Hi guys, it’s been a while since we blogged about anything but we have been given the Nvidia Shield Pro to review. I have seen numerous posts on Facebook and Twitter singing the virtues of the Shield for some time but never had the chance to offer an opinion, until now. As with any kind of device or a service we get offered to test and review we raffle off as well as any royalties that come from adverts or affiliate links we get through this site all go to charity, more details of that later on. So let’s get cracking. We will be looking at the Pro version which has 3gb/500gb storage and retails for around £280/$300, a 3gb/16gb slimmer version is available for around £160/$180. Both certainly on the top scale of the pricing range and we will be looking at whether they are worth it.
When you picture a streaming video player you might call to mind a sleek, flat square no more than an inch or two high, or a small hockey puck-shaped plastic box.
Nvidia Shield isn’t quite like either of those. Nvidia eschewed traditional design years ago and has developed its own style for the Shield that’s neither round nor flat, but an interesting mix of criss-crossing lines, unique slants and stark angles.
Todays Nvidia Shield is a lot better than it was when it first launched in May 2015. It actually includes a remote, it has more apps and capabilities, and it’s adding new ones seemingly every day. It also retains its heritage as a video geek’s dream machine, with stuff like 4K resolution (in 24p!) and HDR (high dynamic range), NAS access, native Kodi support, Plex server capability, HDHomeRun integration and much more.
Because the Shield Pro is still based on the original hardware design, it retains a few of the features that were lost when the standard model moved to a smaller body. That means the pro retains the microSD card slot for expanding its storage and Micro-USB port a direct connection to your computer.
One slightly bigger deal is the inclusion of an IR receiver on the Shield Pro, meaning it can be easily controlled by popular universal remotes that use IR for multi-device management. If you already use something like a Logitech Harmony for your entertainment center, this may be a make-or-break situation. Don’t count out the chance that universal remote makers like Logitech could update with Bluetooth versions that could connect to the Shield Android TV directly in the future, though.
While this is my first foray into using a Shield, the controller is a step in the right direction on all accounts from others I have spoken too, but admittedly it’s still not the best pad out there for extended play sessions, especially when stacked up against Sony’s DualShock 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One controller. We could enumerate the number of tweaks Nvidia needs to make here, but the first steps Nvidia should consider taking here would be to make it weightier, more durable and redesign the triggers, D-Pad and face buttons.
Nvidia says the controllers are rated for around 60 hours of battery life, but didn’t say if that number is for active use or standby mode. The controller turns itself off after a period of use to save on power so it’s sort of tough to say how long it can last on one charge.
Here’s some good new, though: Each and every Nvidia Shield will now ship with a basic remote – something that used to be an optional accessory – for free. The remote has a built-in microphone in case you stray too far from your controller, a set of three simple buttons for navigation and a touch-capacitive channel to raise and lower the volume.
It’s an excellent addition, and something that makes it much easier to use the console as just a streaming box if you don’t want to bother with the gaming side of things for a session.
TV junkies might be disappointed there aren’t apps for ITV Hub, All 4 or My5, but the Shield is otherwise jam-packed with catch-up and on-demand services, including Amazon Video and Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Twitch, Kodi and Plex. Plus, if you’ve got an iOS or Android smartphone, you can easily cast from them to the Shield anyway.
Casting is one of the best features of the Shield in general, as you can easily send photos, music and YouTube videos to your TV directly from your mobile.
Anyone with a vast media collection on their PC or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device can access it all through the Shield, either directly through Kodi or through the fancy Plex interface. Last year, Nvidia updated the Shield to work as a Plex Server, meaning the Tegra X1 processor can also take your media files and spit them out to other devices.
Why would you want to do this? Well, if you want to watch a 1080p video file on your phone over a 4G connection when you’re out of the house, Plex can re-encode it into a smaller file and spit it out across the internet. It’s pretty cool.
The Shield’s home cinema chops are also worth mentioning, as they go way beyond most media players. Aside from outputting at 4K and HDR video, there’s pass-through support for Dolby Atmos, TrueHD, Dolby 7.1, DTS-X and DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as High Resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192KHz. In other words, if you’ve got a decent amp and speakers, your movies and music are going to sound incredible.
The Shield always was a premium streamer in a world filled with cheaper boxes and sticks. If you’re just after something to scratch that Netflix itch, and for some reason don’t already have it built into your TV, save yourself a packet and buy a Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Even if you’re looking for something to play games on , you’re still better off with a PS4 or Xbox One – which both happen to have loads of media apps as well.
Instead, the Shield is meant for those who live on the cutting edge, with a high-end gaming PC in their office and the latest TV in their lounge. It’ll do loads of cool stuff, but you’re only going to get the most out of it if you pair it with a beefy Nvidia graphics card, and a top-of-the-line TV.
Don’t have either of those just yet? The Shield is still a great standalone media player now, is as future-proof as they come thanks to 4K and HDR support, and will only get better now that Google Assistant is available. (Haven’t gone that far but from what I have read it’s a game changer).
Processor:NVIDIA Tegra X1 (64-bit, 256-core Maxwell GPU)
RAM: 3GBStorage 16GB (base), 500GB (Pro)
Ports 2x USB 3.0, microUSB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, MicroSD card slot
Wireless 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, Bluetooth 4.1
How do all of the apps work? In short, quite well. Obviously streaming is much more consistent when using a wired connection to your router, but we were able to get surprisingly smooth HD playback over Wi-Fi – even in a relatively slow network environment.
Now, that being said, if you want to really see what this box is capable of, you should plug it into your router, plug into a 4K, HDR-ready TV and watch your favorite shows in all their ultra high-res glory.
Currently the Nvidia Shield supports both Netflix and Amazon in 4K UHD and both look excellent playing through the streaming device, for Kodi users the 4K/HDR content available in certain addons looked awesome. I got a chance to watch House of Cards and Mad Max Fury Road, both in 4K and, surprisingly, using Wi-Fi instead of an ethernet cable. Obviously you will need a 4K Compatible Tv and internet speeds higher than 15mb to stop all that annoying buffering.
On the audio side of things, Shield supports pass-through of 5.1 and 7.1 audio and delivers an excellent surround sound experience. It also supports Dolby Digital (AC3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC3), DTS-HD, DTS-HD MA, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-X and DTS Core Audio Streams in pass-through mode.
The latest Shield, however, goes one step further by offering Amazon Instant Video, and will soon be able to act as the head of your smart home.
So should you buy the Shield? If you want a machine that’s a jack of all trades, then the answer is “Yes, absolutely”. If you’re looking for a 4K streamer that can play some games natively and stream most others then the Shield does a good job of each of these tasks.