It seems like every six months or so a new streaming device is released and I declare it to be the ultimate streaming device. A while back it was the Nexus Player, but that has its faults, though I’d say that Android TV is still in its infancy so it will need time before it starts to develop and more hardware developers begin to integrate the OS into their devices.
The latest of these Android TV devices is the appropriately named Nvidia Shield Android TV which was formally announced last week during Google I/O.
The Nvidia Shield Android TV seems to check some of the boxes that the Nexus Player and Razer Forge TV left empty. For one, the Shield is powerful with its Nvidia Tegra X1 processor and 256-core GPU, 3GB of RAM, and a 500GB (also available in 16GB) hard drive which provides plenty of storage for media and video games. For network connections there’s WiFi AC 2.4 and 5 GHz support and a gigabit ethernet port. In terms of video and audio output, the Nvidia Sheild Android TV features 4K ultra HD support, 10-bit color, and 7.1 surround sound passthrough. If that’s not enough, the Shield can also act as a Chromecast and wirelessly receive Casts sent from your phone, tablet, or computer.
Nvidia seems to have the hardware covered, and Google is fixing many of Android TV’s shortcomings. This new M version of the OS will now include the ability to add external storage (the Shield has two USB 3.0 ports, one micro USB 2.0 port, one MicroSD slot) to act as additional internal storage. This has been one of the largest criticisms of Android TV since the boxes currently available don’t provide enough storage for the larger games available for the platform.
As you can see, you really couldn’t ask for a whole lot more in terms of hardware, and it’s good to see the software progress. However, my one gripe is that the Nvidia Sheild Android TV ships with a game controller (also available separately) but no remote control. If you want one, that costs an extra $50. It is nice though, offering voice search, a rechargeable battery, and an integrated headphone jack for quiet nighttime watching or gaming.
On the topic of gaming, you can play all the Android games that support Android TV either with remote control or the gamepad. But the Nvidia Shield Android TV also supports Nvidia’s GRID game streaming service, allowing you to stream popular PC games to the console for PC gaming without the need for an expensive gaming PC. Very cool.
For the consumption of media, Android TV has almost everything someone could want. There’s of course Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV, with apps for more services in the pipeline, including HBO Now and Amazon Instant Video. For sports, Watch ESPN, UFC.tv and Fight Pass, and WWE Network are all coming soon. I’d say that by the end of the year, basically every major streaming service someone would want to access will be available on the Android TV platform.
For local playback, there’s Plex and Kodi as well. There’s active Kodi development specifically for Shield Android TV to make the experience as complete as possible with full 7.1 HD audio passthrough and 24Hz refresh rate support. Some would prefer 23.976Hz and have expressed interest to Nvidia, who seem responsive to the request.
Seems great, right? It is, and mine will be delivered today. But it is expensive. Especially if you’re importing the Shield into Canada. Not only will you have the exchange rate to contend with, there’s the inflated FedEx shipping cost of $35, and you will almost certainly have to pay taxes and duty upon delivery. But, the Nvidia Shield Android TV release date for Canada isn’t for a long while, so if you want the latest and greatest tech, you’ll have to suck it up and import it from the United States.
If you’re American, it’s still pretty expensive. You’re looking at nearly $300 for the 16GB console and remote control after taxes and shipping, or nearly $400 if you want the 500GB console with a remote control. If you don’t care so much about the gaming side of things and simply want a device for streaming, the Nexus Player is a far more attractive choice with its $70 price tag.
As I said, I get my 16GB Shield Android TV later today. Look for a new post tomorrow with some unboxing photos and my first impressions as well.