How an Android TV console changed our perception of content

After the previous publication from the filing of the manufacturer, NVidia Shield TV appeared in our family. For 4 months, the prefix has changed a lot in our content consumption: the functions of home electronics have shifted, new habits have appeared. I deliberately waited so long before writing a review, so that of all our models of behavior, those that were determined only by the desire to play with a new piece of metal had to fall off. And today we can already speak about some kind of updated “relationship with the screen”. Although some of the problems highlighted in the last publication are still relevant.

Under the cut - the details.


And again about iron

How to get 4K resolution

I have not fulfilled the promise made in the comments to the previous article - I did not open detailed information about the hardware used. But the specific model of the motherboard does not matter. The only important thing is that our “component set-top box” could pull the maximum FullHD. With a 720p TV set-top box, there was still some reserve left for a future upgrade - we were going to buy a Full HD panel home soon.

Nvidia Shield TV radically changed these plans. The prefix supports 4K, so we hooked up and bought an inexpensive 4K TV set, making sure that HDMI 2.0 is everywhere to appreciate the real 60 fps.

And subjectively worth it!

Bow to the skeptics

In a small odnushke with all the family junk, a 43-inch panel climbed onto the wall. This is a rather controversial diagonal. I heard skepticism about whether it is realistic to notice the difference between FullHD and 4K on a device of this size? Yes, it is real, but everything is determined by the viewing distance.

We have 3 “typical locations” viewers:

(all distances - from the screen to the face of the seated viewer)

From the dinner table, the difference between good FullHD and 4K is not noticeable. But at the table, viewing almost always accompanies food, when all attention is on the plate. From the other locations, the difference is more than palpable, even according to the tables of the “recommended viewing distance depending on the diagonal” (aka “distances from which the difference between the resolutions is not visible”). Especially since it is distinguishable for me personally with my excellent eyesight (from a distance of 70 cm I distinguish individual pixels on a single-color fill, which means that for me the tables mentioned above need to be slightly adjusted).

New telly - means smart TV?

And no! Our choice fell on the 6th LG series. We chose by resolution, diagonal, reviews and all kinds of “parrots” - image processing indices, which allow us to indirectly judge “on-board” resources; Functions such as SmartTV, linear TV reception, etc., were not considered. With Nvidia Shield TV, we only needed a screen capable of receiving over HDMI 2.0 and displaying 4K with all its buns.

Yes, the TV has some kind of Smart TV functionality. With the webOS interface, we played a little ... and decided not to use it, only confirming our own research, carried out several years before.

The interface itself may be nothing, but there is a feeling that the image was developed there by one person, and the control from the couch was thought out by an 80-year-old grandmother. The remote from the Smart TV remained the remote control, first of all from the linear TV - with a huge number of buttons! This is despite the fact that the manufacturer still figured out how to control the main functions of the panel without a remote control with just one power button. I wonder why the same reasoning could not be applied to the remote control?

There is one more thing. TVs on webOS are released, as far as I understand, only by LG, and therefore I do not understand the prospect of further support for the platform on a specific hardware. Since the purchase of Philips Smart TV by my parents, only 4 years have passed, and the applications there do not normally start. Parents are satisfied - in their world nothing has changed: they watch movies from a hard disk via USB, channels too. But now the kids will not be able to launch cartoons from YouTube.

This bad experience suggests that the software part, like 5 years ago, is still more convenient to take out of the expensive screen into a separate relatively easily replaceable unit - be it a prefix or a system integrator (but more on that later). So I doubt that I would even consider the characteristics of Smart TV when choosing a TV, even in the absence of NVidia Shield TV.

By the way, we do not use the remote control from the TV at all - only to prevent automatic shutdown (this is rarely noted, but LG turns off every 4 hours, despite the shutdown of all timers; judging by the forums, this is removed via the service menu, but we left the option so far , because it is sometimes useful with such an automatic machine to otkovyrivat children from cartoons).

Shield TV and his entourage

Unlike TV, NVidia Shield TV runs on Android TV. Android TV has its own "tricks" with support for only part of Android applications, but in general it is familiar and understandable, considering Android smartphones and tablets. It was Shield TV that pleased with the frequency of updates and the release of new options in the first place on it. For example, we already have Google Assistant (but in English only) - a great thing.

In theory, things like Shield TV should work out of the box. But this is if everything is purchased from scratch. I have here a whole park of “inherited” equipment and established habits, therefore, despite some experience in tinkering with iron, everything worked well not on the first day.

Shield TV itself has almost no built-in drive, so we switched the USB terabyte file to it (via the USB 3.0 hub). The second half of the films we had lay on the local hard drive of the “set-top box” (another terabyte). He was left in the system officer. After unsuccessful attempts to share this NTFS disk from under Ubuntu on a network with Samba with such a mother, we had to reformat it, losing almost the entire collection, but getting a terabyte of network storage for Shield TV (the collection was in 720p that the new TV didn’t looks so-so).

At the start, a wireless keyboard with a mouse was still connected to Shield TV - the legacy of the old console. But after the initial setup, it was no longer used at all. A week later, it was removed. The console and the game controller, if there is a voice search (albeit with limitations that will be discussed later), really solve all the problems. In this case, the controller is used only in games and in Kodi (when updating the media base or making a new film - for the sake of only one button).

The most difficult thing with sound. Previously, with a TV company, our sound went to an old 5.1 analog home theater - all this was supported by on-board zvukovuha. Shield TV has no separate audio output at all, while the TV has only digital audio. So I had to order a Chinese DAC with the right outputs. While he was walking, they used the speakers of the TV itself (against the background of 5.1, even with the Chinese DAC, the sound on the TV is frankly so-so).

Now arrived DAC on optics takes the sound from the TV and decodes it to the home theater. Noise does not add, decodes more or less decently (taking into account the fact that children's cartoons are spinning 90% of the time), but, unfortunately, it periodically gets buggy: it loses its mode of operation (5.1 / 2.1) or is turned off altogether. In principle, these glitches can be removed by replacing it with a normal modern receiver, but it no longer burns.

In addition, I had to shift the Ethernet snot at home - Shield TV received a wired connection with streaming games and 4K. By the way, in addition to 4K-TV, we eventually went broke and on the Internet 100 Mbit.

Where did the “prefix”

As I have already mentioned, it was a pity to put the available iron somewhere on the shelf, so the former “component set-top box” turned into a repository without a monitor, and at the same time a platform for various experiments. Ubuntu is there and a remote desktop is set up to carry out all the manipulations from one of the normal workstations in the home network. In the near future, with its help, I want to launch a broadcast of what is happening in the kitchen (so that when working, do not jump every 5 minutes to children who watch cartoons). There was also a thought to indulge sometime with the management of a “smart home”. See if the hands reach ...

Instead of a resume

In the last article, I actively spoke out against consoles in general. But going to Shield TV, I realized that a lot has changed since I made that decision (after all, 5 years have passed). At least, there was a normal platform - Android TV. Relatively expensive storage is quite possible to put in a separate USB-device (or, as we have, a network drive). And is it necessary, when in online cinemas you can find even rarities from the 90s?

Shield TV is not just Android TV. This is an expensive game segment. I managed to compare the console with the Mi Box, and the difference is palpable even on non-game tasks (for example, they cope with the render of the Android TV interface in different ways). However, Android TV itself “pulls out” even cheaper devices. If earlier in the segment of consoles, the choice was “either expensive or in any way”, now in the region of 5 thousand from China you can order a fully functional prefix covering the main television needs for Full HD (I’ll note that we made this choice buying a gift parents for the new year - and we will test it on vacation). She, of course, is not Shield TV with a normal 4K at 60fps, i.e. it will not give a reserve for the upgrade for 5 years or more.

Most likely, she will even be blunt on full-fledged 4K films, despite the stated support. And there, obviously, there is no functionality of the game console. But for a couple of years of watching YouTube, and films from OTT services in Full HD are enough. And then, when reaching a certain functional limit, it can be simply updated in accordance with current needs, as smartphones are updated. In other words, cheapness with normal functionality removed my objection regarding the meaning of the prefixes (although not all!).

New old habits

New equipment has changed our approach to viewing content.

Evening cinema

Before the advent of NVidia Shield TV in the direction of 4K, we didn’t look exactly because we didn’t have the habit of watching movies together in the evenings: a family with two young children is not up to it, and I’m also cool about movies. But it turned out that it is not the equipment that is chosen for habits, but, on the contrary, habits are formed on the basis of the available technology. With the advent of 4K, the tradition of looking back together in the evenings returned to us again (after a long-term pause). I personally had so much enthusiasm in this direction, except perhaps in a university hostel, when I settled there in the early 2000s, for the first time in my life I got access to a local grid with a huge number of films.

At first, it was only 4K movies for beer on weekends, sometimes with inviting guests and preparing snacks. After all, a new level of quality. But then there were movies and TV shows in the usual quality, interesting to both (here we are talking about the adult population of the apartment; our children are still too small to have common interests in the content). As if we needed a kind of kick in the ass to re-look closely at the film industry and find advantages in it.

With the transition to Android TV, we have become much more active in using online cinemas. Because to look honestly it became really more convenient.

Nobody prevented using OTT services on the old “set-top box” in the browser, but almost all online movie theater sites have their own “features”: the player is inconvenient, then when the output from the browser is crooked, something remains in the cache and this happens later search with dogs and clean out. With apps for Android TV everything is much easier.

However, I still have a couple of comments. Firstly, many cinemas do not have a docking with Android TV voice search, and secondly, trying to make a unique interface for a completely typical task, the developers sometimes use not very obvious solutions - it’s inconvenient to look for the right movie for many. In principle, the second remark is eliminated automatically if you work on the first.

Video calling is not via Skype

As I wrote in the previous article, one of the functions of our “media center” is Skype video communication with a part of a family in another city. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that there is simply no Skype on Android TV. After unsuccessful attempts to put the “phone” version of the application on the console, they began to look for an alternative. And stumbled upon the Tellybean. At the time of the search (August 2017) for Android TV, for some reason I could not find an alternative. Now I was told that there is also a Trueconf application. I am familiar with this company and its video link from work, so I will definitely test it somehow. The only problem is that we have already managed to go through all the difficulties associated with transferring the second half of the family to a new service (to Tellybean). And, I am afraid, in the near future it will be difficult to change the platform again (it seems that by my own example I begin to understand the problems of those who talk about the resistance of employees when updating corporate software).

But Tellybean does not disappoint. No extra social functions, freezes, etc. The application supports the smartphone as a camera. But in our case, everything turned out to be even better: it is on Nvidia Shield TV that webcams are supported. There are only 2 Logitech variants in the model list, and I bought one of them just a week before the first tests in order to try to assemble a 3D scanner (Ciclop). So, unfortunately, I still have a scanner without a camera, but the video link is implemented through one stationary device without jumping from a smartphone. In the future, I plan to buy a higher-quality camera for TV (even more so, the interlocutors have just gone broke on the normal Internet), freeing the current one under the scanner.

Voice search is good. But worse than it could be

The main Shield TV remote control is sharpened by voice search. And this is a very convenient thing, especially if you look for something in all installed applications (and online cinemas, and YouTube, and even Kodi - if you install the 18th version of the nightly build). Unfortunately, the search for “everywhere” is an unattainable ideal. In some applications, everything works fine, in others - only in English (as in Kodi), in the third - is not supported at all (as in ivi). Search in third-party applications (not included by default in Android TV) is performed only if they are running in the background - installation alone is not enough. Moreover, these applications slip their results after the line with YouTube-videos (and not where content availability in Netflix and Google Play is displayed). In general, all this is not yet unified, although the idea is excellent.

In the fall, Google Assistant was released on Shield TV (as I understand it, the first on Android TV) with a more “humane” query language and various nice “buns”. Being tempted by its capabilities, we even set English for a while in the localization settings. The English-language search existed with us exactly until such time as the husband was impatient to find some non-trivial recipe. From the moment you had to say not the monosyllabic names of the children's cartoons, but long sentences with an atypical combination of words that the Google Voice API can interpret in its own way, it was necessary to return to the Russian language.

The voice search for several months has taken root so much that we have chosen a similar prefix (fresh Android TV; voice search from the remote with no extra buttons) for parents.

I have a secret hope that sooner or later the Russian-speaking voice instruments will work on a par with the English-speaking ones. Then, in my eyes, Android TV would really become irreplaceable (and we would be happy with the second parents, who are still forced to tinker with the old Philips Smart TV using the usual multi-button remote).

No more cards

Previously, a rather popular function of our TV-company was to view the map before going somewhere for business (mainly interested in traffic jams to leave the new district, a transport network which has not yet been built). Unfortunately, under Android TV there are no normal browsers and map services. So this feature is completely gone on smartphones.

Yes, you can download for 100 rubles an application that works with Android TV, but only Google Maps is implemented there (and we would have Yandex). Yes, you can download the curve browser and open the same Yandex there, but this is completely inconvenient without a keyboard. It is much easier to get a smartphone and use the same voice search.

Still, of course, you can stream the browser tab from a laptop, but this is absolutely a perversion.

Content Sources

All the months of using Shield TV, we actively used various OTT services. Previously, their business model caused a fundamental rejection. Now I became more loyal to the idea of ​​subscriptions. Although, still would like to find one optimal service, which carry money.
The humor of the situation lies in the fact that almost all cinemas offer from one week to one month of free testing. Properly distributing test periods and promotions, you can watch movies for almost half a year, which, in fact, we have been doing all this time. Although, of course, services have different bases, so there is no need to talk about free choice during free viewing.

Further - on specifics.


The option Nvidia Shield TV, for which we grabbed first and foremost (even before testing online cinemas) - streaming games from Geforce Now.

Neither me, nor my husband have ever had a home iron, which was the last game. And if I once played enough at school times in Doom 2 and Civilization until blue in the face, so that there was no desire, then my husband had some unrealized dreams of “playing at leisure”. So from the very first day we hooked up the Geforce Now test (on the 50-megabit Internet and before buying a large tele).

Exactly on the day when we signed up for a test subscription, Geforce Now had something updated and the clients did not connect to the servers. There are no servers in Russia, Eastern Europe somehow did not permanently respond, and Western Europe turned off by timeout. We were sure that the problem was with our provider, until we read the Geforce Now support forum. There was nothing officially reported, but users wrote that there are such glitches, and you just have to wait.

Exactly a day later, everything worked. Even the 50-Mbit Internet was enough to push the game broadcast to 720p from Western Europe. Of course, from time to time the picture fell apart, but on the whole, the sensations seemed as if the game was spinning on a local computer — the graphics, the response — everything was up to par. Now we are waiting for the older child to grow up a bit to the games (well, 2 adult IT students with children, work and total lack of time cannot admit to themselves that they want to spend a piece of the family budget on games, even 5 minutes a day;)).

What is not in Shield TV, but I would very much like to be in the future, it is a motion controller for different games with physical culture. But, I note that we have not yet had the opportunity to test motion controllers from other console manufacturers.

Hello “light side”

Android TV with the interface sharpened for TV, voice search and convenient applications of OTT services nevertheless dragged us to the “bright side” of content consumption: now the search for content is more convenient and more logical to start from legal sites. And resources like Vkontakte, as the source of the video, have completely disappeared from our lives.

OTT services: models and disadvantages

Although all these months we have been actively testing the services officially operating in Russia, we haven’t yet found our ideal. Everyone had at least one subjective jamb: either the base is small (or, like Netflix, the base is large, but there are problems with its localization), or the subscription is inconvenient, then we have to subscribe to several queries, then a search curve and illogical recommendations. We are still testing available offers, but (the turning point) at the end of the test periods I'm ready to connect to one of the services on an ongoing basis - the question is which of the intended leaders.

The subscription was not at all interesting, while it was a question of a one-time purchase of single-series content - films. But now is full of interesting TV shows. Previously, we searched for new series through third-party recommendation services (such as Imkhonet), and then we looked for where to look. But when there are recommendations in the application, and the series themselves - it conveniently motivates you to switch to legal content. It becomes a pity the time spent on fishing the same for free. So, serials are a link between fundamentally non-linear content consumption and the idea of ​​wholesale sales through subscriptions.

I also noted for myself that the quality of the recommendatory service in our consumption model really began to play a huge role. Perhaps even more than the database itself of service films. Most actively we use not even personal recommendations (here with predictions so far from all the tested services are not very), but the search for similar content.

By the way, while poking around with all of this content market, I was pleased with the appearance of aggregators, through which you can find on which resource it is legal to watch a particular film (for example, Movie). In theory, Android itself should perform these functions: you pronounce the name of the film, and it gives you a description, and tells you which application you can find among the installed ones. But, as I said, this function with third-party applications works crookedly. And there is no way to search for not installed applications.


Despite the pre-installed Plex, the abundance of OTT services and Youtube, Kodi still remained in our life - I already mentioned it in the part about voice search. But it started much less frequently.

Completely get rid of him, we are fundamentally not ready, because sometimes you need to get content without taking up an Internet channel (example: someone is sitting with children, showing them cartoons, and I have an important conversation on IP-telephony or video calls ...; and nobody canceled provider failures).

However, I am also most surprised at how “he passed the position” during the reform of our television viewing. We have almost completely switched to online, generating tens of times more traffic than before (we started to watch more, in higher quality and sometimes several times - the latter is more concerned with cartoons). While the operator's network is coping, cinema applications slow down only occasionally, at the hottest time.But I wonder what will happen when there are more such lovers of permanent online in FullHD and 4K in our provider's network. If the networks do not have time to upgrade, you will have to return to Kodi and advance caching in one form or another.

4K Content

Separate conversation requires 4K content search.

It's really not enough yet. YouTube and Vimeo close the issue of demos (“see what piece we bought” - after all, it's not common in our 4K circle). In the same place, the husband finds tricky cooking shows in ultra-high resolution — it is not difficult to call it a recipe; from a glance at the screen I want to eat.

Films in 4K, and even in Russian, has so far been limited. And piracy here is blooming and smells exactly because of the services that demonstrate this quality, units. And all of them (from those that we tried) want a subscription. And some, like Netflix, offer 4K as part of a separate subscription, for very different money. At the same time, half of their ultra-high resolution base is remastered, even if studio, of old films, like People in Black, where you can see the grain of the film, especially on night shots. New films appear even more than once a week, and less.

In other words, for all the convenience, which drags the Android TV user by the ears to legal consumption, 4K remains the anchor that forces to act in the old manner. I think that in a few years the situation should return to normal. But so far, for example, I wouldn't recommend my parents to buy 4K TV (but Full HD is necessary).
With all this, the potential for combating piracy in 4K is huge: my husband, having appreciated the new quality, promised himself never to look at the screen anymore :) By the way, for the same reason, we almost do not use viewing on additional screens as part of legal subscriptions - not that impression.

Other functions

In addition to viewing the content of the “set-top box” we performed some side tasks. Some of them are preserved on Shield TV:

Frankly, I like what it all came to. Therefore, I undertook to write such a detailed review of the transformations. Waiting for Google Assistant in Russian. “Ok Google” from the controller somehow works (experimental function: you can access the console without pressing buttons, but at the beginning say the code phrase, but you can reach Shield TV only from the controller, which “falls asleep” for a long time without using) , now we need to make him communicate in human language.


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