A Review of the Nvidia Shield 4K Android TV Box
The latest piece of hardware to come with the Shield brand name attached to it is definitely a unique third contender after the two previous Shield devices that came out before it.
For one thing, the new Shield device is not portable like its predecessors. Instead, this newest version is more of an OTT (over-the-top) media streaming box with Android TV, which it uses to offer access to all sorts of programming, mobile apps and gaming options that have been designed for big screens. Furthermore, as a Nividia device, the latest Shield delivers one powerful gaming experience loaded with features that give this streaming toy capabilities as good as or in some ways even better than those of some of the best gaming consoles, thanks partly to its specs and partly due to access to Nvidia services.
Most importantly of all as far as those specs go, the Shield comes loaded with the power of outputting 4K resolution, a big win for gamers who want to move onto the next generations of display technology with their TVs and possibly their 4k PC monitors down the road.
The Shield features what could definitely be called a sleek, elegant design which is a major winner despite the device being larger and “bulkier” than any of its predecessors.
In fact, in comparison to many other consoles, against which the Shield should really be compared, this model is in fact more like a miniaturized console and thus saves on the bulk found in large media streaming devices and other name brand gaming platforms. Furthermore, there is an option stand that lets the Shield be placed vertically on the floor or a desktop instead of sitting flat, as is also possible.
Overall, the flashy, aggressive looking angles of this slim black rectangular box make it look not only cool but also downright edgy and the Shield’s slimness adds to this elegantly agile appearance. In fact, the Shield is much, much smaller than the Xbox One or PS4 could hope to be, while still being a better performer at delivering graphics thanks to its 4K output capacities.
On the other hand, the Shield, while much smaller than most game consoles is still quite a bit bigger than select streaming media devices like the Apple TV OTT box or the Roku Player. Nonetheless, almost anybody should have a really easy time of fitting this compact but powerful little gaming/streaming media console into almost any small studio, room or entertainment space.
4.2 - 616 Reviews
Processor: Nvidia Tegra X1 processor with 256-core GPU and 3GB RAM
Resolution: 4K ultra HD at 3840 x 2160 pixels
Audio: 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound via HDMI
Storage: 16GB with 500GB upgrade option
Connectivity: WiFi (802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.1, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, MicroSD
Operating System: Android 5.1 with Android TV and Google Cast
Price: $199.99 for base version, $299.99 for 500GB upgrade
For starters, right off the bat, the Shield offers the powerful bonus feature of being able to deliver some serious 4K video output at a smooth, fast 60 frames per second. This alone makes the device a powerful contender to many of the best media players and other OTT devices and even superior to some of the best gaming consoles out there.
Next, the Shield runs on Android TV over top of an Android 5.1 operating system. This means a certain superficial and interactive similarity to other Android TV devices like the Google Nexus Player. However, under this similarity, there are also a lot of differences to be found. Thanks to native Nvidia technology, the Shield really puts emphasis on the gaming aspect of its capacities and this is something that dedicated gamers will appreciate: the native 4K output support is an excellent example of one of the Shield’s more game friendly features.
4.2 - 616 Reviews
On top of this though, Nvidia has also included their Shield Hub platform with the Shield. This is in essence a single central repository of streamed gaming options and appears as a horizontal menu item along the bottom of the Shield’s main screen. The Shhield Hub is, almost needless to say, unique to the Shield. You won’t find it in other Android TV devices.
Thus, with the Shield, you can stream all sorts of games through the Shield Hub using Nvidia’s GRID subscription gaming service (which works much like Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video) and you can download games from the more conventional Google Play Store, which is part and parcel of any Android TV platform –though the Shield Version of it comes with a number of games that have been optimized specially for the Shield and its Tegra X1 processing system.
Furthermore, gamers can stream their games right from the own 4K PC with its Nvidia GPU, if they have one.
Next up, there is voice search. This feature comes with the Shield controller (included in the box) and works exceptionally on the Android TV platform of the Shield. With Voice Search you can ask questions using natural language and can thus ask for movies by specific characteristics like actors, directors or genres, or you can also use Voice Search to locate apps or surf for content based on assorted other criteria like Oscar nominations, actor names etc.
In addition to voice search, the Shield controller also comes with some game-friendly benefits and a headphone jack for quite listening to audio.
The Nvidia Shield is loaded with plenty of connectivity options and comes with all the essentials for a full array of multimedia entertainment options while also having a couple of powerful extras for a small console.
First of all, there is the 802.11ac WiFi connectivity here. This is not only extremely useful for the Shield’s overall streaming media connectivity and flexible placement throughout your entertainment space, it’s also what allows the Shield’s powerful Google Cast technology to work well. With Google Cast, you can use the Shield to beam content straight from other iOS and Android devices to the shield for display on your TV, whether it’s a 70 inch 4K television or a fully connected HD TV with smart TV. Furthermore, Cast can be used to share games, video and photos from other devices to a TV through the Shield.
On top of the Wifi, there is also a hardline Gigabit Ethernet connection that will work wonderfully if you have a truly heavy duty broadband connection going to your home and this will be very useful for clean streaming of both HD and 4K ultra HD content from apps like the Netflix service, which comes built into the Shield right out of the box.
Next, and also extremely important, there is the HDMI 2.0 connection on the Shield. This isn’t, as far as we know, an HDMI 2.0a port, so no compatibility with HDR 4K content. However, With the HDMI 2.0, your Shield can output 4K video content from UHD-capable games or UHD videos to your TV at a smooth, powerful 60 frames per second; one very useful feature to have as 4K TVs replace HD TVs in man households.
Aside from these core connectivity features above, the Shield also features 3 USB 3.0 ports for connecting external devices and comes with a micro SD slot for instant external small device storage media connectivity.
The Shield is a genuinely powerful streaming and gaming device. Nvidia has really invested some development time in this device and it definitely shows. In fact, we’d even argue that the Shield is almost too powerful for the needs of all but some of the more serious heavy duty 4K and HD gaming lovers out there.
The internal specs of the Shield are built for some really hardcore ultra-high resolution displays and 4K is a major factor in the performance specs of the Shield. In basic terms, the Shield performed admirably at doing virtually every normal task we requested of it and all navigation and streaming features worked with wonderful smoothness with minimal freezing or buffering for streamed content.
Games streamed from the Nvidia GRID and a 4K PC do take a bit of time to load but the waiting time on this isn’t anything too long. As for graphics output, HD flows as smoothly as you could want and even the 4K mostly lives up to expectations thanks to the HDMI 2.0 connection, though a high quality 4K TV is a big must here.
The 500GB version of the Shield is even more impressive thanks to the decent storage it offers for downloaded gaming and video content.
The Nvidia Shield with a 16GB internal storage is currently retailing for $174.99 and the upgraded 500GB version is going for $299.99. A great value on the whole.
4.2 - 616 Reviews
• Excellent OTT device, even without gaming
• Android TV and associated apps access
• Excellent gaming features
• 4K resolution output
• Strong processing specs
• Expensive in comparison to many peers
• Larger than previous Shield devices