Aiming to be an all-in-one solution for your living room, the Nvidia Shield TV is a small box with big potential. Built on Android tech, it brings games, streaming services, and the internet to your TV. And thanks to the ability to stream games into your home while the processing power is handled in the cloud, the Shield TV punches well above its incredibly light weight.
The way home technology is currently set up is not very friendly to games. As such, the best part about the Nvidia Shield TV is the “TV” part. But to be fair, it beats out the competition on pretty much all sides.
We’ve used services like Apple TV and the home Netflix box before, and hated how unresponsive they were. Nvidia has tightened this up so the menus and games are fast enough to feel good to use. It’s still not great for reaction-based games, but that awful half-second of waiting every time you press a button is gone.
Set Up and Stream
Despite the drudgery of having to log into a million apps for the first time, it was a huge relief that everything to do with the Shield TV just worked. The worst part of setting up, of course, was always going to be dealing with GeForce Experience on PC.
We’ve made a wrong turn as a society when we have to log into our video card, and that was just the start of our woes. Every update, GeForce experience seems to screw something up with Shadowplay or game optimisation. We ran into the “Something went wrong” error (Cheers for the specifics Nvidia):
But the GeForce side of things is only necessary when you want to stream games from your PC. For those who just want streaming services, it’s as easy as logging in. Pretty much anything you could want is there, from HBO and Netflix to Crunchyroll and Amazon. You can buy entertainment from Google, or watch Youtube as well.
For those not especially keen on navigating QWERTY menus, Shield TV accepts voice commands as well, using Android’s “OK Google” prompt. This can be used to search for things on Youtube, or to check the weather, or to ask Google any inane question that comes to mind.
We found it sometimes took a few attempts to get the voice search right, which is on par with other voice services. It’s best to use it in conjunction with the controllers for the “back” button and what-have-you. It’s certainly nice to have that smart home element to the Shield TV.
Games on Shield TV
Game streaming is where the Shield brand started out, and it’s the least exciting aspect of this — through no fault of its own. It’s really a technology problem, but what it comes down to is this: games that don’t require reactions or low latency are fine.
This applies to whether you’re running games directly off the Shield TV, using your PC’s power to stream the game through the Shield TV, or streaming games from a server on the internet.
There are plenty of smaller games like Crossy Road on offer that run on the Shield TV hardware, and you might be pleasantly surprised at some of the graphics it can muster in first-person shooter games. Games like the aforementioned Crossy Road can be played with just the remote, not needing the game controller. Larger games like Tomb Raider, The Witness, or Minecraft: Story Mode can also be downloaded and run off the Shield TV.
But even with the Shield TV as the source of the game, we weren’t a fan of the delay between our inputs and seeing the action on-screen.
In the thick of combat, and in singleplayer modes, you can sometimes forget about this. We tried a bit of Titanfall 2 streamed from a local PC through ethernet, and the delay was definitely noticeable. But in singleplayer, it doesn’t matter too much. The lumbering, gross movements of the titular titans were easy to deal with and we actually had more trouble with the pilot parkour.
Streaming games from a home PC over wifi was unplayable for us, with constant dropouts. Your mileage may vary, but if you can use ethernet, do it.
It’s also worth noting that only some regions have access to the Shield TV’s ability to stream games from the internet. Australia, for example, cannot — though down-under gamers may laugh at the prospect of trying on Australian internet. Most US- and UK-based areas should be fine, and previously anywhere in the US, Canada, European Union, Eastern Europe (including Germany), Western Russia, and Japan were included. But confirm before purchasing if your area has this feature.
If you’re able to though, it’s kind of a nifty ability. Streaming video down while sending your inputs up allows the Shield TV to take advantage of heavy duty hardware somewhere far away from your living room. It’s easy to see how this technology might evolve into something a lot more common, but for now, the latency involved means you’ll want to pay attention to what kind of games work best with this.
Thus, the word you’re looking for when shopping for games in this way is “turn-based.” Turn-based tactics, turn-based RPGs, etc. Latency is your enemy, and certainly you wouldn’t try a round of Counter-Strike: GO on Shield TV. But after you tinker around with Steam’s Big Picture mode, there might be a few games in your library that are actually better experienced from the couch.
Shield TV Controllers
Whether gaming or TV is your poison, the Shield TV comes in a couple of different packages to suit. There’s a small remote with simple Back button, Voice Command button, and a thumb slider for volume. There’s also a proper gaming controller that has all of the remote’s functionality plus that of your standard Xbox/PS4 controller.
You’ll obviously want the serious controller for FPS games and the like, but we had no problems using the remote for smaller games. Similarly, navigating menus or using voice commands and sliding the volume up and down works just fine on the gaming controller.
Altogether it’s a sleek package. The Shield TV itself is quite thin and doesn’t get in the way. The remote and controller both have a nice range and are responsive enough to game, albeit with some latency. For the purpose of watching TV, we found them much more responsive than the competition, which is a large quality of life improvement. If you were using one of those old Netflix boxes, the responsiveness of the Shield TV will blow you away.
We’d be happy to use the Shield TV purely for the TV side, but it’s nice to be able to load up a turn-based game like XCOM from the couch. Steam’s Big Picture mode can be a bit finnicky, and there’s the travesty of having to log into a video card. But once you’re past that, the Shield TV is a breeze to use and a highly welcome addition to the living room.