Nvidia has just renewed its Shield Android TV, one of the best multimedia boxes on the market. The new version is now called Shield TV. The new Shield Tv is a much smaller version. However, this new version is as impressive as the previous one, coming with remote control and a gamepad.

Characteristics

  • Interfaces (HDMI / composite / optical / coaxial) – 1
  • Hard disk slot (2.5”/3.5”’) – no / no
  • Wi-Fi – internal / 802.11ac
  • Ethernet – 1 Gbit/s
  • HD DTT Tuner

Presentation

Nvidia hasn’t taken any risks with the design of its new housing; It has kept the original identical features of the first edition. The important detail is actually in size, reduced by 40% (16 x 2.6 x 10 cm for 250 grams). We are surprised by the weight of this case, which we thought was lighter. It was when we dismantled it that we found two metal weights to keep it upright without it falling too easily. It is possible to purchase a specific base separately, the Shield Stand (25 €), to ensure even more stability. Warning, the base of the old version of the box is not compatible.

The footprint of the new housing has been reduced by 40%. Unfortunately, the reduction in the size of the housing has an impact on the connection technology. The essentials are still present, such as the HDMI 2.0b output (HDCP 2.2, 4K HDR at 60 fps and 10 bits BT-2020) or the two USB 3.0 Type-A ports but we still regret the lack of optical audio output (an ARC output well managed by the TV nevertheless allows to avoid the problem). On the other hand, the microSD card reader and the micro USB connector that was intended to connect the camera to a computer are lost. When asked about this, Nvidia told us that we now have to rely on USB 3.0 Type-A ports, which are also used to connect the device to a computer or to host a USB stick, for example. Since version 6.0 of Android TV, USB sticks and microSD can be designed as internal storage media and thus extend the storage capacity of the device. This does not change one iota and remains at 16 GB, of which 11 GB is accessible to the user. A 500GB version exists and is called Shield Pro – this model remains unchanged from the 2015 version but gains the complete packaging of the Shield TV “2017”.

The network part is identical, with a Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi ac pair at 867 Mb/s (MiMo 2×2). And if Bluetooth 4.1 is still in the game, we lose the infrared (IR) receiver. This, therefore, prohibits the use of universal remote controls equipped only with IR transmitters, such as the Logitech Harmony 950 – more advanced models (Harmony Companion or Harmony Elite) remain compatible via their Bluetooth hub. We have expressed our regret to Nvidia in this regard. According to its representatives, this is only a half-problem since it is still possible to order the box via the HDMI CEC. And for the disappointed, it is always possible to use a USB IR receiver.
The remote control is now provided, in addition to the gamepad.

The accessories provided are also evolving and undergoing a slimming treatment, starting with the gamepad. The Shield Controller, that’s its name, now incorporates the aesthetic codes and highlights of the GeForce range. Less massive than its predecessor, it is much more comfortable with small hands, and the editorial opinion is somewhat divided. Some writers with large hands prefer the old model, while those with medium hands appreciate the grip of the new model much more — a matter of taste and palate.

Communication is now established via Bluetooth and no longer via Wi-Fi Direct – for which Nvidia praised the low latency compared to Bluetooth on the previous model. The last change concerns the Nvidia button, which is no longer sensitive but mechanical. On the other hand, there is the microphone, the headphone output and the rechargeable battery. Recharging is done through the micro-USB connector and a cable that is connected to the case on one of the USB Type-A ports. Recharging the controller with any USB charger is possible. Nvidia has also added two vibration motors to provide haptic feedback in the games that support it.

During the test of the Shield Android TV, we regretted the absence of a remote control; this one being offered as an option (55 €). Nvidia obviously learns from its mistakes and now includes the accessory with the box. The new model nevertheless evolves a little, since it loses its headphone output and its rechargeable battery. Two CR2032 batteries are used to power the remote, enough to provide several months of autonomy when the old one had to be recharged after a few days. There is the microphone, but also the touch zone that allows you to control the volume. The finish of the remote is however inferior to the previous one, the metal edges having been exchanged for a common plastic one and the button intended for vocal research having lost its indicator light; what is not very serious, we grant you that.

We also note the appearance of an infrared transmitter on both the controller and the remote control. This allows you to control devices like a universal remote control but with limited possibilities due to the few assignable buttons. As for the microphone, it will enable you to activate the voice search; the one on the controller is also “always open”. No need to press a button, an “Ok Google” is enough to activate recognition on the gamepad; a function that can be deactivated if necessary.

Inside, the motherboard has been reduced to its simplest form, and the chip remains a Tegra X1. From a technical point of view, we do not notice any changes under the hood. The Tegra X1 house chip remains present, but under revision A2 (A1 previously). There is no significant change in either power consumption or performance. There is also always 3 GB of RAM, and all is cooled by an active system. However, ventilation does not always start up and, when it does, it remains incredibly discreet, imperceptible at two metres.

Multimedia

Shield TV always remains at the top of multimedia decoding. Overall, it is not afraid of anything, as long as the reading application used supports the format. Whether you use Kodi/SPMC or VLC, videos are perfectly played back, whether in Full HD or Ultra HD, encoded in H.264 or HEVC, with or without HDR and at very high bit rates.

In terms of audio, the box can output DTS, DTS-X, DTS HD MA tracks but also Dolby, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos. High-resolution music is not forgotten, with support for 24-bit tracks at 192 kHz for FLAC or OGG, for example.

All games are located in a unified application, Nvidia Games. Nvidia continues to push its communication quite hard around the game console aspect of Shield TV. Three methods are always proposed to relax in front of a game of video games: Android, GeForce Now and GameStream. While it was previously necessary to juggle these three worlds to find games, they are now all grouped in a single application called Nvidia Games. We thus navigate indifferently between the different services, a banner on the game cover simply reminding us which service it comes from.

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The first possibility is to go and pick from the Android games catalogue. Nvidia also offers a handful of exclusive paid titles such as Half-Life 2 or Doom 3.

GameStream is a service dedicated to displaying games installed on the family PC on a large screen, provided that the family PC is equipped with a Nvidia graphics card and GeForce Experience is installed on the machine. GameStream scans the computer’s content and offers to play the different titles from the sofa.

This system picks from all the user’s game catalogs, whether Origin, uPlay, Galaxy or Windows Store. Of course, Steam is not forgotten and works directly in Big Picture mode! Games can be played in both Full HD and 4K, at up to 60 frames per second. It is also not necessary to have a 4K monitor to play on a 4K TV, a good point. We also appreciate the support of the HDR.

A long press on the Play button of the gamepad allows you to display a highlighted menu to take screenshots, stream your games to Twitch or record your best moments in any game. An Instant Replay mode also allows you to record a sequence after the event with a maximum of 20 minutes of flashback.

Finally comes the most original and undoubtedly the most interesting solution for those who do not have a combat computer: GeForce Now. It is simply a catalogue of PC games running remotely on Nvidia servers and accessible from Shield TV for a subscription fee of €9.99. It is a kind of Netflix of video games: the subscription allows you to play unlimitedly most of the games in the catalogue. However, some titles require a few tens of euros to acquire and benefit from them on GFN – or on a PC for that matter.

The system is still well designed and allows you to enjoy games up to Full HD at 60 frames per second if the user’s connection follows. With a 50 Mbps connection, no title will resist on quality – which modulates in real time according to the accessible rate – but 30 Mbps (ADSL/VDSL) is sufficient most of the time. From 20 Mb/s, it is possible to enjoy 720p, while the strict minimum is 12 Mb/s, in return for a poor definition.

When this service was released, we regretted the technical weaknesses of the Nvidia platform, which did not allow us to play games with all the graphics options at their maximum. The servers have since changed to a Pascal-generation graphics card, without any further details. Nvidia also gives no indication as to whether the computing capacities of each server should be shared. Some games offer integrated benchmarks, we have performed some tests. This allows you to compare the performance of a GeForce GTX 1070 with that of a GeForce GTX 1080. In other words, at this price, the performance is there, and practically no title is resistant – since they are executed in Full HD at the maximum on the server side. And if it is now possible to force a WQHD rendering in the game settings, the display on the TV will only be in FHD at best.

Once again, we appreciated the service, which is relatively responsive. Of course, hardcore gamers will find fault with ultra-nervous games, such as the Street Fighter series, but this is still more than acceptable.

Note that uPlay will soon be integrated into the service and will allow you to find uPlay games already purchased by the player or buy new ones, so you can play them in streaming – with synchronisation of backups between PC and Shield if necessary. Good news that will make it possible to extend the GFN catalogue with games, which will undoubtedly be charged for, and also to give the possibility of playing at an optimal level of quality. This last point may be interesting for those who have an ageing machine and do not necessarily wish to renew it. That’s what GeForce Now is all about: moving away from buying an expensive gaming PC to a subscription that gives you access to a multitude of titles executed in excellent quality. And if the catalogue sins a little bit by its not always very recent titles, the kind of agreement that Nvidia has made with Ubisoft shows that this can change over time.

During the presentation of the box, Nvidia highlighted the support of Google Assistant, the AI developed by Google and found in Google Home. This integration will allow you to speak in “everyday language” to your box and ask it to launch a particular video, music, photo or even to carry out research. It will then be possible to interact with connected objects, Nvidia talking about compatibility with Philips Hue bulbs, the Samsung SmartThings ecosystem or Nest products.

It will not be necessary to walk around with your telecom and leave the TV on. Nvidia will offer a small optional object, the Spot, which combines a microphone and a loudspeaker. One can be placed in each room so that it can interact with the assistant at any time. And useless to say to turn on the lights precisely in the parents’ room when you are there, the Spot in the room will realize that you are close to it and on request “turn on the light”, Google Assistant will understand that it is in this room that you must do it.

Google Assistant will be active during an update scheduled in the coming months. Be careful though, for the moment, Google’s AI is only available in English. It will, therefore, be necessary to wait until French is supported before issuing orders in the language of Molière.

Strong points

  • Very fluid Android TV system.
  • SoC performing at all levels.
  • 4K/HDR and HDMI 2.0b video output.
  • Multimedia playback: smooth HD and 4K videos, even at high bit rates.
  • Audio management of the DTS and Dolby.
  • Varied video game offer: Android, GameStream and GeForce Now.
  • Convincing speech recognition.
  • Remote control and gamepad provided.

Low points

  • No optical or coaxial audio output.
  • No USB port on the front panel.
  • No micro-SD card reader.
  • No infrared receiver.

Conclusion

Nvidia offers here a redesigned version of its multimedia box/gaming console. Smaller, it loses a microSD card reader and its popular IR receiver but keeps the excellent Tegra X1 chip. So the box is always at the forefront of playing any multimedia content, whether it’s stored locally, on a NAS or streamed to one of the many supported platforms – and there are some! The video game part also evolves with a PC or GeForce Now streaming that gains in quality. The Shield Android TV was the best Android TV box on the market, and now over to the Shield TV .

Last update on 2019-03-20 at 01:27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API