There are a lot of streaming set-top boxes out there: The Apple TV, the Roku, the Amazon Fire TV…and sure, they each have their advantages. But if you want the set top box that does the absolute most, that can handle anything you throw at it and leave some room for tweaking, it’s the NVIDIA SHIELD with Android TV.
Let me tell you why.
All the Content, All the Time
Recently, there’s been a bunch of hullabaloo about YouTube not being on the Fire TV, Amazon not being on the Chromecast, and all that jazz. The companies are starting to work it out, but who knows what’s ultimately going to happen.
Despite being an Android TV box, SHIELD is completely unaffected by this—unlike the Chromecast, it has had Amazon Prime Video for a long time.
And you know what sits right beside it? YouTube. Plus an absolute slew of other content: Sling, Netflix, HBO Now, Twitch, Showtime, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, Hulu…and so many others.
Of course, I realize that this sort of variety isn’t exclusive to SHIELD—Roku and Apple TV also have access to essentially the same apps. (Though it took Apple TV an awfully long time to get Amazon Prime Video.) But it’s a good starting point. SHIELD starts to really shine, however, when it comes to more power user apps, like…
Easy Access to Kodi, and a Built-in Plex Server
Kodi and Plex are the ultimate media platforms if you have lots of locally stored movies, shows, and music. I’ve seen more people recommending the Fire TV or Fire TV stick as the best option because it can be “jailbroken” to install Kodi. But Kodi is available for SHIELD right from the Play Store. No rooting or modification is necessary—you simply install it alongside all of your other applications and then set it up however you like. Android TV is the only platform on the market to offer Kodi with such ease.
SHIELD also goes a step further with Plex. Not just by making it easy to install (which is pretty common on most platforms at this point), but by also offering the Plex server as well. That’s right: if you don’t have a dedicated home server with your movies on it, you can set up a Plex server on your SHIELD pretty easily. Again, it’s the only set top box on the market with this option.
More Power than You Can Shake a Stick At
When it comes to raw power in set top boxes, most of them just don’t have it. And you know what, that’s okay for the most basic of uses, but when it comes to playing higher bitrate videos (like your Blu-ray rips), playing games (see below), and serving up media (see above), then having the guts to do the work is a necessity. Fortunately, SHIELD is hands down the most powerful box you can throw money at. Its Tegra X1 processor is lightning fast, and 3GB of RAM is more than any competing box. The 256-core GPU also makes easy work of pushing 4K content, which is a must if you’re looking for a future-proof box.
While the standard SHIELD offers 16GB of internal storage with the option of easy expansion, there’s also a Pro version that packs a whopping 500GB hard drive. So, not only do you get the best specs on the market for a set top box, but also an absolutely insane amount of storage. This is a must have if you plan on using SHIELD as a Plex server….or just want to install everything the Play Store has to offer.
It’s a Gaming System, Too
Look, NVIDIA is a gaming company, so of course the SHIELD is going to have gaming capability. But we’re not talking just casual gaming capabilities like other set-top boxes: we’re talking full-on console-quality games here. SHIELD has numerous exclusive ports available, including some of the best games to ever exist, like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Tomb Raider, Borderlands 2, Portal, Half-Life 2…and that’s just to name a few.
And if you’re a PC gamer—even a casual one—you can stream your games from your PC to the TV using NVIDIA GameStream. So instead of sitting at a desk for hours, you can just sit in front a big ol’ TV on a nice comfy couch. That’s cool.
But that’s not all: SHIELD also has access to GeForce Now, NVIDIA’s online game streaming service. This one will set you back a eight bucks a month, but they’re constantly adding new games to make it worth your dollar dollar bills. And in my experience, the streaming quality is fantastic. It’s definitely a great way to get access to some games that maybe you want to play but don’t feel like buying.
Google Assistant on Tap
Lastly, if you’re in on the Google ecosystem, you’re probably already familiar with Google Assistant. Well, if you’ve ever wanted Assistant on your TV, SHIELD is the only box you can do that with (for the time being at least). It’s the first and only Android TV box to have access to Assistant, essentially turning your TV into a huge smarthome control hub. Of course, you can do all the other cool things Assistant on your phone can do, too: set appointments and reminders, ask it questions, tell it to find movies/videos, and the like.
All this power, of course, comes at a price. At a starting price of $199 ($299 for the Pro model), SHIELD is the most expensive box on the market. I won’t lie and say there aren’t better bang-for-your-buck boxes out there, like the Roku Ultra. But, for all the extras it offers, SHIELD is absolutely worth the asking price. It’s the most powerful, customizable system you’ll find on this side of a custom-built (and much pricier) home theater PC.