Category Archives: Opinion

UPDATED: The New Shield TV: Unraveling the Secrets

This article was updated on 1/8/2017.  New info in italics.

While press releases are flying around the internet and NVidia discussed it briefly on their CES keynote – I’ve been doing some digging trying to uncover the answers to the question we all have: What ARE the secrets of the new Shield TV that weren’t revealed?

I’ve tapped all my resources and I have found some information that loyal Shield users will want to know.  I’ll update this page as I get more info.

Will I need the new Shield TV if I already own the Shield TV OG (original)?

Right now, the answer appears to be “no”.  Spec-wise, there appears to be nothing worthy of an upgrade.  Now, manufacturing improvements may offer some advantage – but what’s under the hood seems to be the same.  That is NOT true of the controller which really appears to be the biggest change of the group.  Fortunately, that is available separately.  Since it is Bluetooth and the Shield TV OG and the new Shield TV should be sharing the same version of the OS?  There should be no issues simply adding the new controller to your existing Shield TV system.

Both new Shield TV skus ship with both CONTROLLER and REMOTE.

Bad news: It appears that the new Shield TV sku is without microSD slot.  Let’s hope a phat 128GB USB3.0 flash drive will do the trick.  Trying to find out if the Pro sku still has it.

What’s new about the controller other than the visual appearance?

Aside from aesthetics, the controller is now Bluetooth.  It also has dual vibration feedback (a much welcomed addition).  According to the spec sheet, it also includes an IR blaster to allow you to control TV volume and power.  All in all, it sounds like the new controller kicks butt and we should all start budgeting for one.

It has also come to my attention that you’ll need either the new Controller or Remote to use Google Assistant.

The volume control is now the touch area in the middle of the controller – much like the Remote.

What about the Shield Remote?

The spec sheets on the Remote seem to indicate that other than being Bluetooth now, much is unchanged.  However, one of the spec sheets says that it has IR Blaster capabilities (Shield TV) and one spec sheet doesn’t mention it (Shield TV Pro).  The press release mentioned the remote for both Shield TV skus, but only mentioned a headphone jack when talking about the Pro unit.  My guess is that there is only ONE Shield Remote that works on BOTH machines – and that it has IR Blaster and headphone jacks regardless of whether you go standard or Pro.

This is an area of confusion.  Apparently the one that comes with the new Shield TV is no longer rechargable (uses coin type batteries – but supposedly lasts a year) and supposedly does NOT have a headphone jack.  The one you buy over the counter (or possibly with the Pro) might be the “full version” we’ve previously seen.

Is Amazon Video finally coming to Android?

We don’t know about “Android” overall, but yes – Amazon Video in 4k will be available on Shield TV.  Finally.

What do we know about Shield TV Pro?

Other than the Pro version looks to be the same size as the old Shield TV Pro (The new Shield TV 16GB version definitely looks smaller in both pictures and video) and that the Pro version has 500GB of storage – we don’t have much.  We do not know yet if the hard drive inside is still the proprietary hybrid type drive we’ve all grown to love – or if this has been changed.  Time will tell.  The price wasn’t announced, but shows on the website as $299 – same as before.  It appears that this sku will be shipping later than the 16GB sku.

I’m hoping it retains the microSD card slot.

What about NVidia Spot?  How does that fit in?

Spot is a little device that plugs into power outlets in various rooms of your house that extend the natural voice control of Shield’s new Google Assistant.  I’m guessing it works over WiFi, so I see no reason to believe that Shield TV OG skus will be excluded from supporting them.  Old or new, your Shield TV should handle communications with Spot.

Voice recognition was already part of Shield TV.  What makes Google Assistant different?

While the original Shield TV voice recognition was about SEARCH, Google Assistant is about CONTROL.  It is part of the “home automation” arm of Shield TV.  Integrating with Nest, Hue and other existing home automation products, Google Assistant via Shield TV will let you control THOSE devices as well as extend the “powers” of the voice recognition – allowing you to leverage more features via commands within the OS.

Whoa!  What is with the Steam app icon that appears in the Shield TV demo video released?

We try not to miss a thing around here.  While we don’t have definitive information about it, it sounds like NVidia has worked with Valve to bring “Steam Big Picture” to Shield TV in much a similar way that SteamLink works.  This was briefly mentioned but not expanded upon.  The other possibility is that it works with the new GeForce NOW PC service – which is essentially ‘Steam in the Cloud’.  We’ll have more on that as we get it.

Based on more information released, this sounds like exactly what it is

A new Shield TV is coming? Discussion within ….

Rumor all over the internet is that a new Shield TV is coming.  After all, it’s been quite awhile (like 100 years in “tech years”).  CES 2017 would be a perfect place to unveil it – so let’s see what we have.

Android Police and other sources have scored pictures of what appears to be the new controller and a strikingly similar main unit and Remote controller.  Let’s speculate after the photo (courtesy of Android Police):

Let’s start with the controller – since it shows the biggest change in the photo.

What we have here is a sensible physical update.  The controller has been leaned down around the handles.  Gone is the touchpad that worked-for-one-build-then-never-again.  The “microwave” touch buttons for BACK, PLAY and HOME.  With luck, the over-sensitive power on Nvidia logo will be gone and a different button (any button) would wake the controller up.

Xbox One: Am I wrong?

The D-Pad has removed the futile “other 4” diagonals.  This puts it on par with other modern controllers like the Xbox One.  The volume buttons are gone (maybe the center slider area works like the Shield Remote?) … hopefully volume control remains possible from the controller as it is one of my favorite features.  Speaking of Xbox One controllers, my goodness if those analog sticks looks EXACTLY like them – right down to the textures around the outside edge.

With the slendering of the controller, my guess is that we still won’t see rumble or force feedback make it into the controller.  The microphone above the logo is still there – so that’s good.  I fear the headphone jack is going away too which is too bad.  I liked it.

Rumor mill (and recent FCC related documentation) says the controller will drop the “Wi-Fi Direct” connectivity and go to Bluetooth.  I’m good with that.  Also let’s your Shield Controllers work with other Android devices.  Of course, it will also work with your original Shield TV that way too.

Moving on to the Shield Remote.  Doesn’t look any different – but if “Wi-Fi Direct” goes on the Shield Controller?  It is gone from here, too.  We need low power consumption Bluetooth here – and it only makes sense to move that way.  I worry the headset jack may be gone here too – but the input needs of a controller like this doesn’t seem as heavy as a gaming controller.  Maybe Bluetooth will be enough.

That leaves us with the main unit.  What might the refresh be all about?  The unit pictured IS smaller than the original Shield TV – but while everyone says “it’s smaller”?  I don’t believe the photo is accurate.  The main unit looks scaled to fit.  I’m going to go with the idea that the box is the same size.

One possibility?  Same specs – just cheaper.  After all, prices go down on everything as the fabrication costs go down.  This could simply be a literal refresh.  This is my bet.

I’m guessing the Pro version is history.  There will only be ONE Shield Android TV – this sans hard drive version is it.  The fact that Shield Android TV is almost impossible to buy right now says to me; phase out the old – make room for the new.  This isn’t a “cousin” or companion SKU.  This is the NEW SKU … and the ONLY SKU.  If the size stays the same, it also lets the existing (albeit overpriced) stand continue to work.

Naturally, we could see a boost in the internal storage; unlikely – but a nice 32GB or 64GB unit would remove the need for most people to hook up an external drive.  Still not usable for a good strong Plex machine – but for the “Android Gamer”?  Sure.  Mass media folks?  Network storage or USB drives plugged in will be your only choice.

Unfortunately, Plex and other software chokes on external/NAS storage; lacking full read/write access – limiting the device’s ability.  Sadly, this is more likely a Google thing and not an NVidia thing.,  Not having a Pro version will be missed.  But, if this guy has been retooled to allow a trapdoor SSD expansion?  That would be incredible.

What about an upgrade to the processor?  Will we see an X2/Pascal upgrade?  It should – but my Magic 8 Ball says “Outlook not so good”.  If the unit really IS smaller then that says to me that we’re seeing a cheaper-not-better model here.  I also believe that NVidia is feeling the pressure of lower priced units like the Mi Box and Amazon’s offerings.  Generic Android TV boxes are a dime a dozen (well, $60 and less – fully loaded with piracy playback of TV and movies) on eBay and other markets.

Getting a sub $150 premium box on the shelves with the power of X1 (which is what is apparently powering the new Nintendo console, Switch) would put NVidia in a very good position.

The Devil’s Advocate whispers in my ear.  Why put something NEW on the market that saddles up the same as Nintendo’s forthcoming console?  Wouldn’t you want your own product to be more attractive?  After all, the Shield TV isn’t hobbled by “battery life” – it can run full power all the time.  Why not take something the auto division paid R&D for and slap it in your new box?  Why would NVidia release something that will undoubtedly be compared to the Nintendo Switch?  Maybe what we are seeing is length of tooth in engineering driving the price down while popping that hot new processor under the hood.  Forget the sub-$150 though, in that case.  Maybe we’re talking about more power, same price?

The fantasy?  A Shield TV – X2 equipped – featuring 64GB onboard storage along with 3 or 4GB of RAM.  No more Wi-Fi Direct; all Bluetooth all the time.  Put that out for $199-$249 along with some serious ass launch titles.  God bless us, every one.

Truth looks more like this.  Cheaper, better-designed main unit (with a couple of minor build issues fixed, please).  Probably 32GB out of the box (16GB makes no sense at this point).  Same ports.  Fresh controllers. All for the low, low price of $99 to $149.

All we can do is speculate another couple of weeks and hope for more leaks.

What do you think NVidia is up to?  Post your thoughts in the comments.

Shield Spotlight: Alpha Protocol

GeForce NOW “Included with Membership”
Single Player / Rated M / Steam Value: $14.99

This edition of Shield Spotlight we look at the espionage RPG action title Alpha Protocol.

Originally released in 2010 and developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Pillars of Eternity, South Park: Stick of Truth, Fallout: New Vegas), Alpha Protocol brings us a new slant in action RPGs; the spy thriller.

Here is a bunch of play I did on the PC …

You play Michael Thorton (voiced by the venerable Kevin Bacon) a talented-yet-ostrocized government agent.  To stop an international catastrophe, Thorton breaks ties with his organization and handle the issue himself.  Aided by various sympathetic handlers, Thorton sets off on mission after mission trying to reach the end goal.

Twelve great Android games you’re probably not playing on Shield TV

Many people complain about Shield Android TV because it isn’t “full Android” or “real Android” due to the fact that the Google Play store recognizes the device and filters out games that are not flagged specifically for the device.

The can lead to misconceptions about Shield TV not being a great Android gaming machine and driving users to stream PC games from either their own computer or via GeForce NOW’s streaming service.

Let’s look at ten amazing Android games (available from Google Play) that play fantastic on your Shield TV.  These are in no particular order and whenever possible, we’re using our own Shield Zone videos.

Plex – The (Near) Perfect Solution for Personal Media

I have a lot of media.  I own several thousand DVDs and Blu rays.  I have collected a lot of media from the internet.  I prefer to OWN (and store) the media I have.  I don’t like Netflix and I don’t like Hulu.  These aren’t solutions for me.  I am paying a lot of money a month for a fast internet connection and I have a lot of stuff I’m storing on my own – not the cloud.  I don’t want to have to UPLOAD my stuff to the cloud to get it …. I AM my own cloud.

… and I’m not alone.  Millions of others prefer to buy, store, rip and maintain their own private collections – for a variety of reasons (see my article on Digital Distribution for my thoughts).  Unfortunately, the issue with being your own cloud …?  Companies aren’t interested in writing top quality software to let you access it.  Your options tend to rely on some proprietary media friendly NAS (like a Synology Diskstation) which suffers from fairly immature software on mobile devices or some sort of specialized delivery system for ONE component of your media (like Subsonic; great music gateway – poor video gateway).

Worse yet, if you plan to SHARE your content with family and friends?  A whole new can of worms is opened.

Take all of these issues and then try to solve ubiquitous playback from TV, web, phone and tablet?  This has been a pipe dream for some time.

Enter Plex Media Server

X-Plore: The Power User’s File Manager

This is what passes for file management on Win 8

This is what passes for file management on Win 8

File management is not a part time gig for me. If there is a storage medium attached to the device I’m using? I want the most power possible in accessing and manipulating it. It doesn’t matter if it is a local drive, flash drive, network drive, FTP site, Google Drive … if it stores files, and I have access to it – I want the best experience possible.

Let me start off by saying I am not a typical user. Not a typical cell phone user, not a typical tablet user – and certainly not a typical computer user. For you to understand this review from my point of view, you’ll need to understand my feelings on file management. If you are in a hurry, you can jump down to “Enter X-Plore” below.

Looking for kid-friendly games on Shield Android TV?

We’ve been curating from the NVidia forums a list of games parents say their kids like.  You can find the permanent page here (or above under Shield Android TV).

Your kids have a favorite?  Let us know!

Tutorial: Using FTP to Copy Files Between Shield TV and PC

Directory Opus FTP Integration

Directory Opus FTP Integration

There are a dozen ways to skin a cat.  Some people like to use Google Drive, some people prefer to haul files “sneakernet” style via microSD cards – some people even use ADB shell to push and pull files across.

If you’re moving a lot of files around back and forth, a more permanent solution might fare better.

In our newest tutorial, we’ll take you through setting up an FTP server on your Shield Android TV and access it with power and finesse on your PC.

Tutorial: FTP Server on Shield Android TV

Use an external optical drive on Shield Android TV?

See for yourself …

NVidia Shield Android TV ads spotted on YouTube

This is already more advertising than Commodore gave the Amiga 🙂

Screenshot 2015-08-27 at 12.12.46 PM