The Nvidia Shield TV is our top device for Cordcutting – not only can it replace your Sky/Virgin box, but it stands up as a quality casual gaming system as well.
There are some criticisms to the Android TV ecosystem, one being that the app store can feel a little neglected. Nvidia has done its best to fix those problems, partnering with BBC to make an iPlayer app as well as some excellent BBC News and Sports apps that you can’t find on other Android TVs. Sadly, ITV Hub, All 4 and My 5 do not have native apps – but all Android TVs also have Chromecast support built in, so anything you have an app for on your phone can be put onto your big screen. It may seem like this lack of apps is solved by Chromecast support, but the truth is that without native apps actually on the Shield you forget to use some services – it’s not an ideal situation. However, the Shield is still our favourite device not for what it lacks, but for what it does offer – the gains far outweigh the negatives.
Firstly, the Shield is one of the most powerful Cordcutting devices on the market. In terms of speed, it cannot be matched. Apps open quickly and navigation is smooth. HD streams load quickly and play without buffering. The device can support the most high-end Android games, and Nvidia have partnered with developers to bring some exclusive games to the Shield – Half Life, Portal and DOOM among them. You can play all these with the included controller, that feels really premium in your hand when compared to other compatible USB or Bluetooth controllers. The remote, which is sometimes bundled in but often must be purchased separately, is also a premium accessory.
Because the device is running Google’s own OS, the voice commands work well with Google’s search function as well as any Google apps – YouTube, Play Music and Play Movies work very, very well on the Shield TV. Netflix runs quickly but at the moment doesn’t have voice search. Amazon Prime can be made to work with an easy workaround, and it does feature voice search.
Surprisingly the Voice search option isn’t as refined as Rokus offering, it tends to point people towards Google’s own videos rather than showing options from Netflix or Amazon, but it continues to improve as time goes along and with every update it gets better.
There’s a version of Kodi that was designed for Android TV, and specifically the Shield, called SPMC. The biggest improvement to Kodi is the addition of voice search and your local library showing up in the top Recomendations bar on the Home screen (this bar shows you some recently released content, or what you’ve recently been watching). If you’re looking for use Kodi, the Shield is the perfect device to use it on – and the SPMC offshoot of Kodi makes the whole experience really fast and polished.
The Shield is not just a cordcutting device though. Through the Google Play Games Store or through the exclusive Geforce Now’s streaming gaming library (think Netflix for games – for only £7 a month you get access to a library of premium games) the Sheild offers a huge variety of quality games, and more are being added all the time. If you’re a casual gamer, or someone who likes the idea of playing a few Batman or Lego games without really diving in and buying a PS4 then the Shield is a great option. You do need a fast, stable internet connection for Geforce Now games as all the processing power is done on Nvidias end, then the HD live-gameplay is sent to your TV.
Aside from the Amazon Fire Box, the Shield is the only device that lets you stream 4K content, so if you’ve invested in a 4K TV then the Sheild is a great option. As everyone with a 4K TV knows, content is a little limited, but Netflix continues to get more and more 4K films and TV shows and the Shield is futureproofed enough so that you’ll be able to watch content as and when it becomes available. The interface looks fantastic up on a hig, high-definition screen.
Setup is as easy as you’d expect with a Google Device, once you’ve connected the device to your WiFi or Ethernet you can finish the setup on your Android phone, linking your Google account to the Shield. They’re a special version of the Google Play store that only lists apps optimized for the Android TV.
You can get the Shield without the remote control, as all navigation can be done through the games controller – but we really recommend the remote. It’s small and solidly made, the battery lasts a long time and the in built mic clearly picks up any voice commands. As an added bonus you can connect some headphones directly to the remote or controller if you want to listen to audio privately.
All in all, we love the Shield. Nvidia continue to offer good support for the device, with more games added to the library and regular software updates.