Nvidia Shield TV

IT’S TAKEN A LONG TIME TO REACH AUS­TRALIA, BUT IS THIS FI­NALLY THE ONE ME­DIA- AND GAME-STREAM­ING DE­VICE TO RULE YOUR LOUNGE ROOM?

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ CROSS­ING THE STREAMS ] [ PAUL TAY­LOR & DAN GAR­DINER ]

DE­SPITE LIV­ING THE in age of smart­phone video-stream­ing apps and Google’s Chrome­cast mak­ing it easy to get al­most any­thing on­line onto your TV, the idea of a do-ev­ery­thing stand­alone me­dia player still has ap­peal to many peo­ple. If you’ve got a TV pur­chased in the last 4–5 years, chances are it has apps that cover all the ma­jor Aus­tralian stream­ing ser­vices, al­though if you’re wield­ing an older TV, there’ll likely be some gaps. From a me­dia-stream­ing per­spec­tive, then, Nvidia’s An­droid TV-pow­ered Shield TV box seems more pitched as a de­vice for those with an older telly, al­though it does have 4K video out­put and, more­over, built-in Google Cast ca­pa­bil­i­ties, mean­ing that it can act like a su­per­charged Chrome­cast Ul­tra — but with a ton of ex­tra fea­tures. That’s be­cause, on top of me­dia stream­ing, the Shield TV also makes a rather fine PC game-stream­ing de­vice, let­ting you seam­lessly play your PC ti­tles from the com­fort of your lounge. Pow­ered by Nvidia’s own Te­gra X1 pro­ces­sor — the same one used in the Nin­tendo Switch — it’s also got lots of grunt for pow­er­ing An­droid-na­tive games and apps, too.

COV­ER­ING THE BA­SICS

Be­fore we get too deep into the gam­ing side of things, though, let’s take a closer look at those me­dia ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The Shield TV comes in two op­tions in Aus­tralia — the more me­dia-minded one comes with the just the box and a TV re­mote. The sec­ond kit is pitched at gamers, and adds an Nvidia-built gamepad.

That re­mote is much like what the Ap­ple TV uses — it’s sim­ple but ser­vice­able, with Se­lect, Back and Home but­tons, a cir­cu­lar di­rec­tional-pad for nav­i­gat­ing on­screen menus and a Mic but­ton for ini­ti­at­ing voice con­trols. There’s also a strip down the mid­dle of the re­mote that acts as a touch-sen­si­tive vol­ume slider — one that’s, frankly, a bit too easy to bump with your palm as you han­dle the re­mote, es­pe­cially if you’re un­aware that it’s there.

The Shield’s in­ter­face is clean and straight­for­ward, with a se­ries of rows for dif­fer­ent apps or ser­vices — such as Net­flix, YouTube, Games and Google Play Movies/Mu­sic — which can be cus­tomised to a cer­tain ex­tent. Nav­i­gat­ing and find­ing things is quick and easy, and thanks to voice search, you can press the Mic but­ton to lo­cate things more rapidly or find spe­cific me­dia con­tent — say “Post-apoc­a­lyp­tic movies”, for ex­am­ple, and it’ll give you a list of flicks avail­able on Aus­tralian stream­ing ser­vices and lo­cal video sources, in­clud­ing links to start play­ing an item. That ‘lo­cal video sources’ area is also well catered to, as Nvidia has in­cluded a built-in Plex server and player, so you can at­tach a USB hard drive into the back of the Shield with your per­sonal TV and movie col­lec­tion and (pro­vided the files are named sen­si­bly) you’ll

get a pol­ished, Net­flix-like in­ter­face for nav­i­gat­ing through those files, com­plete with syn­op­sis, cast and other per­ti­nent info.

SOME CATCH­ING UP TO DO

De­spite all those pros, the Shield TV isn’t quite per­fect when it comes to me­dia play­back — at least not in Aus­tralia. The one real short­com­ing is that sev­eral ma­jor videostream­ing apps aren’t avail­able for An­droid TV — or at least, can’t be of­fi­cially in­stalled on the Shield TV yet. While Net­flix, Stan and Ama­zon Prime Video are all avail­able (as well as Ten­play and 7plus for catch-up TV), at the time of test­ing, the ABC iView, SBS On De­mand and Foxtel Now apps weren’t Shield com­pat­i­ble, so if you’re a fan of these ser­vices, you’ll need to rely on cast­ing from your phone or tablet. If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, how­ever, a ver­sion of the ABC iView app can be side­loaded — and in test­ing, we found that this worked fine.

GAME STREAM­ING DREAM?

What’s also tempt­ing about the Nvidia Shield — and per­haps the main rea­son you’d choose it over a cheaper An­droid TV stream­ing box — is its ca­pac­ity as a gam­ing de­vice. Be­ing able to stream games from your PC is the ma­jor draw­card here but there’s also a range of TVop­ti­mised An­droid ti­tles avail­able on both the Play Store and Nvidia’s own Games Store. More­over, be­cause the Shield is open to some tin­ker­ing, you can side­load apps and games, and with emu­la­tion apps for clas­sic con­soles like the Su­per Nin­tendo, Sega Me­gaDrive and orig­i­nal PlayS­ta­tion all avail­able to pur­chase from the Play Store, to many gamers, the Shield starts to stack up as a very at­trac­tive do-it-all ma­chine. There is one caveat to all this, how­ever. To stream PC games to the Shield, you’ll need to BYO PC or lap­top with an Nvidia GPU, and the lat­ter will need to be a GeForce GTX 750 or bet­ter. Ide­ally, you’ll also want both your PC and the Shield TV plugged into your wired Eth­er­net net­work — game-stream­ing does still work over Wi-Fi, but the Shield is ag­gres­sive about wire­less strength and will pre­vent you from con­nect­ing to a Wi-Fi net­work if it doesn’t think the sig­nal is beefy enough. If you pass those hur­dles, you can stream ba­si­cally any game from your PC to the Shield hooked up to your lounge room TV. All the pro­cess­ing hap­pens in your com­puter, with the Shield merely stream­ing ev­ery­thing back and forth. Ti­tan­fall 2, run­ning from a GTX1080 tower over Wi-Fi was near flaw­less, with barely per­cep­ti­ble in­put lag be­tween the Shield gamepad and the ac­tion on screen.

AN­DROID GAMES ON YOUR TV

The qual­ity of the An­droid games — in terms of both their game­play and tech­ni­cal mea­sure — varies from ti­tle to ti­tle. An­noy­ingly, not all An­droid games you may have al­ready bought on your smart­phone or tablet are com­pat­i­ble. The mar­vel­lous XCOM is off lim­its, but Grand Theft Auto: Chi­na­town Wars is fine. Nvidia’s con­troller is the clas­sic Xbox scheme, and it’s a beauty of a gamepad. Hand­ily, the Shield TV also sup­ports pair­ing Blue­tooth gamepads — so you can add mul­ti­player gam­ing sup­port quite eas­ily.

TOUGH CHOICES

But is that all worth the price? At $250, the ba­sic pack­age is a fair bit more ex­pen­sive than an $100–$150 no-name An­droid TV box, but the Shield TV does of­fer game-stream­ing on top of that, and Nvidia also does a good job of keep­ing the de­vice patched and up-to-date — some­thing that’s far less likely if you go the cheaper route.

Whether it passes the value test re­ally does come down to a cou­ple of things — firstly, whether you see your­self us­ing the gamestream­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties ex­ten­sively and/or, al­ter­na­tively, whether you’re a mad-keen me­dia streamer who doesn’t like their TV’s own in­ter­face. If ei­ther of those de­scrip­tions sounds like you, then the Shield TV is a classy and fairly-priced box for what it of­fers — it’s, without a doubt, the best An­droid TV box you can cur­rently buy. For ev­ery­one else, that price is might be a bit high to war­rant pulling the trig­ger...

THE SEC­OND KIT IS PITCHED AT GAMERS, AND ADDS AN NVIDIA-BUILT GAMEPAD.

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