CES 2017: NVIDIA Launches New SHIELD TV 4K HDR Gaming Streamer with AI

by MAC     |     January 5, 2017

With a focus on 4K HDR media streaming, a rapidly expanding gaming library, and Google-powered artificial intelligence, the SHIELD TV is out to takeover your home in 2017.

Despite having what was already the most advanced and capable media streamer on the market, NVIDIA's founder and CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, just announced an updated SHIELD TV during his opening keynote address at CES 2017. Based on the improvements, it is pretty clear that NVIDIA want the SHIELD TV to become not only an all-encompassing home entertainment hub, but a smart home hub as well.

According Huang, the "SHIELD TV is the world's most advanced streamer. Its brilliant 4K HDR quality, hallmark NVIDIA gaming performance and broad access to media content will bring families hours of joy. And with SHIELD's new AI home capability, we can control and interact with content through the magic of artificial intelligence from anywhere in the house". He also asserted that "NVIDIA's rich heritage in visual computing and deep learning has enabled us to create this revolutionary device".

While nothing was said about any internal changes, the new SHIELD TV features a sleeker but still familiar design, and will now come bundled with both an updated gaming controller and a remote control. You previously had to buy the remote, so having both will certainly help cement the SHIELD TV as one of the most complete entertainment devices for the living room. Since this is an Android TV-based devices, it has also been updated to the latest and greatest Android 7.0, and it can run thousands of apps including Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube, HULU, HBO, ESPN, VUDU, Showtime, Pandora, Spotify, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Plex, Kodi, etc.

Assuming that the hardware has remained indeed the same, this streaming device is powered by NVIDIA's Tegra X1 chipset, which pairs an octo-core 64-bit ARM CPU with a 256-core Maxwell-based GPU. The processor actually features four big Cortex A57 cores and four little A53 cores in what is commonly referred to as a big.LITTLE configuration. The 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM - clocked at 1600Mhz and providing 25.6GB/s of memory bandwidth - is shared between the CPU and GPU. While the GPU is obviously no slouch in the performance and compatibility department - it supports DX12, OpenGL 4.5 & ES 3.1, CUDA, and Vulkan - what is as important is its ability to play 4K videos in H.265, H.264, and VP9. And now it supports 4K HDR as well.

This support for 4K HDR is impressive and a critical selling point, because up until now there have only been a handful of devices that can do so. The SHIELD TV blows them all away because it not only supports Netflix 4K HDR, but is the only media streamer to support Amazon Video 4K HDR. It now also supports Google Play Movies & TV 4K, VUDU 4K, and YouTube 4K. Basically, all the UHD bases are covered. In a few months the YouTube TV app will also be available, and that will bring the ability to view 360 videos as well.

How does the gaming controller come into play? Well apparently there are now over 1000 fully optimized games in the NVIDIA SHIELD Store, over 100 of which NVIDIA describes as "console-class". If AAA PC games are what you can, GeForce Now can be used to stream PC games from the cloud, or using NVIDIA GameStream you can cast games directly from your own system, as long it has a compatible GeForce GTX GPU. Apparently, you will be able to cast games at up to 4K HDR, but we will see how well that works out. One HUGE announcement is that both Ubisoft UPlay and Valve Steam support are also incoming, so the gameplay possibilities of the SHIELD TV are essentially going to be limitless.

Arguably, the most surprising announcement was the addition of Google Assistant, an intelligent personal assistant developed by Google. No other device aside from Google's high-end Pixel phones have had this unique voice-based feature. How will you interact with the Google Assitant? Well the newly included remote has an always-listening microphone built-in and it supports a number of hands-free TV commands. To expand the AI functionality to the entire home, NVIDIA have also just announced a peripheral for the SHIELD TV, the NVIDIA SPOT microphone/speaker accessory. This golf ball-sized Wi-Fi-connected gadget plugs into an electrical outlet, and it can hear your commands/questions from up to 20 feet away. It then wirelessly routes the queries to the SHIELD TV and playbacks the reply the nearest SPOT device. Availability is a few months away and it will retail for $49 USD.

The new SHIELD TV is available for pre-order now, and will ship in the United States, Canada and select European regions later this month for $200 USD. If 16GB is not enough for you, the $300 USD SHIELD PPRO will also be available later this month with 500GB of storage and a remote with a headset jack. Since the SHIELD TV features with two USB 3.0 ports, a MicroSD card slot, a gigabit LAN port, and obviously 802.11ac Wi-Fi, you probably don't need the version with the built-in 2.5" 500GB hard drive, but that's up to you.

By the way, if you own an existing SHIELD TV there will be an update coming your way that will upgrade your device to Android 7.0 and will give you every feature mentioned above. However, you will need to buy the $49 remote control if you want to use the Google Assistant feature, since that remote contains the necessary microphone that you will need for voice controls.


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