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NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Review

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NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Testing:

While the benchmarks prove that the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV is one powerful device, how does that actually translate to real-world performance? Of course there is no real measure for real-world performance, so welcome to the subjective portion of the review.

There are essentially two main usage scenarios for the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV: watching videos and playing games. Let's see how the device handles both.

Watching Videos:

Unsurprisingly, as an Android TV device, watching videos is a pretty flawless experience; at least once you get to the video you want to watch. Sadly, before getting there you'll have to suffer through what I consider a fairly un-user-friendly interface. While NVIDIA went out of its way to add a slew of awesome features on the gaming side of things, the company basically left the rest of it for Google to handle, offering up a fairly vanilla Android TV experience.

If you have a Netflix account or want to purchase movies from the Google Play store, the experience is perfect. Outside of that? Well, not so much. HBO Go is not a supported app, so I tried to install it manually via a USB drive. As long as you can download the APK, you can take these steps to install practically any Android application. That being said, if they don't have native Android TV support, it likely means they're designed for touch interfaces and thus don't work without connecting a mouse. Luckily I did have a wireless mouse to use, but this could have been easily solvable by NVIDIA if there was a way to bring up a mouse cursor with the controller's analog stick like you're able to do when in Console Mode on the NVIDIA SHIELD portable and tablet. Oversight?

 

That being said, the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV does have built-in Google Chromecast support, which does help for some scenarios, like HBO Go, assuming you have another mobile device or laptop to cast from. It's important to keep in mind that performance may be spotty if you don't use a wired connection, but that would be no different than any other Android TV or streaming device.

Lastly, even using the YouTube app is cumbersome, as you're unable to sort by upload date when viewing your subscription channels. If you know what you want to search for, you can use the easy-to-use voice search, but otherwise, good luck.

 

Gaming:

Thankfully, when it comes to gaming, NVIDIA went beyond the call of duty (no pun intended). And since there are much cheaper Android TV solutions on the market if all you care about is watching videos, it's nice to see you do get a lot extra for your money when it comes to gaming.

First up, if you want to play Android games on your television, there's no better device to do so, especially considering there are several games exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV and Tablet, such as the Half-Life 2 series. One slight disappointment was that there are no bundled games with the regular SHIELD, only the SHIELD Pro, where you receive Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!. It would have been nice to have at least a small game thrown in with the standard version.

 

Of course, where the device really shines is in its ability to stream games from both your GeForce-powered PC and the NVIDIA GRID service. I figured there was no better game to test the PC-streaming than the recently released Batman: Arkham Knight – despite the problems that plagued the PC version's launch. Using a WiFi connection, I was only able to stream at 720p, but it was still a pretty spectacular experience and ran flawlessly. And running off a GeForce PC rather than a console means you get access to several NVIDIA GameWorks features. One thing I did have to do was disconnect my wired game controller from my PC, as the game wanted to use that instead of my SHIELD Controller. Minor inconvenience.

 

 

 

 

I also tried the NVIDIA GRID service, which is free until the end of the month and grants you access to an ever-evolving library of games to stream from NVIDIA's cloud servers, regardless of whether you personally own the game or not. While a new release like Arkham Knight is not available through the service, it does have the first three games in the franchise. Having already played all those to completion, I decided to go for a game I did not own, yet piqued my interest: Strider. The NVIDIA GRID service is highly reliant on your Internet connection, so your experience may vary, but overall the system is easy to use and runs fairly well. I probably wouldn't recommend playing online multiplayer or a fighting game, as those require precise timing, but for single-player games where an occasional delay is tolerable, it's a pretty sweet addition to the SHIELD ecosystem.

 

 

Last but not least, it should be noted that NVIDA added its recording features to the Android TV, accessible by holding down the home button on the controller. This allows you to save a screenshot, record using ShadowPlay either manually or by setting it to auto-record, and even stream directly to Twitch.




  1. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV: Introduction & Closer Look
  2. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Closer Look: Accessories
  3. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Closer Look: Initial Setup
  4. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV: Specifications & Features
  5. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Testing: Benchmarks
  6. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Testing: Actual Use
  7. NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV: Conclusion
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