortex A57s and four more Cortex A53s arranged in a big.LITTLE configuration. For graphics processing, Nvidia includes Maxwell-based GPU with 256 shader processors. (For reference, the GM107 chip that powers the GTX 750 Ti features 640 such shader processors.) The Tegra X1 is connected to 3GB of RAM that’s shared between the CPU and the graphics processor. 

The Shield can be had with two storage configurations. One comes with 16GB of flash storage (just over 11GB of which is available for apps) for $199. The other includes a 500GB mechanical hard drive, and it costs $299. Both Shields support microSD cards as big as 2TB and external hard drives with two full-sized USB 3.0 ports. USB storage is limited to media files only, though. Apps can’t be installed there. 

Nvidia packed all that power into a box that measures 8.3″ wide by 5.1″ long by 1″ thick. The enclosure has an angular design on top, with a large green LED arrangement built in. The light only turns on when the system is awake, and it can be turned off entirely should you find it annoying. The Nvidia logo on top doubles as the console’s sleep-wake button. You can also wake the console with the Nvidia button on the controller.

Along with the microSD slot and USB 3.0 ports, the Shield also has a micro-USB 2.0 port for file transfer from a PC, similar to many Android phones. The Shield attaches to a TV via HDMI 2.0, and the HDMI port supports resolutions up to 4K at 60Hz. 

The Shield connects to Wi-Fi by way of an 802.11ac adapter with a 2×2 MIMO antenna configuration. The console’s wireless controller and remote sync via Bluetooth 4.1. Universal remotes such as Logitech’s Harmony series can talk to the Shield with an infrared port. Nvidia also throws in a Gigabit Ethernet port for good measure.

In the box, you’ll find the Shield wireless controller, a 4K-ready HDMI cable, a micro-USB cable, an AC adapter, and the Shield system itself. The USB cable is suitable both for charging the controller and for connecting the Shield to a PC, though the console needs to be plugged into the wall to talk to a PC, as well. Notably absent from the box are the optional $50 media remote and $30 vertical stand.

The Shield wireless controller feels good in the hand, and its body doesn’t creak or groan under the stresses of gaming. The body has a matte texture that repels fingerprints, but the buttons, triggers, and directional pad all have glossy finishes. The controller has a microphone built in for Android TV’s built-in Google voice search, and it works well, in my experience. The controller is also fairly hefty.  Inside, there’s dual-motor force feedback and a rechargeable battery that adds to its weight. The Shield reports controller battery life through its onscreen UI, and I found the battery lasts for about two weeks of heavy use. 

The controller is about the same size as the Xbox 360 controller, which many PC gamers are probably familiar with. The Shield controller’s dual analog sticks are side-by-side, however, and it has a few more features than its Microsoft counterpart.  The controller charges through a micro-USB port around back, and private gaming sessions can be conducted using the controller’s combination headphone and microphone jack. I tested this jack with Apple’s EarPods, and everything except for the headset’s volume controls worked as expected.

That leads us to the controller’s second extra: volume controls. The Shield logo is flanked by + and – buttons for raising and lowering the volume, although this feature can be disabled in the Settings app. The quasi-triangular area above the volume buttons functions as a clickable touchpad in other Shield-family devices, but pointer support isn’t a part of the main Android TV interface here. Finally, the controller features four capacitive buttons—Home, Back, Start, and an Nvidia logo button used for pairing and waking the console from sleep.

The media remote carries over the headset jack, volume controls, and built-in microphone into a smaller, slimmer package. The remote feels more natural as a control for watching TV and movies, and this impression is enhanced by its solid, metallic body and relatively weighty feel.

 

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.

 

The Shield as streaming TV device

If you’re looking for something to watch, the Shield Android TV has some popular content sources, including Netflix and Plex, preinstalled. Several other services are available, including Hulu Plus and Sling TV. Most major sports leagues have Android TV apps, too, so subscribers can watch to their hearts’ content.

This is a good start, but it may not be enough for everybody. If you can’t find the shows or content you want, some workarounds exist. Kodi (formerly Xbox Media Center) is also available for Android TV devices, and it has several plug-ins for streaming video and music services. The Shield Android TV can also act as a Chromecast for apps that support it.

However, many high-profile video services are not compatible with Android TV. Those include Amazon Prime Video (a Fire TV exclusive), HBO Now, Showtime Anytime, and most network TV apps. (Although Nvidia announced in June that HBO Now is “coming soon” to the Shield.) Android TV also misses out on service-provider-specific apps including DISH Anywhere, DirecTV, and Xfinity TV. The sparse selection isn’t particular to the Shield, since these apps are also listed as incompatible with Google’s Nexus Player. This selection pales in comparison to the options available on streaming-only options such as the Apple TV and Roku 3—not to mention an HTPC.

Nvidia’s gaming platforms

Nvidia’s extra software is the real star of the show on the Shield. You can get your game on in three ways, ordered by distance from nearest to the TV to farthest.

  • Downloaded games: The Shield Hub has links to new and popular Android TV games, as well as “Shield-enhanced” games such as Half-Life 2 and Doom 3. This selection is curated by Nvidia, but the purchases are still made through the Google Play store using your existing payment methods. 

     

  • Grid game streaming: A portal to Nvidia’s Grid streaming service is pre-installed on  with the Shield, and as of right now, the service is free. 

     

  • Game streaming from the PC: Stream games over your local network from a GeForce-equipped PC. The PC requirements are simple: you need a GeForce GTX 650 card or newer, and the GeForce Experience software has to be installed so the Shield can connect.

Local and remote game streaming can be demanding for a wireless router. Nvidia recommends routers from many manufacturers for use with the Shield TV. Fortunately, you can try streaming with your current router and decide for yourself whether you need to upgrade. My testing was performed with the current-gen Apple AirPort Time Capsule, which has dual-band 802.11n and 802.11ac on the 5GHz band. Nvidia recommends a 30Mbps broadband Internet connection for Grid streaming at 1080p at 60 frames per second, which my 100Mbps connection easily clears. 

Native games

Given the Shield’s Maxwell-based pedigree, the system should handle pretty much every Android TV game you can throw at it. The selection of games is limited compared to the larger Google Play selection available for phones and tablets, though. This limited selection is more of a damper on graphical fidelity than the hardware, since most Android games cater to the lowest possible hardware specs.

Thanks to the Shield’s wireless controller, playing a game is a good experience. Games on Android TV require game controller support—you could try jabbing at your TV all day, of course, but it won’t respond. As I noted earlier, the Shield’s controller is well-built and responsive in use. NBA Jam may not look totally sweet, but it plays well thanks to the quality of the hardware.

Nvidia also has a growing collection of Shield-enhanced games. The list ranges from free-to-play titles including War Thunder and Zen Pinball to premium titles such as Doom 3Portal, and Half-Life 2.  Shield-enhanced games are much more detailed than standard Android fare, and they’re tuned for smooth frame rates.

Here’s a comparison between Portal running on the Shield and on the PC. First is Portal on the Shield, followed by Portal on the PC. They look pretty similar, though the Shield drops anti-aliasing in order to maintain high frame rates. Full-sized versions of these screenshots are available in the gallery for your up-close perusal.


Nvidia does have some newer fare in the works for the Shield. “Coming soon” games like Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel have been taunting me since I received the Shield, and Nvidia promises even more Shield-enhanced titles in the coming months.

 

Streaming games from your GeForce PC

The Shield promises the best of both worlds with GeForce game streaming: play PC games on your TV without paying for a full-fledged home theater PC. Nvidia’s implementation of this feature needs to work well for the Shield to be worth buying. Games have to be easy to access, they have to look as good as they do on a PC, and  the must be controllble with minimal input latency. 

If your PC meets the hardware requirements, connecting is easy. Nvidia’s GeForce Experience application automatically checks your PC’s game library for Shield-compatible software, and only the games it finds and supports will show up in the GeForce PC Games application on the Shield. GeForce Experience also detects whether you have Steam installed, so you can launch Steam in Big Picture Mode and play games that way, too.

As I noted earlier, Nvidia recommends either a 5GHz 802.11n or 802.11ac network for wireless streaming, and it also recommends a variety of Shield-compatible wireless routers. My router isn’t GameStream-certified, but the streaming app allows you to try out the experience on your existing network regardless of the router you own. If you’d rather go with a wired connection, the Shield has Gigabit Ethernet onboard. My AirPort Time Capsule with 802.11ac was positioned approximately 25 feet from the Shield during testing.

At first, I ran into an issue where the Shield stopped seeing the 5GHz network, which I could only resolve by rebooting the router. I initially thought my router was at fault, but the issue seems to have disappeared with Shield firmware version 1.3, which specifically addresses Wi-Fi connectivity issues. 

Once the network setup is sorted, you can launch the GeForce PC Games app on the Shield to get to your games. 

The GeForce Experience application on the host PC can optimize your game settings to match the resolution of the TV, and a slider in the program allows you to bias performance presets toward performance or quality. I chose to disable this feature in the Shield app, since I didn’t want it to mess with my previously-configured settings.

The resulting stream looks very nice. The Shield Hub settings allow you to force the resolution to either 1080p or 720p and to a framerate of either 60 or 30fps, though I left both settings at Auto. Those settings produced a stream that was generally free from compression artifacts and banding. Over the course of around eight hours of Grand Theft Auto V, I did notice occasional dropped frames, but that could have been the game itself and not the stream. Less intensive games I tried streamed perfectly. Below is a screenshot of Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game that is also available on Nvidia’s Grid streaming service. We’ll use this image later to compare the two streaming options.

Even if the games look great, they’re sometimes difficult to play due to input lag. Depending on the game, input latency ranged from a minor irritant to a pretty annoying problem. While streaming PC games to the Shield, I found that Batman often ran into walls, and GTA V‘s Franklin often ran into people with his car. Playing with a controller wasn’t an optimal experience—I adjusted to the lag eventually, but I was never fooled into thinking that I was playing a game natively. 

The Shield also supports keyboards and mice, so I tried a few PC games that employ these more traditional controls. Games that rely on mouse input are far more succeptible to lag—I found moving the mouse to be disorienting. Diablo III and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm were unplayable for me, and while I’m not normally a twitch-shooter gamer, Battlefield 4 on the Shield felt even less precise than the same game on the Xbox One with a controller. 

Nvidia Grid: All the hits of yesteryear

Nvidia’s Grid cloud-based game streaming service still wears the beta tag, but the service performed well for me. Results will vary based on Internet connection speeds, and the official recommendations are pretty steep: 1080p streaming requires at least 30 megabits per second. As with local network streaming, input lag was apparent, but I adjusted after playing each game for a bit.

Grid’s game selection is mostly made up of older titles, and they generally don’t require precise, twitchy movements. The service has around 55 games right now, including the first three Batman Arkham games, The Witcher 2, and several Lego mash-ups like Lego: Batman. I found Ultra Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter X Tekken to be curious selections. Fighting games generally require precise input, and I found them tough to play with Grid’s input lag factored in.

In Grid’s settings, you have some control over the stream quality: video is rendered at either 1080p or 720p, and at 60 or 30 frames per second, and Nvidia says you will need at least a 30Mbps connection for full quality. Performance was good on my 100Mbps Internet connection. When I forced quality levels to 1080p and 60fps, the stream remained smooth. 

The actual graphics quality of the stream wasn’t as good, though. In motion, it’s possible to pick out banding and occasional noise, but more distracting than either was the low level of detail. Below is a side-by-side screenshot from Batman: Arkham Asylum, with the Grid stream on the right. Compare the security guard’s uniform from the local PC stream with the Grid version, and you’ll see a marked difference in texture quality:

The camera angles are different, but the difference in quality is obvious. Pay special attention to the shoulder straps and the “Security” label on the back of the vest. Grid not only uses lower-quality textures, but it reduces other graphical details in a similar fashion. 


In the full screenshot comparison above, other quality differences are evident, such as the textures for the Joker and his restraints. Other games like Borderlands and Alan Wake are similarly degraded, and all of these games are pretty old. Playing with Grid instead of your own PC dials back the level of detail. There isn’t really any overlap between Grid’s library and the Xbox One, but I don’t think you could say that Grid’s games feature console-quality graphics. 

 

A brief, subjective look at performance

Subjectively, the Shield feels fast. The UI is smooth and responsive at all times, and it handled every game and media stream I threw at it with aplomb. Nvidia says the Shield supports 4K H.264 and H.265 playback at 60 frames per second, so my 1080p MKVs barely made it sweat.

As we often lament on The TR Podcast, mobile benchmarks don’t meet our standards for precise, meaningful results (and the Shield qualifies as a mobile device, since it runs Android 5.1). The only benchmarks available across all the platforms we’d like to test are browser-based. The Shield’s main competition is the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and those consoles can only run benchmarks in their unoptimized browsers. That results in awful performance figures that aren’t really useful to us. For instance, the Xbox One running Internet Explorer completes Mozilla’s Kraken benchmark in 88,238 milliseconds, compared to 4,468 milliseconds on the Shield. Besides, browser-based tests on game consoles are a waste of time—a smart TV box probably won’t browse the Internet much. Games are much more important.

On the other hand, Android does have a couple of 3D benchmarks, but none of them represent what you find in current Android games. Even today, Futuremark’s 3DMark Ice Storm test looks better than many Android 3D games, because those games are usually written for lowest-common-denominator hardware. As a result, it’s hard to compare the Shield with its console competition. Systems like the Xbox One and PS4 don’t have 3D game benchmarks, but I can say that the quality of the graphics on my Xbox One games is generally much higher than the quality of Shield games.

Conclusions

Taken on its own, the Shield is an interesting device. It packs quite a bit of graphics power into a small, thin box, and both the console and controller are well-built. Android TV’s interface is intuitive and fluid. Nvidia has tried to distinguish its console from the competition with novel features such as local PC streaming and Grid, and those features work well enough, even if they’re a little laggy on the input side.

I can’t recommend the Shield Android TV to a true PC enthusiast, though. Despite the extra cost involved, PC enthusiasts who want to game in the living room would undoubtedly be better served by a home theater PC. I can’t recommend the Shield to a console shopper, either. Both main console competitors have larger game libraries with better-looking graphics, and they can match or better the Shield’s media-streaming capabilities. The smoother input and higher-quality graphics from modern consoles are also well worth the extra cost over the Shield.

For $199, Nvidia’s solution is easy to use, and it has some interesting features like Grid and local PC game streaming that other consoles can’t match, at least not yet. For considerably less than an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4, you can get a console that can take advantage of Android games with controller support—something many Android users may already have in their Google Play libraries—and stream media from the major services already available on the platform.

If Google’s immature Android TV platform grows up a bit with time and more developers release games that take advantage of the Tegra X1’s graphics prowess, the Shield could become a more compelling product. We’ll be watching.

Ben Funk

Sega nerd and guitar lover

Comments closed
    • dsingh72
    • 4 years ago
    • dsingh72
    • 4 years ago
    • dsingh72
    • 4 years ago
    • dsingh72
    • 4 years ago
    • dsingh72
    • 4 years ago
    • dsingh72
    • 4 years ago
    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 years ago

    [url<]http://imgur.com/Bf561Zf[/url<] Guess this could be interesting.

    • travbrad
    • 4 years ago

    The thing is most people already have devices for netflix, youtube, etc and DLNA video streaming. Often that stuff is even built into the TV nowadays. So basically what this device adds is the ability to stream games across your network (if your PC has a Nvidia GPU) and play Android games on your TV.

    It seems to me there are better options
    -HTPC can do all that stuff without input lag, but is more expensive. Or you can build a really cheap HTPC for a similar price and do Steam streaming (with input lag)
    -Steam Link is only a few months away which will be $50 and work with AMD cards too. If the performance/input lag is similar or better, that makes the Shield TV a tough sell.

    • kilkennycat
    • 4 years ago

    FYI for Ben Funk:-

    Since last Fall, the Amazon Instant (Prime) Video App has been updated to be compatible with the latest versions of Android on non-Fire devices. I have it running on my Nexus 7 2013 with 4.4 and 5.1.1. It has to be downloaded from the Amazon store and loaded with the ‘unknown device’ security setting (updates to the app also need re-enabling of this setting). Works perfectly, no need for any Flash hacks. Try loading it on the Shield….and see what happens..

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      To me it was just easier to install Kodi and grab one of the extensions for Prime video. That’s good to know, though, thanks. Wonder why they insist on keeping it off of Android TV and my non-Nexus tablet on the Play store (the third device in the screenshot is an LG GPad X 8.3).

      [url<]http://imgur.com/kDRrNMo[/url<]

    • d0g_p00p
    • 4 years ago

    Kodi and Steam support pretty much sold me on this device. I do wish you would have tested it using the gig ethernet and see how the lag is there as I suspect anyone who would use this as a game streamer would not use wifi due to the latency issues with wireless.

    That being said, im really excited to get my unit and start screwing around with it

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<] I do wish you would have tested it using the gig ethernet and see how the lag is there as I suspect anyone who would use this as a game streamer would not use wifi due to the latency issues with wireless.[/quote<] Other reviews pretty much say exactly that. Switching to the ethernet connection cured the latency issue for them.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 4 years ago

        I figured that was the case but I expected TR to test local streaming the proper way so I tossed that out in hopes of a update on local Steam and nVidia game streaming.

        The fact it comes with a game controller and not a remote is kind of telling you what this device is for.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 4 years ago

          I felt like that wasn’t really a realistic way to test. Having it plugged in to Gig-E for most people means having it in the same room as the router, which most of the time also puts it in the same room as the PC. In that case, why not just play on the PC?

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            Most home built in the last decade have Cat5/6 ran to most rooms and most importantly to the entertainment room. It is very realistic to have an ethernet setup there now with consoles, TV’s, receivers, IPTV boxes, Bluray players, streaming players in the average home theatre setup now days.

            • sweatshopking
            • 4 years ago

            no they don’t. SOME do, but most? nope.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            Most built in the last ten year do. Maybe you should checkout where people are actually building new houses.

            • Beelzebubba9
            • 4 years ago

            For the majority of us who live in urban areas, the the chance of finding a domicile built in the last 10 years, let alone one that was wired for fiber/ethernet, is about as amusing as expecting top notch Uighur Chinese food in Des Moines at 3 AM.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            Yeah, and I live in a somewhat remote area in Texas where lots of newer homes are being built (fun fact: including on the property that used to be owned by the person that used to live in this very house, which is over 100 years old) and none of them are being wired for ethernet. I know because I personally know the owner of the construction company who is building them! (*’▽’) He’s my wife’s second cousin.

            Being wired for Ethernet is really rare in a home and only really happens when it’s purpose-built for someone who wants it. Most people still don’t even know what Ethernet is, or why they would want it. I talk to people every day who don’t know that computer networks can be wired outside of massive installations. “Oh, I can plug into my router with a wire?” Yyyep.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            Well if you want to use personal evidence.

            I live in a city and province that has been putting up housing at breakneck speeds for the last decade. Asking my two brother in laws who are electricians and my niece who is a journeyman carpenter and they all say that pretty much every house is getting wired Ethernet, even the ones in rural areas.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            That’s Canada, dude. You know the US is behind in technology. \( ゚Д゚)ノシ

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            Oh I know, especially Texas. Got quite a few clients down there and their internet options suck. Hell our phone systems switched over to fibre in the 70’s and the US telco carriers were still advertising the “great switch over to fibre would be happening soon” well into the 90’s. When 56k modems came out, most urban people were already using cable around here.

            • Theolendras
            • 4 years ago

            From personal experience, I would rather say ‘many’ home have ethernet cabling and ‘ to some room’ rather than ‘most’ and ‘most’.

            • Shambles
            • 4 years ago

            Uh oh. Sounds like i found a fellow Albertan.

            • sweatshopking
            • 4 years ago

            nope.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            Are you certain that they aren’t actually running cat5e even if they are terminating it with phone jacks? It’s very uncommon for new construction to use a single/dual twisted pair/run or similar setups these days. There’s almost no point in that and it’s modern set top boxes typically require something more like cat5 for satellite and so on.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            No, I’m not certain. I know there are no RJ45s to be found anywhere tho!

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            Yeah when we moved into our house there was no RJ45 anywhere either – average person would have no idea what to do with that 😉 There were, however, phone jacks in every room (which is total overkill for phone of course) and popping off the plates revealed that they were all centrally-wired Cat5e, which the electrician told me is standard these days.

            I promptly replaced all but one of them with RJ45 plates (very easy) and threw a switch in my garage 🙂

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            FWIW power line Ethernet works for pretty much everyone and likely completely acceptably for this as well. Certainly more reliable than WiFi.

            Point is if you care about game streaming you should plan for some form of wired connection.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            Agreed with Deanjo that more and more houses have the proper wiring available, even if you need to change a few of the terminators.

            In any case I don’t really need a review to tell me that wireless sucks and will continue to suck for anything beyond web browsing 🙂 Kidding aside, there are fundamental limitations at play with wifi that may not be overcome acceptably for this sort of application.

            • sweatshopking
            • 4 years ago

            I agree with you. most people will use wifi. it’s how the VAST majority of people get online, and a few houses having Ethernet jacks doesn’t suddenly change that.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            I don’t really disagree with you, but how many people who are savvy enough to buy this thing at all — much less buy it with the intention to use it for game streaming (a market which is maybe, what, ten thousand people in the world, tops?) — are going to use it for that on Wifi?

            I mean, I appreciate your attempts to put things in context, I really do! I just don’t think you really thought about it enough. Most of the people I talk to on a daily basis want a “compoota” for “duh innanet” and “muh face bookin” and MAYBE every few days I’ll get one who has it together enough to buy one for “microsoft” (by which they invariably mean Office, but they don’t recognize Office, only the individual programs; Word, Excel, etc. And they’ve never, ever heard of MS Access.)

            I think we in the tech enthusiast community often lose track of what the modern technology experience is like for the everyman. (‘ω’)

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            I think just about everyone. I agree with SSK’s assessment that most people will run it off of Wi-Fi, but I’m open to being wrong. I have seen nothing but anecdotes and I doubt I’ll ever truly know.

            And it may not even be fair that I didn’t use a GameStream-certified router, but I wasn’t about to replace my own. IMO, [url=http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-reviews/32158-apple-airport-extreme-80211ac-reviewed<]802.11ac with a 3x3 configuration[/url<] is far and away better than even some of the routers Nvidia recommends I completely reject Deanjo's notion that "most" new houses are wired for Ethernet. I can't find proof of this trend online and it seems like baseless speculation. OTOH, I don't discount Andrew's statement that "more" houses have it, since it only makes sense that the number of houses has increased and I'm willing to bet even a very few have Cat5e or Cat6 cables. That said it's a valid point. I have a 50-foot Ethernet cable coming from Amazon. It was $8 in the name of science.

            • Theolendras
            • 4 years ago

            Would have been nice to have both cases, since it’s an enthusiast site around here. I wouldn’t bother personnaly to stream a game without proper cabling unless it’s a game pretty much impervious to latency.

      • iatacs19
      • 4 years ago

      I use mine mainly as a media playback device with Kodi. It runs very well over wired ethernet. It streams 1080p MKVs without issues and can passthrough most of the audio codecs.
      I tried some of the games for curiosity’s sake and they were lag free on ethernet, although I do have a 150Mbps connection and wired 1GigE network.
      Overall, it’s like the jack of all trades but master of none. I think with time it will get even better as a media player, but I doubt it will ever replace my PS4 or Xbox One.

    • Milo Burke
    • 4 years ago

    Something I didn’t mention on the podcast is that my Fire TV Stick sometimes freezes, sometimes loses wireless connection, and sometimes streams at lower resolution than it has any right to given my internet speed. I wonder if it has buggy firmware or thermal issues.

    I’m going to trade Fire TV Sticks with my girlfriend for a week or two: see if she gets issues and mine are resolved. If so, maybe mine is just a lemon.

    But I love the functionality, and I love the nifty little remote. I think the Shield Android TV would offer a much more polished experience in every way, software and hardware, but I’m just not willing to pay the premium price for it when I pre-ordered my Fire TV Stick for $19.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      If you’re just looking for a better TV experience, I’d suggest looking at the Nexus Player or even ChromeCast depending on needs. Both more expensive than the Fire TV Stick of course, but there’s absolutely no need to get a Shield unless you care about gaming on the device (it’s overkill for game streaming too).

        • Deanjo
        • 4 years ago

        Unless you want 4k or an easily hackable system.

          • Andrew Lauritzen
          • 4 years ago

          Agreed on 4k. Not sure how I’d expect the Shield to be more hackable than any other Android device though…

          That said if your goal is 4k and “hackability”, a cheap PC is going to serve you way better.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            It has a complete SDK for it. You can even install linux on it if you wish since it is not a locked down device.

            For media playback it is pretty dang hard to beat the Android TV. Other set top boxes and even bay trail would be not offered or would stuggle a lot with are:

            3:2 pulldown all the way up to 4k
            h265/vp9 decoding
            hdmi-cec controls
            24-bit 192kHz audio
            10-bit or HDR video

            If you want just a plain old 1080p 8-bit h264 then sure there are a lot of options for a lot less. There are not however a lot of set top boxes, budget pc’s (or even dedicated graphics cards), or consoles that can match the playback capabilities of the Android TV.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            > It has a complete SDK for it. You can even install linux on it if you wish since it is not a locked down device.

            The SDK is just for app development stuff though right? i.e. desktop OpenGL and so on. If that’s what you mean by”hackable” it kind of pales in comparison to a PC though, although I’ll give points for providing anything 🙂

            Regarding Linux, where would you get GPU drivers for it? Especially now that NVIDIA is locking down their firmware/loaders and making open source Linux drivers impossible? You can get a binary driver from here (https://developer.nvidia.com/shield-open-source), but I imagine that’s only going to work with AOS-based operating systems, right?

            Like I said, agreed on the 4k stuff.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]The SDK is just for app development stuff though right? i.e. desktop OpenGL and so on. If that's what you mean by"hackable" it kind of pales in comparison to a PC though, although I'll give points for providing anything 🙂 [/quote<] No, everything you need to install linux on it is available. For the full featured linux support right now, the blob is needed however as far as the open source video driver goes, Nvidia has been EXTREMELY active in getting that into the kernel. In fact it is probably the most aggressively open source 3d driver in development for a while now. [url<]https://github.com/torvalds/linux/tree/master/drivers/gpu/drm/tegra[/url<]

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            That’s good to hear they are being more open source friendly on the Tegra side of the fence given their apparent reversal in direction on the desktop side. Hope that continues!

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 4 years ago

    love the industrial design of the box though. It sure looks good.

      • UberGerbil
      • 4 years ago

      But $30 for that stand?

    • Luminair
    • 4 years ago

    > I can’t recommend the Shield Android TV to a true PC enthusiast, though. Despite the extra cost involved, PC enthusiasts who want to game in the living room would undoubtedly be better served by a home theater PC.

    But who is going to duplicate their thousand-dollar gaming computer in two places when they can buy a $200 console to the stream games?

    A couple GTX Titans here, a couple GTX Titans there… now that’s a true PC enthusiast!

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      You can stream games with a sub-$200 mini-PC which will run Windows and do a WHOLE LOT MORE than just stream games. Even a $99 Intel Compute Stick could probably handle it (although I’m less certain about that.)

      But for sure, a little ZOTAC or ECS LIVA box, or one of those cheapie Foxconn jobs will handle it. (´・ω・`) I don’t know why you would even consider this thing. I guess if you’re REALLY into NVIDIA products, or if you REALLY like the industrial design.

        • Luminair
        • 4 years ago

        I’ve tried other ways to stream, and only NVIDIA SHIELD was flawless for me. I did however plug it into the network, unlike the reviewer for techreport.

        When it doesn’t work with a game, it doesn’t work at all. But when it works, it works really well!

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        What’s the latency like on PC to PC streaming though? With these dedicated boxes they put work into optimizing the whole stack for latency.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      If you’re happy with the streaming experience, then by all means go for it. This is the box (or one of a whole category of boxes) for you. I’m finding the streaming experience kind of hard to take. You adjust but you’re never able to play as well as you can without the stream’s input latency.

      BTW you don’t need “a couple GTX Titans” to drive a 1080p display in your living room. When I upgrade to Skylake later this year, I’m thinking of using my Ivy Bridge setup on the TV and move the Shield to a different room. I’d have to buy a case, PSU, and probably a 4GB GTX 960.

        • djayjp
        • 4 years ago

        I’ve also noticed people on forums complaining about lag, but it was actually due to their TV’s input latency. Try putting it in “game mode” (Sony TVs supposedly excel at this) along with Ethernet connection of course (and make sure proper QoS priority is given to the shield on the router– why GameStream ready routers are sold as they are optimized out of the box).

          • derFunkenstein
          • 4 years ago

          There’s a discernible difference between games played natively on the device and those that are streamed. There’s also an obvious difference between streamed games and the Xbox One on the same tv.

          I did buy a 50′ Ethernet cable and I’ve been experimenting. I have some 240fps video that illustrates the difference between a bunch of scenarios. On my PC attached to the tv it’s between two and three frames of latency. That works out to 8-12ms, which gives us a baseline. It only goes up from there.

            • djayjp
            • 4 years ago

            I look forward to the results! Grid, other than the odd hitch (don’t have gamestream router), works perfectly and is actually fully indiscernible to running locally to me (whether lag or basic video quality)!

    • Reedbeta
    • 4 years ago

    HBO Now is on the Google Play Store already. Does it still not work with Android TV?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      Nope.

      [url<]http://imgur.com/TIwcKBZ[/url<] I just took that screenshot now.

    • auxy
    • 4 years ago

    Why do they keep making these? (‘ω’;)

    Who are they selling them to? (;’ω’)

    Why would you want one of these?! \( ゚Д゚)ノ

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      Die-hard fanboys and people interested in electronic novelties.

      Realistically speaking, the Shield family never stood a chance against Sony and Nintendo in the portable console market.

      • jihadjoe
      • 4 years ago

      I actually find the game streaming feature quite compelling. Being able to stream my PC’s Steam library to the living room when friends come over is pretty cool.

        • auxy
        • 4 years ago

        But you can do that with any PC. Buy a $169 mini-PC with a baytrail and it’ll be faster, more capable, upgradeable (no worries about 16GB internal flash being filled up!), and generally just better.

        Or even buy an Intel Compute Stick and throw SteamOS on it. Hehe.

        This is my point; why would you buy this? You get a closed, unupgradeable box with an unusual hardware configuration with an uncertain future (Tegra driver updates are basically nonexistent) and less functionality. It’s just kind of a dumb product.

        And all of these little Android game console things are like this. I mean, at least with a real game console like the PS4 or Xbox One (or even the Wii U) you get exclusive games with a pretty good user experience, even if they’re worse than a gaming PC. (´・ω・`)

        With one of these things you get poor hardware support, poor software support, questionable hardware value (perf/watt on Tegra is worse — probably significantly — than recent Intel chips), and non-standard or non-upgradeable stuff everywhere. What’s the point?

        I’d have a lot less problem with this device if they’d stuck a SATA port on it somewhere. Or if it wasn’t wacky ARM stuff. Basically I just want it to be an HTPC. lol. (*´∀`*)

          • Deanjo
          • 4 years ago

          [quote<]But you can do that with any PC. Buy a $169 mini-PC with a baytrail and it'll be faster, more capable, upgradeable (no worries about 16GB internal flash being filled up!), and generally just better.[/quote<] You are giving up a lot by going that route for streaming media (plus you need to buy a Windows license, case, powersupply, memory etc). 4k streaming - nope Digital surround sound - not likely as most sites only stream stereo when PC is detected h265 decoding support - nope. Gbit ethernet (likely not) USB 3 - nope HDMI-CEC - nope [quote<]This is my point; why would you buy this? You get a closed, unupgradeable box with an unusual hardware configuration with an uncertain future (Tegra driver updates are basically nonexistent) and less functionality. It's just kind of a dumb product.[/quote<] Nope, the box is not closed. In fact it is very hacker friendly and the Tegra drivers have been pretty good with providing updates. [url<]https://developer.nvidia.com/shield-open-source[/url<] [quote<]With one of these things you get poor hardware support, poor software support, questionable hardware value (perf/watt on Tegra is worse -- probably significantly -- than recent Intel chips), and non-standard or non-upgradeable stuff everywhere. What's the point?[/quote<] Install linux if you want. Nothing is stopping you. The hardware support for tegra is very good. Graphics wise it also blows the doors off of baytrail which you are not considering in your perf/watt comparison. [quote<]I'd have a lot less problem with this device if they'd stuck a SATA port on it somewhere. Or if it wasn't wacky ARM stuff. Basically I just want it to be an HTPC.[/quote<] Doesn't need a SATA port. Use a nas or any other networked solution. I've been using a Jetson TK1 DevKit which is less capable than a Shield TV processor wise as a HTPC for a while now running XBMC on linux (which is also installable on the Shield TV since it is not a locked down system like PS/Xbox/Nintendo). It plays all my media fine, it streams fine, it schedules my recordings fine (capture card on one of my PC's).

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            [quote=”Deanjo”<]You are giving up a lot by going that route for streaming media (plus you need to buy a Windows license, case, powersupply, memory etc).[/quote<]Really? You need to buy a Windows license, case, power supply, and memory for [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883105002<]this?[/url<] Oh look, it has HDMI 1.4, which means it CAN do 4K streaming (albeit in 30Hz, but does the Shield thing up there have HDMI 2.0?) Let's look at your other remarks: [quote="Deanjo"<]Digital surround sound - not likely as most sites only stream stereo when PC is detected[/quote<]Who cares what 'most sites only stream'? Wouldn't you be playing local (including LAN as 'local', "on-site") media anyway? That's obviously the superior option. I don't have the BANDWIDTH to stream HD video all the time.[quote="Deanjo"<]h265 decoding support - nope.[/quote<]Sure. Do it on the CPU. I'm sure this thing can decode 720p h.265 on the CPU; maybe even 1080p. I'm sure h.265 has different 'profiles' just like h.264, but I haven't messed with it.[quote="Deanjo"<]Gbit ethernet (likely not)[/quote<]It has GbE.[quote="Deanjo"<]USB 3 - nope[/quote<]Yep, it has USB 3.[quote="Deanjo"<]HDMI-CEC - nope[/quote<]Fair enough, except ... who uses this? I've never heard of anyone using it. Also I'm not really convinced that this thing DOESN'T support HDMI-CEC. [quote="Deanjo"<]Nope, the box is not closed. In fact it is very hacker friendly and the Tegra drivers have been pretty good with providing updates.[/quote<]I see a tiny handful of updates there, sure, so maybe things have improved. They sure didn't support the old Tegra 2 that way. [quote="Deanjo"<]Install linux if you want. Nothing is stopping you. The hardware support for tegra is very good. Graphics wise it also blows the doors off of baytrail which you are not considering in your perf/watt comparison.[/quote<]I'm not convinced. Maybe things HAVE improved since the Tegra2 days, but I still doubt these devices are anywhere near well-supported as Wintel hardware, and they're more expensive for functionality (the fast integrated graphics) of questionable use given the limited software support. Nevermind the fact that using Linux even on an older Intel desktop is not exactly "flawless", even in 2015. [quote="Deanjo"<]Doesn't need a SATA port. Use a nas or any other networked solution. I've been using a Jetson TK1 DevKit which is less capable than a Shield TV processor wise as a HTPC for a while now running XBMC on linux (which is also installable on the Shield TV since it is not a locked down system like PS/Xbox/Nintendo). It plays all my media fine, it streams fine, it schedules my recordings fine (capture card on one of my PC's).[/quote<]Yeah, that's real nice for playing back media. What about if you want to install applications and actually use the fancy integrated graphics in this thing? You get 16GB, and good luck when it's full? That's what I was talking about. Obviously media storage can be networked; you'd never put a movie or something on the internal storage of a device like this. As derFunk remarked, you can't keep applications from installing some or all of themselves to the internal storage, so eventually (and it seems like, pretty quickly) you're going to end up with a full machine. A SATA port would go a long way toward alleviating that. Even an M.2 slot, or SOMETHING. Some kind of expandable storage that isn't shitty SD cards.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]Let's look at your other remarks: Deanjo wrote: Digital surround sound - not likely as most sites only stream stereo when PC is detected Who cares what 'most sites only stream'? Wouldn't you be playing local (including LAN as 'local', "on-site") media anyway? That's obviously the superior option. I don't have the BANDWIDTH to stream HD video all the time.[/quote<] FYI, online streaming is the most popular way of playing media now days. This trend has been going on for years. Physical media playback is dying. [quote<]Deanjo wrote: h265 decoding support - nope. Sure. Do it on the CPU. I'm sure this thing can decode 720p h.265 on the CPU; maybe even 1080p. I'm sure h.265 has different 'profiles' just like h.264, but I haven't messed with it. [/quote<] Nope [url<]http://www.cnx-software.com/2015/01/31/kodi-14-video-playback-on-intel-atom-z3735f-computers-running-windows-8-1/[/url<] [quote<]Deanjo wrote: Gbit ethernet (likely not) It has GbE. [/quote<] Not really, the Gbit connection is to the USB2 hub. Max throughput is limited to 30 MB/s [quote<]HDMI-CEC - nope Fair enough, except ... who uses this? I've never heard of anyone using it. Also I'm not really convinced that this thing DOESN'T support HDMI-CEC. [/quote<] No x86 video carries HDMI-CEC, not from nvidia, not from intel, not from AMD. TON's of home theatre enthusiast use it for switching instead of the old IR blaster which is finicky on the best of days. That is the reason why products like this [url<]https://www.pulse-eight.com/p/104/usb-hdmi-cec-adapter[/url<] came about. [quote<]Deanjo wrote: Nope, the box is not closed. In fact it is very hacker friendly and the Tegra drivers have been pretty good with providing updates. I see a tiny handful of updates there, sure, so maybe things have improved. They sure didn't support the old Tegra 2 that way.[/quote<] Tegra 2 is pretty much all handled by the open source driver in the linux kernel now days. Essentially you are getting an update every linux kernel upgrade. [quote<]I'm not convinced. Maybe things HAVE improved since the Tegra2 days, but I still doubt these devices are anywhere near well-supported as Wintel hardware, and they're more expensive for functionality (the fast integrated graphics) of questionable use given the limited software support. Nevermind the fact that using Linux even on an older Intel desktop is not exactly "flawless", even in 2015.[/quote<] Lol, you have never ventured into the ARM arena with linux I can tell by holding onto your myths about support. ARM is just as well supported as x86 now days and has been for years. [quote<] Yeah, that's real nice for playing back media. What about if you want to install applications and actually use the fancy integrated graphics in this thing? You get 16GB, and good luck when it's full? That's what I was talking about. Obviously media storage can be networked; you'd never put a movie or something on the internal storage of a device like this. [/quote<] Slap an SDCard or an external drive into the REAL USB 3 port. The Android TV allows for offloading those apps onto external storage.

            • NoOne ButMe
            • 4 years ago

            Tegra support is a mess. [url<]http://www.phonearena.com/news/HTC-blames-Nvidia-for-no-update-to-KitKat-on-One-X-exploring-update-options-now_id52667[/url<] I've seen nothing apart from first party devices from Nvidia that support Tegra support not being a mess. Now, the SHIELD console is a first party product, so support shouldn't be an issue. Also, Android doesn't let you move everything of the internal. Addressed in the article. If the $200 version came with a connector for a HDD (from what I have heard, only the "pay us $100 for a 500GB HDD!" version does) AND than had an option to buy it for $150 without controller/remote (pair/plug in 360 pad for most people) maybe it would be viable. For $200 with limited internal storage (due to Android being crippled) or an insane $300 for a 500GB HDD (after which you can replace with anything up to [unknown] size.)

    • albundy
    • 4 years ago

    Can the controller be re-purposed or connect via bluetooth to a pc? If so, I’d be interested if they sold it separately, otherwise that stand would make a great letter opener!

      • Applecrusher
      • 4 years ago

      Only via a cable, and then only the inputs work, the mic and such are not available.
      I have the Shield Tablet and was heavily disappointed when I found out I couldn’t use it on my PC as well.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      I tried quickly before the podcast and was unsuccessful in getting it to show up in Win10. I have a cheap USB BT LE 4.1 adapter, so maybe it’s just the adapter but I doubt it. I’d get a wireless Xbox 360 controller since they’re like $15 cheaper with the receiver on Amazon.

    • swaaye
    • 4 years ago

    I’m not sure that I’m interested in buying this thing, but I definitely find it fascinating that NV is trying little by little to crash the Sony / Nintendo / MS party. Hell I might want to own one just because it’s a daring little effort. Being based on Android makes it more hackable too, meaning I’m sure there will be interesting homebrew for it.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      Nah, the Shield has never been about going against the incumbents in the console market.

      It is nothing more than proof of concept for Nvidia’s latest portable platforms.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        I am almost 100% positive they want these things to make a profit.

          • Voldenuit
          • 4 years ago

          Yeah, especially since nv has more or less dropped out of the phone race.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            Yah, this and the other Shield devices are just about recouping the R&D costs spent on the mostly failed Tegra division. (‘ω’)

            • Ninjitsu
            • 4 years ago

            Isn’t Tegra doing well with automobiles, though?

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            Supposedly, yeah. Nvidia seems committed to the Tegra line for the long haul, and I hope they keep at it.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            I did say ‘mostly’. (‘ω’)

            I’d sure like to have a Tegra in my car instead of the crappy MIPS thing in there now.

            [sub<][i<]Of course, I'd rather just have an Atom x5 or something. Hehe.[/sub<][/i<]

          • Alexko
          • 4 years ago

          They certainly want to, but that doesn’t mean they expect it to happen.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]YOU CAN HARDLY TURN around these days without someone trying to sell you a device that promises to converge all of the other devices in your living room.[/quote<] Ok there Funky. Ima fact-check you. I just spun around three times and nobody tried to sell me that device, although I think I might puke now.

      • yogibbear
      • 4 years ago

      Woah hold it there punk before you spin around once more! My mother earn’s $6472.16/week working from home selling everyone a device that promises to converge all of the other devices in everyone’s living rooms. She’ll sell you it for only $200 and the rights to all the genes in your body! Please sign here and send your payment to I_OWN_YOU@mydarksecret.com

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