I/O 2016: NVIDIA, Google Boost SHIELD Android TV Rule of Living Room
As with all things Android we see announcements of enhancements at Google’s I/O conference – and Android TV got its love too. During the keynote we saw a preview of picture-in-picture for the platform. Prior to writing here at XDA I reviewed the NVIDIA Shield Android TV and believe it does a great job at meeting its tagline of ruling the living room, especially with cord cutters. But with various announcements made today that rule should be solidified even further.
Media Embraces Android TV
After the keynote we were treated to news that media giants Viacom, Disney and CNN are all jumping on board the Android TV train. Disney is soon releasing support for the platform to its WatchESPN, Watch ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ABC News and Freeform apps in Google Play. Viacom is also joining in by adding support for Nick, MTV and Comedy Central. On the news front CNNGo and NPR News are expected to also have support added. Spotify has already released a separate Android TV app and Deezer is expected to also add support soon. Amazon updated its video app last month to support the Android TV, though it still is based on the mobile design and may be a challenge to view for some.
Since these are all apps independent of the platform keep an eye out for these in Google Play. Sony’s implementation as well as the Nexus Player should be able to take advantage of these in addition to the NVIDIA SHIELD.
Android N Feature Preview
In addition to the picture-in-picture preview during the keynote several other features of Android N are coming that will help offer even more value to the platform. Recent Apps will be added as well as a DVR function for live TV recording. Multiple accounts will also make an appearance on the platform, which will be necessary to keep Google Play game progress and achievements tied to various members of a family sharing the platform.
NVIDIA noted that for many households the first 4K experience will more than likely be the one in the living room over a desk or computer monitor. With that in mind they are continuing their march to add 4K and now High Dynamic Range (HDR) support to the SHIELD Android TV as part of its upcoming 3.2 update. Netflix HDR and in-app voice search will be added to the SHIELD, with Season 1 of Marco Polo HDR capable upon release and more content to be added very quickly. VUDU will also join the providers available on SHIELD, both at 1080p and 4K – along with a exclusive cross-app search integration.
Surprisingly one other SHIELD exclusive will receive the 4K and HDR treatment: GameStream. According to NVIDIA the upcoming release of GameStream will not require any additional bandwidth to provide this capability. Unfortunately not everyone will be able to take advantage of this upcoming feature as it will require one of NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 or GTX 1070 graphics cards to be enabled. Games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and upcoming titles with 4K and HDR support will be added to the compatible game list.
While this doesn’t sound like it’s a good idea on paper it’s great from actual use cases. The consensus of the GTX 1080 reviews is that it greatly outperforms the previous generation, in particular at 1440p and 4K resolutions. And by realizing that not everyone will have a 4K monitor or the desire to hook it up to a 4K TV all of the time, it does add another tempting solution to be able to play games and see what that could look like before making the much more expensive investment of a 4K or HDR monitor for the desk. We are hoping to give this a go and cover it more by the time the update goes live.
New GeForce NOW and SHIELD Only Games
The SHIELD is also very much about gaming and announcements today only continue that. Yesterday Shadwen released for sale on the GeForce NOW store at a sale price of $14.44 and Homefront: The Revolution will make its way there before the end of the month as well. Both require a subscription for GeForce NOW but will allow unlimited streaming of the game as well as a digital copy for your PC.
Tomorrow Resident Evil 5, a personal favorite of mine, will make its way to the Google Play store for $9.99 and increasing to $14.99 after initial sale. For those curious on how it plays on the SHIELD, the game is about 4.6 GB and has an starting load time of about 60-80 seconds. After that load times are very comparable to console as well as frame rate and quality and should have all of the same content available. Unfortunately multiplayer will not be available at release but may be added in the future. It should also be noted that streaming or recording at higher quality levels while playing may affect performance – and quickly went away as soon as I turned it off. (Note: A pre-release copy of Resident Evil 5 was provided by NVIDIA for evaluation purposes.)
Edit: Curious what that looks like on the SHIELD? I have a video for you to see.
3.2 Timing And Future Surprises
NVIDIA Product Manager Jordan Dodge informs us that much of this will either trickle in through the applicable store applications or in the upcoming 3.2 update. They provided a handy slide to remind of the various updates provided in the near full year the SHIELD Android TV has been released – along with a “major new feature” in the 3.2 release. When asked I was told this was not anything that was discussed here but something else – and that they will be sharing details of this mystery feature in the coming weeks.
Did you think we were done here? Not at all, because for some time now we’ve been working on a giveaway with NVIDIA! Coming later this month they will be giving away a SHIELD Pro Android TV with 500GB of storage, and for developers a Jetson TX1 kit! For those who don’t want to wait for the giveaway NVIDIA is also including a free remote with its SHIELD Android TV and SHIELD Pro on their store and with participating retailers. And for full details check out the announcements from Google and NVIDIA.
Do you own an SHIELD Android TV? Been thinking about getting one and have questions? Leave us a comment below or in the forums and let’s continue the discussion!