When my colleague Will called last year’s Nvidia Shield “a cord cutter’s dream“, he was in no way being hyperbolic. I think we all assumed Nvidia was going to rest on their laurels a bit and let the device build in popularity, but nope! I’ve been spending the last few weeks reviewing the almost brand-new Nvidia Shield 2017 and lemme tell you, it’s a delight.
First, note that the actual guts of the Shield TV 2017 are the same as the 2016. A Tegra X1 chip. Why leave the original in? Because it’s still bleeding edge tech. Instead, Nvidia focused on physical design, making it almost half the size. You lose your MicroSD slot as a trade-off, but you have the two USB ports. 16 GB of storage can be supplemented that way, or you can set one USB port so that it will mount on your PC. Oh, there’s also a Pro edition with more storage.
The controller gets a facelift (although the old controllers are still supported and other Bluetooth ones should work), and I find it more comfortable to use. It comes with just one, and you can order more on their own. They added a remote too, with a nice slide-to-adjust volume function. It’s thicker than the 2016, and is not rechargeable. Instead, you can swap in a battery (like a large watch type). This reminds me of the first 3 generations of AppleTV. Unlike any generation of AppleTV, the Nvidia supports 4K HDR, and does so really well. All the streaming services I tried worked like a charm, and even felt snappier than my insanely fast Roku Ultra 4K. I think the chart Nvidia provided is a little one sided (gasp), but I cannot argue with real world feel.
The Android TV OS works like a charm, and functions well with my Android Watch and phone. One function I was dying to try was Google Assistant (note: Yes, this means your game system is always listening). Unfortunately, that has not pushed out yet. Great news though, when it does push out, the 2-16 will get it too. In fact, the 2016 will be getting updated to the same software levels as the 2017. This is the biggest advantage of the Shield over other Android TVs as well as the AppleTV: shelf life. Nvidia has shown a commitment to pure Android. Their NVIDIA Shield K1 8″ runs vanilla Android and has updated constantly – it’s basically a Nexus in all but name.
One added bonus is that you can use your Shield TV as a Plex server. Just add external storage and boom, there you go. I was impressed at how well it served up media, both on my local network and remotely.
As for games, I grabbed a copy of Doom 3 for Android. The BFG Edition comes with the original Doom and Doom II (my childhood, right there) and game play was perfect (even if you can’t use cheat codes). I also put a Pac-Man game on, plus SNEX+ (yes, yes, I’m a monster). With the rich library of games on the Shield, you may be able to replace a dedicated console. Especially if you like Steam – there’s a dedicated app! Hello Worms World Party…
Looking this over, it hits me that my Shield 2017 has not just replaced my PS3, but also my Roku and my Synology server. It takes up less space, uses less power, and is in many cases more powerful. Really, the only thing I need now is a second TV so the kids will let me game in peace. Keep in mind, this is without me being able to review things like the ability to stream games to PCs running certain Nvidia GPUs, or Nvidia’s gaming subscription service. Even before that this thing is great.
Seriously, at $199, the Shield 2017 edition is a fabulous multi-media investment. You’re going to get updates for a few years to come, and the power is so far ahead of the others right now that it’s not even funny. If you want to buy a TV streamer and game system that will last, this is your best choice.
Note: Nvidia sent me the Shield TV 2017 for review purposes. Well, they say that’s why. I suspect it is part of a secret plot to prevent me from ever being productive again.