Setup, Android TV Experience
The Suggested Band...
A major component of the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV is — you guessed it — Google’s Android TV. There have been a number of announcements to come out of Google I/O today, like this one regarding its Brillo OS and this one about Android M, but Google also disclosed that major broadcasters are bringing new video and viewing apps to Android TV, such as HBO NOW, the CBS and FOX family of apps, Twitch, Vimeo and many more. NVIDIA tells us these apps will be coming to the SHIELD soon. But also keep in mind that other apps that will work on Android TV’s 10-ft interface are also available in the Google Play store.
While Android TV is still a relatively young platform, our experience with it on the SHIELD (in the short time we’ve had our hands on it), has been mostly positive. The main home screen is broken up into different bands, with a “suggested” band at the top. The suggested band is dynamic and provides suggestions based on your installed applications and usage patterns. Further down the page there’s a band of installed games and NVIDIA-related content (like access to GRID and PC streaming), a band for all installed apps, that’s also dynamic — the most recently used app is constantly moved to the far left. And at the very bottom are links to various settings and configurations options.
Running various apps on the SHIELD produced excellent results. The Tegra X1 is so fast relative to other set-top streaming devices that using the SHIELD Android TV is noticeably snappier and smoother. Apps load quickly, animations are smooth, and you never really feel like you have to wait for anything. Apps like Hulu Plus are available for accessing the service's wealth of content, along with many other major players like Netflix, YouTube, Sling Television, MLB and ESPN app, PBS, and numerous others. The SHIELD also includes Plex preinstalled for accessing media from a Plex server. If a media app is in the Google Play store and it’s compatible with Android TV’s 10ft interface, it should work.
Navigating through the various apps and finding content on the SHIELD Android TV was quite intuitive and easy. Although the platform took some initial dings on earlier devices, it has clearly matured quite a bit and there is loads of content available.
We should also mention that searching for new content or launching apps, etc. is made infinitely easier with the voice controls on the SHIELD, which are excellent. This device (and Android TV) isn’t just about simple speech-to-text. You can control many aspects of the device and find almost anything with casual speech. For example, you can hit the voice search button and say, “What will the weather be like tomorrow?” or “watch The Avengers”. When searching for content in particular, if the apps you have installed support cross-app searching, a simple question will find what you’re looking for in all of the apps that leverage the search. The voice controls are among the best we’ve used.
The SHIELD Android TV is also a Chromecast device, so sending content or mirroring your mobile device is a snap.