7 Reasons the Nvidia Shield Is the Ultimate Tool for Cord-Cutters
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The choice of gadgets for streaming TV Chromecast Vs Apple TV Vs Roku: Which Media Streamer Suits You? Chromecast Vs Apple TV Vs Roku: Which Media Streamer Suits You? Media streaming devices are simply awesome. Those little boxes that connect to your TV can add a wealth of entertainment options to your living room. But which device is best for you? Read More and on-demand video content is impressive. There’s Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV, amongst others. You can even set up a dedicated Kodi box How to Choose the Best Kodi Box for Your Needs How to Choose the Best Kodi Box for Your Needs Want to buy a Kodi box but unsure which one you should choose? In this article, we recommend particular boxes for particular needs, helping you narrow your choices. Read More .

But there’s another device that you may not have considered until now: the Nvidia Shield. It launched in 2015 with little fanfare, but over the last couple of years, it’s built up a loyal following.

I’m a convert myself. I’ve always been a dedicated Roku user, but I bought a Shield on Prime Day and haven’t looked back. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t fired up my Roku since the Shield arrived.

But what makes this streaming device so remarkable? Here are seven reasons why the Nvidia Shield is the ultimate tool for cord-cutters.

What Is the Nvidia Shield?

As you may know, Nvidia is one of the leading manufacturers of graphics cards. If you’re surprised to learn the company also makes streaming boxes, prepare to be even more shocked as you read the rest of the article. The Nvidia Shield, powered by Android TV, is arguably the most powerful streaming device on the market.

nvidia shield

There are two versions of the Nvidia Shield, the regular $199 option, and the $299 Pro option. The biggest difference is the amount of storage: the regular version ships with 16 GB, while the Pro boasts 500 GB. It sounds like it could be a deal breaker, but it’s not. I’ll explain why later.

In 2017, Nvidia refreshed both devices. They’re now smaller, faster, and include some extra features. Don’t let a discount tempt you to buy an older model — it’s simply not worth it.

1. Plex and Kodi

If you love TV shows and movies, you need to use either Plex or Kodi. They’re the two best ways to organize, view, and stream your locally saved content.

Kodi is available on the Shield through the Google Play Store, but the device really shines thanks to its Plex support.

plex android tv

I know what you’re thinking: Plex is available on Roku, Apple TV, and all the other streaming devices. What makes the Nvidia Shield so unique? It’s because the Shield is not just a Plex player — it can also act as a Plex server.

What does that mean in practice? Well, you don’t have to invest in a NAS server or leave your laptop running around the clock. You can save all your content directly onto the Shield and it’ll beam it around the world How to Watch Your Plex Media From Anywhere How to Watch Your Plex Media From Anywhere One of Plex's most overlooked features is remote access, which lets you watch all your media from anywhere in the world. Read More on your behalf.

Unlike a Raspberry Pi, it’s powerful enough to transcode multiple streams at the same time. And because the Shield connects to your Wi-Fi network, you can send files to it from your computer without needing cables.

Lastly, remember that Android TV is one of the few platforms which currently supports the Plex live TV feature Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know Plex has added live TV channels to its service, but what exactly is Plex Live TV? We have everything you need to know about this exciting new option for cord-cutters. Read More .

2. Expandable Storage

Yes, the regular model has just 16 GB of storage. If you’re planning to store a lot of your own content on the device, it doesn’t sound like much. But don’t worry, expanding the storage is easy. And no, you don’t to take your device apart.

Using a feature called “adoptable storage,” you can plug in any USB or flash drive and make the Shield recognize it as internal memory. Just go to Settings > Storage & reset to set it up. Be aware that the drive will be encrypted to your Shield and will not be usable on other devices.

adoptable storage shield tv

Obviously, this massively boosts the Shield’s usefulness as a Plex server, even if you’re using the regular model. The only drawback is that the device stores the Plex metadata data files on its internal memory — eventually, it will fill up. It’s assumed Nvidia is working on a tweak that will allow you to save metadata on your adopted storage, but the company hasn’t confirmed anything yet.

3. 4K and HDR Streaming

All the newest Shield models are equipped with 4K resolution. You wouldn’t expect anything less; the top-end models from the Shield’s competitors are similarly equipped. But 4K and HDR? That’s much less common.

For those who don’t know, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s the next “big thing” in the world of television.

samsung hdr

Without getting too bogged down in technical jargon, it essentially makes everything on-screen look more like real-life. It provides better contrast (darker darks and lighter lights), a wider color palette, and better brightness levels.

By supporting HDR, Nvidia is making sure you’re future-proofed for the next few years.

4. Content

We’ve discussed Plex and Kodi, but what about content from the major streaming providers? You’ll be glad to hear all the usual apps are present.

Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play Movies, HBO Now, Showtime, Disney Movies Anywhere, Hulu, Sling TV, and Crackle, are all available and fully functional.

android tv apps

Because the Shield runs Android TV, you can also download any streaming app in the Google Play Store. That includes network-centric services like Bloomberg, but also aggregators like Pluto TV.

Nvidia has also proved it’s keen to remain at the forefront of app availability. When the company launched the 2017 model, it was the first time Amazon Instant Video was available on Android TV. We can expect similar groundbreaking deals in the future.

5. Sideload Apps

The Google Play Store on the Shield only offers Android TV compatible apps. All the usual non-video apps like Facebook, Spotify, and USA Today are present, but lots of developers haven’t yet made their apps available.

But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t install an app you want. In fact, you can install any Android app. You just need to grab the APK file and open it using a file explorer. You can download the APK How to Download an APK from Google Play to Bypass Restrictions How to Download an APK from Google Play to Bypass Restrictions Need to get your hands on the installable APK file for an app from Google Play? We got you covered. Read More straight onto your Shield using a browser, or load it externally using a USB stick.

6. Gaming

Video streaming is the Shield’s bread and butter, but the device doubles as a fantastic gaming console. The 2017 model ships not only with a TV remote, but also a game controller.

As you’ve probably deduced, any Android-TV compatible game in the Google Play Store can be downloaded. That includes classics like Sonic the Hedgehog, modern hits like Grand Theft Auto, and long-running franchises such as Final Fantasy.

geforce now

But those games only scratch the surface of what’s available. There are three aspects to the Shield’s gaming capabilities you need to know about.

  1. Thanks to its Tegra X1 processor, 60 FPS frame rate, and 3840 x 2160 resolution, it’s one of the best devices for emulating classic consoles The Best Nintendo 64 Emulators for Phones, PCs, and Browsers The Best Nintendo 64 Emulators for Phones, PCs, and Browsers The new Nintendo Switch has the gaming world buzzing. While you wait for the Switch to come to your living room, why not go revisit some of the best Nintendo 64 emulators! Read More . I’ve played SNES, Genesis, N64, Gameboy, and PlayStation games without issue. The packaged controller worked flawlessly with all of them.
  2. You can access the GeForce Now store. It streams games directly to your device from Nvidia’s servers. For $7.99 per month, you can access many of the latest releases. If you’re not a member, you can still purchase and download certain titles for a one-time fee.
  3. If your computer has a GeForce GTX graphics card, you can use GameStream to cast the game from your machine to your TV. Again, the supplied controller is all you need to be able to play.

7. Smart Home Capabilities

We’re not done yet. Yes, the Shield doubles as a gaming console, but it also triples as a smart home center.

Because the device relies on the Android TV operating system, it can access the Google Assistant 10 Things You Didn't Know Google Assistant Could Do 10 Things You Didn't Know Google Assistant Could Do Android's version of Siri -- Google Assistant -- is more powerful than most people realize. Read More . Once again, the Shield was a pacesetter — it was the first Android TV-powered set-top box to offer the functionality.

Using the built-in microphone on the Shield’s TV remote, the device is always listening for your voice. Say “OK Google” and Google Assistant will be at your command. And this isn’t a watered-down “lite” version of the app — it offers all the same features as you can enjoy on the Pixel or Google Home.

That means you can control your Nest thermostat, play songs from apps like iHeart Radio, NPR, and TuneIn Radio, and even control your Philips Hue smart light system.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you’ve recently been pondering which is the best streaming device for your needs, you can stop thinking right now. The answer is the Nvidia Shield.

Whether you want to play your own media, stream videos from third-party apps, play Android games on your TV, or control your smart home, the Shield comes out on top every time. Frankly, I find it difficult to envisage a situation in which I wouldn’t recommend the Nvidia Shield.

Do you own a Nvidia Shield? Has the device impressed you? Is there anything about it you don’t like? You can leave all your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions in the comments below. And remember to share this article with fellow cord-cutters on social media.

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  1. TPB
    August 31, 2017 at 12:42 am

    Oh, sure, but WHAT ELSE CAN IT DO?
    Does it make fries? margaritas? the laundry?
    It sounds kind of limiting in its functions...

    (for the humor-impaired, "j/k"...)

  2. Brandon
    August 24, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    One of the big things missed in this article is the sheer amount of video and audio formats/codecs this device can support natively and how often Nvidia updates it with new features. They're constantly adding things like Atmos, etc. as new formats emerge. When compared to something like my friend's Apple TV (with its limited codec support), which makes my Plex server transcode EVERYTHING to play, this plays almost everything direct with no transcoding.

  3. Greig
    August 24, 2017 at 12:30 am

    I have had a 500 gb shield since Xmas of 2016 and couldn't be happier with it. Aside from a learning curve on how toasted setup it up, could you not be happier. Will be getting a 16

  4. Robin Young
    August 23, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    I thought everyone should know that Crackle crashes as soon as it starts up it's been doing this for like 6 months with no fix.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 23, 2017 at 11:59 pm

      @Robin Young,

      Crackle has a long history of having a crummy Android app. Other ways that it's been crappy have included not being able to select or change the title you'd like to watch. Yes, really.

  5. likefunbutnot
    August 23, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I do own a Shield TV. It's nice that I have full access to 4k Amazon, 4k Netflix and full audio Codec support in SPMC. But it's not a great Plex server, at least not for trying to sustain video feeds to more than one (non-LAN local) remote client at a time. I was disappointed that two phones on LTE connections started dropping frames the minute both of them tried to stream 1080p, 3mbps videos off the Shield. The Shield will also only transcode H.264, H.265 and MPEG2, which leaves you SOL for Xvid or VP8/VP9. If you're using it as a Plex server, I hope you don't mind transcoding everything for your server beforehand!

    I'm also going to say that I wish the Shield TV was a fully functional Alexa client. It does Google Now/Google Cast and it has its own client device, the Spot, but since that's not my voice assistant of preference, I hope there's some truth to the rumors that nVidia is looking to integrate Amazon's tech as well.

    I'm not a huge fan of the Shield UI. Amazon's FireTV UI is a bit too cluttered, but the Shield's is a bit too sparse. I haven't really found an Android TV launcher I really like and I'm not quite motivated enough to dig through XML files to fix it myself.

    Gaming off the Shield is kind of meh. Android games work great, although in some cases I've found that I've needed root to tell a game that my console has a different GPU (XCom: Enemy Within, for example). Streaming a game to the Shield from a PC costs about 40% of the framerate and many games just automatically drop back to 720p no matter what.

    It's unquestionably a nice box, but I'd say it's neck and neck with a plain old FireTV unless you really care about gaming features or would rather have Google Now than Alexa for your voice assistant. Given the pricing difference between those two devices, it's hard to say that it's really worth it.

    • Joe
      August 23, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      Agree with some of this..but to say a fire TV is neck and neck with the Shield? So far from it..Fire TV is laggy and very buggy..The Shield UI is very smooth and I never have any issues with lag or stuttering

      • likefunbutnot
        August 23, 2017 at 8:20 pm

        @Joe,

        I've not found either the FireTV or the Shield to be laggy in any meaningful way. Buggy? They both have their moments but on the whole they both work fine.

        More to my point, the Shield costs twice as much. There's a mild benefit to it for being the development target for SPMC, but overall I'd say the value is very dubious; it's doing precious little extra for twice as much money. For not too much more than the Shield, I can run a much more flexible low-power desktop PC that can decode HEVC in hardware and has authorization for 4k Netflix/Amazon. It'll have drawbacks of its own, but so do the FireTV and the Shield. Since no one is yet making a truly perfect media center system, I think we do well to acknowledge the flaws in each platform.

    • MSA
      August 23, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Seriously, stop complaining. The Shield is a wonderful device. Nothing less.

    • Brandon
      August 23, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      Seriously? What graphics card are you using and what's your graphics card? With a overclocked GTX 1080 I can stream in 4K to my TV and get 60 FPS without dips in Watch Dogs 2. If I select 1440P I can crank everything to max, my TV upscales it perfectly, and I still get consistent 60 FPS with no impactful input lag, even over AC WiFi.

      • Brandon
        August 23, 2017 at 11:55 pm

        Sorry, posting on mobile. I meant what's your router?

        • likefunbutnot
          August 24, 2017 at 12:25 am

          @Brandon,
          My infrastructure hardware is a mix of Ubiquiti and Mellanox (Infiniband) equipment over Cat6 or TwinAx. It's not a network problem. Likewise, if I use a 2015 GTX Titan or a GTX970 or just a plain old GTX1050, I pretty consistently see drops of between 33 and 40% compared to what my desktop is supposed to be doing, were I sitting in front of it. You can derive this information from adb commands if you really want to investigate it.

          It's not a network problem or even a video card problem. It's just that streaming video game frames isn't 100% instant and real-time, even with ridiculous hardware . For the most part, I'm not playing contemporary FPSes and I don't actually care, but for example I've noticed that X-Com: Enemy Unknown likes to drop back to 720p for some reason (the Shield and my gaming PC are both connected to 4k displays), while Witcher 3 doesn't maintain 60fps unless I'm at 1080p, which is why I started investigating the matter in the first place. Lesson learned: If I want a perfect game experience, I'll go play on the actual gaming PC.

    • Neural0
      August 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      @likefunbutnot

      Streaming two 1080p feeds off-LAN is going to be bottlenecked by your internet upload connection, it has nothing to do with your Shield.

      How can you be sure? Stream two 1080p feeds to devices that are ON your network.

      Upgrade your internet connection UPLOAD to 25Mbps+ per stream if you want to be serving content off your LAN. So two streams you need 50Mbps upload at least.

      • likefunbutnot
        August 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

        @Neural0,

        The Xeon E5 system that is my normal Plex Media Server can manage at least 8 3Mbps streams to external hosts (usually tested with phones on LTE; I stopped at 8 because that's as many devices as I could borrow to test with) over the same connection. The Shield has a hard time with multiple simultaneous transcode jobs. It's probably fine for a single person or a couple, but if a family is all hitting it at once, it's going to struggle in a way a PC-based server probably won't.

        I don't really care about LAN-internal transcoding since 1. Plex shouldn't transcode anything for a LAN client unless it can't handle the video encoding in the first place and 2. I'm going to use Kodi for that content anyway.

  6. Martin Green
    August 23, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I don't have a Shield, but eventually will be buying one. I have an Amlogic-based Android 6.0.1 OTT box which I love, but like 99.999% of the Android OTT boxes out there it doesn't have the necessary DRM certificates to play Netflix at 1080p. I have Netflix on two other devices attached to my TV so I don't really care that I am limited to 720p Netflix on my OTT box, but I wanted to point out that another big argument for going with the Shield is that it is one of the few Android TV boxes that are certified by Netflix, allowing for full HD (and I think 4K too) without needing a second device.

    • Neural0
      August 24, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Add to it the fact that every system firmware upgrade brings me new licensed features (DTS-MA!!!) and why would I want to get anything that would become obsolete? The hardware in the shield is so overpowered that they just keep adding new features through firmware. Love it.