The battle for the living room (i.e, controlling the television experience) is heating up with forays from multiple vendors. As the cord-cutting trend gains momentum, the time seems to be right for disruption. Roku has been around for a long time and they continue to taste success with inexpensive and small over-the-top set-top boxes (OTT STBs). At the other end of the spectrum is the Apple TV, which, despite just being a 'hobby', has managed to move millions of units. Google had tried to make inroads into this market a few years back with the Google TV / Logitech Revue, but, it unfortunately didn't pan out as expected. Chromecast turned out to be more popular in their second attempt, but it was a limited play. In late 2014, Google launched Android TV along with the Nexus Player.

Coinciding with Google I/O, NVIDIA is releasing their previously announced SHIELD Android TV. First announed back in March at the 2015 Game Developers Conference, SHIELD Android TV is a premium 4K-capable over-the-top set-top box (OTT STB) with a powerful graphics engine. The differentiating aspects compared to the Intel Bay Trail-based Nexus Player and the Qualcomm Snapdragon-based Razer Forge TV lie in 4K support (HDMI 2.0 / HDCP 2.2 / Netflix 4K-certification) and excellent gaming credentials.

SoC Tegra K1 (2.2 GHz 4x Cortex A15r3, Kepler 1 SMX GPU) Tegra X1 (4x Cortex A57 + 4x Cortex A53, Maxwell 2 SMM GPU)
RAM 2 GB LPDDR3-1866 3 GB LPDDR4-3200
NAND 16/32GB NAND + microSD 16GB NAND + microSD + USB
Display 8” 1920x1200 IPS LCD N/A, HDMI 2.0 4Kp60 Output
Dimensions 221 x 126 x 9.2mm, 390 grams 210 x 130 x 25mm, 654 grams
Camera 5MP rear camera, 1.4 µm pixels, 1/4" CMOS size. 5MP FFC N/A
Battery 5197 mAh, 3.8V chemistry (19.75 Whr) N/A, 40W Power Adapter
OS Android 5.0.1 Android TV
Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GLONASS, mini HDMI 1.4a 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1/BLE, USB 3.0 + 2.0, HDMI 2.0 + HDCP 2.2, IR Receiver, Gigabit Ethernet
Launch Price $299 (16GB/WiFi) + $59 (optional controller) Basic: $199, Includes 1 SHIELD Controller
Pro: $299, Adds 500GB Hard Drive

The NVIDIA SHIELD smart TV platform comprises of three distinct products, the SHIELD console, the SHIELD wireless controller and the SHIELD remote.

The SHIELD is the main console, integrating a Tegra X1 SoC along with 3 GB of LPDDR4 DRAM and 16 GB of storage. I/O ports include two full-sized USB 3.0 host ports, a USB 2.0 micro-USB device port, GbE RJ-45 port, IR for universal remotes and 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 2.1. It also includes a microSDXC slot. Video output is handled by a HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 support.

The SHIELD Wireless Controller is the game controller bundled with the SHIELD console, and was first launched last year with the SHIELD Tablet. It uses Wi-Fi Direct for communication. A stereo headset jack and microphone are integrated. It also includes a rechargeable battery that can provide up to 40 hours of battery life.

Finally, the SHIELD Remote It is meant to be a replacement for the game controller in situations where single-handed operation is preferable. It uses Bluetooth for communication with the console. Like the game controller, a microphone and headset jack are included. The rechargeable battery is good for up to 4 weeks.

While the game controller and the console together retail in the basic package for $199, the SHIELD Remote is available separately for $50. Meanwhile after a slight snafu where it was announced back in April and then immediately pulled, NVIDIA is indeed offering a higher-end Pro SKU. SHIELD Pro model is similar to the SHIELD described above, except it adds an internal 500 GB hard drive into the mix and bundles a game - Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! The Pro model is priced at $299.

Prior to diving into the details, let us take a look at the devices that NVIDIA is positioning the SHIELD Android TV against. Note that the two tables below are direct from NVIDIA's marketing material.

As we will see further down in the review, the above table is not far from the truth. In fact, except for NVIDIA claiming that their pulldown algorithm is enhanced compared to the competition, we tend to agree with everything. For the moment at least, NVIDIA pretty much has the 4K set top box to themselves.

NVIDIA claims a 34x raw performance increase compared to other OTT STB platforms. We won't endorse that particular number, but, in general, the performance of the SHIELD is miles ahead of the competition. The only other entry we find contentious is the availability of 24-bit / 192 KHz audio output. As we will see in the local media playback evaluation section, this is something of a moot point in most scenarios since the unit doesn't have licenses for decoding lossless HD audio. In any case, the above tables give an idea of where NVIDIA is positioning the SHIELD Android TV in the market.

The NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV also happens to be the first shipping product with the Tegra X1 SoC. We will first analyze the SoC and its performance in detail before moving on to Android TV in general and the SHIELD in particular.

Tegra X1: The Heart Of the SHIELD Android TV


View All Comments

  • tipoo - Thursday, May 28, 2015 - link

    Certainly seems performant enough, but will it get any exclusives. Even to the entire shield platform at least. Android games are....Ok, but hardly take advantage of the latest and greatest chips, most run fine even on my Moto G. Streaming is also neat, but I'd really like to see some exclusives that really target these high end chips with controllers. Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, May 28, 2015 - link

    Yes, NVIDIA has indicated around 20 exclusive titles are coming to Tegra K1 and X1-based SHIELD devices. Reply
  • Jumangi - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    What titles. I hope no body thinks they will be even remotely close to AAA level experiences. No developer is going to risk that kind of money on this machine. They will be cheesed low end android crap. Reply
  • TheJian - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Not sure what you're talking about. With unreal 4 and unity 5 engine support on android now you'll start to see some REAL games and they already have real PC ports (serious sam 3, Trine2, Portal, halflife 2, KOTOR etc). You might say PC ports are old (but they are AAA games), but if you know the sales #'s of each of these you understand not more than ~10mil played any of these titles that NOW can easily be ported to Android for a FULL (albeit older) PC game experience. More of these will likely come first, but by this xmas or next we'll start to see what unity5 and unreal 4 can produce. We are already way past angry birds...LOL. Trine 2 isn't a great looking title? That's a 2011 PC game. What exactly do you want? Trine2 runs on K1, we're already at X1 and 14nm Samsung fabbed version is coming for xmas (likely with return of Denver cpu amped up and more polished). We are not even taxing X1 yet, and the xmas version at 14nm will eat it alive. You clearly don't browse android games much to see what is already ported or new out there.

    This console has more power than an xbox360 or ps3. Not sure why you'd think we're talking Minecraft here or something. If you called xbox360/ps3 AAA experiences what is the difference? You can call that barely beating last gen, but this is the new xbox360/ps3 experience for the poor (or alternative gaming for me that isn't PC etc) who can't afford xbox1/ps4 price tag nor the $60+ games prices that come with those.

    On top of that, you don't need a $600-1000 PC to play at 1080p 60fps. For a monthly fee of even $15 (180/yr) you'd get FAR more than 3 console games at $60ea correct? Right now (free) you get 50 games that can stream like this and surely many more coming year after year. The sheer value of GRID gaming here is massive for a person who doesn't have $60 a month to keep their kid playing xbox1/ps4 games. I'm going to guess there will be a $10 fee for 720 and $15 for 1080p gaming but you can insert whatever numbers you want here, I'm just making the point about affordability for amount of fun you get. Mind you as graphics amp up, GRID keeps you from needing to upgrade. Nvidia can easily make sure you're always getting the fps that is being sold to you. They can keep dropping servers around also to keep latency in check.

    To your dev point, incorrect. Worst case scenario they can make it exclusive for 6mo-1yr then if sales suck port to PC or allow regular android to use it. You are forgetting that 1yr from now ALL gpus (14nm by then everywhere) will have X1 levels of gpu and if that's not the case by then 10nm isn't far behind. Also if NV wins the suit, everyone will be paying for NV gpu IP (great for devs) at some point. IF you make an unreal4/unity5 game here, you can easily port the thing to PC probably in a few weeks tops and it is running the exact Nvidia hardware there for ~75% of the discrete market on PC's. You're mistakenly acting as if you make a TEGRAZONE based game (meaning special for NV tegra hardware effect), it can NEVER run anywhere else...LOL.

    It took a few weeks to port most of these titles.
    Just an example of your crappy games.. Looks pretty fun to me.
    Listen to the dev. 1st time in 1080p on mobile etc. Can't beat the price of $6 either. Full 20+hrs just like all the other full games I mentioned that MOST of the world hasn't even played. We see some REALLY great PC games being made for $2-10mil, so I'm pretty sure a dev aiming at top tegra devices won't have a problem shifting titles elsewhere if needed 6 months-1yr later. They are coming with a shield update this xmas (or before) too, so at some point you're going to have millions on these anyway much like a console and that's not counting the fact that lawsuits may lead to all of mobile being NV/AMD at some point (on the gpu side, ARM whatever on the cpu side). I can see myself playing many games with key/mouse on BT when gamepads don't work right also (large rpg game like Baldurs Gate on TV for instance etc). Like I said, massive cheap ports first, then use the cash from those to fund BIG new IP. At worse making a potent game here, only means you'll wait for 2yrs for everyone to be able to play it as gpu power surpasses X1 for even the junker tablets/phones etc at 10nm. IF you don't like waiting that long port to PC etc. You seem to not understand 2Billion units are sold yearly from here on out, which means 2Billion can play any android AAA title very soon. Far faster than say, waiting for consoles to get even 50mil on either side of MSFT or Sony (what is that 5yrs from now?). I'll take the 2Billion side if I'm a dev as GDC 2014/2015 surveys both show they have.

    NV can also pay $2-4mil x 25 games to get exclusives they perhaps OWN (say 20mil on 5 top exclusives yearly? Hopefully more?), and then do the same at a later date by porting to PC etc. It's not risky knowing they can port easily to the same gpu on PC. I really hope they start funding games in this range for AAA experiences aimed at X1+. At some point they'll tell us numbers sold on a unit (maybe xmas handheld or android tv here), but not likely until they have a million unit sales launch or something. Maybe they'll wait for an unreal 4 engine showcase game to give us that data. Imagine what 10nm HBM2 version of Tegra will bring to the table...ROFL. Hopefully something from AMD then too for this type of stuff.
    EA, tablets will surpass consoles, and add more to the bottom line THAN consoles. Simple math. Starting 2017 consoles have a real problem if not before as better games launch. HBM2 with 10nm socs will make some waves in replacement devices for what we have today and many problems will be created even at 14nm shortly as everyone rolls that out probably a few devices using HBM1 too in this next gen of ARM devices etc. WiiU just hit 10mil devices sold, and they have some AAA experiences correct? ;) Vainglory from iOS just got ported to NV. Between apples next devices (A9), NV's current and their next model at xmas, qcom's next model (after 810), etc you will have a 100mil+ (likely far higher) that can do X1 gpu levels and likely with 128bit bus everywhere adding more fuel. I really don't get your point ;) Have you seen modern combat 5 blackout or asphalt 8, Order & chaos online, Dungeon Hunter 4 etc? Not angry birds and neither aimed at X1 levels. Haters gonna hate I guess...
  • darkich - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    I doubt he'll even read your comment but I can say, thank you Reply
  • Jumangi - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    It has nothing to do with capabilities. Try and understanding what I was actually saying. No developer is going to invest the time and money needed to make high end games for this thing. The return on investment isn't even remotely there. Reply
  • Odey - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    I am really not sure what you are talking about. Border Lands, the new Metal Gear, Doom3, Half Life, Star Wars series, Portal, Shadow Run, and many more..and I am sure that they will get the newer games as well. Reply
  • heygeo - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    I understand what your trying to say and also agree, its about having limited engineering resources and the IMMEDIATE return on having them churn out product that will have the best chance of selling the most... in other words when you look at who out there owns this thing (remember not talking about all Android users just the ones with the graphical horsepower) its minute vs say PCs and consoles... while gaming is a passion to us its a business to them and in a crowded gaming platform field this one doesn't have the user base or differentiation to stand out. Reply
  • farble1670 - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Xbox / PS4 for the poor?

    if you look at the reasonable model, the one with the 500GB drive, it's only $50 less than the Xbox One and the PS4, which are orders of magnitude more powerful than the Shield. for only $40 more, wouldn't you want a top of the line next generation gaming console with hundreds of games and hundreds more committed?

    if you're looking at the 16GB model (with 10GB of usable space), you won't be able to load more than a few high-end games. you can load them onto an SD card, but that's slower, and you *can't* store game data on the SD card, so if it's a game that downloads content, you're screwed.

    i wanted to love the shield, but the price is silly. there's just no way they can compete with the subsidized prices of the Xbox One and PS4.
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, May 30, 2015 - link

    "...orders of magnitude better..."

    I'm pretty sure they aren't. I'd be surprised if the consoles get more than 6x the performance.

    (That would equate to something like a comparison between 10fps and 60fps for a given display size, so it's not like it means nothing, but that's not even ONE order of magnitude.)

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