APRIL 24, 2015 • Introduced as the Nvidia Shield Console last March, Nvidia Corp. is now promoting its new Tegra X1-based set-top unit as the Nvidia Shield Android TV. The $199 device is expected to launch next month. System specifications include a 256-core Maxwell GPU equipped with 3GB of ram, 4K HD playback, internal storage totaling 16GB, support for USB 3.0 devices and MicroSD cards, plus gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. In related news, Nvidia accidentally posted a version of the Shield Android TV with 500GB storage for $299. This model is intended for developers, however, and the public web page was swiftly removed.
Impact: We are not surprised at this change of name by Nvidia. Some of the most enthusiastic support for the new Shield has been coming from consumers who build their own home theater PCs (HTPC). These are small format computers built from scratch to be quiet in the living room with the ability to connect to home networks, store video content and output high-definition television signals. In many cases a used commercial product like the Mac Mini with similar specifications is used as the HTPC. As we said back in March, the Shield Android TV sports much beefier specifications than competing Android boxes for playing games or as a streaming TV device. What really interests HTPC aficionados are the USB ports that can support a USB tuner for over the air HD television broadcasts, plus Digital Living Network Alliance support for streaming content from a home server with access to cable programming. Add in the Android app version of Kodi for media center and DVR features and the Shield Android TV is a very full-featured and cost-effective HTPC. This is another reason why the 500GB developer edition created such as stir. That extra on-board storage is perfectly suited for keeping content to be played back later. True, the system’s various SD slots can be used for this purpose but built-in storage is much preferred since existing Android set-top boxes do not always permanently see the SD cards without using a launcher app such as Nova. The Shield Android TV is still a wildcard factor in the future of home video game consoles, but this switch in branding is a significant overture to the consumer niche already clamoring for the device.