NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV 2017 The best Streaming Android TV box this year?
Nvidia released the 2017 version of the NVIDIA Shield TV Android to the market which is smaller and houses a few new features. The Android TV box based unit it a little streaming box that allows for a multitude of functionality as it properly takes over your Smart TV experience, but can also function as a streaming game console. And yes, if you install Kodi, you'll have a fully fledged Ultra HD HDR ready media player, compatible with high-definition audio and Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well. To bring in a little more value Nvidia now includes their very handy remote control as standard, and gave their game controller a much improved overhaul as well.
Now before we begin I need to clear up a thing or two. Yes there have been subtle changes towards the new 2017 model, but if you already purchased the 2016 model don't feel down, there is no need to upgrade unless you simply like to own the smaller product and/or an updated game controller. Nvidia will continue to support the 2016 Shield, and in fact has recently upgraded the firmware (OTA) already to match the 2017 models 100%. This means that you will received an upgrade towards full Ultra HD HDR compatibility with all the functionality and features the new 2017 model has got to offer. Much like the last-gen product for the 2017 Nvidia has two models available in the market, the 'regular' version with 16GB internal storage, and also a PRO model 500 GB model. Both units come with that nice Nvidia controller, Nvidia now also includes that much needed remote with the 2017 models. There is one distinct difference to be found there. The Pro model can be recharged, the regular model works on a battery. For this review Nvidia submitted their 'regular' 16GB version of the Nvidia Shield Android TV console, the unit is priced at 199 USD/EURO, that 500GB model adds another 100 bucks to that pricing. The SHIELD Android TV 2017 model is powered by the very same Nvidia Tegra X1 processor with a 256-core based Maxwell GPU that is paired with 3GB RAM, running Google’s Android operating system. The unit supports the latest and fastest WIFI standards including MIMO/AC, once you connect the unit to a viable 2.4 or 5G WIFI network the unit automatically tries to update itself rapidly towards Android v7, yes Shield Andoird TV already uses the latest Android Nougat. Again, the OTA software for the 2016 model already is available which will update to the very same Nougat build.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV 2017 is up-to snuff with the latest technologies, but before we dive into the review we need to talk a little about two new features that are up and coming. Among the new features is more advanced support for Google Assistant. As you'd imagine, Google Assistant works just like it does on the company's Home device and Pixel phones, but you can also command it to play media on the Shield TV. You just speak to the device and Shield / Google will analyze and get you answers or activate thing. If you say OK Google netflix, you guessed it already Netflix will start. It's getting more advanced though as you can say complete sentences these days and albeit a little scary, the implementation understands and reacts to it in a rather profound and proper way. It won't be long before we all will start speaking in the living room, and your Google assistant based device will be monitoring and adapting to your requests. Currently if you press the mic button on the remote or controller, much like your smart-phone the SHIELD will react and answer or activate whatever you command it to.
That brings us to the next phase, tied to the assistant. Albeit not implemented yet, but due for release closer to summer is Nvidia spot. Basically the companion microphone accessory for the Shield, Nvidia Spot which will function similarly to Amazon's Echo. That means if you connect compatible devices in your house you, in the future, can control devices by voice command. Nvidia SPOT (to be released) pods can answer to commands including weather forecasts and news as well as delegate commands to other devices including coffee makers, lights or window blinds. SPOT devices can be installed at various locations in the house to create sound triangulation that will determine which room of the house you're in. Spot will not work as a standalone device - it has to be connected to a Shield TV to work. According to the company, the microphone within the Spot is able to process audio from up to 20ft away, along with echo cancellation. Multiple Spot microphones can be placed in your house in rooms across the house, providing Google Assistant features with the Shield Android TV as the central hub. "OK Google enable lights" would enable lights in the living room you are present in. In more futuristic settings you could control climate control in your house, enable and disable your TV or simple stuff like playing music by saying "OK Google play Queen Radio Gaga". As you can see the Shield Android TV is advancing into a very diverse and integral part in your house. That said and done, for this article I am restricting this content to such features that are actually available as the assistant and spot is a bit future stuff.
So let's talk a little more on what it also is, a stream device. Shield was already considered one of the better TV consoles available, but the upgrade to 4K and HDR (high-dynamic range) makes it even better. HDR provides deeper color, display brightness and well, awesome images and imagery. With that said, Netflix is full HDR supported, Amazon Prime is now supported in ultra HD and HDR and well anything streaming that is a triple-A application is now supported by Shield. One of the most used features for Shield in fact is movie / music / content playback. The recently released and updated Kodi (Krypton) for example is supported, that means video accelerated full Ultra HD playback on the Shield is not an issue, also Shield includes all the 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound support with that you can think of, including high-definition audio in the form of Dolby True HD, DTS-HD, DTS:X and Dolby Atmos playback. When connected to our 65" Samsung Ultra HDTV the HDMI 2.0 connection kicked in nicely at 2160p60 thus HDMI 2.0 kicks in right out of the box as well.
For the actual device itself, the form factor of the 2017 SHIELD is now smaller, yet primary features have not been 'reduced' aside from a thing or two. Next to broad AC multi-band compatible WIFI with MIMO support. Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time. All wireless products with 802.11n support MIMO. The technology helps allow 802.11n to reach higher speeds than products without 802.11n. But hey if you liked wires, you can use the traditional Gigabit Ethernet jack as well. Nvidia Shield also includes Bluetooth 4.1 BLE support (handy with a sound-bar) and as stated wireless WIFI on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Proper and fast WIFI is mandatory as the Nvidia Shield Android TV console can be used to stream games and (U)HD content over the mighty interwebszz.
Before we continue, let me just say sure ... there are plentiful Android TV based solutions out on the market that are much cheaper, even Google's own Chromecast at 35 EURO/USD is competing here but we do like to mention the game streaming functionality that Nvidia offers as well as the smooth Ultra HD 60P over HDMI 2.0 playback and compatibility with the latest HDR standards is a bit of a luxury. We have a lot to cover with the unit, have a peek at a photo and then let's head on-wards into the review.
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