Nvidia Shield Android TV Review OR Why I'm Returning My Nvidia Shield Android TV

Nvidia Shield Android TV Review OR Why I’m Returning My Nvidia Shield Android TV

I was super stoked to get my Nvidia Shield Android TV and excited with the possibility of consolidating all of the streaming services and video playback apps I use in my home theater into one single device. Unfortunately the Nvidia Sheild Android TV isn’t the device to do this for me, nor does one exist right now. But this one is close.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV Console
The Nvidia Shield Android TV Console

The Console Itself

It looks pretty cool, I guess. Maybe a little too “gamer” with it’s angular design and glowing green LEDs, which can thankfully be reduced in brightness or turned off completely in the console’s settings.

It’s roughly the same size as my seven-inch tablet, though obviously thicker. The front of the console is where it’s the thinnest and it gets thicker towards the back right corner. Where it’s thickest is where you’ll find the ports for the MicroSD card, the micro USB 2.0 port, the two USB 3.0 ports, the gigabit ethernet port, the HDMI 2.0 port, and the power connection.

Inside the console you’ll find an NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor with 256-core Maxwell GPU, 3GB RAM, and 16GB of storage in the model I chose. There is a 500GB model also available.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV supports 4K but I wasn’t able to test it, as my projector is only capable of 1080p.

One small note about the console that I liked was that when I turned the television off, the console automatically went to sleep and the green light shut off.

Kodi and Media Streaming on the Nvidia Shield Android TV

First off, the one app I use more than all others is Kodi. I have a Zotac AD10 running OpenELEC which I use with my projector and 115″ screen. You’d think that the OpenELEC version of Kodi and the Android version used on devices like the Nvidia Shield Android TV, Nexus Player, and Razer Forge TV is the same, but unfortunately it’s not.

The OpenELEC version of Kodi has a variety of video post processing settings that aren’t available in the Android fork of Kodi. This is because OpenELEC includes VDPAU (Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix) which offers many more video options that the Android release of Kodi does not. These include Bicubic, Lanczos3, and Spine36 video scaling, and the ability to adjust the noise reduction and sharpness settings. The lack of these options on Android is a deal breaker for me. I’ve tweaked the settings in such a way that the image quality looks much better (to my eyes) on my OpenELEC install of Kodi than it does with Kodi on the Nvidia Shield Android TV, or any other Android TV device.

This wouldn’t be an issue if I was simply using the Nvidia Shield Android TV and Kodi on a regular television, though. I have three Nexus Players in my home and run Kodi on all of them. On those televisions, I don’t need the extra video options that OpenELEC provides because the screens are much smaller than the one I use with my projector. The benefits the video tweaks in OpenELEC provide wouldn’t be as noticeable on a regular TV.

Also, I’m able to listen to 7.1 DTS-MA and Dolby TrueHD audio tracks using Kodi on my OpenELEC install. However, these audio tracks do not work under Kodi on the Nvidia Shield Android TV. This is a limitation of the Android version of Kodi rather than the device itself.

The other video apps I tried performed just as well as they did on my Nexus Players, including Sling TV and Netflix. They worked just as well as you hoped they would. No surprises there.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV gamepad with Android TV controls in the silver triangle at the top, and volume controls flanking the "Shield" branding on the bottom.
The Nvidia Shield Android TV gamepad with Android TV controls in the silver triangle at the top, and volume controls flanking the “Shield” branding on the bottom.

Gaming on the Nvidia Shield Android TV

I also tried out the game streaming abilities of the Nvidia Shield Android TV. Connected to ethernet and my 60 Mbps internet connection, games would get choppy at times, some so choppy that I couldn’t even play them. Other less graphically intense games ran fine. Dead Island is an example of a game that wasn’t playable, while DiRT 3 ran with the occassional hiccup.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV Gamepad

The gamepad is well-built and felt good in my hands. I’m not a gamer, so can’t comment on how it compares to other Android TV controllers or even other controllers on traditional gaming consoles.

The gampad does include the Android TV navigation buttons along the top, volume control buttons towards the bottom, and a small touch-sensitive surface as well. There’s a lot packed into this controller without feeling cluttered. I could comfortably navigate all aspects of the Android TV menus and jump into a game or a streaming app with the gamepad.

If you’re wondering whether the remote control is necessary for navigating the Nvidia Shield Android TV, it’s not. The gamepad works very well for this. However, I do prefer a remote control.

Nvidia Shield Android TV remote control with circular directional pad and center select button, back button, Android TV home button, and microphone activation button. The volume indicator is just a sticker that peels off. That area is touch-sensitive, allowing you to slide the volume up and down.
Nvidia Shield Android TV remote control with circular directional pad and center select button, back button, Android TV home button, and microphone activation button. The volume indicator is just a sticker that peels off. That area is touch-sensitive, allowing you to slide the volume up and down.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV Remote Control

The remote control, on the other hand, is far too minimal. I’d have liked one more button on it to make browsing Kodi less cumbersome. There’s only the directional pad with its center select button and the back button. The Android TV home button can’t be customized in Kodi, which really limits your buttom customization options to a single button. The Nexus Player remote has a play/pause button which would have gone a long way towards improving the usability of the Nvidia Shield Android TV remote with Kodi.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I love the sturdiness of the impossibly slim remote control, thanks in part to its metal backing. The remote control features a headphone jack and a touch-sensitive area where you slide your finger up or down to adjust the volume. This works system-wide, so you can adjust the volume from within any app, including Kodi. I’d really like this option on the Nexus Player, but it’s not possible with the stock remote. In terms of buttons, there’s only the microphone button, a back button, and the home button along with the standard directional pad and center select button.

Final Thoughts

Because I don’t see myself gaming that much, because it doesn’t perform as well as my OpenELEC install of Kodi, and because the remote control is lacking, I’m sending the Nvidia Shield Android TV back. If it was just $200 all-in, I’d consider keeping it, but with the cost of the remote control on top of that, plus what I paid in shipping and taxes, I can’t justify keeping it.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV is absolutely a great device with a lot of potential, and it has many positive features many people are sure to love. But at the end of the day, it’s just not for me.

But should you buy one?

If you’re a serious gamer who enjoys playing PC games and wants to play them on your television, I suppose the Nvidia Shield Android TV is a cheap way to do that. I’d suggest using WiFi AC if gigabit ethernet isn’t run through your house, and you’d better have a blazing fast internet connection if you want a silky smooth gaming experience.

If you’re only mildly into gaming and casual games are more your speed, one of the other Android TV devices like the Razer Forge TV or Nexus Player might be the better choice. The Amazon Fire TV also launched a similar game streaming service and has a wide range of games, so that’s an option as well.

If you’re mostly interested in watching Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, or if you’re looking to playback local content through Kodi, Plex, or Emby, the Nexus Player performs just as well with those apps and at a fraction of the cost.

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