“This is how you play TV,” NVidia claims with its finally-released Shield Android TV. It’s a set top box. It’s a game console. It’s an Apple TV for people who love Android. With this Shield, you get video output up to 4K, surround sound support, and access to a whole bunch of Google Play movies and apps. The layout is a simple but smooth Google-ish interface that includes Google Now voice commands, personal recommendations, and so forth.
It also supports gaming in a big way, with Grid game streaming and GameStream remote play, plus direct downloads for all Android game titles…at least for now: Compatibility with games from other platforms is probably a goal, similar to Amazon’s approach to gaming with the Fire TV. The Pro version, for example, already comes with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as a free download.The Shield also comes with its own controller
As a result, Shield Android TV tries to do a little bit of everything – and brings to mind, more than anything, a low-cost version of the Xbox One (even that controller is reminiscent). It is perhaps the best and worst part of the system – competitors have all done the same thing hybrid box/console thing before, but not at these prices and not with Google.
Okay, let’s take a look at some specs. The Shield Android TV runs on a Tegra X1 quad-core processor, with 3GB of RAM – that’s more RAM than most of its competitors, probably to handle the gaming portion of Android’s device. It has Bluetooth 4.1, an infrared port, Gigabit Ethernet, and a selection of USB and Micro USB ports. You get two different options for storage, from 16GB to a massive 500GB, a range that starts far higher than most set top box storage options go – again, probably to help with game downloads.
The two different versions of the Shield have big price differences. The normal version comes with low storage and costs $200, while the Pro comes with high storage and costs $200. These prices are quite a bit above all other competitor products – NVidia is probably betting that the Google apps, 4K compatibility, and other unique features will add more value. And if you love Android, the company is probably right. But if you prefer Amazon, Apple, Roku, or Razer, there are other, cheaper devices out there.