If you don’t want Android TV, don’t buy a Shield TV

Supporting NVidia Shield owners is a real joy. I love helping new owners make the most of their devices and assisting them with configuring it in a way that makes sense for their needs.

Unfortunately, there is a constant issue I see with new buyers of NVidia Shield TV. They really don’t want an NVidia Shield TV. They want a generic, vanilla Android system to use as a Kodi box.

Instead of embracing the Android TV culture they fight it tooth and nail every step of the way. Rooting, custom roms, xposed mods, launcher replacements/hacks – you name it – there are buyers of Shield TV that want nothing to do with what’s installed – and that includes the OS.

We here at NVidiaShieldZone.com love the Shield line of products because of what they are – not what we might be able to hack them into. We do not answer questions or provide tutorials on this level of stripping/customization; not just because we’re morally against the concept but because time and time again, these sort of hacks render the device unstable and in some cases completely unusable. We support root because of some of the draconian restrictions Google puts on Android TV (these aren’t NVidia’s choices) – and I personally believe that blocking ads is everyone’s right.

What makes the issue even more frustrating is that products exist out there that WILL do exactly what these users want. There are powerful vanilla Android-based Kodi boxes for sale everywhere. Some are come rooted. Some even have these exact same hacks, mods, custom roms pre-installed (fully tested and working) people are asking for. They are even cheaper than the Shield TV.

Personally, I would rather have a person HAPPY with the purchase that they make – even if it isn’t an NVidia product – rather than have buyer’s remorse and trash the machine around the internet. I’d understand if Shield TV was the only game in town – and bending it to your will is the only solution. That just isn’t the case.

Android TV is intended to replicate a “set top” experience; removing the complexity from Android’s vanilla OS. It is designed as a big screen experience using some form of controller. So much, in fact, that things like touch, mouse support and other “mobile device” functionality has been physically removed from the operating system as a whole.

What many people forget is that Android TV is a single-operation device; that is, it was made to perform a single task at a time – and it has been optimized accordingly. Your cable box does one thing – decode and deliver content. Some will double as a DVR too, but overall the lifespan of a set top box is to find and deliver content. It is designed to be passive overall.

NVidia has done a wonderful job with their overlay atop of Android TV. They’ve sweetened the pot by adding a Plex server, game streaming locally and online as well as upped the ante on game controllers.

But, like every company that licenses Google’s OSes there are some things NVidia has no control over nor has the ability to fix. These things are Google’s “issues” and NVidia can’t change them even if they wanted to. That’s the trade off.

Android TV is quite a fantastic OS for media consumers. The interface is elegant, simple to use, easy to read, integrates well with it’s compatible apps. But since it won’t display sideloaded apps, some people want it gone. There are solutions out there (like Sideload Launcher or our own Fastlauncher). But people would rather hack another, unstable OS on the device rather than simply adapt functionality.

Shield TV is the best Android TV set top box on the market.  It is also considered the best Kodi box on the market.  But if you don’t want Android TV?  Buyer beware.

3 Responses to If you don’t want Android TV, don’t buy a Shield TV

  1. I enjoy your site and the work that you do, but disagree a tad. First, the Shield makes a great Kodi box, which I use mainly to view existing/downloaded content across my home network. Plex is nice, but why run a server on a PC when it isn’t needed?? Kodi is an Android application, and so should run on all Android devices, in theory.

    Now given that Nvidia put their own nice layer on top of Android TV, as you said, they could have just easily put it on top of a more stock Android!

    Since it is attempting to be a game console too, this would mean a loss of -nothing-, but a -gain- of many more native games, especially those that work just fine with controllers, like Minecraft, which is my big gripe!

    I was unaware of this as a buyer, when I bought the Shield TV. It seems -utterly- ridiculous to me that the most popular game of all time can’t run on the Shield, when it runs fine on both stock Android (even with controllers these days), and on the Amazon FireTV 😉

    Maybe this is just a licensing issue as you say, but couldn’t NVidia just have licensed the non-Android TV version? And if Google is forcing the issue, that’s stupid too–fragmentation is a big weakness of the Android ecosystem, and moves such as this aren’t helping 😉

    I’m sure there is blame to go around, but it is just sad that for no technical reason, a device is crippled like this -by-choice-. That’s something Apple would do…

    • Chad Brown says:

      Both the shield tablet and shield portable have a screen overlay app that allows you to map physical buttons to touch.

      It’s just totally absent in the shield tv.

      I’ve also noticed that some games on the app store are 100% compatible on Android tv, but they just don’t appear in the play store on Android tv.

      I largely disagree with the sentiment in the article.

      • Yes. It seems that a streamer trying to double as a game-console would bend over backwards to play as many Android games as possible. The FireTV has a feature that lets you play some tablet games by mapping touch to a “mouse” that can be controlled with the remote. A simple and smart way to increase the number of games and apps that work.

        ShieldTV should do something along those lines. This alone would let more games/apps function. If they function too poorly to be usable or fun (in the case of games), then they won’t be used much! But again, nothing would be lost but there would be much potential gain.

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