NVIDIA's latest set-top streaming box is a must-buy, even at $199.

NVIDIA has announced an updated Shield streaming box — the one that debuted last year running Android TV — with updates to the hardware design, including the popular controller, and significant improvements to the software.

Perhaps the most impressive, and surprising, inclusion is that of Google Assistant, the only piece of hardware outside of Google's own Pixel phone lineup that sports the nascent AI conversationalist. And, with a future software update, the Shield will work with Samsung's SmarThings connected home platform, allowing it to be a central hub for lights, cameras and other action.

The announcement comes alongside a new peripheral, the NVIDIA Spot, which works as a voice assistant for, well, Google Assistant, connecting to the Shield and facilitating Google Home-like functionality from anywhere in the house.

Because it runs Android TV, the NVIDIA Shield includes all of the apps that Google's own Nexus Player and other similar set-top boxes feature, but NVIDIA of course has its own tricks: the ability to stream 4K HDR from Netflix and Amazon Video, the only piece of hardware currently capable of doing that. The same is true of the new game streaming features, GeForce Now, which work with NVIDIA's GeForce graphics card lineup to blast games from a PC to a nearby television — 4K HDR game streaming is something many enthusiasts have been waiting a long time for.

The company says that new titles like Watch Dogs 2, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, For Honor and others from Ubisoft will soon be added to the catalogue, and most modern titles optimized for NVIDIA hardware will run perfectly.

Finally, NVIDIA has announced a milestone for its own Steam game store: 1000 titles fully optimized for the Shield box, compatible with the newly-updated controller. The Shield Android TV will also now ship with both the controller and a regular remote, with that new remote supporting always-listening hands-free actions. A higher-end remote that includes a headphone jack for private listening will be included with the 500GB storage Shield Android TV Pro.

The updated NVIDIA Shield Android TV will start shipping later this month for $199, with pre-orders beginning now. Amazon already has a purchase link live, showing a ship date of January 16.

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