Review Nvidia Shield Android TV
Android TV boxes seem to be all the rage at the moment, streaming TV and Film with ability to play Android based games, What if there was one box to rule them?
So Android TV boxes have been around a couple of years and to be honest I have not shown much interest in them. In short and not to delve into the geek world too much a Android TV box will run pretty much all apps on the Android 4.0 platform. IT can be games and apps and the difference is that it would have a HDMI out to connect to a TV and run of its own power source , It may come with a remote but most will use a mini bluetooth mouse/keyboard combo to all better control . These have been in the majority underpowered units but will deliver on the basic operation of Android.
So what is a Nvidia Shield Android TV unit. It short it is the most powerful Android TV box there is on the market today, it is aimed at the entertainment area but also as a possible gaming machine to replace XBox or PS4 units. The first version was released in MAy 2015 and as the more astute of you will be aware this is not a preview. I have the 16gb version with optional slim remote control as well as the game controller.
- SoC: Tegra X1
- CPU: 1.9 GHz 4 ARM Cortex-A57 and 4 ARM Cortex-A53 64-bit cores
- GPU: 1000 MHz Maxwell (core configuration: 256:16:16)
- RAM: 3 GB RAM
- Internal Storage: 16 GB SSD, or 500 GB HDD(pro version)
- External Storage: micro SDXC slot
- Gigabit Ethernet
- HDMI 2.0 port
- micro USB 2.0 port
- USB 3.0 ports x2: for mouse, keyboard, or even external hard drives
- IR Receiver: for TV remote
- 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, compatible with 802.11g WiFi
- Bluetooth 4.1/BLE: for headsets, other game controllers, etc.
This is a beast of a unit that when unboxed is very slim and discreet. The unit is black all round finished in a mat and gloss effect with a green alien like LED on the top. When you boot up the unit will sign into a new or existing google account when you can do on the unit or your Android phone. When the set up is finished you have connected via wireless or a wired connection you are presented with the dashboard. This is a simple interface with suggested items on the top row, the Shield Hub items on the bottom which if you live in the UK will have the BBC iPlayer installed and also has NetFlix installed natively, you then have a row for games etc and you have then the ability to hop into the Google Play Store in order to download Shield optimised games both free and paid for to play at your leisure.
The main reason for the box for me is streaming media – I have a big collection of DVD i have burned onto my PC for personal use that I stream via Plex to various rooms around the house. While the XBox deals with this uite happily the Shield using Plex is stunningly fast and works very well. All content is present in a nice easy to navigate UI with DVD cover art and is just a matter of click and play.
NetFlix also works as expected, log in and play the show you want to see, great thing here is the 4k output if you happen to have a 4k ready tv with the HDCP 2.2 that is able to run UHD content in 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. November will be my time for a 4k TV to arrive and will test this out fully.
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For the record I have a full sky package installed in my house and was testing KODI or the use of streaming TV and comparing against my installed Sky presence, So What is KODI? Well from Wikipedia – Kodi (formerly XBMC) is a free and open-source media player software application developed by the XBMC Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium. Kodi is available for multiple operating systems and hardware platforms, with a software 10-foot user interface for use with televisions and remote controls. It allows users to play and view most streaming media, such as videos, music, podcasts, and videos from the internet, as well as all common digital media files from local and network storage media
So while in a former life I have been a IT Admin and I am a Apple Certified Support Pro I know a few things and decided that I would give this a go and see what is what like. WOW – while the installation of KODI on the Android platform is child’s play you can also install the TV Addons KODI program that will give you most everything you need from all the popular areas of the web and allows you to start watching streaming TV straight away.
Most if not all sports stations I was able to stream with little effort – upon selecting a stream the app go and gathers the best location s to stream from and then presents a list, you select from the list and some streams will work immediately some load for a few seconds and a few crash out. to be honest most work with little effort and I was watching HQ/HD sports straight away. I was watching NBCSports Golf channel perfectly in surround sound with no loss in quality. Other TV channels were just as good, ITV Player and channels all worked i’ve, BBC channels and a host more.
UKTVNOW seems to be massive for watching streaming content but this was not quite working correctly and I had other things to do so may comeback to this one.
As a high end very powerful TV stream unit this box is worth the money alone, however it does not stop there.
The Nvidia Shield Android TV unit is also a very capable gaming device that while can play games natively can also stream some top end PC based games from dedicated servers based in the US and Europe directly into your home for you to play. You need a decent high speed internet connection for this to work but work it does and amazing. I was playing Batman in glorious HD with no slowdown or frame skipping, Then Dirt3 driving again with no slow down or frame skipping and as a casual gamer this gives my XBox a serious run for its money.
You can sign up to the GEForce portal and have a bunch of games ready to stream to your box in a few mins which run at a cost of €8 per month or if you have a high end PC with the Nvidia spec graphics board attached you can stream a game live from you PC to your home TV and play is over your lan connection.
What would I like to see?
Amazon Prime native App I have an account so it would be nice to run this on the box in 4k. BBCiPlayer to work from Ireland given we get BBC on Sky, that one never makes any sense to me. a Better recommendations bar as this is a bit hit and miss.
While this box for the most part can be replicated in the Roku3 the Rok3 three can not satisfy the gaming aspect. That is what really sells this for me. The ability to not only watch streaming content but also play top end PC games with no slow down or compromise. I have already spoken with a number of people and for the price I think it’s a brilliant piece of kit presented well and packaged according.
Would I recommend to a gadget dad looking to add something new to the front room hardware. 100% yes. 4.8 from 5 stars for me.