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The NVIDIA Shield TV is still one of the best Android devices you can buy

NVIDIA Shield TV 2019
NVIDIA Shield TV 2019 (Image credit: Android Central)

We all love the Shield TV around here. It's almost universally thought of as the best way to get Android on your TV, isn't outrageously expensive, and has enough power to stream your 4K HDR content without sputtering or complaining. It's also a decent gaming console and makes for a heck of a streaming server when you use Plex or Kodi. It's one of those rare gadgets we buy that does what is advertised and more; you'll get your money's worth from a Shield TV.

Another thing that isn't talked about as often is the level of support NVIDIA gives the Shield family and the Shield TV in particular. Released in 2015, it's one of the few devices that have been updated to Android Pie and the only four-year-old device that didn't come directly from Google to have it. And it doesn't "just" get updates; NVIDIA stopped work and then went to Google with concerns about why Oreo on Android TV wasn't awesome and the two companies worked to fix that. Then NVIDIA sent out an Oreo update. That kind of support is almost unheard of.

So why and how does NVIDIA do it when most other companies making Android-powered gadgets can't or won't? There are two parts to that answer, and both are pretty simple ideas.

Replay value

NVIDIA Shield update

I originally wrote this when the Shield TV received the Android Oreo update. When that happened, even brand new devices were mostly running old software and update schedules for the Android-powered things we use every day had Oreo a long ways off. This little box was three years old and had received twenty major software updates since it was released. Yes, twenty.

Maybe it's sad that seeing four years of support makes us happy and these expensive gadgets should be updated and patched until they turn to dust. If you feel that way, I won't argue. But in the Android world seeing this level of support for a device that's still under $300 is unheard of, so I'm publishing this one again.

Here's to you, NVIDIA. We don't love everything you do as a company, but you deserve our respect for your work on the Shield TV.

Make one great product

NVIDIA is first and foremost a chip maker. It sells a few things like reference model video cards for computers, developer boards to support the company's AI platform, and you can buy a $69,000 compact supercomputer designed to act as an AI workstation if you have the itch for one. These are halo products designed to show what the company's main business — powerful GPUs — are capable of.

Fewer products means developers have the time to care about them.

NVIDIA also, of course, sells the Shield TV. The company has dabbled in Android a bit but quickly exited once it learned how hard it can be to dabble and profit at the same time. The Shield TV exists to showcase NVIDIA's ARM SoC and the company's various gaming services, such as Game Stream. Maybe NVIDIA could conquer the Android world if it really tried, maybe not. We don't know because it's not trying to; it sells one Android device that happens to show off other things the company has to offer.

That means the people who do the designing and thinking and developing have one thing to focus on improving and supporting. One thing to be, for lack of a better word, proud of. When your company makes hundreds of different Android products, it's impossible to give each and every one the love it deserves. Even Samsung, the undisputed king of Android, has to spread time and energy between a dozen devices (and has done a marvelous job lately, kudos all around) and can forget about the rest once in a while.

When a bug or problem with the Shield TV pops up, the right people get the right amount of time to fix it promptly and sent out to us. That can't happen when there are too many things getting shipped out the door.

Make everything inside your great product

NVIDIA is in a rare position with the Shield TV that puts them alongside Apple and Samsung — the company makes the components inside the device that require attention. Like an iPhone or Galaxy S10, you'll find bits and pieces from other semiconductor companies or even rivals like LG inside, but the core component that gets "in the way" when it comes to updating and supporting software is the chipset. NVIDIA, of course, powers the Shield TV with its own Tegra X1 processor and 256-core Maxwell GPU. You can debate the strengths and weaknesses of the arrangement, and both are there to debate, but the company having control over the hardware means the future of the device is entirely in its own hands.

The Shield TV is built with and powered by NVIDIA parts.

When Android is updated to a new product version, like the jump from Oreo to Pie, developers have to work on the code that lets the chipset components interface with the system. For the most part, and NVIDIA is no exception here, that code is closed source and only the company that built the component can do it. Most companies that build consumer products source things like a processor from another company that specializes in building them.

I mentioned above that NVIDIA is first and foremost a chip maker — it has complete control over every piece of code needed to build any software for the Shield TV, including a new version of Android. Or a quick fix for an ugly bug. Or a regular update cycle that improves things like Bluetooth performance or device I/O speeds. Just as the company does for the chips used in video cards, it sends out regular maintenance updates that keep the Shield TV running amazingly well. And when it's time for a bigger update, there's nothing in the way from making it a reality, either.

I have no idea if the Shield TV will see Android Q whenever Google has it ready for the Android TV platform. I'm not even going to speculate on that here. But I will say I wouldn't be shocked if it happens. The company has the means and the desire to make the Shield TV a product you're happy you bought.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Totally agree with you on this one! The Nvidia Shield with the continuous support is just awesome!
  • Using a Logitech K830 keyboard with mine. Love all the streaming and IPTV apk's.
  • Its got to be the best home entertainment system you can buy. I have owned mine since 2015 the update support it recieves is just the best.
  • Love it we have two. If there's a refresh we'll likely invest in the new models...
  • Same! I love supporting companies that continue to give great updates to great products! I'm at the point of "shut up and take my money" with Nvidia Shield products.
  • Did anyone else's USB accessories stop working with this latest update (9.0 Pie)? My USB keyboard and Logitech webcam stopped working. Not sure why. I even did a complete factory reset/wipe and they still don't work. Bluetooth accessories still work. Google is not helping me find any answers. Thanks.
  • Great device! Can't live without it!
  • Been using my shield tv in my living room since November 2015. It's been a great device and have no plans to replace it. I usually have stability issues and factory reset after each Android release. Pie was no exception but that's not that big of a deal.
  • But will it work with stadia? No real reason why it shouldn't. But haven't heard any confirmation on this
  • I came here to ask the same question. It's hard to say, because it's going to be competing with it's streaming platform.
  • 1 thing people should be aware of is dont expect its wifi performance to be on par with a premire+ or other wave 2 HT devices if its 3-4 rooms away. Something id hope their improving on in this next gen
    Would be nice if they went the sony route & licenced vewd aswell
  • That's amazing, Android phones don't get this much software support as the Nvidia Shield TV but then again, Nvidia only has the Shield TV to support.
  • No, they also had a slew of other products that they could have chosen to support as well but abandoned shortly after launch. The Shield Portable for example: It died off shortly after launch due to lack of support. Various graphics cards/GPU's; Nvidia's bread and butter, have gone the way of the dodo much too soon and left the consumer hanging. It doesn't make them the bad-guys by any means but taking one item out of context does not exemplify the companies support record.
  • The Shield Tablet they supported very well but at the same time decided to not refresh it. Even 5 years later it still remains my favorite android tablet. Both my original one and the replacement died due to the micro-USB port failing, would absolutely get one with USB-C or wireless charging. I think they decided to withdraw from that as it was competing... and in some ways superior to... the Switch which they supplied the hardware for which is more their normal realm.... dunno. They did a great job on it though.
  • I have 4 of them, use them all every day.
  • I love my shield. Best android tv device ever
  • Absolutely the best media investment I've ever made! I bought it to replace an old unsupported media streamer. Setup Plex streaming from my NAS and wow!(Shield is the server, its POWERFUL) Then my wife and I realized it was also a great device to turn my 11 yr old Samsung dumb LCD TV into a smart device basically. Chromecast built-in, there goes another dongle out the door! Great little simplistic remote with fantastic button feel. It is the first device of it's kind that the entire family has felt comfortable using. It's intuitive to the point that there is basically zero learning curve, which is big with me and the household. New devices just need to work without hassle EVERYTIME or they will not be accepted long term. I've seen many media devices come and go over the years and am thankful to NVIDIA for the support they show the Shield. I'll continue to support them when I buy my next TV, no worries about manufacturer OS or ecosystem when it has a Shield hooked up!!!! :)
  • Haven't turned my on in months. Until they add atmos support to non-factor for me. I still have to connect a PC to get what I want.