NVIDIA’S SHIELD TV device surprised us in 2016. No, it didn’t launch in last year, but it gained some abilities that made it quickly rise to the top of the set-top box streaming and gaming segment. Last summer they announced with Plex that you could run a full Plex media server on the SHEILD TV. Shortly thereafter, SiliconDust announced that their HDHomeRun DVR software could also run on the SHIELD TV. At this year’s CES, NVIDIA announced a new version of the device, and it’s gotten better in all the ways we care about.
First let’s start with the aspects of the SHIELD TV that aren’t changing with the new version. Most importantly, the price isn’t changing. You’ll get the base unit which has 16GB of storage, one game controller, and media remote for $199. The new Pro version has 500 GB of storage, and it is also remaining at the $299 price point. The other thing that isn’t changing is the brain of the device. It will continue to be powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1. I guess they figured that since it was still 3x faster than their competitors, and more than powerful enough for 4k video, there wasn’t really any reason to upgrade it.
There are plenty of new things to get excited about with the SHIELD TV. On the video side they’ve finally inked a deal with Amazon. So in addition to Netflix, YouTube, VUDU, and more, you’ll be able to stream Amazon’s library in 4k with HDR.
The SHIELD TV is based on Android TV, and that means it is getting new AI capabilities through Google Assistant. The redesigned game controller (which is far more comfortable than the previous version) has an always-on microphone. With that you can initiate commands like “OK Google…show pictures from my trip to Las Vegas” and they’ll be immediately displayed on the TV. You’ll also be able to voice control your Nest thermostat and cameras.
Adding Google Assistant to the SHIELD TV is a big deal for those looking to make their home smarter, but it doesn’t end there. Later this year you’ll be able turn the SHIELD TV into a SmartThings hub! No, NVIDIA hasn’t added Z-Wave and Zigbee radios to the SHIELD. Instead you’ll need a SmartThings USB stick. That stick isn’t available yet, but we’re very excited to see the functionality coming.
To aid in all that voice-controlled goodness, NVIDIA also announced the SPOT (seriously NVIDIA, please stop using all capital letters for your products). It’s a small microphone that plugs directly into a wall outlet. You’ll be able to place them throughout your entire house for easy access to the Google Assistant. It will cost $49, but they haven’t provided a release date. The NVIDIA representative I spoke with said that I shouldn’t expect it in the first half of 2017.
Most of you current SHIELD TV owners probably think this announcement means you’ll need to purchase a new device. Every software feature that is coming to the new SHIELD TV will also be coming to the current product! That includes Amazon streaming and Google Assistant. The current controllers aren’t always listening though, so you’ll have to hit the voice search button to use Google Assistant. You will be able to pair the new controllers with an existing SHIELD TV though.