NVIDIA Shield TV NVIDIA Shield TV ($179 at Amazon.)

The funny thing about Android TV (as in Android — the operating system that's on every damn phone that's not an iPhone) is that it's not exactly everywhere when it comes to television sets. Sure, you can get it baked in to a couple models (mainly Sony Bravia TVs). But after that? It's kind of a mess.

We'll make it easy for you. The NVIDIA Shield TV is currently the only Android TV-powered set-top box you should buy.

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What is NVIDIA Shield TV?

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See that previous sentence up there? Read it again. NVIDIA Shield TV is a set-top box that's powered by the Android TV operating system, with hardware built from NVIDIA. They bill it as a "4K HDR Streaming Media Player," which it is. It was first released in the spring of 2015 and got a minor refresh in 2017.

Who's NVIDIA, you ask? It's a longtime manufacturer of graphics cards for computers. It's also toyed in the mobile space, and it's playing a big part in sticking some serious computing power inside vehicles.

It's a deceptively small box given the specs.

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NVIDIA Shield TV specs

Category Features
Processor NVIDIA Tegra X1
OS Android 7.0 (January 2018 security patch)
Storage 16GB internal
External storage USB3.0
Resolution Up to 4K
Dolby Vision No
Dolby Atmos Yes
Wifi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.1LE
Other Gigabit ethernet, 2xUSB3.0, remote control, Shield game controller

How much is Shield TV and where do you get it?

NVIDIA only has one model of Shield TV, with 16GB of onboard storage. (It used to have a crazy 500GB model, but it's been discontinued.) The only real question is whether you want it with just the remote control, or if you want the official Shield gaming controller as well.

And that's where the two prices come in. Shield TV with just the remote is $179. If you want the gaming controller it's $20 more.


What's good about Shield TV?

So what's good about NVIDIA Shield TV? First, it's powerful. Really powerful. There is a lot of graphics power in this little box. So alongside all the Android TV awesomeness — including just about every streaming app you could think of — you get a whole lot of games. And like every other Android TV device, it's also a proper Chromecast target.

And we're not just talking crappy mobile games scaled up for the TV. (Though it does have Crossy Road.) NVIDIA actually has its own gaming subscription service with GeForce Now, and it's definitely worth checking out.

And the Shield TV box itself just looks good and is surprisingly small given all it does.

What's not so good about Shield TV?

If there's one big gripe here it's that the software on Shield TV has lagged behind what you're used to on the Android phone side of things. It's not a big deal from the end-user perspective, but it just seems like it's been left behind a little bit, being a full major version of Android behind, and with the security patch a few months old.

We'd love to see that gap close a little.

Who is Shield TV for?

If you're all in on Android and don't have a TV with Android TV already built in, get a Shield TV. While it still is the only Android TV box we'd recommend, it's also a very good Android TV box in its own right — even as it continues to age three years after its release.

4.5 out of 5

NVIDIA Shield Android TV