What is the SHIELD TV?
The SHIELD TV has two models in the range; the ‘basic’ 16GB version, which we have in for review, and the ‘PRO’, which has 500GB of storage, plus additional options courtesy of a Micro USB port and SD card slot. Most of what is new is, in fact, software based. The SHIELD TV is updated to run Android 7 Nougat, and Amazon Video (including 4K HDR) is also now part of the deal. Later in 2017, NVIDIA will release the ‘Spot’ which is a small microphone/speaker device that can execute hands-free commands and interact with Google Assistant – another new feature which will arrive with a software update later in 2017. The ‘Smart’ features don’t stop there, either, with the SHIELD TV newly compatible with Samsung SmartThings (via an additional USB dongle) and also both Zigbee and Z-Wave wireless radio frequency communication protocols to control other Smart Home devices, including security, heating and lighting systems
There’s also good news for owners of the 2015 SHIELD TV as they will also receive the SHIELD Experience 5.0 update, bringing with it Nougat and all the rest of the goodies so they will in no way be left behind, features wise, and by investing in the new games controller the user experience should be near identical. It’s reassuring to see NVIDIA looking after its existing customer base in such a way, although that probably wouldn’t have happened if the hardware refresh had been more significant. We did see quite a lot of criticism around the lack of new hardware but, given the prowess of the X1, it’s not like there would be any tangible benefits in replacing it so we have no problem with NVIDIA’s decision.
At the time of publishing (January 2016), the 16GB SHIELD TV retails for £189.99, while the PRO model will set you back £279.99. Let’s see if the best just got better…
Design and Connections
SHIELD Controller & Remote
The SHIELD TV comes pre-installed with all the Google Apps you would expect – YouTube, Movies/TV, Music, Photos and the Play Store, of course, and also pre-loaded were PLEX (server and client) as well as Netflix and Amazon. There’s a special, NVIDIA specific BBC iPlayer available which wasn’t on the review sample when we received it but it was running beta firmware so we assume it formed part of the release firmware. Other apps of interest to our readers on the Play Store include an Android TV (remote friendly) version of Spotify, Twitch, VLC, MX Player, Vevo and, of course KODI and SPMC – more on those down the page.
NVIDIA Shield Interview
Given the Nougat update, we were expecting NVIDIA to have implemented IEC61937 passthrough for audio but, at least for now, it’s still done in RAW format. In terms of our setup with a Yamaha RX-V679 AV Receiver it didn’t have any detrimental effect as all the formats we tested, including DTS-HD MA and Dolby TrueHD passed through without any issues but it would be preferable, compatibility wise, if NVIDIA were to get IEC61937 working as well.
To close off on media performance, we set up the SHIELD TV as a PLEX server with it distributing files from our NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. All was well on first running and accessing the movies and TV shows was the usual slick and pretty PLEX experience we’re used to. Having powered down and unplugged the SHIELD and moved it to another room, all the PLEX clients in the house were then unable to playback the files - unavailable message displayed – until we removed the SHIELD as a server using the Web management feature and re-added it. Upon next unplug and power-up, the behaviour repeated so there’s a glitch in the system somewhere that needs to be looked at.
How future-proof is this video streamer?
4K Ultra HD playback up to 60 frames per second
HEVC decoding Full HD
HEVC decoding Ultra HD
7 Channel HD Audio pass-through
3D ISO playback
Over The Air (OTA) Software Updates
- Super slick new UI
- Excellent redesign of controller
- Amazon and Netflix 4K HDR apps
- PLEX server built-in
- Excellent media playback capabilities
- Some exciting features still to come
- GeForce NOW streaming quality is great
- Remote loses connection sometimes NOW FIXED
- Still some colour space muddles
- No dynamic refresh rate switching for some major apps
- New remote is not as good
NVIDIA Shield 4K TV Media Gaming Box Review
Should I buy one?The 2017 NVIDIA SHIELD TV is by no means a revolutionary product it is, after all, more or less the same beast as the original SHIELD TV, released in 2015. Don’t take that as a bad thing, however, as the TEGRA X1 processor inside the two of them is still more than capable of fulfilling its duties with power to spare. The new SHIELD has been redesigned; it is now far more compact and nearly half the weight and the base model, reviewed here, has lost the Micro SD Card slot and Micro USB connections, as well an infra-red receiver, while the PRO retains those and boasts 500GB of built-in storage compared to the 16GB in the basic model. There’s a fair price difference between the two, with the PRO retailing (January 2017) at £279.99 to the £189.99 of the less specified model; it should be noted there is no performance advantage, which ever you choose.
Along with the significantly reduced proportions, there have been two other major shake-ups in the hardware department. First, the SHIELD TV now comes with the remote, as standard, rather than it being a costly peripheral. This move instantly increases the SHIELD’s profile, in terms of it being a media streaming device and not a games machine with those features perhaps appearing secondary in NVIDIA’s thoughts and intentions; the impression given now is that this product is at home with either discipline – and more besides. The other major revision comes in the shapely form of the new (games style) controller which is a thing of some beauty. Not only does it look great, much in keeping with the styling of the box itself, but is now far more ergonomic while also being more accurate and responsive, to boot. The controller has an ultra-low power mode enabling it to be ‘always’ on which will really come in to the reckoning once the update for Google Assistant lands. The ‘Smart Home’ features won't stop there, either, with the SHIELD TV newly compatible both Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols to control Smart Home devices, including security, heating and lighting systems.
The other new items of significance that the SHIELD TV brings to the party are software based. We now have a 4K and HDR Amazon app to go along with the Netflix counterpart. Additionally, HDR capability will be added to the already 4K YouTube app and 4K will also soon be coming to Google Play Movies on the platform. The HDR goodness is also available via the GameStream app to owners of gaming rigs with the requisite NVIDIA GPU. The manufacturer boasts that the SHIELD TV has, in fact, the largest 4K HDR ecosystem of any device available and it doesn’t seem an idle one. The SHIELD TV is also excellent with your local media, boasting playback of Ultra HD resolutions up to 60 frames per second, pass-through of HD audio formats and support for just about everything other than frame-packed 3D video. There are some tweaks required in the software used to replay the local media, no doubt as a result of the Nougat update, but they will surely come making the SHIELD TV an even stronger media player proposition.
The new SHIELD TV is really about reminding people what a great and still relevant product the original is, while being at the vanguard of a major update for the entire SHIELD family which adds new features and promises even more, down the line. If you’ve already got one of the 2015 models in your possession, there is certainly no need for an upgrade – the new software features will soon, if not already, be available on that; if you haven’t, the 2017 SHIELD TV definitely warrants consideration. It's an absolutely outstanding box of tricks that, while not perfect, we certainly deem to be worthy of Reference Status.
Networking, Internet, Streaming quality
Set up, Menus, Remote
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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