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Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): Still the best Android TV box you can buy

Nathan Spendelow Vaughn Highfield
4 Jul 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
190
inc VAT

With 4K HDR support and plenty of content, Nvidia’s Android-powered Shield TV box more than dwarfs its predecessor

Pros 
Content-rich
Revamped controller
Slimmer, lighter chassis
Cons 
Only 16GB of onboard storage
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Nvidia’s old Shield TV streamer was nothing short of a disappointment. A great concept on paper, it failed to win me over with either its lack of content or its ungainly controller. It’s now just another bit of dust-ridden tat under my TV, next to the Wii U and Now TV box. Can the 2017 Shield TV do any better than the first?

I’ll admit I baulked when I first saw the headline specs. Controversially, the most recent £190 Shield TV’s innards are no different to the box it supersedes. I’d have put good money on Nvidia updating its ageing Tegra X1 chip for something a little flashier, yet this four-year-old architecture still draws breath. It’s not quite as dated as you’d think: remember, Nintendo’s Switch console is based on the same core hardware.

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You’ll also spot 3GB of RAM inside with 16GB of internal storage to back it up with, plus two USB 3 ports, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 for pairing those extra peripherals. There’s no microSD expansion slot, so you best keep an eye out for the £280 Shield TV Pro with 500GB of onboard storage if you’re after more wiggle room.

Nvidia Shield TV (2017) review: Design and peripherals

While its guts haven’t seen a lick of change, the Shield TV is 40% slimmer and occupies much less space in your TV cabinet, measuring 159mm wide, 98mm deep and 26mm tall at its chunkiest corner.

And it still looks as edgy as the original, with its asymmetric matte-black chassis and harsh angular lines. It’s an interesting thing to gawk at, and the move to plastic from 2015’s all-metal chassis is hardly noticeable.

This faceted design transfers over to the new and improved Shield TV controller. At first, it looks as if it will be a little harsh on your palms, but those polygonal grips fit nice and snug, even during lengthy gaming sessions, and with all-physical buttons this time around, this year’s controller is a joy to use. Battery life has seen a bump, too: it now lasts up to 60 hours on a single charge.

And then there’s the remote control. Previous Shield owners would have had to fork out £35 for the pleasure of a Shield Remote, but the Shield TV gets one in the box at no extra cost. That rechargeable battery has also been ditched in favour of two removable CR2032 batteries with a year-long battery life.

Nvidia Shield TV (2017) review: Games and apps

The Shield TV tablet was welcomed at launch by a backlog of two years' worth of native Android games. A far denser offering than its predecessor, that list is still growing. From Ubisoft’s WW1-puzzler Valiant Hearts and the goofy Goat Simulator, there’s all manner of different titles to chose from.

Playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was seriously good fun and the game ran at 1080p at a flawless 60fps. Impressively, it looks great, too – comparable to the PC version – something the pitiful Xbox 360 version failed to do. The Shield TV is no PS4 Pro, but its Tegra X1 is surprisingly powerful still.

It’s not just about native Android games either, with proper Nvidia GeForce Now support also on the cards. This subscription service, which includes both Ubisoft and Square Enix titles, allows game streaming at resolutions of up to 4K for $8 a month. Of course, you’ll need a decent broadband connection to do that: roughly 100Mbits/sec for full 4K fidelity or 25Mbits/sec for 1080p/60fps games streaming. 

And don’t forget the TV side of things, with a handful of different TV-streaming services on offer. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and BBC iPlayer are all supported, with full 4K HDR video playback support for the former pair of services. Heck, there’s even proper Google Cast functionality, so you can use it in lieu of a Chromecast Ultra.

Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): The smart home

Nvidia's Shield TV also hopes to take a stand as the hub of your high-tech smart home. With full Samsung SmartThings integration, you’ll be controlling your lights, heating, security cameras and other smart devices with voice commands via the supplied remote. Simply press the microphone button and bark orders at it.

Of course, this does rely on you having the remote on you at all times, but it’s a neat little extra feature at a cheap-ish price.

Nvidia Shield TV review (2017): Verdict

Nvidia’s Shield TV streamer is a feature-packed box that, despite mostly identical specs, is a very different proposition from the first Shield TV. There’s now a significantly beefier content catalogue, from native games and streaming services to TV offerings, and a more mature and well-thought-out set of bundled peripherals.

Admittedly, there’s not much here to warrant an upgrade for existing Shield owners. If you can pick up that new gamepad on its own, great, but the same selection of apps and software can still be enjoyed with the last-gen box. If you can live without the assistant functionality, it’s not worth forking out another £190 for.

For gamers on a budget, though, it’s perfect: an Android-powered games console that holds its own against pricier counterparts with a lengthy list of games at your fingertips. That, along with a decent selection of 4K and HDR-enabled streaming content, and handy smart-home integration, should make for one of the best buying decisions you can make.

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