NVIDIA Shield TV Review
We put the new NVIDIA Shield base model to work
Nvidia is back with a refresh of the original Shield TV console, which first launched back in the summer of 2015. The first iteration (after a few updates) has become the centerpiece of my living-room, where all of my media is currently housed. Everything from local-videos and music, to streaming PC games, are all pushed through the Shield onto my TV. It’s actually hard to imagine life without it at this point.
The 2017 Nvidia Shield TV (base model) comes in a smaller, sleeker form. As far as performance goes, other than the addition of Android 7.0 Nougat (which the original SHIELD TV also got) and the Amazon Prime app, we are pretty much looking at many of the same features, but in a smaller form factor. All in all, the 2017 Shield represents more of an evolution than a revolution for NVIDIA’s streamer. There are a few new features, though some are small and more “behind the scenes”.
Convenience is the name of the game for the 2017 Shield TV, the device comes pre-paired with a remote and a redesigned controller. Yes the previous remote control was a pricey add-on with the old Shield, but now it comes packaged within the box. No pairing process is needed for the remote, simply rip open the box, hook it up and start clicking away.
The new remote is essentially designed the same as the previous model, but now it features a cell-battery. NVIDIA claims that the battery will last approximately a year, which the company chose over a rechargeable battery. I’ve only had the Shield for a little over a week now, so time will tell if the trade-off was worth it. As of this moment, I think I would rather have a rechargeable battery, rather than a somewhat difficult to find cell battery, but that’s not a dealbreaker. If you simply must have a rechargeable version, Nvidia does offer a rechargeable battery for $49.99, but the high-price may not be worth the rechargeable feature. The new remote has capacitive sensing tech that will automatically shut the remote off when it doesn’t detect your hand holding it. Also, it features an IR blaster. This will allow you to control your TV’s power and volume controls, and It’s pretty nice not having to use multiple remotes.
The controller is completely redesigned, and is a very welcome change from the previous model. The older controller felt like the original Xbox “Duke” controller. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it was simply big. The D-pad on the old model was spongy and I thought it was absolutely horrible to use, and I wasn’t a huge fan of how the analog sticks felt. It always felt like too much, and games that required precision were extremely difficult to play. The new controller is spectacular. It’s much smaller and more sleek, with less bulk in the middle. The controller also features longer grips. The new controller resembles a lovechild between the PS4 and XBox One controllers, and the new D-pad was completely redesigned. The D-pad now has a nice “clicky” feel. The analog sticks feel firmer and have a pleasing raised-ridge around the thumb-grips. The ‘Back,’ ‘Start,’ and ‘Home’ buttons are now actual buttons, but their positioning resulted in some unintended presses during gameplay. The entire controller itself is now covered in a textured geometric pattern, resembling NVIDIA’s design language. I like the controller a lot, and for the first time in a long time, I don’t miss my PS4 and Xbox One controllers while I’m using my Shield.
One of our editors, Sean, tested out the 4K HDR options. While he said that graphics for games that support the option looked terrific, streaming the content put a lot of unwanted strain on his home-network. Streaming video seemed to be a much better experience. Netflix and YouTube offer a lot of content in 4K, which Sean stated was the highlight of the 4K feature. It will also probably be the number-one way people stream 4K content in their homes. The processor handled all of the 4K content with ease according to Sean, and there were no issues to report. Sean’s remarks on 4K testing were, “If you have a 4K TV, and you are looking for a device that can handle it, the new NVIDIA Shield is currently overkill.”
The remaining features aren’t too groundbreaking, they were brought along with the update that is also available on the original Shield model. Most changes can be attributed to Android 7.0, giving the UI a nice facelift. Now all of your games, whether Android, GeForce NOW or Gamestream, are all bundled under the new Nvidia Games app. This results in a much cleaner home screen. Netflix is finally where it should be, with all of the other apps and not crowded-in with the games. I never understood why that took so long to fix, but it was driving me nuts.
Gamestream also seems to work a lot better, maintaining a much more consistent connection with my PC than it did before. I haven’t had an issue connecting during my testing, and it is still my preferred method of gaming on the Shield. Even with Streaming as an option, Shield specific Android games are nothing to ignore. With everything from “Borderlands TPS” to “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance,” the NVIDIA Shield certainly flexes its muscles as a powerful console. It might not be as powerful as the PS4 and XBox One, but it gets the job done.
In the future the Shield will have Google Assistant support, along with Google’s visual cards (think Google Now). These will display on your TV screen and you will be able to check the weather, traffic info, do search queries, and will offer other features. Google will also be integrating the Google Photos app with Assistant, so you will finally be able to view your photos on your TV without having to pop them on a flash drive.
Now for the downers. The base model of the SHIELD no longer has SD card support, which I am actually really disappointed to see. I had a huge SD card in the old Shield, with a ton of games and media content ready to go. Not having that supported at all is a huge bummer. A flash drive can be used an internal storage, but it eats up a usb port and I have yet to use a flash drive that doesn’t get really hot.
The original Shield also had a capacitive button on the upper corner where the NVIDIA logo was, it functioned as an on/off switch for the console. The new model does not have this feature. I didn’t know how much I would miss that simple little feature until it wasn’t there anymore. It really bugs me that I have to go through the menu to shut the Shield down now, when before, I could just tap the logo to turn it off. It’s not the end of the world, but it would have been nice to keep.
Finally, while having IR support to control my TV’s volume is nice, the result is a bit squirrely. Often times it doesn’t register my thumb drag at all, or when it does, it turns the volume up or down by too much. It requires a delicate touch to change the volume by single increments, and for someone who has giant gorilla hands, that’s not always easy. NVIDIA also put together a YouTube video showcasing a few of the features we mentioned.
At $199, the base NVIDIA Shield is still too expensive to serve as just a video-streaming device, but it does offer a ton of power to back it up if you are going to utilize all its functions. If you have a NVIDIA powered PC, and you like to game on it, then I believe the Shield is 100% worth every penny. Having all of your media streaming and PC games in one unit is spectacular.
Just as the original Shield was, the 2017 model will be the centerpiece of my home theater for years to come. You can find the new 4K ready NVIDIA Shield on authorized retailers like Amazon.com.