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NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Reviewed: Gaming And The Ultimate 4K Streamer

Over the past few months, we’ve covered a number of details related to today’s launch of theNVIDIA SHIELD Android TV device. It was back in March during GDC that we were first able to show you the Tegra X1 powered SHIELD Android TV (then refered to as the SHIELD Console). And it was earlier in the year at CES when NVIDIA unveiled the Tegra X1 SoC itself, along with a number of X1-based automotive products.

To recap a bit, the Tegra X1 features a Maxwell-derived GPU and eight CPU cores; four ARM A57 cores and four A53s. The A57 cores are 64-bit, out-of-order designs with multi-issue pipelines, while the A53 cores are simpler, in-order, highly-efficient designs. Which cores are used will depend on the particular workload being executed at the time. The Tegra X1 also packs a 256-core Maxwell-derived GPU with the same programming capabilities and API support as NVIDIA’s desktop GPUs. And it has a video engine capable of full speed 4K 60FPS video playback. In terms of its overall CPU and GPU performance potential, the Tegra X1 is in a class of its own at the moment.

The performance of the Tegra X1, NVIDIA’s strong relationship with Google, and the company’s obvious connection to all things gaming are what it thinks will set the SHIELD Android TV apart from similar products like the Roku or Fire TV. In the short time we’ve had to play with our own SHIELDAndroid TV, we think NVIDIA is certainly on to something. First, let’s check out the specs and hardware and then we’ll talk about our experience with Android TV, gaming, and explore performance as well…

IDIA SHIELD, Wireless Remote, Game Controller And Stand
The NVIDIA SHIELD, Wireless Remote, Game Controller And Stand
NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV
Specifications & Features
Processor NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor with 256-core Maxwell GPU with 3GB RAM
Video Features 4K Ultra-HD Ready with 4K playback and capture up to 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264)
Audio Features 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound pass through over HDMI
  High-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192kHz over HDMI and USB
  High-resolution audio upsample to 24-bit/192hHz over USB
Storage 16GB (500GB optional)
Wireless 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi
  Bluetooth 4.1/BLE
Interfaces Gigabit Ethernet
  HDMI 2.0 
  Two USB 3.0 (Type A)2
  Micro-USB 2.0
  MicroSD slot (supports 128GB cards)
  IR Receiver (compatible with Logitech Harmony)
Gaming Features NVIDIA GRID streaming service
  NVIDIA GameStream
Weight and Size Weight: 23oz/654g, H: 5.1in/130mm, W: 8.3in/210mm, D: 1.0in/25mm
Price:
Starting @ $199 ($299 for Pro Version)

As we’ve mentioned, the Tegra X1 is the foundation on which the SHIELD Android TV is built. In addition to its relatively powerful 256-core Maxwell-based GPU, the SoC is capable of full 10-bit, 4K encode and decode at up to 60Hz. There is also 3GB of RAM on board along with 16GB of storage in the base version we’ve got here. A SHIELD Android TV Pro is also coming which adds a 500GB hard drive. You may be wondering why anyone would need 500GB of storage in a set-top, Android device, but games are taking up more and more space on the platform, and DVR capabilities are coming as well. The combination of the Tegra X1’s multiple ARM cores, Maxwell-based GPU, and video engine, make the device about twice as powerful as an Xbox 360, while consuming only about 1/5 of the power.

SHIELD Android TV From The Front
SHIELD Android TV From The Front

The new SHIELD console is a relatively small, thin device. It has angular lines across its lid, with a lighted green right-angle strip running along the top. Along the front, under the capacitive power button is an IR sensor, which is compatible with remotes like the Logitech Harmony.  In addition to the device itself, NVIDIA is also releasing a few accessories for the SHIELD, including a one-piece, anodized aluminum stand and a rechargeable Bluetooth remote, which has a built in headphone jack for plugging in a headset and a microphone for performing easy voice searches. The SHIELD Wireless game controller which launched alongside the SHIELD Tablet also plays a big role here–it’s actually included with the SHIELD Android TV and has similar voice-control / headset / volume capabilities.

SHIELD Android TV From The Back
SHIELD Android TV From The Back

Other features of the SHIELD Android TV include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi, multiple USB ports (2 x full size, 1 x micro), a microSD card slot, and an HDMI output. The micro USB port can be used to the connect the SHIELD to a PC for sideloading apps and accessing the internal storage. And the standard USB power can be used for attaching additional storage, or for charging the Wireless Controller or SHIELD remote.

SHIELD Android TV Packaging And Bundle
SHIELD Android TV Packaging And Bundle

Included with the SHIELD Android TV at launch, you’ll find a SHIELD Wireless controller, a power adapter, a micro USB cable, and an HDMI cable. Many readers have questioned NVIDIA’s decision to include the Wireless Controller with the SHIELD over the mini remote we’ll be showing you next, but we agree with NVIDIA’s move. In talks with reps from NVIDIA, they said since gaming was such a major component of SHIELD, they wanted consumers to be able to leverage all aspects of the device right out of the box. And since the Wireless Controller does everything the remote does — and then some — it was the logical choice.

SHIELD Advanced Remote
The SHIELD Advanced Remote – $49

The SHIELD Advanced Remote is a sleek device with a quartet of buttons and d-pad for simple navigation, a built-in mic for voice controls, and a capacitive volume slider running down the center. There is also a 3.5mm headset jack at the bottom which works exactly as you’d expect.  Plug a headset into the jack and audio is routed through the headset while anything on-screen is muted. It’s a handy feature if you’re gaming or maybe watching a late movie and don’t want to disturb anyone else. The remote is rechargeable via a micro USB port and offers up to 4 weeks of battery life.

NVIDIA SHIELD Advanced Remote In-Hand
The Advanced Remote In-Hand

The Advanced Remote has a very high-quality feel and worked great in our limited testing. The buttons are responsive and the microphone picked up casually-spoken voice commands without issue. It would have been great if NVIDIA included the Advanced Remote with the SHIELD as well, but we’re sure that would have driven the final retail price up to a point NVIDIA wasn’t comfortable with.

The final accessory available at launch is a simple metal stand, for mounting the SHIELD Android TV upright (as seen in the picture at the top of the page). The stand is a heavy hunk of metal with a gel-covered base. Not only does it hold the SHIELD firmly, but the base holds the stand in place quite well.  If you stick in on a smooth, flat surface you’ll have to almost peel the thing away to move it.

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