I am what many people call a “cord cutter.” What that means is it is someone who has left either cable or satellite television and use a streaming box to get all of my content. I was a DIRECTV subscriber for nearly 16 years but with the constant price increases I had to move on, which I did. With the exception of a year of AT&T TV Now, my main source of streaming television was via Sling TV, as well as streaming through Netflix, Hulu, Pluto TV, and unfortunately, ESPN Plus, if only to watch the return of the glorious XFL!
As I’ve now taken the cord cutting route, I have tried several different streaming boxes, the most of them being Roku boxes. I have become a huge fan of Roku over the year because of its large variety of channels, simple to use interface, and with the current Streaming Stick Plus, amazing Wi-Fi reception. The other major streaming box I’ve used over the years is of course the Xbox One X, which much to my surprise, has become my main Sling source, especially since the streaming quality has greatly improved over the years.
I haven’t really had a chance to try out the NVIDIA Shield line before, but a few months ago I was given an NVIDIA Shield TV to try out, as well as a beta code to GeForce Now, NVIDIA’s game streaming service. After all the time I spent playing around with it, I will say that while I will stick with my Roku and Xbox for Sling streaming, there is still a lot on this device for me to keep coming back to.
Let’s start off with the internal specs. For a small cylinder shaped device 6 ½ inches long, it is packing the latest NVIDIA Tegra X1+ 256 core processor and 2GB of RAM. While this memory is small compared to the more recent cell phones, it is more than adequate for a streaming device. And 8 GB of storage is also available for game downloads, with an additional MicroSD card to add more. Internet connectivity is available as both wired Ethernet and 802.11ac wireless in both 2.4 and 5GHz ranges. For this review I am testing it on a 5GHz wireless. As this is an Android TV box, it comes bundled with Android 9.0 Pie in addition to NVIDIA’s Shield Experience.
Of course my main test involved what I would use on other devices: media streaming. For stream testing, I tried out the usual sources: Netflix, Sling TV, Hulu, and Pluto TV. However, at the start of my testing, I also was subscribed to AT&T TV Now, which at the time of my subscription, was not available as a Shield TV app. While Netflix, Pluto, and Hulu all ran rather flawlessly, I had issues with Sling. Now to be fair to NVIDIA, Sling has always had issues with streaming players, resulting in what I call the “orange circle of death,” followed by a brief black screen. However with the Shield it was much worse, the stream would just cut to black and not respond. Even with force quitting the Sling app restoring it kept the black screen. Only a full device reboot was able to fix the problem.
I will say one thing about the interface though. It is lightning fast. Where I’ve noticed some sort of lag when switching channels on Sling, on the Shield TV it is instantaneous, and the included remote does a good job in responding to controls. I will however say it might be a bit TOO responsive, as there were times that it execute commands that I did not want. The worst offender is the large Netflix button at the bottom. Granted other remotes, even the one on my TV itself, have a dedicated Netflix button and they haven’t been much to worry about, but with the Shield TV the slightest touch of the button switched over to Netflix. It got so annoying to the point that I ended up just syncing up a Sony PlayStation 4 controller as my main Shield interface.
But the Shield TV is not just a streaming device, it also plays games from Google Play and when using the previously mentioned PS4 controller, or any other Bluetooth controller for that matter, they play quite well. However, the Shield TV is also capable of running NVIDIA’s GeForce Now streaming service. We at GiN were provided a beta code to try out GeForce Now and, saying this as someone who has been burned with other streaming services in the past, I have to admit my impressions were quite positive. Keep in mind I’m running a 5GHz wireless connection via Verizon FIOS, and with the exception of some resolution/video quality reductions, control was very responsive. My main test using GeForce Now was with Bioshock Remastered which is based on the PC version. There were no visible signs of input lag at all, and the game felt more snappy than I’m used to in a streaming service.
Will it replace my PS4 Bioshock Collection? Not even close, but for those who prefer streaming, it might be a good choice for you.
And that’s the best way to describe the NVIDIA Shield TV. It’s a very good streaming device for both media and games. And at $149 for the standard Shield TV, it won’t break your bank either. However for power users, there is also the $199 Shield TV Pro which doubles the storage to 16GB and offers an additional two USB 3.0 ports. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Pros: Very fast user interface, perhaps one of the fastest I’ve seen in a streaming device. MicroSD card support. Works with both Xbox and PS4 controllers for gaming. GeForce Now (Beta tested) runs surprisingly well with minimal input lag compared to PS Now. Chromecast, 4K, HDR10/Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos included.
Cons: The remote, particularly the Netflix button, is a hair trigger. Some apps, such as Sling TV, resulted in a black screen that required a system reboot.
Note: This review is based on the NVIDIA Shield TV provided to us by NVIDIA for review, as well as access to the GeForce Now Beta. GiN was not provided with a membership to the official GeForce Now service. Controls were tested via the included remote and a DualShock 4.