If you’ve been following AndroidPCReview.com, you know that I’m a big fan of the NVIDIA Shield TV. But, I get a lot of people asking: Is the NVIDIA Shield worth it?
For most people, spending 200-300 dollars on a streaming device is a tough pill to swallow. The price point for most streaming devices is right around the $100 mark. The Shield TV costs double that amount, and triple it for the 500GB Shield TV Pro.
It had better be amazing.
I’ve been using it as my main streaming device for the past year. I still use some of the third party Android TV boxes in other rooms, but there’s several reasons why, for the 4K TV in the living room, there’s nothing I’ve found that beats the Shield TV.
If you’re thinking about the NVIDIA Shield TV, but need a few more reasons to put you over the top, then this article is for you.
It’s the “flagship” Android TV device
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The NVIDIA Shield TV is the poster child for Google’s Android TV operating system. It’s the flagship device. If you want to see just how good Android TV can be, look no further.
There’s a lot of pressure on the NVIDIA Shield TV to succeed. In fact, you could say that the success of the Android TV platform as a whole rests on the Shield’s shoulders. It’s one of the only dedicated streaming devices that runs Android TV since the demise of the Nexus Player in May 2016.
So far, NVIDIA seems to be up to the task. After early successes with their Tegra processor in the Shield tablet, and Shield handheld gaming system, they’ve taken streaming devices to another level.
Get Android system updates first
I’m an early adopter. I bet you know what that’s like.
When a new system update comes out, sites like mine will sing the praises of the new features and hype them up unti you can’t live without them.
Then you wait…and wait…
It’s agonizing waiting for that notification that I can finally download the system update. That’s why my smartphone of choice is Google’s Nexus line, or the Pixel line as it will probably be called soon. Getting that system updates before anyone else is worth it to me.
The same goes for the Shield TV. While most third party Android TV boxes were still languishing on Android 4.4 and wondering when (or if) they would get the update to Android 5, the Shield TV quietly got the system update to Android 6.0.
Easy enough for anyone to use
Most Android TV boxes are designed to be tweaked, but getting them set up the way you want can be a downright pain in the a**.
The Shield, with the official Android TV OS is different.
Once it is set up and your apps installed, every app is available right from the main screen. App icons and content are arranged vertically up and down the screen. The top row is filled with content suggestions from Google, based on your viewing habits and what you’ve watched lately. This is a great place to find bonus features, trailers, or that new video on a YouTube channel you’ve subscribed to. In the Apps section below that, the apps that you use most to the front of the line, so your favorite app is never too far away.
Shield remote with voice search
The Shield Remote is a thing of beauty.
I usually won’t admit it, but I love the physical design of Apple products because they are simple, intuitive and classically elegant. The Shield remote takes that classic elegance and adds a little bit of Android functionality to it – making an amazing accessory.
Voice search has been done on other devices, but nowhere near as successfully. Apple’s Siri may get a lot of press, but usually for her quippy comebacks and not her search capability. Simply put, Google sets the standard for voice search.
I understand why the Shield comes bundled with a game controller. It is an Android gaming system, after all. But, for media streamers, there’s no substitute for the Shield Remote.
True Android gaming console
I used to be a gamer, but unfortunately life got in the way. Something about having a house and a big-boy job that eats up my gaming time. Nowadays, about all I have time for is casual games, which is what Android is best at.
The Shield is a capable gaming system. It doesn’t have the raw power of the Xbox One or Playstation 4, but then again it won’t have their price tag either.
This is one of the few times where the Shield looks like a bargain. The detail level of the games isn’t the same, of course. But NVIDIA gives you a couple different places to get your game on.
You get the normal games on the Google Play Store, which have been optimized for Android TV. The better titles are available on ShieldGames, like Injustice: Gods Among Us, Modern Combat 5: Blackout, Final Fantasy, and exclusive games like Contrast. There’s also NVIDIA’s own GeForceNOW service where you can get titles on a subscription service. If you’re more than a casual gamer, definitely check it out.
NVIDIA Shield streaming your PC’s games
If you still want more games, then the Shield TV still has you covered.
One of the coolest, and least used features Shield is the NVIDIA GameStream. If you’ve got a compatible NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics card in your PC, you can actually have your NVIDIA Shield streaming games from your PC to your living room TV.
You can run a high powered game on your PC and stream it to your Shield TV or Shield tablet in another room. Your computer is doing the heavy lifting – storing the files, doing all of the major calculations, but the game is displayed using the Shield TV’s top-notch GPU.
Over 200 games are available to stream using GameStream, with more being added. If the latest game that you want to play isn’t available on Android yet, then this is a great way to have the best of both worlds.
Apps designed for your couch
Stop me if this sounds familiar.
You’ve got an app that you love. Maybe you’ve installed it on your smartphone or tablet. You’re excited to get it on your TV box. Once you do, it shrinks the image on your TV all the way down to a smartphone sized box – turning your beautiful big screen TV into a blotchy, low-res smartphone window.
All of the apps on the NVIDIA Shield TV are designed for the Android TV interface. You won’t find any apps on the Google Play Store that aren’t specifically optimized for use on a big-screen TV.
You can be sure that all of the apps you install will look great, sitting on your couch and sitting about 10 feet away from your TV. Unless you sideload the app, in which case all bets are off.
Team Kodi loves it
There are only a couple of Diamond Sponsors of Kodi\XBMC and NVIDIA is easily the biggest name of the bunch.
Team Kodi loves the Shield TV, and with good reason. The Shield TV has been called “the King of Android Kodi boxes” and has a broad support base among Kodi users and developers.
If Kodi compatibility is at all a concern for you – and let’s be honest, Kodi is a big deal for all of us – then that is a ringing endorsement of the Shield TV.
4K Netflix and YouTube
I get a lot of my videos from Netflix, so it’s really important for me to have them look good. And the NVIDIA Shield streaming Netflix is a beautiful thing.
Netflix is a stickler for which devices it allows to get UHD and 4K content. Unless your device is on a specific list of approved devices from Netflix, video playback will be stuck in standard definition. Never-mind 4K, you can’t even get HD.
Many smaller device manufacturers and a few well known manufacturers like MINIX, have been ignored when they’ve applied to get on that list.
That’s an important point that streamers and cord-cutters need to be aware of. As TV’s get better and larger, HD and 4K\UHD content is going to become more and more important.
The Shield TV is able to play that Netflix and YouTube content in High-Dynamic Range (HDR) 4K, where it’s available.
Plex media server
In my home, my custom-built PC runs double duty as a media server and my workstation for writing articles and crunching numbers for my grad school analytics program. Since I’m the one that built it, I’m used to really good performance. I usually only one stream going at any given time – sometimes two, but then there’s only so many shows that two people can watch at any given time, right?
If I wanted to replace my PC as my Plex Media Server, the Shield TV had a high bar to live up to.
The Shield never hiccuped or stuttered. It didn’t matter if I was running the video from the local hard drive, a flash drive plugged into a USB port, or even my Western Digital MyCloud NAS unit. Playback was smooth and audio was synced perfectly.
When you think that a 4K capable custom-built HTPC costs between $600-$1000, the Shield TV looks like an absolute bargain.
For standalone streaming devices, there’s not much that can compare with the NVIDIA Shield TV. From a pure hardware perspective, the only competition for the Shield comes from high-end gaming consoles like the Xbox One and Playstation 4, or dedicated self-built HTPC’s that can cost hundreds of dollars more.
What do you think? Do you think the NVIDIA Shield is worth the price? Or do you have something else that you think is better? Let us know in the comments below.