It’s no secret that I am all in on Apple products. My house is full of Macs, iPhones, iPads, and even Apple TVs. I use Apple Music, iCloud Photo Library, and iCloud Drive. I’m all in on Apple. There is one exception, however. I purchased the NVIDIA SHIELD TV this past Christmas, and it’s become one of the favorite devices in my house.

You might be wondering how I ended up purchasing it. My SHIELD was the product of a lot of internet browsing. I generally research new products a lot. When I discovered this product, I was almost surprised I hadn’t seen more information on it before.

It plays 4K content, has tons of games, includes a controller, and much more. I was really after a new home media server, and after realizing it could do that, I finally pulled the trigger. Six months later, I am still thrilled with my purchase. Below are a few highlights from my experience so far…

Android TV |

At its core, it’s an Android TV player. While a Chromecast is a great device, I prefer an on-screen interface with a dedicated remote. Thanks to its Tegra X1 processor with a 256-core GPU and 3 GB RAM, the NVIDIA SHIELD is blazing fast. It zips through apps much quicker than anything else I’ve used (including the 4K Apple TV).

If you’ve been unhappy with all the other streaming platforms on the market, you’ll want to look at Android TV. It includes access to the Google Play stores, Netflix, Hulu, MLB.TV, Amazon Prime, and Spotify (which is not available on Apple TV).

Google Assistant |

NVIDIA SHIELD TV is also a great Google Assistant device. The same virtual assistant that is on Android Phones and Google Home devices is now available on your TV remote. You can say things like “Watch The Office on Netflix” or “What’s the ten-day forecast.” You can also ask about an actor or actress and see on screen information about them. It can also work with your Ecobee Thermostat (Ok Google, make my home cooler) or your Logitech Circle camera (“Ok Google, who’s at my front door?”).

Gaming |

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV includes access to a lot of games as well. It contains many titles from the Google Play Store, but the real story for gaming is GeForce Now. These are PC-quality games that you can play in high resolution on your TV. They are currently free to play. GeForce Now, previously, was a membership program. As it has left beta, it’s been made free. There is no word on how long this will last, but enjoy it while you can! It includes games like Tomb Raider, BioShock, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and many more. Check out the entire library to see all that is available. Like I mentioned earlier, this list is in addition to the Android game library!

You aren’t going to have to use the included TV remote, though. The NVIDIA SHIELD TV comes with a controller in most situations, but you can pick up an extra one if need be. I find the controller to be extremely comfortable to hold for extended periods.

Plex Server |

The final key feature of NVIDIA SHIELD TV (and the reason I bought it) is the ability to run it as a Plex Server. If you aren’t familiar with Plex, it’s a media center application. It allows you to stream movies and TV shows to any Plex client. Plex has apps for iOS, Android, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, etc. You can also load your photos and music on Plex as well to create an all in one media center environment for all of your content. If you are in places where bandwidth is limited (or metered), Plex is even better because it’s using your local network to stream media to your TV vs. downloading it from the internet. In a sense, it’s like running your own Netflix and cloud music service.

Best of all, Plex supports almost all file formats:

Movies, TV Shows, and Home Video: MP4, MKV, AVI, MOV, DIVX, and more

Music: MP3, M4A, FLAC, WMA, and more

Photos: JPG, PNG, RAW, TBN, and more

So basically, anything you throw at it, it’s going to play. Since the NVIDIA SHIELD TV only includes a 16GB storage drive, you’ll want to put your media on an external drive. You can get a 2TB option for less than $70, and this will give you plenty of room for expansion later.

In the past, I ran Plex on spare an older Mac mini. I got tired of having another full-blown computer running in my house. By switching to NVIDIA SHIELD TV, I got to have the same Plex software running on a with a smaller footprint. Not only is this a support feature of the device, but Plex promotes it!

The NVIDIA SHIELD offers an excellent all-in-one Plex solution. Not only does it run our great Android TV app, but the device also comes with a full Plex Media Server. This device isn’t a stripped-down version of the server, and it’s the real deal! You can access the server from other devices (Android, iOS, Roku, Plex Media Player, the web app, and much more), enable Remote Access so that the server is accessible even when away from home, sync content to mobile devices, and more.

I’ve found the device to be just as powerful as a dual-core Mac Mini with 3x the RAM inside. I’ve had multiple 1080p streams going at once, and it never had a bit of slowdown.

As you add media, Plex will pull in all your metadata and artwork for your TV shows, movies, and music (see this support document for information on how the process works).

One final aspect of Plex I want to mention is the live TV/DVR software it includes. When you add an over the air antenna coupled with a HDHomeRun, you can watch live TV and enjoy the ability to record anything that is on. While a lot of Plex features are free, this one does require a Plex Pass.

Wrap Up |

By the time all of this is set up, you’ll have a great Android TV player, a Google Assistant device, a capable gaming machine, and a great home media server with live TV/DVR support. If you are looking to cut the cable cord this summer, NVIDIA SHIELD TV might be the perfect device at the center of your home. I absolutely love mine.

You can buy it on Amazon for $199.

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