When 'old' models get all the features from the new everyone wins.
We expected a new Shield TV was in the works. The current model is one of the best Android products available and NVIDIA keeps it that way by constantly providing content and fine tuning the features and software. You can tell they care about the Shield name, and specifically a Shield set-top box. We didn't expect to see Google Assistant or the NVIDIA Spot that extends it to more rooms, though. And we never would have assumed that it all was going to work with the Shield TV we have now.
The reason they can do this is because the new Shield TV has the same hardware as the old Shield TV. And don't let that worry you. There's nothing "better" available yet and if anything, Android is the slowest part of the picture. The X1 scales to do a lot more than Android asks of it, and the GPU is the same architecture that millions of desktop gaming PCs are using to play AAA titles on high-resolution monitors. There simply isn't any better hardware available for an ARM machine designed to play videos and games.
What has changed, and what we'll need to buy to make our old Shield TVs do all the tricks the new Shield TVs can do, are the remote and gamepad. The gamepad looks just all around better and buying one is a no brainer. Goodbye, capacitive silly mess and hello real buttons that you can feel when you're playing a game. I am going to Borderlands the hell out of you. Besides, this is how you get to have Google Assistant when it's finished — through the mic in the gamepad. I'm not sure if I'm changing to the new remote just yet. Giving up the headphone jack for an IR blaster isn't something I want to do.
The old Shield TV with the new software might be the best Shield TV.
I'll come right out and say what a lot of people might be thinking — the "old" Shield TV with the new software is the best Shield TV. The new box has some changes I like — it's smaller, and the capacitive button on the top is gone. There are also some changes I don't like — the IR receiver is gone so my Harmony remote setup wouldn't work the way it does today where I can click a button (or yell at Google Home) and turn on the TV, set the AV box, fire up the Shield and set the lights to switch to dim blue mode. The SD card slot is gone because there isn't room for it, and with two USB ports that you can connect a hard drive or thumb drive to it was a little redundant. Still, some people will miss it and I have actually used it to look at pictures on my camera's SD card. Finally, nerds need to know that the Micro-USB port is gone, and you'll need an adapter (or cable) to talk to your new Shield TV from your computer through one of the USB-A ports. None of these are real issues, but unless you really need something smaller, there's no reason to buy a new Shield TV. But yeah, buy a new controller or two.
Overall, this is a big win for us and something you don't see very often on the Android side of things. Your "old" existing stuff still works really good. When new stuff comes along, there are usually a few things that you can't do without buying it. I'll take the money I would have spent to buy a new Shield TV and buy NVIDIA Spots instead. Thanks, NVIDIA.
- Read our Shield Android TV review
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- Shield vs. Shield Pro: Which should I buy?
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- Complete Shield Android TV specs