Nvidia Shield Review — 4K TV, streaming, games & more in a tiny, pretty package

"Phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space"

There’s roughly 12.5 billion ways of watching TV these days. You can stream from your phone to your laptop to your actual TV to your fridge (no, seriously) and then back again. It’s become, to the ire of grandparents and mantra aficionados everywhere, quite literally quantity over quality. Just because I’m able to remotely instruct my toaster to project Netflix onto the ceiling using little more than a network of eight Chromecasts and a dedicated server, doesn’t mean I should. It’s inconvenient and would have all of the quality of the soggy butter bread your school canteen scandalously used to label as “toast.”

Simplicity is key. Push a button, do a thing – it’s the utopia we aspire to with all of our tech devices. And if you manage to marry that to the highest quality product on the market, well… you can stick a ring on our finger right now.

Enter the Nvidia Shield.

A streaming powerhouse

The Nvidia Shield describes itself as “the streamer for gamers” which — antiquated approximation of gamers as being graphics- and tech-obsessed number crunchers aside — is hard to argue with. All of the stats and specs you could ever need to bore the blood out of some unwitting bystander at the bus stop are here and accounted for: 4k HDR picture; 3GB of RAM; 16GB or 500GB of storage; Gigabit ethernet; 2 USB 3.0 ports; all powered by Nvidia’s most advanced mobile processor: the Tegra X1.

But, I hear you cry, what does all of that mean? On top of being the ingredients needed for the incantation to summon Mecha-Cthulu, it means you can watch very high quality television and play very high quality video games, all very quickly and very conveniently. Verily.

The Nvidia Shield is like the Swiss Army Knife of streamer boxes. Want to stream games from your PC or the cloud to your beautiful television? Or play games normally imprisoned in your mobile phone on the big screen? Want to watch good old live TV? Netflix? How about Amazon Prime or Youtube? Want to listen to Spotify, Google Play Music, or iTunes? The Nvidia Shield can do all of it and comfortably. It can’t quite make you a cup of tea yet but give it a year.

It’s stylish too

What’s most impressive about all of this, however, is the size of the damn thing. It. Is. Tiny.

Measuring 159mm long and 98mm high, it’s only 26mm at its absolute post-Christmas Dinner fattest. For reference, it’s probably roughly the same size of your hand in slap mode (i.e. all of your fingers together). It’s actually significantly smaller than the game controller that comes provided with the £190 pack.

Design wise it’s all polygons and straight lines, lying somewhere between Tron and Horizon: Zero Dawn (by way of NES-era terrifying Andross). Which is a long-winded way of saying that it looks pretty damn cool but in a way that feels like it’s trying slightly too hard, like that kid in school who obviously wants to be noticed but kicks off if you say or do anything — LIKE WHAT EVEN WAS YOUR DEAL, SHARON?

The game controller has a similar aesthetic, so while it looks pretty cool it’s not exactly comfortable. In fact, the game controller is the weakest aspect of the package here (which, if anything, is a good thing as it’s also the least consequential). It feels slightly too light, lacking the reassuring heft of dedicated game console controllers, with long analogue sticks that feel overly loose. The triggers too are both slightly too big and don’t feel tight enough, with a D-pad and central face buttons that are tiny and easy to miss.

Ultimately however, this doesn’t hugely matter as if you’re looking to use the Shield for high-end game streaming, you most likely have a game controller of choice anyway and syncing your Playstation and Xbox controllers to the Shield is a quick and painless process.

The Shield Remote is pretty sleek piece of kit though, sitting comfortably in your hand with a minimalist approach to face buttons to help navigate the Shield’s menus. It also has a voice control button which, like literally everything else that’s tried offering parallel voice and button control (looking at you Kinect! RIP… I guess), is a neat gimmick but ultimately less convenient than pressing a thing to do a thing.

The solution to all your problems?

Quite how much use you’re likely to get out of the Nvidia Shield entirely depends on your current gear and what you’d be looking to achieve. For each of its many (many) applications it’s undeniably one of the best pieces of kit on the market… however, there’s a fair chance that whatever you’d be looking to use it for is already covered by something else in your home set-up. Namely: a decent Smart TV.

Our PlayStation 4 suffered a similar fate when we picked up our first Smart TV. It used to be our go-to source for quite literally everything — Netflix, Amazon, Now TV, iPlayer, 4OD, all of them — like a benevolent supermarket for all things entertainment in our living room. It was quick and easy, much more so than the Chromecast or smart speaker solutions we’d tried previously… until the smart tv came along with all of its inbuilt apps. Introducing the Shield into our setup therefore felt like more of a step back than anything else, adding additional steps into the streaming process (turning on additional devices, using additional controllers etc.) that we’d previously managed to strip away. This is no real criticism of the Shield of course — it does the streaming job exceptionally well — more making the point that any external device is going to struggle to match-up to the in-built convenience of any decent Smart TV (for reference, we have the LG 49UJ630V).

If you’re looking to downsize the amount of tech you have assembled around your TV set then you can’t go wrong with the Nvidia Shield. At £179 pounds (or £189.99 with the game controller) it offers a high quantity of high quality services that more than justifies the price. If, however, you’ve already got a Smart TV and a gaming streaming set-up you’re happy with, you’re unlikely to get a huge amount of use out of it. As satisfying as it is to see your favourite Android games freed from the confines of your 6-inch phone screens and plastered gloriously across your television like some millennial retelling of Honey, I Blew Up The Kids (it’s a great movie and Rick Moranis is a treasure, I’ll duel anyone who says otherwise), it isn’t really enough to justify the cost.

In short, if you don’t have a smart TV or streaming games console, this little doodad means you don’t need one. If that sounds good, it’s available now for £179, £18999 for 16GB and the game controller, and £479.95 for 500GB and the game controller through Nvidia and retailers like Amazon.

Zack Fox, Chief Screen-Watcher
About Zack Fox, Chief Screen-Watcher 26 Articles
Chief Screen-Watcher Zack writes about gaming, TV and movies. He also runs Gadgette's commercial side, and works part-time at a film production company. Follow him on Twitter: @ZackFoxFilm