I’ve been connecting digital devices to my TVs for over 25 years now and outside of a few devices, interactivity has been a “less than perfect” experience. Devices either did too little, did too much, were hard to use and setup, didn’t have the right content or just didn’t have staying power to be relied on continuously. Every few years, the industry comes back and throws another wave of products into the living room to see if they stick. Google I/O, which was held this week, really kicks off what will be the latest fight for the cord-cutting living room between Google, Apple, Microsoft and their respective ecosystems.
At Google I/O, Google gave more details on its Android TV platform and how it hopes to make a huge play for the living room, starting now. This isn’t Google’s first attempt, but their most promising so far. NVIDIA is the apparent front-runner with their version of Android TV, which I wrote about here. I’ll talk more about my hands-on experiences with the NVIDIA SHIELD below. At WWDC the week after next, I expect Apple to unveil a 4K version of Apple TV that streams high quality iTunes content, but potentially has hooks for HomeKit control and light gaming. Microsoft could also throw HEVC (non-4K) onto the pile with Windows 10 for Xbox, which would make it even more interesting.
“The 2015 holidays could be the battle royale for 4K living room streamers.
While the new 4K Apple TV is just speculation on my part and nothing else, I’ve had NVIDIA’s new SHIELD console for over a week and wanted to spend a little bit of time telling you about it. Because it rained so much last weekend, I literally had hours to spend with NVIDIA SHIELD. I probably used it for 15-20 hours, and I have to say, I had a great experience so far.
SHIELD, Controller & Stand (Credit: NVIDIA)
First of all, NVIDIA SHIELD packaging is very up-scale, something you would expect with an Apple product. In fact, it’s the only product that uses these green “pull-tabs” to remove the packaging. The only recent product I’ve used that had that was Apple Watch.
SHIELD is built like a tank. The base is made from machined aluminum and isn’t going anywhere. I dropped it on my foot and am pretty sure I will lose that toenail. Oh well, what us analysts do for tech! 🙂 NVIDIA SHIELD is really thin, too, so thin that you could confuse it with a tablet. NVIDIA SHIELD is “cool” looking, but not nerdy, and my very stylish wife approves.
I watched a ton of Netflix and Google Play TV video at 1080P resolution, even though it can do 4K. My 70″ 4K TV gets delivered tonight and I may update this article if I find anything unexpected or interesting. I’m really looking forward to the recently announced HBO Now and of course, Netflix 4K. I also listened to my music that I keep in Google Play Music and it sounded really good.
While NVIDIA may cringe when I say this, my favorite feature so far about the SHIELD are the controllers. The WiFi-direct game controller ships standard and the Bluetooth remote is an add-on. The speed of moving around the device is a combination of the Tegra X1 processor I know, but also involves the controllers, both which have volume control and a headphone jack. The headphone jack may save my marriage (figuratively speaking) as both my wife and I can watch different shows now and be in the same room. I’m very nearsighted, need a giant display, and I literally just need to plug my headphones into the wireless controller and can watch History Channel documentaries without disrupting my wife. There’s also a virtual remote you can download from the Google Play store to turn your phone into a remote.
Voice search worked better than expected given the challenges with it in Android and worked as well or better than Amazon Fire TV and a lot better than my experiences with Siri. I liked that Hulu video content was indexed, but Netflix content was not. I am told that this is a Netflix decision, not Google. The Google-Now based voice search also provided sports scores and weather and it worked really, really well. When I have more time on the console, I’ll tell you about my 4K video and Android TV, custom SHIELD, and GRID cloud games.
The battle for the holiday living room has begun and if NVIDIA’s SHIELD console is an indication of what’s to come, I’m really excited about the holidays.