Android TV Review

The Shield TV Has Fantastic Performance and Features, But Lacks Games

Shield TV with accessories
Nvidia
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In my experience with Android TV, I've found that the experience is better for gaming than on the fourth-generation Apple TV. But which Android TV device should you buy? Well, Nvidia's Shield TV is by and far the runaway choice. It's got console-class power, a great included controller, and a great set of features for the price.

One thing that makes the Shield TV a superior gaming platform to Apple TV, in particular, is that games can require a controller.

It helps that Nvidia actually included the Shield Controller with the Shield TV, so you're not missing out on any games by buying this.

Other Android TV devices fail to include a controller at all. You don't have to use the Shield Controller; an Xbox 360 controller or Bluetooth gamepad will also work well. The Shield TV does not discriminate. This is great for multiplayer, where you might not have a proper complement of Shield controllers but you may have some Xbox controllers sitting around for these moments.

This ties into the USB ports on the back, which make the Shield TV fantastic to use because of their versatility. Combine hubs and wired controllers and you can do 4 player games. You can use USB hard drives as external storage, or play external media from them. So, if you have videos sitting around, it's easy to do so with them on Android TV.

And if you want to sideload apps that otherwise don't support Android TV, you can do that too.

There is no optical audio output port on the Shield TV, but if you have a USB sound card with an optical output and Dolby passthrough, you can get surround sound from compatible sources to your compatible receiver. Or even if you're just an audiophile and want to use a USB DAC of your choosing, that's possible too.

And sideload you will. Only apps that are Android TV compatible will show up on the store, and it's tough to see what you own that is compatible or to search for compatible games. There are some games that can be installed from the web Google Play store to the Shield TV, but that method is no guarantee that the game will work.

But, this is Android, and backdoor methods like sideloading if you back up your own APKs can work wonders. But still, there are so many games that are missing that shouldn't be. Android TV makes it difficult to see what you already own that's on Android TV, as well.

The Shield TV has the power to play any Android game with aplomb. I failed to find any games that struggled with the Shield TV. To know the power of the Shield X1, you should play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Here is a game that runs on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and it looks and plays well at 1080p60 on the Tegra X1 processor.

Reports are coming out that mobile technology will catch up to the current generation of consoles soon. While the Shield TV has the advantage of being always plugged in and not worrying about battery usage, it can pump out more powerful performance than comparable tablets.

The Shield TV may be a powerful beast, but it's handy to travel with.

While you'll need to remember its proprietary power adapter, the slim size of the case makes it easy to fit in a bag or suitcase while traveling. And you can connect to hotel wifi through the Shield TV, too. I used it on a recent trip, and it was a great addition. The Apple TV is smaller but thicker. 

Unfortunately, the touchpad on the Shield Controller doesn't work on Shield TV yet. Though with an update for the Shield K1, support could arrive any day. The volume buttons do work on the controller. And the headphone jack, which is low latency, is a brilliant addition for gaming. Do note that you'll need a TRRS headset with a microphone to use voice searching.

There's an optional remote that also has a headphone jack, great for private watching. A stylish vertical stand is available as a separate accessory.

Nvidia's add-on features to the Android TV experience only improve on the base Android TV experience. Game streaming from your PC is a killer feature for the Shield TV, so you can play games from your compatible PC on your TV. And GeForce Now, Nvidia's game streaming service, shines on the Shield TV.

With an ethernet hookup and fast enough internet connection, you can play games in good quality. GeForce Now needs more content to be worthwhile, but the monthly fee is fair, and the 3-month trial should help sell you on the service. You can buy some games, and often get keys for them to play on your desktop machine. It's easy to see where this could be the future of gaming, and it's here today.

The price is fair for what you get. The Apple TV remains my media box due to the Siri Remote being better for movies and TV. But if a game was available on both platforms, I'd prefer it on the Shield TV. If you're looking for an Android TV box, it's hard to imagine that you could do much better than the Shield TV.

This is true in particular for the 16 GB entry model.  The price for the system with a controller is comparable to the Apple TV, and you can get more storage with ease via USB drives. The 500 GB Shield TV is an option to consider as well. It is a luxury purchase considering that you could connect a Shield Tablet up to the TV instead. And some games still only support touchscreen Android devices despite having controller support.

Regardless, there's still a convenience factor to be had by having a permanent TV box. And this is a great choice for one.