Skip to main content

NVIDIA Shield Android TV review: The best you can get

The original NVIDIA Shield Android TV was released in May 2015, and even as we counted down the days to 2017 it still stood as the go-to top-end Android TV box. So when NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang stood on stage at CES 2017 to release the new Shield Android TV, it wasn't surprising to see that not all that much had changed.

Acknowledging that the Tegra X1 inside the Shield Android TV was more than powerful enough, the internal specs remained identical for the new version. But NVIDIA made some changes that mattered to a lot of people: the box is nearly half the size, it now includes a remote, and the software has been upgraded to Android 7.0 with a few new features. At the same time, NVIDIA completely redesigned its Shield Controller, and has the whole system ready for the launch of Google Assistant on Android TV later this year.

With these tweaks, the price remains the same: $199, including accessories. Over 18 months after it launched the box that has carried the Android TV market, does NVIDIA still have a leader on its hands? We answer that question in here, in our complete review of the new Shield Android TV.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

Strategic cutting

Shield Android TV Hardware

NVIDIA really didn't mess with a good thing here. As has been noted in so many places, the core components inside the new Shield Android TV remain unchanged: Tegra X1 processor, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage run the show. And even at a glance you may not recognize the difference in the external hardware — that is, until you notice how small the box has become.

The new Shield Android TV has similar proportions to the original, but is roughly 40% smaller — you can easily wrap a hand around it — and notably lighter. Of course the more important part about the new smaller size is it'll be easier to find a place for it in your entertainment center. Though there's no functional difference, when you take the new box and hold it right next to the original you do notice a considerable dropoff in material quality for 2017.

There's an external hardware quality dropoff here, but don't get hung up on that.

Now this isn't something most people will notice, but it's worth noting this is a clear point of cost savings for NVIDIA this year. Gone are the heft and nice metal finishes, replaced with a full plastic build. The green LED strip on top no longer appears from a black trim, but is instead a green-tinted plastic bit that lights up when on (though the brightness is adjustable still), while the area above it is no longer a capacitive on/off button — you'll have to just use the remote.

Around back, you'll notice a couple of other features were dropped when moving to the dramatically more compact chassis: microSD card and Micro-USB. The former isn't too much of a loss considering you can still use any storage device over USB, and the latter was only needed for Shield-to-computer transfers which can now be handled with a USB-A to USB-A cable (opens in new tab) and a toggle in the settings. All in all, nothing substantial has changed here.

Sure the box doesn't feel quite as nice, but that's something you forget about five minutes after you hook up the cables (by the way, you'll need your own HDMI cable (opens in new tab)) and place it in your entertainment center. And in return, it let NVIDIA keep the same price on the box while including a brand new redesigned Shield Controller and a TV-style remote that used to cost $49 extra.

Both accessories are now included, and they're big improvements as well.

Let's start with the Shield Controller: it's a ground-up redesign, and it's fantastic. The geodescent pattern means you'll never mistake it for something from another console, and despite my initial worries is very comfortable to use. Aside from the joysticks being on the same longitude the layout is very similar to an Xbox One S controller — in a good way — and NVIDIA has switched to physical back/home/pause buttons on the bottom of the controller that are tougher to accidentally hit during gameplay.

The button up top still functions as a voice activation point for the built-in microphone, but later on in the year the controller will enable always-listening when Google Assistant arrives. At that time, the controller will need to be left within earshot if you want to use Assistant on the Shield Android TV — NVIDIA claims you'll get about two weeks of constant listening from the controller, which is great. Play time for the controller lands at 60 hours before needing to be recharged over an included Micro-USB cable.

Until that Google Assistant update arrives (NVIDIA says "a couple of months"), a majority of Shield Android TV owners are likely to use the now-included Shield Remote instead. NVIDIA is smartly repositioning the Shield Android TV as an all-around entertainment box rather than just for gaming, and a key cog was including a remote rather than asking people to shell out another $49.

A pile of subtle hardware changes make this a better overall entertainment box.

The new Shield Remote on the surface looks unchanged from the original, but internally it has switched from a rechargeable battery to a pair of coin cell batteries that NVIDIA claims offer one year of battery life with regular use. The only concession is that the remote has lost its headphone jack so it can no longer offer private listening — you'll have to use the Shield Controller or pair Bluetooth headphones directly to the box. That's a worthwhile trade-off for me, because even though I absolutely loved the private listening feature it meant that my remote was completely dead most of the time I picked it up.

NVIDIA's final nod to the idea of the Shield Android TV being an overall entertainment option is that the controller and remote both now have IR blasters integrated, meaning they can control power and volume on just about any TV or receiver, rather than relying on the box's HDMI-CEC capabilities. This isn't a universal remote situation, but for most people it will get the job done and mean for most tasks you won't be picking up two remotes to use the Shield Android TV.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

Entertainment hub

Shield Android TV Software and gaming

One of the great parts about Android TV is its consistency across devices, and that means there isn't much to write home about here on the Shield. After the Nexus Player this is the second Android TV box to be running Android 7.0 Nougat, which gives us the latest look at what Google has done on the big screen: generally, a little cleaning up of the interface and a couple new features that are useful but not game changing.

This is basically the same Android TV you already know, with a couple new tricks.

Nougat brings a new task switcher that's hidden behind a double-press of the home button and saves you from dropping back to the main home screen every time, which is useful. Developers targeting Nougat can now also offer picture-in-picture support so you can watch a mini view of the current media playing while browsing the rest of the Android TV interface — though chances are it's going to be a while before any real number of devs get on board there. The same goes for DVR functionality, which will let any media app pause, record, rewind and play on demand rather than simply stream for live playback.

Aside from that, this is the Android TV interface you know. The number of media-centric apps is pretty solid, though some are less than spectacularly written and sometimes performance can be an issue. The big names like ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS, Hulu, HBO Go, Sling TV, Plex, Pandora and more are here, but as soon as you drop off the "top" section of the Play Store you get into the weeds pretty quickly. This is where Google Cast support helps fill in the gaps — and between the native apps and Casting from my phone I'm super happy with Android TV at this point. It obviously makes the most sense for someone in a Google-centric world, but even not taking that into account there's plenty to like here from a media perspective.

Performance on the Shield Android TV is still simply fantastic, and it's clear the hardware inside is overkill for your typical tasks of searching for and playing content. Even when it comes to streaming in 4K HDR on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, the Shield Android TV handles it without issue. (The fact that you even have access to Amazon's video platform in 4K HDR is special, though, as you can't even get that on Amazon's own Fire TV box.) Load times are fast and switching between active apps is a breeze.

Talking about the Shield Android TV's software will get far more interesting once the update for Google Assistant rolls out, as the Shield Android TV can turn into more of a whole home device that expands beyond entertainment. Demos I've seen are extremely promising, showing Google Assistant doing everything you can do with a Google Home or a Pixel, but displayed on a huge TV with even more to see. It can show you any kind of media you want, but also answer questions, integrate with apps and work as a smart home hub with the integration of some Smart Things components.

But of course, we're still a couple months away from that. For now ... we're sticking with the basics. Just know if you have a Shield Android TV today (old or new) you'll be slated to receive Assistant soon and unlock a whole group of new possibilities.

Gaming: NVIDIA's wheelhouse

At its core, the Shield Android TV is still focused on providing the best gaming experience possible — and that hasn't declined in any way despite the increased focus on serving up other kinds of entertainment. NVIDIA still has a three-pronged strategy: local Android games, GeForce Now streaming games, and GameStream games served from your local gaming PC — and I specifically list those in order of what most people are most likely to actually use the Shield Android TV for.

NVIDIA has spurred redevelopment of some old games to Android, and it's great for casual gamers.

The local Android games currently available are new casual titles, big mobile names like Asphalt 8 and NVIDIA-boosted older console games like Tomb Raider II and Half-Life 2. They're simple to buy in the Play Store and the Shield Controller works perfectly ... but there isn't a whole lot here that can satiate avid gamers. It won't be hard to find a game that'll feed your appetite for a few hours of entertainment, though.

A bit more involved but entirely more interesting to more intense gamers is NVIDIA's subscription service, GeForce Now. With this system, NVIDIA handles the hard work of running high-end PC games on a remote server and streams them directly to your Shield Android TV. For $7.99 per month you have access to 60 titles (opens in new tab) (currently — it's regularly expanding) to stream at any time, including saved games and online multiplayer. There are then 40+ newer high-end titles available for purchase for around $10-$60, many of which include a digital key for a download elsewhere such as Steam.

The experience of playing GeForce Now games when in ideal conditions is no different from if you had a full-blown PC sitting behind your TV. Response time is perfect, the games look great streaming in 1080p 60fps, and everything loads quickly — it's seamless. The only issue comes whenever you have internet hiccups. NVIDIA requires (opens in new tab) a 60 ms ping and 50 mbps speeds for 1080p 60fps streams (and 20 mbps for 720p), but despite my 200 mbps internet connection and brand new Google Wifi router, the Shield Android TV couldn't maintain a perfect stream unless I plugged in an ethernet cable. It does an admirable job of gracefully degrading quality to keep response times high, but the only way I'd ever want to play is via ethernet. This really isn't a shortcoming of the Shield Android TV itself ... but more so the demands of doing live network-streamed gaming.

GeForce Now is the sweet spot for those who don't want a full-blown gaming console.

Moving a step further, NVIDIA's GameStream is the top level, and requires a beefy gaming PC on your network that can run the games you want to play ... at which point they're streamed over your local network to play on the Shield Android TV like GeForce Now. There are a lot of supported games (opens in new tab), but of course you also have to have a full-blown PC capable of handling the games in the first place. Once configured it works flawlessly (again, so long as the network holds on), but this isn't something for casual gamers — they'll be better off with the games on offer from GeForce Now.

Through the combination of the three systems, NVIDIA has a compelling gaming story to tell here. The new "NVIDIA Games" app on the Shield Android TV groups local Android games, GeForce Now games and GameStream games into a single place, so as long as you have it all set up ahead of time you won't notice any difference in launching a local game to a streamed game. That's a huge part of making the Shield Android TV gaming experience seamless, but it also requires a little bit of know-how and setup to make it perfect. Hardcore gamers — like those with a dedicated gaming PC and knowledge to set up GameStream — may not be satisfied with the setup and will prefer a proper gaming console or just sitting down at the PC directly. Casual gamers, though, shouldn't consider any other Android TV box.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

Still the best

Shield Android TV Bottom line

The second iteration of the Shield Android TV is a proper successor that shows NVIDIA knows just how to iterate on this platform. In an Android TV space that still lacks a robust number of choices — and even fewer good choices — the Shield Android TV stands as the box to get if you want a no-compromise complete experience. Yes at $199 it's a bit more expensive than the competition from Amazon, Roku (opens in new tab) and Apple, but you only have to do a little bit of research to see that the Shield Android TV still offers supreme value even at that price.

For the money you're getting a box that can truly handle everything: high-end streaming entertainment from all of the top properties, gaming from multiple sources that tops any other box in this class, and in the coming months updates that bring Google Assistant and full-home control possibilities. When you buy a new Shield Android TV you're not just getting a simple little box that you'll plug and then forget about a couple months in — you're getting as close to a full entertainment system in a single box as you can reasonably expect ... and at that point, it seems like a great deal that you're getting all this for $199.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • I thought they was updating Gforce to offer more games from companies like Ubisoft. No mention of that. It would be a great gaming device when this feature is added.
  • They announced Ubisoft is coming but didn't specify a time frame for each game arriving. They did say that Ubisoft games will include multiplayer tho which is nice.
  • Did they finally get rid of Sideload Launcher? I really wish Sideloaded apps appeared on the front of the device.
  • This is a interesting question. i would like to know more also.
  • If an app doesn't have 'TV Banner' inside then Android TV launcher can't display it on the homescreen, so you still have to use sideload launcher. It's fault of App makers not the OS.
  • Excellent review; very thorough and informative. I have the first gen Shield TV and I've been extremely satisfied with my purchase. Although I must wonder, will Google continue to properly support Android TV going forward? They have a history of being very fickle and prematurely pulling the plug on projects that don't fit neatly into their current vision. I hope Google doesn't try to "Pixel-fy" everything; Nvidia has really shown their worth as an OEM and I can't imagine a Pixel TV could possibly offer a better experience than what Nvidia has created with the Shield (especially for gaming enthusiasts). The Leanback UI and Android TV in general still has a lot of nonsensical restrictions that could be lifted so there's not such a jarring disparity between Android proper and its TV oriented cousin. By the way, has anyone discovered a good work around for being bounced out of content sent via Google cast? Sometimes, even after all the current software updates, the Shield will suddenly kick back to an app (usually Netflix) for seemingly no reason thus interrupting the casting. Probably one of the only truly annoying issues on what I otherwise consider to be a near perfect system. I have a feeling this is something related to Android TV though and not the Shield specifically.
  • Very good review. My Shield TV arrives today and this could be the year I cut the cord and go all in on streaming with PSVue/Netflix/Amazon with a single device. Time will tell.
  • This would be a great candidate to be the "one box" to do it all.
  • I agree with the "one box to do it all", having owned the 1st gen Shield and then an Apple TV and now back to Shield (which was delivered yesterday). There are significant differences...and not that these are the ONLY 2 media streaming boxes, but 2 very big contenders. I love that the Shield is 4K and offers VUDU and Amazon, which Apple TV does NOT and probably never will. The whole "just Airplay it to your TV" line is a band-aid really. I have a family, I want to be able to hand them the remote and have everything they need on the TV in front of them. On the Apple side they don't offer 4K and the Apple TV is only 10/100 Ethernet, not sure why that is. Apple also has all the streaming TV apps, which Android/Shield lacks. I installed FXX last night on my Shield and I keep getting errors on the app. Also, my Google Music app was not loading my music/subscription, I had to uninstall updates on that app and reload to get it to work...but I digress, the Apple TV is taking a back seat and I've been called an Apple Fanboy in the past...truth be told I'm a gadget geek and want one box to rule them all and the Shield is the closest to that yet, I just hope Google takes Android TV a bit more seriously and gets more TV/Cable companies on board for streaming apps. EDIT to add... AND the Kodi app! Forgot about Kodi...we have history together as XBMC!
  • Wait this comes with amazon video??? its the only thing i use on my sony tv's android interface because its not on my shield. that would be fantastic because the sony interface is much slower (which is why I couldn't bring myself to sell my shield)
  • Indeed it does. Not the best/fastest app out there, but it does what it needs to do in streams in 4K w/ HDR if you have the TV for it.
  • For original Shield TV owners, is it worth the upgrade to the new unit?
  • No reason to — the original will be getting its Nougat update today and for all intents and purposes be identical to the new model. If you want always-listening support when Google Assistant rolls out you'll wanna buy the new Shield Controller, though.
  • Thats what I ended up doing. Maybe it will push me to actually play the games on it.
  • But the nVidia Spots may take care of that when those get released.
  • Of course, but that'll depend on how each person wants to set things up in their home. Chances are for the "sitting in front of the TV" experience, the controller sitting on the table will be better than a Spot that's more tucked away.
  • Unless you REALLY need the always-listening stuff, nope. Last year's model will get almost all of the goodies found in the new one.
  • If you're not into playing demanding games on an Android console, the Mi Box for 70 dollars is ok too. I wouldn't have recommended it just a week ago, but they made an update a few days ago that fixed any issues I had with the box. If you believe Xiaomi, they have said they are shooting for a Q1 2017 upgrade to Android 7 Nougat as well. The UI is smooth even at 4K 60fps display mode. It doesn't drop any frames in any application that I'm aware of. One glaring defciency however, is that Amazon doesn't have a Prime video app yet like they do with the Shield.
  • My worry is not having a wired connection.
  • There's a couple of USB ethernet adapters that Xiaomi recommends that seem to work well. You can get one for less than 10 dollars, but the downside is that you would then also need to buy a small USB hub of some sort to avoid losing your only USB slot on the device. All that stuff is cheap, but when you start adding things to the Mi Box at 70 dollars the Shield at 199 becomes even more attractive. Another issue is since the Mi Box won't do HDR until it gets an upgrade to Nougat, there's no way to know what the hardware can actually handle.
  • Glad to hear the mibox got an update. I returned mine because it failed to do the basic things i bought it for: stream Netflix and Plex.
  • I'm wondering why anyone would buy this if they have an Xbox One / PS4?
  • If the article didn't explain it, then this box isn't for you.
  • There really isn't any reason unless you want easy access to Kodi on your TV.
  • Most people probably wouldn't. And I don't think NVIDIA is making any claims about being a better gaming machine than the Xbox One or PS4. The Shield Android TV could easily be a good choice for a secondary TV, though, regardless of whether you have an Xbox One or PS4 on your "main" TV. The Shield has a distinct advantage of being compact and easy to use, along with cheaper than the aforementioned consoles, which are big bonuses for a lot of people.
  • Mine was shipped today! :)
  • 16gb and the SD expansion slot was removed?!?! Isnt that rather small. I had the original Shield Tv for awhile and it was the 500gb monster. In hindsight I shouldnt have taken it back as I got it on a HUGE discount at Best Buy (actually cheaper then the 16gb model). Skip this, I see now they DO offer as 500gb model for 299 :)
  • You can also use adoptable storage with any USB drive to expand the storage of the box.
  • Can someone try to explain the pros & cons to the 500GB model over the 16GB version. I mean $100 more for just 500GB I feel is a bit excessive especially when you can up your storage via USB and external HDD
  • If you get the 16g you can expand memory with some SD or a USB flash the 16g is sufficient for most people.
  • Portability, convenience, warranty, integration and other usual reasons people don't want to mess with thumb drives and external hard drives. A pro for me would be not having my kids loose or break the external hard drive when they decide to sneak the Shield to a friend's house. Just Google Xbox external hard drive vs internal pro cons , it's essentially the same issue.
  • Basically, the Pro still offers an IR receiver for universal remotes, has 500GB of internal storage, still has an SD card slot and comes with the "old" TV remote that is rechargeable and has a headphone jack. A vast majority of people will be better off just getting the standard model and saving the $100. Even if you need more storage, you could spend $50 on a USB 3.0 flash drive and adopt it to the box for more storage and still come out ahead.
  • I bought the original and got the controller and remote the same deal as the new one. I'm glad I got the first one seems to be the better product.
  • now that the shield has Amazon video integration I can finally bring it out of the den & into the family living room. This is the biggest news for my household and means we can consign one the AFTV's to the kids room.
  • Thanks for the article! It managed to convince me to pull the trigger and replace my Nexus Player (which lately I have been having Wi-Fi connectivity issues), and so far I LOVE IT! Once NS gets Google Assistant, I'm wondering how it will coincide with Google Home; which both happen to be in the same room in my house.
  • My only issue with this is the price staying the same. If you want to play in the game console world when a second iteration/redesign comes out it is always at a ''new'' lower price. Xbox One S? The Tegra 2 is either out now or right around the corner and to think Nvidia won't be putting that chip in a new box is fooling themselves. I'd be interested in this model at $149 or an upgrade with the new chip at $199-$249. Essentially you're paying $100-$150 premium to be able to play console games when compared to the cost of the available streaming sticks that still offer some gaming capabilities.
  • The general mistake is thinking that this is a head-to-head competitor with the likes of the Xbox One S and PS4. It's a completely different product for different people. Anyone who sees the clear advantages in terms of gaming on the "traditional" consoles will probably not be swayed by the Shield Android TV ... and I bet they won't even be considering the two on the same footing. The Shield Android TV is for people who want a media streamer, and want the best possible media streamer. It also has the added bonus of being able to handle casual games ... and a little potential beyond that with streaming games. It isn't a console killer, but it is a top-end set top box streamer. I don't have an issue with the $199 price. The internal hardware is still overkill and can handle everything you'd want to do in terms of Android TV and the games it supports. 1.5 years on for the same price you're getting a remote included that used to cost $50, a newly designed controller and new software/content offerings. I think that still offers a solid value, and it also means NVIDIA is actually making money on this box ... that probably wasn't the case with the original.
  • I don't believe it's a "general mistake''. I'm not thinking anything but what the marketing of this product tells me to think. The Shield's website says "stream smooth" and "game hard". You're the one who mentioned "casual games". I've always seen the advantages and disadvantages of console vs. PC and now vs. this Shield device. Being a gamer I've never cared about the pros and cons. If I want to play something I have to buy the hardware to do so. A true gamer when possible will get all platforms to play all the exclusive titles. If this Shield had any games like that....I would consider getting it. If it doesn't have any games like that....then it better have a great niche to command game console money vs. streaming device money. If the Shield is for people who want the best possible media streamer then why should they pay for the gaming remote? I didn't think it needed to be a console killer.....but it's priced too close to a console. And to the point that you're now getting the media remote that used to cost $50.....isn't the media streaming remote for "people who want the best possible media streamer" would of been expecting to get for free on it's first release? It wasn't included because it was trying to be a a gaming console.
  • The cherry on the top: $100 markup for the 500GB hard drive making it $299. Are they for real? "Stream the incredible performance of GeForce® GTX 1080 gaming graphics to your SHIELD device with the next-generation GeForce NOW. It's instant gaming satisfaction, with no downloads or patches." To pay anywhere from $200 to $300 for this thing....after you already bought a $500 GTX 1080.....then have the nerve to ask you to pay $8 a month for the convenience to stream games from your already expensive PC to their expensive! 10-25ft HDMI cable anyone?
  • GeForce Now is not standard game streaming from your PC. That's the Game Stream app, which doesn't cost. GeForce Now is a subscription service. It is the old Grid app that allows you to stream games from their servers for those who don't have a gaming PC at home, but have fast internet. Is this the first time you've read anything on the Shield TV?
  • That's good to know and it sounds like it's a fair price if there is a market for it. Thanks for the correction. It's not the first time I read anything about the Shield TV, but the first time I had to go into detail when someone tells me the product is for ''casual'' gaming. I still stand by my two cents on everything else.
  • It would've been nice to see a spec bump, but no biggie. What's here is plenty under the circumstances. Still sounds like an amazing box that's gotta be on my "must have - eventually" list. Now, any word on a refreshed Shield Portable- you know, the controller with the flip-over screen? That's what I'm waiting for! Cheers!
  • If you want an Android TV but don't want to buy a complete TV, this is the way to go.
  • Do TVs with Android TV even get updates?
  • Still trying to find out if this has HDCP 2.2 support; can't seem to find that anywhere. Most of Amazon's UHD 4k content - especially the originals - is protected by HDCP so this is a must for me. I would consider this as a replacement for my gen 2 FireTV box to watch my Plex content but I can't seem to find an answer - does anyone here know?