Skip to main content

Top 9 things to know about the NVIDIA Shield Android TV

Before NVIDIA got into the Android TV game back in 2015 the market was lacking a true top-of-the-line offering. Now in 2017, the second generation box is still leading the pack as the go-to set top box if you want the absolute best the Android TV platform has to offer. With powerful internals, great peripherals and big time gaming chops, it can be the choice for so many people who are willing to spend the $199 for one (opens in new tab).

We have nine things you should know about the Shield Android TV, whether you're still thinking about picking one up or already have it at home.

It's made for 4K and HDR video

4K TV Input

Just about every set top box has a model that can handle 4K, but you don't always have 4K resolution and HDR like the Shield Android TV offers. If you have a 4K HDR TV then this will be one of the boxes on your short list — the specs inside can handle silky smooth video even with the latest standards, but just as importantly it also offers 4K HDR content from Netflix and Amazon Video.

Sure you'll still watch a majority of things in 1080p or in 4K without HDR, but knowing that the Shield Android TV is ready to go for anything new that comes is great. And considering how well NVIDIA has supported its original Shield Android TV even after its predecessor arrived, you shouldn't have any issue using this for a long while.

You can use any USB or Bluetooth peripheral

NVIDIA Shield Android TV ports

When you buy a Shield Android TV you're not just stuck with what's included in the box — dual USB 3.0 ports on the back and Bluetooth inside let you expand it in many ways. When it comes to adding extra peripherals to the box, if it has a USB-A plug then you can pretty much count on it working. Whether that's a keyboard and a mouse, a USB flash or hard drive, gaming joystick or web cam — plug it in and it'll play nice.

That also extends to Bluetooth, where you can pair a set of headphones or your own game controller even if it isn't from NVIDIA. Of course the app or game you intend to use with it will need to support it, but knowing that you can extend your system with other standard peripherals is great.

Old Shield Wireless Controllers work just fine

Shield Android TV controllers

The newly redesigned Shield Controller (opens in new tab) is a big step forward from the original, but it's important to know that if you already have older version of the controller they'll work just fine as well. There are differences in the button layouts and overall feel, but everything will interact with the system (and more importantly, games) just how you expect.

If you connect your old Shield Wireless Controller it'll likely update your controller's firmware (which will happen automatically) so it can interact fully with the Shield Android TV, but after that you'll be loading up some great multiplayer gaming.

The new Shield Remote isn't rechargeable

NVIDIA Shield Remote

NVIDIA redesigned its Shield Remote and Shield Controller, making overall changes for the better on both peripherals. The new Shield Remote is included with the box, whereas it used to be a $50 add-on, but it also made a big change to how it's powered. Rather than being recharged over Micro-USB like the controller, the remote is powered by two coin cell batteries that offer one year of battery life.

Assuming you keep the Shield Android TV for over a year, or use the remote a ton, you can swap out the batteries — but with typical use NVIDIA says you won't have to worry about that more than once every 12 months. That's undeniably a better situation than having to plug in your remote every week or two, and it means you aren't going to constantly pick up your remote only to find out it's died sitting on the table.

There are now notable differences in the Shield Pro

Shield Android TV and Shield Pro

With the newly redesigned Shield Android TV, NVIDIA has kept around the higher-end "Pro" model for those who need a little more from their set top box and are willing to shell out an extra $100 for it. The Shield Pro has the same larger form factor as the first-gen box (meaning it also has nicer external hardware, for what it's worth), and that means it has also retained a few features: a 500GB hard drive, an SD card slot and an IR receiver for use with universal remotes.

For those who plan to use their Shield Android TV for lots of local media storage or have a dependency on an IR-based universal remote, that Shield Pro may seem like a great deal for an extra $100. Chances are most people will be better off with the standard $199 base model, though — weigh the options before making a buying choice.

Adoptable storage may be in your future

NVIDIA Shield Android TV with USB drive

If all you're looking to get out of the higher-end Shield Pro is more storage, you may be better off saving your $100 to just buy an external drive for the standard Shield Android TV. Even though it no longer has an SD card slot, the Shield can still accept USB drives to vastly expand its 16GB of internal storage.

That means you can plug in an external hard drive if you want lots of storage, but most people will probably manage with just plugging in a USB flash drive. Any flash drive that's USB 3.0 will work, but we have a handful that we recommend for the best experience. For less than $50 you could add 128GB to your Shield Android TV — that's a great feature.

Android TV has come a long way, but still needs some help

Android TV Nougat

Android TV has gained lots of polish, small features and dramatically more apps since being introduced at Google I/O 2014, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. The interface is pretty slick, intuitive and even a bit customizable, but the app experience still isn't great across the board.

Thankfully you'll now find most of the big names like Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, Hulu, ESPN, Fox Sports Go, Sling TV, Plex and Kodi. But the apps aren't all of the high quality you may expect from a set top box, and they still all live in their own silos to be opened one at a time and used independently with their own interfaces and quirks. There's still a bit of a learning curve, for sure.

The ability to use Google Cast definitely helps fill in any gaps you may have, though, with the Cast experience from mobile apps on your phone or tablet sometimes being smoother and simpler than using a native Android TV app. We recommend to always give the local Android TV apps a try first, but just remember that Casting from your phone may be an option as well.

This is THE set top box for gaming

NVIDIA Shield Controller

NVIDIA does its best to close the gaming gap on Android TV with three different plans of attack. The first is a robust (and growing) set of NVIDIA-exclusive native Android titles, typically ports of older well-known games that used to require a big and bulky console to play. They're designed to work with the Shield Controller, and run great on the box's hardware.

NVIDIA's three-pronged gaming approach makes a compelling offering.

The next is GeForce Now, which is an innovative system that lets you stream big-name titles from an NVIDIA server directly to your Shield Android TV. Assuming you have enough bandwidth (not always a given), you can play games in 1080p 60 fps with great responsiveness. It costs just $7.99 per month and includes over 60 titles, and there are additional brand new games for sale as well.

The final pillar of the gaming story is GameStream, which requires an NVIDIA-powered gaming PC on your local network. With some configuration, you can stream hundreds of the latest games from your home PC to the Shield Android TV.

NVIDIA has a complete list of the games available across all three platforms right here (opens in new tab).

Once you have GeForce Now and GameStream configured it's a near-seamless experience no matter where your games are coming from, and they're all listed together in your gaming library. The bottom line here is that this is the set top box to get if you're going to be gaming — the others just don't compare.

You can tweak the green LEDs

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

This is perhaps the smallest of the tips here, but it needs said because you probably wouldn't go looking for it yourself. You may notice when you wake up your Shield Android TV that the slice of angular green plastic on the top of the box lights up — and it turns out you can change the intensity of that light as well!

Head into your Settings, System, LED Brightness and set it between high, medium, low and off. The new Shield Android TV still has some green to it even when you have the LEDs set to "off" because the plastic itself is tinted, but when you turn the lights off it isn't distracting in the way that the "high" setting can be in a dark room.

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

64 Comments
  • BAH. This story better be f'n amazing if I'm going to click multiple times to get through a list-story. Is it?
  • Click "View All" to see it on a single page.
  • this complaint is getting old. don't be lazy.
  • "With the power of its processor, the new HDMI 1.4 specs inside and an included high-bandwidth HDMI cable" It's HDMI 2.0 W/HDCP 2.2.
  • Derp, did I really write 1.4? Must've been asleep at the wheel.
  • You're human, it happens :)
  • Or is he? Maybe he made a human mistake to make us think he is human? LOL!
  • Hey Andrew, where is this on off switch for the green light. I can't find it easily in the settings. On the most recent Android version available for the Shield TV. Thanks.
  • Hey Andrew....can you get me one? =-)
  • It's cool Andrew. I'm not mad at you.
  • Andrew you are spot on with all of this. The 199 box with the extra remote is the best way to go for sure. Check my unboxing @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ggDrutFZ68
  • I'd skip the extra remote, use the controller or the app.
  • I would agree with you in that remote app even worked half the time
  • Why do say that? 16gb is definitely not enough and 500gb is good deal for $100 ($70 if you like borderlands). Plus you still expand the pro via microsd but you can never add an hdd to the non pro
  • When the new android M comes out you will be able to store games onto hard drives which would be great
  • I want to know the codecs it can handle for movie watching. Can it play a 1080p mkv movie with DTS audio?? Posted via Android Central App
  • Kodi's available on it from the Play Store now. I'm not sure there's a codec that Kodi can't handle.
  • To answer the question: Yes.
  • Is Kodi (xbmc) player better than MX player?
  • Yes
  • Am I the only one that wanted HDMI in to integrate with my existing cable? Does Android TV have to be for chord cutters? I want it to be an addition to my normal cable like my original Logitech Revue was. Looking for a replacement but since I'm not ready to ditch cable, I'm looking for this + hdmi in.
  • Android TV isn't setup for HDMI pass-through like Google TV was.
  • The software can handle it. It's up to an OEM to release such a box. Traditionally, these boxes cost more and don't sell as well as the standard OTT sub-$100 box. So far, only one true Android TV-based device with HDMI pass-thru was released, but it's UK only and tied to a specific cable operator.
  • But it very much is not designed as a video overlay for your live cable like the old Google TV or the Xbox One is. Best you can get is an icon for live TV.
  • Most cable companies have Android apps that let you watch their TV content provided you're at home. All they'd have to do is convert these apps to work with AndroidTV and boom, instant cable box replacement. Until then I have my HDHomerun Prime. :)
  • Does anyone know of any good media gallery apps for local content for android TV. Used to use Mizuu on my tablet but thinking of getting this? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Kodi
  • Yeah, plus it's available on Google Play now as well. I'll have to give it a look, thanks! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can't wait to find a video demo of someone using this with the HDhomerun Prime cablecard network tuner. Specifically the Live channels native app. Would love to see how fast that switches channels and it would be nice to replace my regular cable box with that.
  • Wouldn't you lose the DRM channels?
  • I have no idea how it would work, it's all so complicated about which parts work with which app. I don't even know yet which channels are DRM'd with the cable provide I could use (Charter) aside from the obvious like hbo and other premiums I wouldn't subscribe to anyway. I'm waiting until Silicon Dust is done with their DVR service before I take a real hard look at the potential anyway. It would be just awesome to have a network tuner recording to my NAS and be able to watch any and all my either cable or online streaming content from one device like the shield tv
  • I'm using an HDHomeRun Prime with the Shield TV, but the Live Channels app didn't work that well initially (it would crash), so I have been using HDHomeRun's View app instead. I haven't tried the Live Channels app since the new update the Shield TV just got yesterday.
  • How is the response time with the view app? does it take a long time to change the channel or view the guide?
  • 9. It's not available in Europe and probably won't be for another 6 months
  • Okay, I'm sold on this thing except for one question. I want to use my google account to stream Google Play Music, but I need to use a different (family) account for Google Play Movies. My understanding is that you can only have one account signed in. So is my above scenario not possible? If so, Google really needs to fix it. Either add support for multiple accounts, or have a family plan that provides access to shared content across multiple accounts. Thanks in advance.
  • Correct, it's one account, and it's also causing issues for our household as well.
  • Thanks for the clarification. That's a real bummer. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My family has got around this in a couple of ways, one it supports casting, you can send your music to the TV. The other way is for you to share your playlist through Google music to your family account. My family account gets the all access music and can play all the songs in the playlist. That playlisy shows up in the playlists as well.
  • Can you run the Google Photos app on this?
  • Nice summary, but they kinda goofed the remote, should have added a play/pause button somewhere if it was meant to be that easy for noobs. Heck the CONTROLLER has a play/pause button! There's ways to do it with the 5-way but they're not immediately apparent.
  • I'm just guessing, but I would imagine that the big round button in the center of the ring is the play/pause as well as the select button.
  • Unfortunately you guess wrong. Generally it makes the on-screen UI visible so you can move a cursor around. Some software will default it to being on the play/pause button, but others will not, it depends.
  • Press the center button to bring up whatever player ui. Press again to pause. Any app designed with normal ui standards will pause payback. Posted via the Android Central App
  • the volume slider on the remote also works for play pause if you double tap it
  • The most important thing in this list is that it is NOT a console killer. If your gaming needs are very casual this may get your fix but this box still isn't ready for the average consumer. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Coming from a sony gs7 (which cost almost as much as the shield pro), firetv and nexus player I have to say that there is no comparison to this box. Simply awesome to not be space limited, not worry about crap performance and to be able to rock through my pc library away from the pc . I have no doubt the soon to be updated shield tablet is going to join the party once its available Forgot to mention the $30 game and $30 play store credit just adds to the sweetness
  • IMO, lack of Amazon Video on this thing is its Achilles heel. (You can side load it, but you need a mouse.) If it could replace my Fire Stick, I'd definitely get one.
  • Great article! Just a suggestion for those who live outside US like me,based on my experience, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Google TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.
  • Does any one have any problems with the controller doesn't alway connect the remote alway works but not the controller
  • Good News, Everyone! I have discovered the IR Receiver on the SHIELD TV can connect with your TV remotes. I'm not sure how I did it, I was fiddling around to get the games to fit in the TV screen (I think most are not properly formatted for a TV screen so it's a developer problem, not yours) but eventually I pressed one of the directional buttons on the TV remote and to my amazement, I was navigating the SHIELD TV! This might be a great feature for those who don't want to fork over $50 for a dedicated remote but also wants a simple navigational tool. Pair this with your Android Remote app then you really have nothing to worry about.
  • One year later: it's probably just HDMI-CEC.
  • A day later; HDMI-CEC wouldn't allow you to navigate between elements in the Android TV interface (though I would expect this to be effectively possible in the near future through the use of standardized actions in the same way that firmware buttons on laptops have become more-or-less standardized signals now).
  • Has everyone gotten the Nougat update already? I've been checking my Gen 1 ShieldTV every day since last week and it still hasn't appeared.
  • It should be coming soon. My Shield just got the third beta for Nougat last night.
  • Hasn't been released.
  • So Nvidia's announcement last week that the Gen 1 Shield TV would start getting the update immediately was confirmed to be a mistake. The guy clarified on Twitter that it would start rolling out in "about a week," and that was about a week ago, so I suppose we should start seeing it soon-ish.
  • Smh. Oh well I hope I get it soon then.
  • Nope. Been trying too and nothing.
  • Why am I seeing 2 year old comments?
  • This is a two-year-old article that has been updated
  • I have a video collection on several external 2.5" drives - can I daisy chain these and navigate contents on the Shield TV? I know about Netflix and Hulu but these are not available where I'm at and internet is too damn expensive.
  • No, as of right now the Shield only supports connecting 2 external drives(although there are stories of workarounds that have had mixed success) but Nvidia has said they are working on updating that.
  • I find it easier and faster to use the Android TV Remote Control app by Google instead of the Shield remote.
  • Oh I was hoping you could set the LEDs to flash different colors! Suppose that'd be a little off brand for NVIDIA. Love my Shield.