The Revamped Nvidia Shield TV is Still a Capable Gaming Device, but Isn’t Just That

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Nvidia has announced a refresh of the Nvidia Shield TV, and it’s intriguing because it seems that they’re stepping a bit away from it as a gaming console, and more into the streamer and smart home hub market. Oh, they’re still mentioning games, and they include native Android versions of Tomb Raider and The Witness (the mobile version lives!) as coming to the platform. And the in-home PC game streaming is getting expanded with support for Steam Big Picture, meaning this could actually serve as a replacement for the Steam Link, as well. But the processor is still the Tegra X1 with 3 GB of RAM, same as the original released in 2015. In fact, Nvidia’s press release keeps calling this a streamer, and not a game console. It’s certainly a capable device still – more than capable of 4K HDR video, and it runs games quite well – but the hardware upgrades are a bit more subtle, yet intriguing in terms of software.


Google Assistant support is coming to the Nvidia Shield TV, and you can use a hands-free, always-on microphone in the redesigne Shield controller to communicate your various voice requests. While the Shield TV is a TV device, USB soundcards and DACs are supported, so you could use this as a replacement for the Google Home speaker by providing a USB soundcard and your own powered speakers, potentially. Nvidia will sell a device called the Shield Spot that’s similar to the Amazon Echo Dot for $49.99 that will interface with the Shield TV through your wi-fi network to extend Google Assistant throughout your home.


The Google Assistant is also coming to existing Shield TV models, so if you wanted to get into Google Home without investing in the standalone speaker, this might be the way to go if you already have the Shield TV. I do, and while I’m currently in the Amazon Echo ecosystem, I use Google Play Music and would be willing to switch over just to voice control my music and not pay $3.99 per month for the Echo-only Amazon Music subscription out of principle, and because the Google Assistant seems to have some advantages over Amazon’s Alexa assistant. The new Shield TV will also have SmartThings hub support, so this could be a handy way to get started with voice controlling your lighting. It’s a first-world problem, but I love my current Lifx bulb. The problem with smart home technology is that you have to invest in a hub and get locked in to some products or go with the few options that connect directly to wi-fi like Lifx or TP-Link’s products do. The integrated hub gives you some extra choice.

As far as content and functionality goes, the current Shield TV is better than the Apple TV. The Apple TV is superior as far as controlling it goes, and it’s why I use it over the Shield TV to a large degree. But it’s hard to recommend the Apple TV based on content. The Shield TV is also getting native Amazon Video support, and the 4K HDR support is important for folks invested in that technology. Plus, the Shield TV’s getting better as a server device. It can run Plex Media Server and is remarkably more capable than even many dedicated NAS devices, especially for the cost. And now it can serve as a capable, always-on smart home hub. Apple TV has HomeKit support, but no always-listening assistant option yet. I could see Apple going that route very soon, because they are falling well, well behind the competition.


The interesting thing about all this is how gaming is slowly being taken away from the focus of this, and perhaps other streamer-type devices. I’ve written a lot about my hopes for games on streamers, and I still want to believe that maybe they’ll be involved at some pont. But Apple TV game sales have not been appetizing. And while Nvidia’s still pushing native Shield content along with the streaming options, it’s quite clear that they want to sell the Shield TV not just as a streamer that can play games, but a powerful piece of hardware that can do everything a person could desire from a plugged-in device.

The enhanced Shield TV is up for preorder now at Nvidia’s site, Best Buy, and Amazon. Prices remain the same as before: $199 for the 16 GB Shield TV, though it now comes with the remote along with the console and redesigned controller. It boasts 60 hours of gaming battery life, along with the always-on mic and an IR blaster for control of entertainment devices. The $299 Shield TV Pro comes with the remote, new controller, and 500 GB of storage, though the 16 GB can be expanded through USB drives (the micro-SD slot appears to have been removed). January 16th is the expected ship date on Amazon for the new Shield TV and controller.

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