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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Streams all sorts of media
Console scratches easily
Remote is prone to smudging
No incremental volume controls
No power button on remote or controller
The NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition is the streaming device for those who want a comprehensive home entertainment experience that also includes gaming.
If you’ve been dreaming about a streaming device that serves up a well-rounded and rich media experience, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition might just meet or exceed your expectations.
It’s a streaming unit that rises to the challenge of consolidating all your favorite shows and movies (and in 4K, too). But it also prioritizes gaming, music, smart home compatibility. If you’re looking for something beyond your average streaming stick or set-top box, this device is ready to step up to the plate.
We tested its general streaming performance and the overall immersive media feel to get a sense of how easy it is to use and whether it’s worth the hefty price.
The manufacturer touts the unique value of NVIDIA SHIELD TV, and that comes across from the moment you open the package. You won’t find a simple black puck or block here.
The SHIELD itself is sleek and attractive. It’s black and rectangular in shape, almost like a small notebook, and features a combination of matte and reflective geometric details on the top of the unit. It’s not exactly tiny, but it’s stylish and slim enough to not overwhelm your media console or shelving unit. The available stand adds another point of design interest by allowing you to sit the unit upright on a vertical angle. That can also save you a bit of space.
There’s also a remote that mirrors the styling of the SHIELD, but it’s mostly shiny and less matte, which makes smudging incredibly easy. It’s quite thin and lightweight, even with batteries that are already loaded into it. Again, this points to the elevated experience NVIDIA is presenting. The remote’s batteries actually have to be removed from an internal tray by using a tool like a ballpoint pen.
The NVIDIA Shield TV Gaming Edition is a great buy for the media-savvy consumer.
There are very few buttons on the remote—just three, to be exact. The circle button navigates you to the Home menu, the back button (which resembles a sideways triangle) is right next to it, and there’s a large mic icon for using the built-in Google Assistant.
Instead of directional buttons, you’ll see a circular pad with directional controls around it. The circle itself lets you add media to your watch list, but that’s really the only function for this button.
While the remote itself isn’t too heavy or loaded with buttons, it doesn’t have a power button, which means you’re adding another device to the mix. It also has a sort of gimmicky volume control feature where you slide your finger up and down to control the sound level, and there’s no other way to do it.
The same goes for the gaming controller, which is more matte and chunkier in shape and feel, but also serves as a remote for the SHIELD. In addition to adjusting the volume in the same sliding manner, you can summon Google Assistant, navigate through menus, and also plug in headphones for private listening to whatever media is on the screen.
As far as the cable situation is concerned, there aren’t too many moving parts. Powering up the device just requires plugging in the power adapter and connecting an HDMI cable from the HDMI ports in the SHIELD to your TV. There was no HDMI cord in the box, which does seem like something that could have been included given the price of the device.
Once we plugged in the appropriate HDMI and power cords, the TV automatically sensed the device, turned on, and the setup started immediately. The process does require clicking through several prompts, and it’s probably more involved than the average streaming device. That has a lot to do with the fact that this is an Android TV and it requires you set it up with a Google account.
Since the remote paired automatically, we found it easy to navigate through the steps, which started with choosing a language, the option to complete setup on an Android phone or tablet, and connecting to a Wi-Fi network.
You can register your device on a phone or laptop by going to the provided Android TV setup URL. The SHIELD provides an activation code and you’re prompted to log in to your Google account. Once you do, you’re signed in on your TV.
Once you accept, you’re asked to decide on other preferences, like whether you want to give apps access to your location information, send diagnostic and usage info to Google, and also agree to NVIDIA licensing terms.
At this point, you’re able to start assembling the apps you want beyond the pre-installed programs, which are YouTube, Netflix, and Plex.
Finding, arranging, downloading, and deleting content is straightforward and painless.
You’ll then get a tour of what the remote and game controller can do, which is helpful to pay attention to since this information isn’t included in the quick start or support guides. Following this presentation, the system informed us that upgrades and an OS update were available. It took about two minutes for these updates to install.
Following these updates, we were given run-downs of Google Assistant capability as well as a step-by-step look at the device as a whole, including all the buttons, menus, and main functions.
When we thought we were done, there was another screen telling us what was upgraded in the most recent SHIELD update 7.2.3. This seems like a lot of information out of the gate, but we appreciated the availability.
Finally, we were asked if we wanted to enable auto upgrades for the latest system updates. This struck us as a bit odd since many other streaming players just perform these upgrades automatically.
From start to finish, set up took about 30 minutes. And while it wasn’t difficult, it did seem like screen after screen of options and updates.
Since the NVIDIA SHIELD TV falls under the “set-top box” category of streaming devices, it’s easy to expect that it has a little more oomph under the hood. In the landscape of streamers, bigger often does mean speedier wireless connectivity, faster streaming, and more storage.
The NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition holds true to that line of thought. It works really fast and offers great picture quality. That’s no surprise considering it has a NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor with 3GB of RAM which, according to the manufacturer, is responsible for the rapid speed.
There’s also 16GB of internal storage to work with, and this can be expanded even further with the use of a USB drive. This is another reason why this device offers lightning-fast streaming, which is certainly something a gamer would want out of a gaming-capable media streamer.
The SHIELD is also 4K-capable and provides this support across a number of apps like Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies and TV, and Kodi. While we didn’t test this device on a 4K TV, our 1080p HDTV showed no discernible lag or loading at all, and that was true across multiple media apps including the NVIDIA Games app.
Whether downloading a new game, loading up one we’d already downloaded, browsing the Playstore, or playing music from Google Music, all experiences were responsive and seamless, without any hiccups.
Like other streaming devices, you’ll find a home menu that’s broken up into categories. In the case of the NVIDIA SHIELD TV, content is arranged by app, and this is something you have the power to control by choosing where an app appears on the home dashboard.
The pre-loaded apps are most prominently features on the home page. That includes Youtube content, Google Music (which is free and easy to access while you’re browsing content), and the NVIDIA Games app.
There are a bunch of free games with SHIELD through NVIDIA Games, but this requires a NVIDIA account. It took a few minutes to create one, pick a screen name, and verify the email.
We played around with a number of free games through the app, which is incredibly exhaustive. You can find options based on the single-player or family games, games that can be played with the remote, and so many other criteria. There’s also the option of logging in on a PC to experience all the GeForce Now games, which is sort of like a Netflix-type streaming service for games.
We enjoyed playing around with the Lego Movie game and some free Android games, and found they were easy to install and incredibly quick to download. We experienced crystal-clear picture quality, and there was never any delay or sluggishness with the controller. The only strange thing we noticed that interrupted our play was the Google Assistant button. It’s located right in the middle of the controller, which made it easy to bump frequently and by accident.
While the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is pricey, it does so much.
The gaming portion of the home screen as well as all other aspects are fully customizable. It’s easy to queue up content to a “Play Next” queue, which means you can add any mix of TV episodes, movies, Google Music songs, and games from the NVIDIA Games app.
We found we couldn’t add all kinds of shows or video content, however—Amazon Prime content could be added and so could YouTube videos, but Hulu and Netflix episodes could not be added to the queue.
Placing content in this sort of shortcut feed eliminated any need to scroll through endless rows of apps or menus. And searching for something new is as simple as asking Google Assistant to find it for you or searching the Google Play store.
Finding, arranging, downloading, and deleting content is straightforward and painless. And while we didn’t do a deep dive setting up Google Assistant to help organize other devices like a Google Home or Amazon Echo, it was responsive to basic search requests.
The NVIDIA Shield TV Gaming Edition retails for $199.99. To many that might seem like a lot of money to hand over for a streaming device, but this isn’t really your run-of-the-mill streamer. Without the gaming component, the SHIELD TV costs $179, and the controller on its own has a list price of $59, so it’s a deal to bundle them together.
The real value would come to someone who is an Android and Google user, considers him- or herself a gaming enthusiast, and also enjoys the idea of taking advantage of an array of apps beyond the usual streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu.
Even if you’re not a huge gamer, but you are a sort of cord-cutting evangelist, you may find a fit with this streaming device. The greater value prospect probably sits with those who consume and embrace all the media and tech capabilities the NVIDIA SHIELD offers.
While the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is pricey, it does so much. You could really do everything you want with one device: watch movies, play games, listen to music, and use it as a smart-hub for your home. It’s sort of an all-in-one entertainment and streaming platform.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is another product you could say similar things about. While it is cheaper, retailing at $119.99, it’s probably more for the Amazon content and smart-home enthusiast. The one area where it takes the edge over the NVIDIA is with the hands-free Alexa capability, but it doesn’t offer the gaming capability of the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. For the customer who wants to mostly stream TV and movies and have the option of hands-free control, the Fire TV Cube is a better fit.
Want to shop around? Check out our picks for the best devices for streaming TV and the best Android TV boxes.
Perfect for the avid media consumer.
The NVIDIA Shield TV Gaming Edition is a great buy for the media-savvy consumer. Rather than juggle multiple platforms for everything you want to access, this device can help you stream TV and movies, game, listen to music, stream something from your phone via the built-in Chromecast function, or even display a Google Photo album slideshow. If you’re ready for a streaming device that can do it all, the NVIDIA is for you.
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