NVIDIA SHIELD is the most advanced living room streamer on the planet, built for the Google-connected lifestyle. Get the smoothest 4K HDR video, plus the power and convenience to control your entertainment—and your smart home—with just your voice. You can even enjoy NVIDIA-powered gaming on demand from the cloud, or cast from your PC to your TV.

This SHIELD is neither tablet nor portable, but a set-top box designed for the living room. In terms of hardware, SHIELD TV is the most powerful SHIELD-branded device NVIDIA has ever released. Packing the Tegra X1 processor, 3GB of RAM, either 16GB or 500GB of storage, and all sorts of wireless connections technologies, SHIELD TV shouldn’t leave anyone wanting in the living room. From gaming to 4K Netflix streaming, SHIELD is designed to do it all.

In January of 2017, NVIDIA announced an updated version of SHIELD TV, which largely features the same hardware—Tegra X1 processor and 3GB of RAM—with a smaller footprint and a re-designed remote and game controller. The microUSB port and SD card slots have also been removed, but the device does feature two USB 3.0 ports for storage expansion if desired.

In terms of software, there’s little that separates the original SHIELD TV from the refreshed model. All of the software features announced by NVIDIA with the new model became available on the original model in early February of 2017.

The main thing you need to know about SHIELD TV is this: if you’re looking to buy an Android TV unit, this is the one to buy, bar none.

There’s plenty to appreciate about the new Nvidia Shield. But out of everything –the 40% reduction in overall size, the integration of Google Assistant, the addition of Amazon Instant Video for the first time on Android TV – the best changes are the ones that happened to the streaming video box’s operating system, Android TV.

It’s far and away better than it was when the gaming-centric streaming box first came out close to two years ago. A greatly improved universal search function on top of a larger selection of apps on top of Google Home and Assistant integration have finally empowered Nvidia’s hardware to really shine.

Said simply, if there’s ever been a time to take a serious look at Nvidia’s already-great streamer, this is the time to do it.

But let’s hold on for a second. Maybe this is your first experience with the Nvidia Shield, the $199 / £189 (about AU$260) 4K-capable, HDR-ready video streaming device that’s been developed by a primarily graphics card-focused company.

If it is, what you’re reading about is one of the most powerful streaming video

f it is, what you’re reading about is one of the most powerful streaming video players on the planet – one that can double as a gaming system, and triple as the center of your smart home. It has the power to stream your favorite shows like Amazon Fire TV or any one of the Roku players, but with the added perk of being able to play Android TV and some PC-quality games via GeForce Now. Finally, while other streaming devices might make you tack on a Bluetooth controller in order to really enjoy games (cough, Apple TV), Nvidia Shield comes with a completely re-designed gamepad that works much better than it did previously.

It has its shortcomings, but overall Nvidia’s Shield TV has enough on offer to persuade even the most ardent of skeptics to give this little streamer a shot.

Design

When you picture a streaming video player you might call to mind a sleek, flat square no more than an inch or two high, or a small hockey puck-shaped plastic box.

Nvidia Shield isn’t quite like either of those. Nvidia eschewed traditional design years ago and has developed its own style for the Shield that’s neither round nor flat, but an interesting mix of criss-crossing lines, unique slants and stark angles

The headline feature here is that the 2017 Shield is 40% smaller than before, bringing it from about 20cm (8-inches) wide down to about 13cm (5-inches). It’s able to shed some plastic by dropping the micro-SD card slot that used to hang out on the back and retail in only one hard drive size – 16GB. (Of course, Nvidia tells us that the 500GB version of the Shield will still be available at the old 2015-version size, too, but it will cost a bit more and be called the Nvidia Shield Pro, check out our original Nvidia Shield review for an overview of the hardware).

So what ports are left? Spin it around and you’ll still find Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0a and two USB 3.0 ports. Although the box is compatible with 802.11ac Wi-Fi your best bet for consistent 4K video streaming or GeForce Now gaming is going to be running an ethernet cable directly from your router into the box.