Timed with Google’s I/O developers conference this week, Nvidia has launched the Shield, a high-end gaming console/streaming device that’s equipped with the Android TV OS and the ability to stream 4K content from sources such as Netflix.
Though the device will support HBO Go, Watch ESPN and several other authenticated TV Everywhere apps that require a pay TV subscription, the Shield also provides access to services such as Sling TV, Dish’s new OTT-TV service, and will soon do the same for HBO Now, the standalone OTT service from HBO. Google’s Channels app supports live TV when the supporting device is paired to a separate tuner and digital over-the-air antenna.
Shield isn't cheap. Available outlets such as Amazon, Best Buy and Fry’s Electronics, the console starts at $199.99 (for the 16 GB version), while the Shield Pro (500 GB) fetches $299.99. Nvidia also sells Shield accessories such as an advanced, voice-enabled remote control ($49.99), extra gaming controllers ($59.99 each), and a vertical stand ($29.99).
Some of the initial reviewers on Nvidia’s new creation were mixed, noting that the Shield could have trouble gaining mass appeal.
Engadget’s Chris Velazco called it “the most interesting Android TV box you’ll find out there right now,” adding that the set-up was “[d]ead simple.” The biggest sticking point was the requirement to buy extra hardware in order to take full advantage of the Shield’s capabilities.
Gizmodo’s Sean Hollister said the Shield is “the most powerful set-top box ever made,” noting its use of the Tegra X1 chip, enabling it to play high-end games such as Crysis. He also liked that the Shield has plenty of ports for external storage, elements lacking in the Nexus Player, the first Android TV-powered device. Having it double as a Chromecast is also a plus. “With a little extra help from Google and Android developers to make games playable on the TV, we might be able to have a viable Android game console in the living room,” Hollister wrote. The big downside: “Android TV still sucks. It looks almost identical to the TV operating system I panned six months ago!”
CNET’s David Katzmaier gave the Shield a rating of 6.9 (out of 10), acknowledging its “best-in-class hardware, high points for conversational voice search capability built right into the game controller and a “solid” selection of native apps. On the other end, it’s pricey and doesn’t have the kind of app selection of less expensive streaming platforms like the Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. His bottom line: it’s the “most potent Android TV device yet” but other shortfalls and high price limit its appeal.
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