NVIDIA Defend TV assessment: one of the best Android set-prime field you should purchase

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

By no means let it’s stated that Google provides up on concepts that do not pan out the primary time. Keep in mind when it tried invading our dwelling rooms with clunky, disappointing set-prime bins? After which when that exact same software program went on to discover a life proper on sensible TVs? Consider all that as a prelude to the place we’re in the present day — Google TV has given solution to Android TV, and now NVIDIA’s cooked up an fascinating spin on a components that is almost a yr previous. The Defend TV’s gaming cred and modern design make it far and away probably the most fascinating Android TV setup we have seen thus far, however does that imply it is value your onerous-earned money? The brief reply is “sure,” however the Defend solely shines brightest in case you’ve received the best type of hardware already in place.

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NVIDIA Defend Android TV assessment

eighty four
NVIDIA

Defend TV

Execs

  • Performs 4K movies with gusto
  • Glossy design
  • Tegra X1 chip provides nice gaming energy
  • Android TV’s voice search is nice

Cons

  • Android TV’s suggestions suck
  • Restricted storage on the bottom mannequin
  • At its greatest, the Defend requires numerous extras

Abstract

NVIDIA’s Defend is the perfect Android TV field cash should buy proper now, because of Android’s rising clout as a recreation platform and the power to stream full video games from elsewhere. Streaming film buffs will dig its 4K chops too, however squeezing the perfect expertise out of the Defend requires extra cash and hardware.

Hardware

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

I dug into the Defend’s design in my preview, and the broad strokes have not modified. It is a good-looking, paperback-sized piece of plastic with some angular edges etched into the aspect and an ever-current inexperienced standing mild that quietly friends at you when you play. Across the again, you will discover a full suite of ports — except for the facility jack, there is a Gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.zero that helps HDCP 2.2 for 4K video at as much as 60 fps, a pair of full-sized USB three.zero ports and micro-USB and microSD slots. NVIDIA’s $300 Professional-degree Defend comes with 500GB of inner storage. It additionally features a copy of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, however I have been testing the $200 base field, which solely comes with 16GB of free area. In case you’re the sort who likes to hoard media as an alternative of simply streaming it, that reminiscence enlargement slot might be a lifesaver.

The Defend is a surprisingly fairly little factor, however its actual magnificence lies in how simply it squeezes into even the tightest house theater setups. You possibly can even prop it up vertically if actual property is at a critical premium, though the stand that helps stabilize it is going to value you additional. (That is one thing of a recurring theme for the Defend, as you will see.) Contained in the Defend thrums NVIDIA’s Tegra X1 chipset, which pairs an octet of sixty four-bit processor cores propped up by a 256-core Maxwell GPU structure. I half-anticipated this factor to wind up in a automotive earlier than I noticed it in a devoted TV add-on, however its media chops are plain; it is about twice as quick as the corporate’s final-gen K1 chipset, and that was already lots highly effective for gaming once we took it for a spin within the Defend pill.

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

Talking of, I might guess most individuals who’d even think about taking the plunge on this factor would do it due to NVIDIA’s gaming cred, so the pack-in controller is one factor NVIDIA completely needed to nail. Its reply: to toss a type of Defend Pill controllers right into a field and name it a day. That’d be a a lot greater deal if the factor sucked, however that is fortunately not the case right here. Like most different Bluetooth gaming controllers, NVIDIA’s takes loads of cues from the Xbox 360/One design, save for a number of twists. A quartet of contact-delicate buttons lives entrance and middle they usually function your typical Android navigation keys. There is a useful quantity rocker down alongside the underside fringe of the controller, too, though it’s kind of gummy and typically wants cajoling earlier than your sound ranges get to be good.

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

All the eye NVIDIA did not lavish on the controller was as an alternative targeted on the distant, a darkish slab of brushed metallic that feels actually sturdy regardless of how mild it’s. It too has a microphone and all of the buttons are clicky and responsive — full marks. And, as if to drive a stake into the hearts of the Apple TV and Nexus Participant remotes, a contact-delicate strip runs proper down the middle of NVIDIA’s distant so you’ll be able to regulate system quantity on the fly. The entire thing feels rather more intuitive than the controller, too, which might be why it’s going to value you a further $50.

Software program

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

The silicon contained in the Defend is fairly spectacular, however any set-prime field will solely be nearly as good because the software program it is working with. Alas, Android TV hasn’t grown a lot because it launched final yr, which is to say it is nonetheless removed from good. Your media suggestions, apps, settings and video games all reside in their very own horizontally scrolling rows, and my beef actually lives in that prime row the place Google tries to determine what I need to see or hear proper now.

Whereas I used to be scripting this evaluation, Google provided me entry to Fairly Little Liars on the Play Retailer and Hulu Plus (by no means watched it, regardless of my sister’s greatest efforts); two separate YouTube movies about pets; a Travis McCoy music video (I solely know him from this ages in the past); an episode of The Bachelorette (unggghhhh); and a hyperlink to obtain Telltale Video games’ six-half Recreation of Thrones collection. Solely that final one is in any means related to my pursuits, and I’ve by no means looked for GoT movies on the Defend itself. Android TV’s predictive talents are sadly underwhelming, particularly contemplating Google is already sitting on knowledge about what I like so it could possibly serve me extremely focused advertisements on each web site I go to.

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NVIDIA Defend Android TV software program evaluation

It is nice, then, that looking for issues together with your voice works so damned nicely. Ask for Matt Smith and you will get a neat information card and hyperlinks to movies he is been in, be they on YouTube, Hulu or the Play Retailer (sorry, Netflix). Google does fairly nicely with meatier requests, too — asking for Oscar winners from a given yr works like a allure, although it did not deal with queries like “critically acclaimed sci-fi films” with fairly as a lot grace. The one two correct movie outcomes have been 9 and 12 Monkeys, and never many individuals have been type concerning the former.

Nonetheless, I spent one notably boring night saying random names and titles into the distant’s mic and simply… sifting by way of all of the YouTube and Hulu outcomes that got here again. In reality, the one occasions voice search did not perceive precisely what I used to be saying was when the Defend — for some obnoxious cause — stored insisting it did not have a community connection. By no means thoughts the truth that every little thing related to the identical router was simply peachy: The Defend sometimes did the networking equal of sticking its fingers in its ears and going, “Lalalalala, I can not hear you!” Fortunately, the Defend has gotten a handful of updates since I first set it up and that is not a problem anymore. When you’re particular together with your requests, although — and I feel most of us are — voice search is usually a deal with.

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

That simply leaves us with all of the stuff NVIDIA layered on prime of Android TV, not that there is a entire lot of it. The most important options stay in a Defend Hub row of their very personal, and from there you’ll be able to dig into yet one more app retailer devoted solely to video games. Convoluted? A bit. Holding down the house button brings up a fast settings panel that’ll look acquainted to Defend Pill customers — from there you can begin or cease your Twitch broadcast, or seize a screenshot for posterity. In the event you’ve received certainly one of NVIDIA’s GTX-collection graphics playing cards, your Steam recreation assortment does not simply should stay in your PC. GameStream allows you to funnel the horde of digital titles you picked up on sale straight to the Defend and your TV and — shock, shock — it really works very properly. There’s additionally GRID, a subscription service that is concurrently free and a fantastic addition to the normal Android TV formulation. We’ll dig into these extra a bit later.

Efficiency

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

Nobody’s going to think about shopping for the Defend solely for its chops as a media streamer, however it does an awfully wonderful job on that entrance. Now, I have never purchased myself a 4K tv because the final time I wrote concerning the Defend, however I’ve spent some prolonged playtime with a good friend who did and the outcomes are principally nice. Between the power of Google’s voice search and the image high quality the Tegra X1 is able to pushing out, the Defend’s lean-again expertise is definitely one of the crucial fulfilling I’ve seen so far. The difficulty is, there’s solely a lot 4K content material on the market proper now, and Android TV as we all know it performs good with simply a few of it. Netflix is its most blatant companion — you will get a nifty Extremely HD badge on tremendous hello-res content material within the app, and the Defend field has been licensed by the media firm. YouTube has its share of 4K video, too, however different main gamers like Amazon are noticeably absent from the combination.

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

In fact, you do not simply should stream all of your movies. For those who actually needed to, you can hook up a TV tuner like these made by SiliconDust… however there is a fairly good probability that route is simply redundant because of the TV service you are already paying for. Nonetheless, the reside TV interface is clear, useful and gives all the knowledge you’d anticipate from the standard grid of present listings. The addition of full-on USB ports across the again make it fairly trivial to hook up an exterior arduous drive or two in the event you horde previous anime episodes like I do, and getting them up and operating on the large display because of apps like VLC and Kodi is straightforward. Enjoyable reality: Android TV bins additionally kind of double as Chromecasts, so in the event you go for a Defend, you’ll be able to ditch the dongle. At occasions, this little addition turns into a straight-up lifesaver. The variety of corporations and content material suppliers making apps for Android TV is on the upswing, however for gamers that have not gotten round to it — I am wanting particularly at you, Crunchyroll — casting movies from their cellular apps to the large display is a no brainer.

Now, let’s transfer on to the meaty stuff; I think you are all a bit of extra fascinated with how the Defend holds up as an trustworthy-to-goodness gaming machine. Properly, between Google’s ecosystem of apps and NVIDIA’s related gaming providers, the reply is “fairly damned properly, so long as your expectations aren’t too excessive.” Let’s make one factor completely clear: The Defend Android TV field will not exchange your Xbox One or your PlayStation four, a minimum of not utterly. Nevertheless it’s obtained moxie sufficient to attempt. It helps that the native stuff — apps coded strictly for Android — has gotten actually damned good over the previous few years. To wit: I spent my days with the Defend plowing via transformed variations of Doom III and Croteam’s The Talos Precept, each of which ran admirably on the Defend and my forty seven-inch TV. Sure, they’re technically older video games that have been launched elsewhere first, however they nonetheless present a degree of immersive, visually spectacular enjoyable that may be exhausting to return by on Android; I felt like I used to be enjoying Xbox 360 video games more often than not. What’s extra, we will see a spate of biggish recycled titles (Metallic Gear Rising: Revengeance and Crysis three, to call a couple of) hit the Play Retailer inside months, so be looking out.

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

There are, in fact, different methods to get your recreation on (assuming you’ve got acquired a strong web connection and a beefy router). First up is GameStream, which helps you to stream video games straight from the Steam assortment in your PC to that massive display in your front room… so long as you’ve got obtained the proper hardware. If you wish to GameStream in any respect, you’d higher hope you constructed your final PC round considered one of NVIDIA’s GTX-collection graphics playing cards — you are SOL in any other case. Naturally, my two-yr-previous gaming rig (cobbled along with an AMD graphics card at its core) did not come near assembly the necessities wanted to get this going. The factor is, I might guess that is the case for a lot of the people out there for a streaming field for his or her dwelling rooms. Anyway, I received my arms on an obscenely highly effective gaming rig to place GameStream by way of the wringer, and after some software program-fueled drama — it took a beta replace to the GeForce Expertise Home windows app to lastly make GameStream work — every thing was peachy. (NVIDIA says mine was an edge case and that the repair will go stay for everybody shortly.)

I put a number of hours into GTA V and Batman: Arkham Origins, each of which ran rocksteady with none further setup or settings tweaks. Contemplating all the excitement although, I spent most of my time with the Defend poking around the globe of Witcher three, and that is the place some points began to pop up. Identical to watching streaming movies, although, high quality can range fairly dramatically relying on how a lot oomph your community has. Steering Geralt round Witcher’s insanely huge world often appeared fairly nice (I might nonetheless peg it at Xbox 360-high quality), however these occasional flare-ups of community congestion meant image high quality might get smeared and blocky. Fortunately, not one of the video games I examined ever, ever floor to a halt due to community points, so there’s at the very least that.

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

If that is the case, your solely probability to stream video games you do not personal will come within the type of GRID, that streaming subscription service that will not value you something simply but. In trade for purchasing into the Defend imaginative and prescient, you get entry to a slate of massive-identify titles that run on distant cloud servers so your teensy monolith does not should. My present Apple AirPort solely simply met the necessities (typically the Defend would nag me about diminished high quality consequently), however you already know what? I am nonetheless principally floored by how nicely it really works. Contemplating how strongly they hinge on timing and exact actions, I spent my time testing GRID by enjoying Road Fighter X Tekken and DIRT three.

Regardless of the occasional community slowdown — an issue that kind of disappeared once I swapped in a excessive-finish ASUS router — each video games have been fluid and completely playable. Issues might get smeared and blocky occasionally, however that by no means acquired in the best way of laying the smackdown with my man Ken and his livid Hurricane Kicks. And truthfully, I discovered it fairly onerous to argue with the $zero price ticket hooked up to the service proper now, although that’ll change quickly too — GRID will change to paid service come July 2015. The factor you have to keep in mind with both of those distant gaming choices is that they are simply inferior to having the sport operating on a devoted field in entrance of you. They’re shut — startling shut typically — however not fairly the identical.

The competitors

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

The Defend stands alone in its melding of Android TV’s media catalog and NVIDIA’s gaming credentials, however that solely means it is received two broad classes of units to compete towards. With regards to streaming packing containers, there’s in fact the Android TV forerunner. The vanguard. The Nexus Participant. We weren’t too thrilled with the factor once we first reviewed it, however that is type of the difficulty with reference units: They’re meant to behave as equal elements landmark and leaping-off level for corporations to remember whereas they make their very own stuff. Placing that apart, although, it is dust-low cost at $seventy nine and you might in all probability nab a bundle with it and an official ASUS gamepad for somewhat greater than half of the bottom Defend’s $200 asking worth.

If streaming is all you are after, you would feasibly go together with the even cheaper Apple TV ($sixty nine), which already has entry to key media providers like HBO Now. Nonetheless, you would be giving up the power to play video games of any variety, and the hunt-and-peck mechanism for punching out film names is simply depressing in comparison with Google’s voice search. Oh, and Razer’s Forge TV — the one different recreation-centric Android TV field — simply hit Google’s on-line retailer a number of days in the past. You’ll stream PC video games to it will definitely and it is a contact cheaper than the Defend at $one hundred fifty, however you possibly can kiss all that 4K content material goodbye.

Apparently, when you’re tempted by the highest-finish $300 Defend with the 500GB of storage, you’ve got received one other choice to make: Do you get this, or an Xbox One (solely $50 extra)? Or a PS4 ($one hundred extra)? The Defend won’t ever beat them at sheer horsepower and graphical depth, plus they will stream video all of the stay-lengthy day too. Nonetheless, the Defend’s PC recreation-streaming chops and Android’s inherent openness simply may assist swing the battle in its favor for some actually persnickety geeks.

Wrap-up

NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy

Let’s be clear right here. If you are going to purchase an Android TV gadget proper now — and that is nonetheless a reasonably large “if” — make it this one. The Tegra X1’s horsepower and fondness for 4K video make it probably the most future-proof of the Android TVs you will discover proper now, and the additional layers of gamer friendliness NVIDIA added imply it is probably the most nicely-rounded of the bunch too.

And the caveats? Nicely, as I write this, E3 is winding down and Microsoft and Sony simply gave their fanbases a number of extra causes to get hyped. The worth distinction between the Defend and precise, devoted gaming consoles is nearly nil, and in case you’re a die-exhausting gamer with groups and reputations, you are not going to surrender your Xbox or PS4. Extra disappointing than that’s how a lot additional you will should pay to squeeze probably the most performance out of the Defend. I haven’t got a 4K TV, however I might actually like one now. I will not have a flowery NVIDIA graphics card as soon as I ship this loaner laptop computer again, so there goes my days of streaming my Steam assortment. I might all the time use GRID, however that’ll value additional in simply weeks now, too. Oh, and I like how the Defend seems standing up — guess I am going to have to purchase a stand, as properly. The core of the Defend expertise is highly effective, priceless and price your consideration; whether or not you re-engineer your tech to benefit from it’s as much as you.

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NVIDIA Shield TV review: the best Android set-top box you can buy
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